Sam Rockwell: American Actor

Sam Rockwell is one of the most accomplished actors of his generation. A two-time Academy Award winner for his performances in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Galaxy Quest, as well as multiple nominees (such as George W. Bush in Adam McKay’s Vice), Sam has established himself as an extraordinary talent.

Recently, The actor won numerous awards for his performance as Ebbing, Missouri police officer Charles Ketterer in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri opposite Frances McDormand. Here is a glimpse back into some of his best movies to date.

Sam Rockwell in Clownhouse

In this low-budget 1989 horror flick, three escaped mental patients disguise themselves as clowns to terrorize three young brothers living alone. Though it didn’t garner much critical acclaim upon its initial release, Sam Rockwell made his acting debut and earned one of his biggest roles ever to date in it.

Victor Salva made his feature-length directorial debut with this film based on his short Something in the Basement (1986). Rockwell co-starred alongside Nathan Forrest Winters and Brian McHugh as brothers being pursued by clowns.

Clownhouse director Salva was falsely accused of sexually assaulting one of his 12-year-old actors, Nathan Forrest Winters. While these allegations were later disproved as false, they nevertheless caused irreparable damage to Salva’s reputation and delayed its release.

Even after this early setback, Sam Rockwell’s acting career flourished throughout the 1990s with appearances in films like George Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and television shows such as NYPD Blue and Law & Order. Most recently, he earned an Emmy nomination for portraying Bob Fosse in the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon as well as Oscar consideration in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017).

Sam Rockwell in The Green Mile

Sam Rockwell had already established himself during the 1990s heyday of American independent cinema, but The Green Mile marked his breakthrough role. Director Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel follows a depression-era prison guard tasked with overseeing death row cell block “The Green Mile”, nicknamed for its olive-colored floors – until they discover one inmate has supernatural healing powers that might save his life. Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan round out an outstanding cast that brings emotional depth.

At times, The Green Mile was widely criticized for its sentimentality; Film Comment critic Dave Kehr described its characters as having “the soft hugs of hand puppets”. Yet this work remains important and effective – never lethargic or predictable and concludes on an emotionally powerful note.

After appearing briefly as a sexually obsessed con man in Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke, Rockwell made his Broadway comeback for a revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo and received his first Tony Award nomination. Subsequently, he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a police officer in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri while also garnering another nomination as Bob Fosse in the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon.

Sam Rockwell in Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest has quickly become a cult classic since its release two decades ago. This science fiction comedy about the cast of a canceled TV sci-fi series recruited to go on an intergalactic adventure is widely remembered for its commentary on fandom and stardom, featuring performances by Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Daryl Mitchell, Sam Rockwell, and Tony Shalhoub (in particular President Zaphod Beeblerox played by Rockwell), among many others. Rockwell as Beeblerox makes for some memorable scenes – his performance makes you smile every time!

The movie’s premise was inspired by the fact that many former Star Trek actors (such as Allen, Nesmith, and Shatner’s former co-stars Gwen DeMarco, Fred Kwan, and Alexander Dane ) now make their living signing autographs, doing trivial promotional appearances or other low-profile work; making the thought of their cast being called upon for space combat all the more amusing.

A challenging acting feat awaits our cast when they are recruited by an alien race known as Thermians who mistake transmissions from their canceled television show for actual accounts of heroic battles in outer space. Help your heroes defend Earth against an aggressive warlord with an army of alien warriors!

Sam Rockwell in Matchstick Men

After being featured in several big-budget movies such as Lawn Dogs and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Sam Rockwell broke through as an actor thanks to Matchstick Men. He gave an extraordinary performance as Roy, an obsessively detailed grifter with severe OCD tendencies.

In this movie, we see him run cons while simultaneously grappling with mental health issues and conflicted emotions about his chosen profession. However, rather than providing an infallible moral lesson about “good vs. evil”, the film instead acts as an exploration of individual characters to demonstrate how even seemingly small actions can have huge ramifications for those in need of assistance.

The movie manages to strike a balance between entertaining and suspenseful elements, something necessary for any movie about conmen. There’s also plenty of warmth and sentimentality as we see Roy form an intimate bond with his daughter; something which only exists within an experience like this where characters become humanized through contact from outside their usual circles.

Sam Rockwell made his breakthrough performance as an actor in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017) and won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his efforts in that film.

Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths

Sam Rockwell perfectly personifies this sly comedy’s titular psychopaths with his self-deprecating delivery and self-referential tone. Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh pays a nod to Tarantino (Billy Bickle is named after Taxi Driver’s Travis), while also mixing classic films such as True Romance, Get Shorty, and Taxi Driver into one mash-up that may at times feel intrusive but adds its edge of cynicism that sets this film apart.

Colin Farrell and Rockwell joined forces once more after performing together on Broadway in Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane to create this dark yet quirky thriller. This film tells the tale of Marty Faranan, an artistically and possibly alcohol-abusing screenwriter unable to move past his latest project entitled Seven Psychopaths. He makes friends with Billy (Rockwell), a dog-kidnapper who assists in getting his writing underway by dognapping one of the Shih Tzu belonging to one of the psychopaths listed on a wanted poster. Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, and Tom Waits star in this black comedy of errors film. For Sam Rockwell, it has been one of the most significant roles he has ever taken part in and helped define his career path.


Sam Rockwell has become known as an outstanding actor thanks to his versatility; whether playing the antagonistic cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri or the gay Nazi in Jojo Rabbit. He can easily switch gears; from Moon’s lunar explorer and Choke’s sexual addict, you will notice two distinctly different characters; yet remains a non-commercially committed actor.

Science fiction writers often depicted the moon as an ideal setting, reflecting our natural world while altering it through interpretation and imagination. From H. G. Wells’s First Men on the Moon to Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson’s army of paying astronauts and Philip K. Dick’s violent capitalism – everything from H. G. Wells’s work can be found here.

Sam Rockwell has often played characters who struggle with alcoholism in his films, yet his performances never feel flat. In See How They Run he plays a detective tasked with untangling an Agatha Christie-like whodunit; Digital Spy spoke with him before its release for more insight and you can read our full interview here. Sam also recently appeared as Wolf in Dreamworks picture The Bad Guys as a lead voice actor; take a look at its trailer below (courtesy of Sam Rockwell himself and/or the official movie website).

Snow Angels

This suburban drama tells an engaging story as it follows several people as they struggle with various issues, with notable performances from Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, but ultimately falls short of its potential.

Beginning this film can be daunting when its opening gunshots portend at least one violent death in this ensemble piece, even with writer-director David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls)’s strong grasp on its characters and relationships – though its drama fails to come together fully.

The gray winter landscape and sense of grim inevitability help make this film feel enveloping, yet too grim for its good. Unfortunately, its tale is rather disjointed due to stories about parental neglect, drug use, and other problems which don’t quite connect.

Though not an overwhelming problem, this movie could have been more engaging with some carefully written dialogue and improved character development. While its cast is certainly stellar, the movie never quite fulfills its potential.