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Pop 5: Steve Buscemi Characters

jason stives and daniel cohen look at Steve Buscemi’s Top 5 roles …

Here at Pop-Break we like to be complex in our examination of movies and the actors that inhabit them, but sometimes we need to be blunt. In this case, the simple question of: Who doesn’t love Steve Buscemi?

With the second season of Boardwalk Empire set to air this Sunday, Buscemi returns in the guise of Atlantic City mogul Nucky Thompson, a bare-bones, hard-working man who just has one too many dangerous mob ties up his sleeve. But if you have seen any mainstream movie in the past 20 years, you no doubt have been familiar with Buscemi’s body of work, ranging from his comedic roles in various Adam Sandler movies to his work with the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino.

It’s almost too hard to pick Buscemi’s five best roles. However, Jason Stives and Daniel Cohen will try to settle this debate …

5. Tony Blundetto — The Sopranos

Jason: Blundetto was in a way forgettable, considering how forgettable the fifth season of The Sopranos was, minus its cliffhanger. But Buscemi shone brightly through his tenure on the show. In a way, his portrayal of Blundetto served as a rude awakening to the mind of Tony Soprano, but also showed that Buscemi could easily push beyond comical sidekicks and straight men. As a mobster turned straight, you wanted him to get beyond his past but it was too difficult to handle after so many years of profiting off of organized crime. So the violent side of him recommenced destruction before reaching a tragic end at the fate of his own cousin.

Daniel: From what I remember about Tony Blundetto, he was kind of a calm, subdued Steve Buscemi, though one that repressed his rage until it boiled up into a Steve Buscemi-like anger, but even worse. This is evident when he brutally beats his partner whom he was going to go into the massage business with. Poor Tony B … all he wanted was to live a legitimate life, but in The Sopranos, that’s just not possible. In the end, he’s met with a shotgun to the face by his dear old cousin Tony Soprano. Yup: classic Sopranos.

4. Mr. Pink –- Reservoir Dogs

Daniel: I guess this was his coming-out party. To be honest, his only real memorable moment for me in this film is at the beginning when he’s arguing about tipping a waitress. A tip needs to be earned. That’s classic Buscemi right there, and it’s dialogue that no one else can come close to delivering the way he does. Other than that, I wasn’t blown away. Don’t get me wrong: It’s vintage Steve Buscemi. I guess I’m in kind of a weird position in that I saw this late in life after I had already seen his other brilliant performances, so in my world, it was kind of like, ‘been there, done that.’ But Mr. Pink is a solid character to be sure.

Jason: In a way, Mr. Pink is a crucial character in Buscemi’s lexicon in that it’s both memorable and the archetype of what would come over the next 20 years of his career. Reservoir Dogs still remains one of my favorite films of all time for its simplistic set up narrative and production wise as well as being a great dialogue spewer. Buscemi is overly paranoid here as Pink and it makes him more memorable for playing the suspicious guys of an ensemble than a stand out solo character. His early banter in the film with Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) sets up exactly what needs to be known about the situation, the characters, and the psychological whodunit that follows through the film.

3. Donny –- The Big Lebowski

Daniel: Donny. How can you not love Donny? If you don’t like Donny, you don’t have a soul. Alright, he has a few issues here and there. He jumps into conversations too late and expects to be brought up to speed. He can’t tell the difference between John Lennon and V.I. Lenin, and he won’t shut up about In-N-Out Burger. But Donny is a simple man. He just likes to bowl, and he’s damn good at it. And just like the Narrator at the end, I didn’t like seeing Donny go either. R.I.P Donny … we miss you.

Jason: I can’t express enough how many people in my life have been referenced by the term “Shut the fuck up Donny!” Donny is such a simple ingredient in The Big Lebowski — he is kind of there as background noise to counteract Walter and the Dude, but it’s so funny because he is so polite. Donny just wants to bowl, and sadly his demise only echoes his simpleton roots. That he is also responsible for getting the itch to try In-N-Out Burgers in my head, which I succeeded in two summers ago. Thanks for that one, Donny. Now shut the fuck up!

2. Danny McGrath –- Billy Madison

Daniel: ‘Man, I’m glad I called that guy.’ Aren’t we all Billy? The iconic image of Danny McGrath is him crossing off Billy Madison from his ‘People to Kill’ list and then putting on lipstick. He may only be in two scenes, but boy are they good ones. Only Steve Buscemi can have that lasting image in two quick scenes…superb work.


Jason: Daniel’s view echoes my greatly. Buscemi has been known for being the standout in many of Adam Sandler’s work especially in The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy. However, it all started with him just putting on lipstick and crossing the apologetic Billy Madison off his people to kill list. With ELO’s “Telephone Line” looping over top the scene, it’s a spark of genius in why we love Steve Buscemi so much.

Carl Showalter -– Fargo

Daniel: This is Steve Buscemi’s crowning achievement. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Fargo. Every time Carl Showalter popped up on screen, it was like watching Tom Brady walk out to run the Patriots offense: a thing of beauty. I could sit here all day and just spout off Carl quotes: ‘Blood has been shed Jerry.’ ‘I’m not gonna debate you, Jerry.’ ‘King clip-on-tie there, big fuckin’ man, huh?’ Certainly the writing by the Coen Brothers is brilliant, but Steve Buscemi is the only man on the planet who could have taken this character to where it needed to go. And you can say that about most of his roles. That’s what makes Steve Buscemi one of a kind.

Jason: While I don’t share the sentiment of Carl Showalter being like watching Tom Brady play, Buscemi really sealed his film career with this performance. It helps that it’s probably the Coen Brothers’ best film and the Of Mice And Men-like workings of both Carl and Gaear really play off the vindictive quality Buscemi showcases here. He is a guy who knows his business and knows his intent but can’t stand stupid people, which is what he sees the people of Fargo to be, let alone his partner. It’s a wonderful display of skill the way that Buscemi conveys humor in very terrible situations and can still be cold and calculating even if he simply a pawn to a grander design.


Rockhound (Armageddon) and Garland Greene (Con Air):

Jason: I feel like Steve Buscemi in a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film is always one in the same character in that’s highly enjoyable but always quick to forget how great it was. Rockhound in Armageddon was just a great mouthpiece for amusing dialogue mainly centering on his love for strippers and his very impressive background which he fines less attractive than changing scenery and using explosives.

Garland Greene, on the other hand, was so inherently creepy that when he spoke and attempted any form of interaction with the inmates of Con Air, it made you laugh regardless of intention. Yes, his tea party with the little Trailer Park girl is very disturbing, but it only rests when you know he doesn’t kill her. You sometimes forget both these roles, but you are quickly reminded that nothing is ever completely forgettable in film when it’s Steve Buscemi.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.


  1. I think alot of people forget about him as Ed in Ed and His Dead Mother. Awesome movie. Awesome role. And Ghost World. Loved him!

  2. Loooved Buscemi in Ghost World and agree that should have been on the list. I know I’m in the minority on this, but I find Buscemi super sexy, especially in Reservoir Dogs. I don’t know why, but he totally does it for me…yum.

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