A Look at Brendan Fraser’s Most Iconic Movie Roles

The actor’s comeback that we’ve all been waiting for
By Madison E. Goldberg
(Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)

Last night’s Critics Choice Awards marked a milestone for actor Brendan Fraser. Fraser delivered an emotional acceptance speech after winning Best Actor on Sunday, saying that “if you just get to your feet and look to the light, good things will happen,” even if you are struggling. 

His win is being celebrated by fans across Twitter. Some even pointed out that Ke Huy Quan, who took home the Critic’s Choice for Best Supporting Actor in the 2022 A24 film Everything Everywhere All At Once, worked with him in the 1992 film Encino Man. Quan celebrated Fraser’s win after his speech in the winner’s lounge.

In 2022, Fraser made his return to the box office  with The Whale, directed by Darren Aronofsky and costarring Stranger Things star Sadie Sink. Many fans of Fraser’s string of movies from the 90s were curious about his Hollywood hiatus–Fraser cleared up theories about his absence in a 2018 interview with GQ. Fraser was sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, the former head of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in the summer of 2003. 

The HFPA launched a private investigation that concluded that Berk’s advance was intended to be “taken as a joke,” but Fraser maintains his account of the encounter. Berk continues to deny the allegations, and remains a voter for the Golden Globes. Now, in 2023, Fraser was nominated for his first Golden Globe–and he continued to take a stand and not appear at the awards ceremony.

In honor of Fraser’s triumphant return to acting, here’s a look back at some of his most iconic roles.

David Greene in School Ties (1993)

In this early 90s film, Fraser stars alongside Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as a student at the prestigious St. Matthew’s Catholic boarding school in Massachusetts.

The year is 1959, and Fraser’s character David Greene is Jewish, and grew up in a working class community in Pennsylvania. The film follows Greene’s efforts to keep his secret, so as to maintain his spot at the school and protect himself from the vitriol and antisemitism of his peers. The film offers a look at prejudice in academia, and the lingering antisemitism in America. This was the first major box office film role for Fraser, Damon, and Affleck, who all went on to find major success as actors.

George in George of the Jungle (1997)

In this classic family comedy, Fraser plays the Tarzan-inspired George, a bumbling man raised by apes in the jungle of Burundi.

George is discovered by wealthy heiress Ursula (played by Leslie Mann), who takes him home with her to San Francisco after he rescues her from a lion attack and needs treatment for a wound. A series of hilarious hijinks ensue, as George has never lived in the human world before. 

Rick O’Connell in The Mummy (1999)

In this action packed film, Fraser plays adventurer Rick O’Connell in a journey to find Hamunaptra, or, The City of the Dead, a lost city in Egypt.

 He’s joined by librarian and Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah). Fraser famously did many of his own stunts for this film franchise, which landed him with several injuries.

Rick Cabot in Crash (2004)

This 2004 ensemble drama takes a hard look at police violence against people of color and women, and the chain reaction that accidental police shootings have on communities.

The film features an acclaimed cast, including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Ryan Phillipe, Thandiwe Newton and Ludacris. Bullock plays Fraser’s character Los Angeles District Attorney Rick Cabot’s wife. 

Charlie in The Whale (2022)

In Brendan Fraser’s return to the big screen, he stars as Charlie, a man who suffers with obesity who is on the brink of heart failure. Charlie’s binge eating disorder stemmed from the trauma of his longtime partner, Alan, committing suicide due to the religious trauma that his Christian family inflicted on him because of his gay identity.

Charlie is now a reclusive English professor who only interacts with his nurse, Liz, who is Alan’s sister. Knowing he is near death, he attempts to make amends with people in his life, mostly his teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) and his ex wife Mary (Samantha Morton).  Arguably his most emotionally challenging role yet, Fraser’s performance has earned him numerous accolades in the 2023 awards season.