Paul Walker Death: Appreciating His Top 5 Movie Roles Outside the ‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise

Paul Walker Death: Appreciating His Top 5 Movie Roles Outside the 'Fast & Furious' Franchise

TheWrap film reporter Jeff Sneider saw something in Paul Walker long before he got “Fast and Furious” — and saw his potential thereafter, too

Fade in on January 1999. I'm 14 years old. Future teen classics “Varsity Blues” and “She's All That” are released within two weeks of each other. They feature relatable stars like James Van Der Beek and Freddie Prinze Jr., respectively, as well as a rising twenty-something actor named Paul Walker, who was coming off a supporting turn in another '90s gem, “Pleasantville.”

Walker basically played the same character in all three films — a good-looking guy who was popular with both the ladies and his teammates. The sort of All-American athlete that guys aspired to be and girls aspired to date. A rugged Zack Morris, if you will.

Hollywood took notice quickly, especially Universal, which cast him as the lead in “The Skulls” opposite another young heartthrob, Joshua Jackson of “Dawson's Creek.” After that, Universal gave him the keys to “The Fast and the Furious,” an action-packed soap opera of sorts that was geared to gearheads well before the studio knew the mileage it would get from the future franchise.

Also read: ‘Fast and Furious’ Star Paul Walker Dead in Car Crash

Walker stayed behind the wheel for “Joy Ride,” an underrated thriller that John Dahl directed from a script co-written by J.J. Abrams. By the time “2 Fast 2 Furious” rolled around, Walker was as hot as ever — until the ill-timed misfire “Timeline.” It was a minor bump in his career's upward trajectory, which later included the hit Disney movie “Eight Below” and a role as war hero Hank Hansen in Clint Eastwood's “Flags of Our Fathers.”

Walker wasn't the kind of movie star to grace the covers of tabloid magazines. He was a consummate professional who kept his head down and did solid work in mainstream movies that entertained millions. He was just starting to stretch as an actor, and had a first-look producing deal at Universal, which always believed in his potential as not just an actor but a producer as well.

“It is impossible that the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise would have become the phenomenon that it has without Paul’s imprint on the series,” Universal's Donna Langley and former chairman Adam Fogelson said last year in a joint statement.

See photos: 25 Paul Walker Movie Roles

Walker's Laguna Ridge Pictures had been developing the action thriller “Skyscraper” with Universal and “Fast and Furious” producer Neal Moritz, who the actor credited as “a catalyst and a guide throughout” his career. After the success of “Fast Five” reinvigorated the franchise, Walker decided to pursue producing, and when he wasn't on set or immersed in charity work, he ran the company with Brandon Birtell and manager Matt Luber.

By most accounts, Walker's dramatic work in Eric Heisserer's upcoming directorial debut “Hours” was among his very best, and most personal. He plays a desperate New Orleans father out to save his newborn baby as Hurricane Katrina threatens the electricity in an abandoned hospital. The film is currently scheduled for release on Dec. 13, though that is subject to change in lieu of Walker's death.

Having earned Hollywood's trust as a leading man all over again, Walker had been eyed to star in the latest “Hitman” movie “Agent 47,” which would've found him replacing Timothy Olyphant as the bald and bar-coded assassin. Alas, Walker died Saturday in a tragic car accident at the age of 40.

Also read: Paul Walker Dead – Hollywood Mourns ‘Fast & Furious’ Star on Twitter (Updated)

Fade out… but not from our hearts and minds.

Here are five non-”Furious” movie roles in which Walker gave standout performances:

“Varsity Blues”
As injured quarterback Lance Harbor, Walker served as the ultimate team player/coach, willing to do whatever it took to win. You felt for him as he writhed in pain on the football field before he learns his long-term prognosis, and shared his joy when he coached best bud and fellow QB Moxon (James Van Der Beek) to a win in the big game. His performance allowed us to root for Mox, who basically takes his job and his girlfriend over the course of the movie. No easy feat.

