We love Patrick Stewart. We adore Mark Sheppard. But there's one actor who just owns science fiction. He made Patrick Stewart count the lights. He tormented Tron. He fled H.G. Wells into the 1970s. We're speaking, of course, of the one and only David Warner. Here's all the reasons we love him.
We rediscovered our love for David Warner when he appeared on Doctor Who a couple weeks ago — but we never stopped adoring him. For these roles, among others:
In this horror anthology, Warner is a guy who goes to a creepy antique store and gets caught up in some kind of supernatural nonsense — leading to him being possessed by a haunted mirror which makes him kill people. The look in his eyes is actually quite alarming.
Warner gets viciously decapitated by a sheet of glass, in a particularly horrifying moment. Again, the look on his face... quite alarming. Both before and after.
Killer bats plague a Native American reservation, and Warner is there. Check out the amazing trailer, in which Warner explains that there is only one species in the entire world that doesn't give something back in return for its existence: the vampire bat!
One of the all-time great time travel movies. And the story of H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper forward in time wouldn't be nearly as thrilling without David Warner's amazing performance — check out this brilliant confrontation between the two men, in which Warner makes the line "You're so Victorian" ring with irony. And "You haven't gone forward, Herbert." So brilliant. The subtle menace, mixed with intellect, is perfect.
Speaking of great time travel movies which are made vastly better by David Warner — his performance as Evil is just the perfect blend of campy and sardonic. He manages to be completely silly and utterly scary at the same time, and you feel a real sense of dread when he lures the Time Bandits into his web towards the end.
Another masterful villain performance — especially when you consider that Warner is playing the Master Control Program andSark, thus he spends a fair bit of time talking to himself. He manages to give the two characters completely different personalities, while still making you feel like they're different aspects of Dillinger.
Warner plays Dr. Alfred Necessiter, the mad scientist who helps Steve Martin to do a full brain transplant — and he's just note-perfect as a psychotic scientist who is willing to play God with people's brains, including keeping brains in jars and putting them into newly murdered women, no questions asked.
Warner plays Zandor, the innkeeper in the spooky inn who sends the young man on his quest to find out about the Shivers by saying encouraging things like, "Would you like some food? We don't want you dying on an empty stomach, do we? Ha ha ha ha..."
The ever-versatile Warner plays the pitiful Bob Cratchit, instead of Scrooge or one of the scary ghosts. He still brings a certain undercurrent of resentment to the long-suffering underling, however.
In this TV movie version of the Mary Shelley classic, David Warner plays the creature with a remarkable amount of angst, and a pitiful look of misery in his eyes. As he faces Dr. Frankenstein and grapples with huge metaphysical questions, he makes the most verbose Frankenstein's monster we've ever seen actually work.
Hansel and Gretel (1987)
The Cannon Group, best known for the worst Superman movies and some insane B-movies, also made a kid-friendly movie of this fairytale, with Warner playing the kids' father who hauls them off to the woods. He puts all he's got into being the sad, downtrodden wood-cutter trying to provide for his family... until it's too late.
A wacky vampire comedy — in this scene, Warner is about to stake a vampire when two wise guys interrupt and accuse him of murder. Best part: Warner tries to prove this is a real vampire using a crucifix, but it doesn't work. "Maybe he's a Jewish vampire," Warner says.
Crossbow: "The Alchemist" (1987)
Warner plays a spooky alchemist who appears to have mystical powers, in this episode of the TV show about William Tell. Mostly notable because he's doing a totally great rendition of his Evil/Master Control Program voice here, possibly purring with menace and intrigue. Just skip to about 3:00 in the above video, to hear Warner saying, "It is not for you to question me... You do not know what realm you entered when you trespassed on my land" with total evil sincerity.
Warner is the proprietor of a scary waxwork museum in this teen horror comedy. Unfortunately, Warner is stuck wearing a succession of silly outfits, including a purple jacket and red scarf, and some kind of mock-Victorian getup.
Worlds Beyond: "Reflections of Evil" (1988)
In this horror anthology series, Warner plays a paranormal investigator with a snazzy sweater who investigates spooky occurrences like the lights going out inexplicably in a small village. Skip to about 4:30 for the start of Warner's part, where he becomes determined to go to the spooky village and see for himself. Warner eats a sandwich with a look of brooding intensity at about 6:50.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Warner is pretty much wasted as one of the diplomats who's taken captive by Sybok, but I can't find a clip of this online anywhere.
