5 Great Mel Gibson Movies (Before 'Hacksaw Ridge')

It’s official. Hollywood has forgiven Mel Gibson.

The troubled actor/director earned serious Oscar love this week. His brilliant directorial comeback, “Hacksaw Ridge,” earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Andrew Garfield) and Best Director.

All the unsavory headlines surrounding Gibson in the past were pushed aside. He’s been on his best behavior since his public meltdowns that exposed some seriously anti-semitic sentiments. That, combined with the excellent “Ridge,” earned him a place at the Hollywood table once more.

Only “Hacksaw Ridge” wasn’t his first great effort. Consider the following six films where Gibson flexed his artistic muscle both in front of and behind the camera.

5. The Passion of the Christ

It’s simply the movie that kick-started the faith-based genre. It wasn’t just a hit against every conceivable odd. It proved a sensation, earning near-unanimous praise from people of faith. The film, like Gibson, attracted serious criticism. Secular critics howled over its bloodier sequences—the same crowd that fawned over “Deadpool.” It still rocked Hollywood and proved Christians were a viable niche the industry ignored at its own peril.

4. Apocalypto

Gibson is a man of action on the big screen—witness the “Mad Max” franchise and B-movie entries like “Blood Father.” He knows how to bring the fury behind the camera, too. This often gory spectacle proved mesmerizing. The project featured a foreign language, no recognizable stars and was set centuries ago.

It became a hit all the same, thanks to Gibson’s sure directorial instincts. Audiences winced at some of the ultra-violence on display. Gibson is never shy about showing man’s inhumanity to man. He remains a skilled storyteller, even while challenging the formula for movie success in the process.

3. The Road Warrior

Never mind the hype over “Mad Max: Fury Road.” This is the premium Max adventure. It’s hardly Gibson’s best performance. To call him laconic here is an understatement. It’s still a rollicking ride, made all the more remarkable given the tech limitations of the 1980s. And you need a movie star of Gibson’s caliber to sell every improbable sequence.

2. Lethal Weapon

It’s easy to dismiss this 1987 buddy cop caper for being a Reagan era trifle. After all, action vehicles were commonplace during that decade. Add two mismatched partners. Make them bicker for the first half and fall into a bromance the second.

Voila! Think again.

“Lethal Weapon” set the template for the buddy cop formula, one that hasn’t produced a film of its equal in nearly 30 years. The Gibson/Danny Glover chemistry crackled. So did the notion of a suicidal cop saving the day.

Gibson helped make it all work. His movie star charisma blazed hotter than most of his peers.

1. Braveheart

It’s hard to quibble with 10 Oscar nominations and five wins. Gibson stars and directs this classic tale of a Scottish warrior fighting for his people’s independence. Gibson’s iconic speech late in the film is a portrait of cinematic inspiration.

It’s safe to say Gibson’s career peaked with “Braveheart.” He was young, famous and a serious double threat as an actor/director. Years later, it all came crashing down as his personal demons escaped into public view.

After “Hacksaw Ridge” he might get a second chance. Now, it’s all up to him.

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