“She's All That
Walker plays Dean, a popular high school student who bets Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) that he can't turn an artsy-fartsy outcast into the Prom Queen in six weeks. Walker excelled at playing these types of characters who look great on the outside but are as vulnerable as everyone else on the inside. We almost root for Rachael Leigh Cook to wind up with Dean because Zack has been lying to her all along. Almost. That was Walker's strength as an actor.

“The Skulls”
Before he landed the lead role in “The Fast and the Furious,” Walker worked with director Rob Cohen, producer Neal Moritz and Universal on this collegiate thriller that paired him with another “Dawson's Creek” hunk, Joshua Jackson. Walker plays a fraternity leader born with a silver spoon who gets caught up in a murder case alongside his powerful father. The movie shined a light on secret societies and its modest success spawned two direct-to-video sequels. Not too shabby as far as early star vehicles go. After all, even Jennifer Lawrence had “The House at the End of the Street.”

“Joy Ride”
J.J. Abrams co-wrote this nasty little 2001 thriller, in which Walker and Steve Zahn play brothers who use a CB radio to play a prank on a psychotic trucker who subsequently comes after them and Leelee Sobieski. The John Dahl-directed film was a modest success that never got its due, and helped Walker prove himself as a reliable leading man capable of eliciting sympathy from an audience.

“Running Scared”
This twisted 2005 thriller from Wayne Kramer remains my favorite Paul Walker movie.  The insane plot has him running from gangsters, drug dealers, pimps and a homeless man as he scrambles to retrieve a missing murder weapon. Walker was very believable as a desperate family man caught in a bad situation, and he's game for everything the out-there script calls for, including taking a few hockey pucks to the face during the film's bloody-good climax. Sure, Walker's tough-guy accent is a little wonky, but that was part of the actor's charm. He allowed us to laugh at that kind of self-serious material, and just enjoy the ride, no matter how strange it became. Decades from now, when the “Fast and Furious” franchise is in the rear-view mirror, this one may be remembered as a cult classic.

  • Joe Leydon

    I thought Mox was dating Lance's sister in “Varsity Blues.” Are you suggesting there was an incestuous subtext?

    • derek

      No Joe…. they're referring to Paul's gf the blonde in the whipped cream bikini

    • Nick

      He does date Lance's sister but Lance's girlfriend (played by the lovely Ali Larter) tries to seduce Mox later in attempt to make him her boyfriend so she can go to college with him since Lance's knee injury ended her chance to leave with him.

    • Wendy Dover

      Mox was dating Lance's sister, but Lance's girlfriend tried to get Mox to cheat when he became the head QB because she wanted a free ride out of town.

  • astralislux

    I watched Joy Ride for the first time ever the other day and loved it. I was shocked that Walker was in it when I saw it because I've enjoyed seeing him in all his popcorn movies — with respect.

  • Burphelson AFB

    Joy Ride is an amazingly brilliant movie that somehow flew under the radar. It's one of the few DVD movies I have that I'll watch more than once. Walker is great in it and owns the screen when he's on. What a tragedy. RIP Mr. Walker and thank you for your work.

    • rhoda

      so very well said joy ride is one of the best movies totally agree

  • Megan

    such a good looking man damm! he was hot as hell in She's All That and the 1st Fast And The Furious . move over Brad Pitt i want Paul back! ya know what im sayin!!!

  • Nia Vafaei

    She's All That!!!!!!!!!!

  • nitesoul

    where is The Hour?

    • dottie

      On Demand TV.

    • Linda Billings

      A movie where Paul Walker. Is trying to save his me born baby after Katrina.

  • Martin Miller

    It's sadly ironic that one of Walker's films is Joy Ride, which is what he went on with Roger Rodas, the driver who got him killed in Santa Clarita. Such a needless tragic death. Studios may need risk managers on set to handle actors who like to take risks.