Grave Secrets (1989)
This time, instead of a paranormal investigator, Warner plays a spirit medium, leading to the scene where he clutches his chair and mutters: "Ruthless! Evil! Domineering!" And then summons the malevolent spirit.
Twin Peaks (1989)
Warner plays Thomas Eckhardt, the former business partner of Andrew Packard who's in love with Andrew's widow Josie, who comes to Twin Peaks looking for Josie after she fails to come back to him in Hong Kong. Here's the scene where he comes to visit Josie, dripping with menace. "One does not kill for art or money. Those are commodities easily lost and easily gained."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
In this wacky kid-friendly sequel, Warner plays a professor who runs a corporation that's trying to clean up pollution — only to be captured by the Foot Clan and forced to create ooze monsters. Go to 16 minutes in to see Warner wearing a silly big helmet and talking about the environment.
This film is basically Top Gun with UFOs — and Warner plays the gruff commander who tells the flyboys, "Don't screw up." While looking mostly kind of bored and irritated with all their flyboy crap. Skip to about 6:00 in on the video above.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Now this is more like it. Warner's second Star Trek appearance is his first memorable one — he plays Chancellor Gorkon, basically the Klingon Gorbachev, trying to make peace with the Federation. He brings amazing gravitas to the role, before being murdered far too soon.
The Lost World (1992)
Just one year before Jurassic Park, David Warner starred in this cut-price "dinosaur adventure" movie, alongside John Rhys-Davies. Based loosely on the famous Arthur Conan-Doyle novel that also inspired classic 1925 and 1960 movie versions. Sadly there are no clips or any snippets of this film online, so we just have to imagine David Warner and John Rhys-Davies butting heads surrounded by dinosaurs. They also made a sequel the same year.
Warner plays a radio psychiatrist and author of The Art of Ignoring Your Child, who tells parents that their four-year-old children are probably masturbating. "In The Art of Ignoring Your Child, you'll find everything you want to know," he tells a spooky woman who stalks child psychologists. And then he gets attacked by a scary doll girl who ties him up. Kind of amazing, actually. Skip to about 21:00 when he says "Here's your love therapy."
Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1992)
Warner plays Zarm, the Spirit of War and Destruction, who doesn't like the planet or something. You would think war and destruction would appreciate having a planet to make war on. In one episode, he pretends to be an alien and tries to convince the Planeteers to trade their rings for superweapons.
Another cheap horror movie, this time reuniting Warner and Rhys-Davies. Warner plays the Chancellor, whom you can see in the trailer saying, "You haven't the faintest idea the forces you've stumbled upon!"
Wait... how many lights are there, again? Warner brings such a multi-layered performance as a one-off villain, it's amazing. He's a total sadist, but also a loving father. He's more memorable than a lot of villains who got more screen time, and he doesn't at all seem like the same character as Evil from Time Bandits, or the MCP.
Warner is probably still the definitive Ra's Al-Ghul in the animated universe, totally capturing the misguided nobility and love of honor among the man who sort of loves Batman even as he tries to achieve utopia by horrible means. He also plays Ra's in a number of other animated shows, later on.
Warner not only appeared on Twin Peaks, he also had a role on the show that tried to imitate its success — Warner plays Eli, the charismatic leader of the Church of Synthiotics. Go to about 5:37 in the above video to see Warner doing his thing.
Warner is the narrator and plays both the villain and the young hero's mentor, in this movie which MST3K singled out for mockery, as you can see in the above video. Warner sports an insane mullet and looks completely into it as he walks through a hideous sword and sorcery nightmare.
Warner is a completely insane scenery-chewing baddie who ties Brisco to the train tracks and snarls with absolute glee. Kind of amazing.
Another somewhat sinister turn from Warner — in this H.P. Lovecraftian anthology series, he plays a researcher who's overjoyed at finding a free dead specimen because he's kind of broke. And he bathes in a mysterious coffin full of bubble bath that contains the secrets of preserving life. Skip to about 48 minutes in, in the above video. He's basically a slightly more suave Herbert West.
Warner plays Jor-El — how does he compare to Marlon Brando and Russell Crowe? At least he puts a lot of intensity into placing a rubber ball inside a plastic spaceship while wearing his white Super-robe with zero irony.