    • A.Henry

      You need to remember that Roger Rodas lost his life as well. He may not have been famous but his life was just as important. It was an accident. A careless action made by the both of them. I would say that Paul had no problems with the way that Roger was driving. He lived for speed, they both did. Paul's death was horrible and the fact that Roger was driving is a minor detail. Would you still say such a thing if it had been Paul driving instead of Roger? Both of these men have family and friends grieving over the sudden tragedy. Please, show some respect.

      • Martin Miller

        I've managed talent. It's is not a minor detail that Rodas was driving. If you're at the wheel, you are responsible. Check the law, fool. Sure, Walker should have stopped the ride or not gone out on that raw race car. He was stupid. Please shut up about ‘respect'.

        • A. Henry

          I was just pointing out that Roger lost his life too. I am not trying to pick a fight or anything else. He was a person just like you and the fact that you have “managed talent” doesnt mean crap. Oh you know what nevermind… I get tired of talking to ignorant people… good day.

          • Martin Miller

            You're not too smart, and you don't know the law. I ran a major automotive web site.

          • Scott Dietrich

            No one questioned the law…he just said have some respect for the other guy who lost his life. Sure he was legally responsible, but Walker put himself in the situation and I am sure he was having no problems with the speed they were going until the crash happened. Fact is, two guys lost their lives. Have some respect, which you clearly don't.

          • Martin Miller

            And Scott, where does it say someone who engages in reckless driving of over 100 mph must be respected after they get a major talent killed? What's that philosophy?

          • Scott Dietrich

            All people deserve respect. That philosophy is called caring about your fellow humans. Like I said, I guarantee Paul Walker had no problems with how Roger was driving until the car went out of control.

          • Martin Miller

            All people people deserve respect? No. Not so. You respect Rush Limbaugh? I hope he drops dead of a drug overdose. Factually, the car did not go out of control by itself. The driver was reckless. Don't lecture me about caring for fellow human beings. How arrogant! Go away.

          • Scott Dietrich

            You are the arrogant one. Oh “I managed talent”…how pompous, you jackass.

          • Martin Miller

            Scott, you wanna come discuss in person? What a prick! Stupid is a tough disease, huh?

          • Scott Dietrich

            Since you the rich guy, why don't you come to me? I wouldn't know how hard it is to be stupid. Seems you would be the one to ask.

          • Martin Miller

            There are scores of management companies who handle talent in the entertainment biz. I've done it, and I take care my clients. If I was managing him and on that set, Walker would not have entered that GT Carrera.

            Go back to flipping your burgers.

          • Scott Dietrich

            They weren't on a set when this happened…but whatever.

          • A. Henry

            Thank you!!! That was my entire point!

        • Becky

          It is a minor detail. Both lives held importance and deserve respect no one is to blame I'm sure they were both enjoying themselves and encouraging each other they lived for speed. It was an unfortunate accident which hurt a lot of ppl why lay blame, its not gna change nothing.

          • Martin Miller

            Scott and Becky, neither of you know how things work in the entertainment business. When a big star like Walker is predisposed to liking fast cars and taking associated risks, his friends are supposed to be the adults, not the enablers. Yes, Walker was partly responsible, but his friend Roger should have been his caretaker, not his partner in speeding on a city street lined with trees and light posts. That GT Carrera is for the track, These were stupid needless deaths. This matter is not about respect, but about responsibility.

          • Becky

            So ur saying stars needs caretakers? that's nice,but I think Paul and any other person is very capable to make their own decisions. It has nothing do with him being a star or who knows what, you have no idea what I know n I'm not here to brag. I'm just making a point that blame can not be an issue if all parties are willing. And yes the GT was in wrong place but so were half the cars both those men drove for a living

          • Martin Miller

            Real interesting response. Yes, big stars typically have management companies and personal managers. Walker was an actor, not a NASCAR driver. Yes, I do have an idea what you know based on your comments, which reflect ignorance. By the law, Rodas was at the wheel. and is responsible. Talk to a cop or ask your car insurance company.

          • Scott Dietrich

            That is an absolutely ridiculous statement to make. No one is responsible for you except you…that doesn't change just because you are famous. His friends are not supposed to be his caretaker. Both guys loved speed and speed and irresponsible driving killed them. But to say Roger should have been his caretaker is just bullshit, and Paul Walker would have said that before anyone. You are such a moron.

          • Martin Miller

            Scott, you dumb fat troll. In the entertainment business, stars have support system of managers, friends, etc. Can I have fries with my burger? Large.

          • Scott Dietrich

            Have all the fries you want, bitch. Again, I don't flip burgers for a living. I get the support system they have, but that doesn't mean those people are responsible for them…in the entertainment business, more often than not, those people are taking advantage of the celebrity. Since you don't have a picture I can crack on, I picture you being some short midget with a gold suit on and earrings in both ears and who talks like some stupid fuck from the Bronx.

      • Michael

        You said it right my friend. They both deserve so much respect for what they did especially Paul. Such a great humanitarian!! Great actor as well. He was by far one of the greatest actors to this date I've ever seen. I still can't believe he is gone to this day. It hits hard on me as well as other people around the world today. Out of so many celebrities, I would have love to have met him just once. He seemed liked such great person with an admiring personality really likeable. His friends on and off the set loved him so much especially the fast and furious stars. It seems like Tyrese Gibson got hit pretty hard by hit but he says he's finally got his smile back which is great. You were a great guy Paul and always will be in my book by far. Will never forget you!! Rest in peace my friend!!

  • Fidel Reyes

    I really liked him in 8 Below as well.

  • Marcie Nicole Stephens

    Paul was a amazing actor person father son brother etc but when God calls his angels answer

  • Scotty

    INTO THE BLUE was all time

  • bluejay

    Hours came out a few Weeks after he passed away and it was only in select theaters which was a true injustice to that movie cuz it was really good and deserved a world wide release.
    I think The Lazarus Project should have been on this list. It was so far from most of the roles he usually took.

    • Linda Billings

      I wanted too see hours but could not find it in the theater. now trying to buy tbe dvd and having no luck. It would be nice if they re-release it.

      • chocolate

        google hours free streaming! that's how i watched it :)

      • Angel

        This is coming to Netflix in march.

      • Jami Lee

        Hours will be released on Dvd in March

      • Aaron R. (A2K)

        it's been on Itunes since the release date or close to it.

    • Jami Lee

      But you can also watch it on Video On Demand. That was how my family watched it.

    • joe zolobkowski jr.

      The Lazarus project? -never heard of it

  • alicia brizuela

    Is very cuality everityng…god bless my prince friend… i love hen …

  • Stephanie K

    What about into the blue? Great movie!

    • Debbie Adams

      I was gonna say the same thing! My 18 yrs old wstches it at least once a week !

  • Toni Barnes-McKinney

    Joy Ride and Into the Blue

  • Veronica 28

    He was also in the movies Takers, which was an amzing movie!!! My blessings go to his family and friends! He was one of my favorite actores and my son was a huge fan of the fast and furious saga.. He wants to race cars when he grows up.. But god pless and prayers to all friends, family and all of Paul Walkers fan… God bless

  • Nick

    I too really liked him in Eight Below… and I still feel Into the Blue was an underrated movie, though I may be blinded by the loveliness that was Jessica Alba in that movie… but I thought him and Scott Caan played well off each other as well.

  • Wenna Pasiolan

    Eight Below …everytime i've watched it cant’ t avoid my teary eyed

  • Rhonda Thibodeaux Crochet

    Eight Below and Into the Blue are two of my best besides The Fast and Furious Movies!