Babylon 5, "The Grail" (1994)
No clips from this online, but Warner plays a guy with a staff who's questing for the Holy Grail, only to find that Babylon 5 isn't necessarily the best place for that sort of thing. You can watch the whole thing here.
Warner plays Talon, an evil bird who eats people's souls using his giant human skull, and winds up terrorizing a city. Go to about 4 minutes in, in the above video.
John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness (1995)
Warner plays the psychiatrist who visits Sam Neill at the start of the movie and tells him to explain how his investigations into a sinister horror writer's work coming to life drove him crazy.
Biker Mice from Mars (1995)
Warner is Ice Breaker, but sadly none of his performance has turned up online.
Warner voices Arthur Dearborn, a brilliant scientist and creator of Sunturion, who seeks the Starwell, the purest source of energy on Earth. Skip to about 9:20 in the above video.
Final Equinox (1995)
The mafia and the U.S. government race to seize control over an alien artifact. Can't find any footage or much detail about Warner's role in this film online, but hopefully he's an alien-craving gangster.
David Warner voices Archmage, a supervillain who travels back in time to 984 A.D. to find his past self and teach himself the ways of ultimate power, in a complete predestination paradox. Gotta love the bit where Warner tells his past self, "Stop whimpering and show some dignity!"
Warner plays the sinister Lord Agon, who is rapidly aging and requires some magical doohickey to save himself. At about 01:01:48 in this video, Warner captures Beastmaster and taunts him with the most over-the-top supervillainy ever. "So THIS is the mighty Beastmaster! I wouldn't want to be defiled by the Mark of the Beast" Ha ha ha.
Skip to about 2:50 in this video to see Warner playing Rhinehart, in this cut scene from this space-bound video game, in which Warner acts rings around the rest of the cast. He negotiates for a new life on "one of the more idyllic outworlds" in exchange for information.
In this episode of the HBO horror/science fiction show, Warner plays the psychiatrist Dr. Nordhoff, who has to explain the concept of murder to humans in space. He gives a great speech about how good and evil don't exist, starting about 6:20 in the above video.
Warner played Frankenstein's monster, and now years later he plays Dr. Frankenstein himself, albeit in cartoon form. Here he is, snarling at Igor that he wants his laboratory spotless.
Wing Commander (1999)
David Warner plays the Admiral who sends these mooks off to fight some aliens.
Warner plays Dr. Felix Latham in a couple episodes of this short-lived movie tie-in TV show — including the one above. Go to about 23 minutes in, in the video above.
Did you know there was a horror anthology program hosted by David Bowie? Us neither. You can glimpse Warner's sinister turn as Vassu in the clip above.
Warner voices Lord Angstrom, one of Buzz Lightyear's recurring foes. He boards Buzz's ship at about 7:25 in the above video, with an admirable amount of suaveness and briskness. "I think you know how this is done, hands up in the air."
Warner plays Arago, Jules Verne's mentor who tells him the importance of storytelling and discovery and all that good stuff. Here's a good inspirational clip.
Warner is Alpha, who you can see in the episode above, looking for replacement limbs and stuff. Warner had a pretty huge career doing voiceover work, playing mostly villains, and we're barely scratching the surface with the stuff we're including here.
Warner voices Sandar, the father of Helena Bonham-Carter's ape character, and just like everybody else in this movie he plays to the cheap seats and beyond.
Warner is the lovable grand-dad whose little girl wishes for a unicorn and jacks everything all up. He looks kind of catatonic but happy, and he's got a beard for once.
Warner voices the monstrous/weird Nergal, who torments his nerdy monstrous son by sending him to camp when he's still just an egg.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2003)
Warner plays Sir Danvers Carew in this TV movie version, but his performance is sadly hard to track down.
It's a weird future where you can order assassinations over the Internet — and David Warner is in charge of this terrible service. Sadly, not much is available online about this odd-sounding film.
Warner plays Lord Downey in this adaptation of Terry Pratchett's beloved book series. Skip to about 17:20 in, to get a taste of him dispensing bizarre wisdom and insights.
Warner most recently played Professor Grisenko in "Cold War." He also voices Lord Azlok in the animated adventure "Dreamland" (see video.) But he's most beloved among Who fans for voicing an alternate Third Doctor in the Big Finish "Unbound" adventure "Sympathy for the Devil."
We're barely scratching the surface with the above list — especially considering the sheer volume of voice-over work Warner has done in the past 20 years. What's your favorite David Warner performance of all time?