    • Anurag Singh

      Agree, Eight below was one of the best

  • Anita

    I actually thought Timeline was an excellent movie I think Paul Walker was alot better actor than anyone gives him credit for there are haters and all ways will be but I think he was special in everything he did. He was generous and talented and caring and giving. He is missed dearly and I am sure his family misses him so much it hurts. I lot my little bother when he was 42 and I think Paul dying really cut me deep, I can't seem to get over it, I can't get oven my little brother I guess deep in my heart they where some what a like so his death hurts too.

  • Linda Kubik

    He also helped his friends tag great white sharks for shark week on the Discovery channel, no one seems to mention that.

  • gunthorr

    What about into the blue?!?!?!

  • MeeshaLin

    One of my favorite movies would be Bobby Z. Love that movie!

  • Kage

    I liked Vehicle 19…but I guess I am one of the few.

    • larry

      I liked Vehicle 19 as well , but must say Running Scared is my fav.

  • patty

    Running Scared…..Favorite of all his movies.
    You are so missed. R.I.P.

  • Scott Dietrich

    Thank you for putting Running Scared on there! That is my absolute favorite Walker movie.

  • Emaya Shannon

    My fav is Eight below

  • Shakayla Be

    Takers!

  • ajju

    running scared was the best movie done by him……………..as much of the mystery in that film……………………

  • Neko

    Paul walker was an amazing actor. I think meet the deedles deserves a mention though. Love that movie.

  • Christine Johnson

    I just saw Hours last night on Demand. It's a really great movie. He played his ass off in it like all of his movies. You can tell he always give's it all. But I have to admit the first few min of the movie I cried. Not so much with the Movie as it was realization that he is gone.

  • Makcim

    yeah lazarus project should have been on the list instead of Joy Ride i think…

  • rocknrolldiva2001

    Meet the Deedles was an awesomely goofy movie, too.

  • jw1005

    My fav outside of Fast & Furious was Into the Blue that wasn't even mentioned here. Wth?

  • Jessi

    I had a friend that knew Paul. He really was a good, genuine guy. His passing is a huge loss and it still stings even though it's almost been two months since it happened.

    As for his films where he really showed his chops, for me, it's the following:

    Hours
    Vehicle 19
    Running Scared
    Eight Below
    Joy Ride

    We knew the talent was there (especially when he did “Running Scared”), but “Hours” also really showed that he could carry a film. He even started getting offers for other films he didn't think he'd ever get. It's real tragic that he didn't get to reap those benefits.

  • Wyld Guy

    eight below was good too

  • Sethcohen26

    Running scared and joyride are definite classics and really show how great an actor he was. The skulls was terrible

  • Helena Taylor

    Sorry I loved Timeline.

  • yolandatamez

    I love into the Blue that was awesome I loved Eight Below, and Skulls was pretty cool, as well as Hours saw that one and loved it, his best work for sure…joyride and and running scared. I loved all his movies …He was really a great actor and of course the fast and furious were like being part of a family….loved him…

  • Scott Dietrich

    And honestly, who gives a flying shit about what you know about cars? What does that even have to do with anything? You are just a douchebag throwing a resume around that no one cares about.

    • Martin Miller

      That's because you are a stupid troll. The GT is a known dangerous vehicle. Those of us who are gear heads know that. Can I have my burger medium rare?

      • Scott Dietrich

        You can have your burger anyway you want it, you f'n twat. I won't be serving it to you, you obnoxious prick. You really think you are some hot shit, don't you?

  • hippiechickie8912

    Running Scared was his best movie! Finally some accolades beside Fast & Furious!

  • nickeya evans

    My all time favorite movie of Paul Walker is The Skulls. Caleb Mandrake.

  • nickeya evans

    Caleb Mandrake…”The Skulls” Forever my favorite. Loved seeing him in the tux! So handsome! Gonna miss his acting. I saw most of his movies.

  • chien_clean

    Varsity Blues? The Skulls? She's all that? Are you kidding me?

  • Kim

    I personally enjoyed Paul's role in Pawn Shop Chronicles. It was great to see another side of him and a good movie, as well!