Gene Wilder’s Most Memorable Roles

Above: 5 of Gene WIlder's most memorable movies
Above: 5 of Gene WIlder's most memorable movies

Today, the world learned of Gene Wilder’s unfortunate passing. The iconic actor died in his home in Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of 83. His nephew confirmed that the performer succumbed to complications of Alzheimer’s disease, which he had been battling quietly.

For years, the Hollywood great famously claimed to have been “semi-retired”. His recent and rare appearances on-screen, continuously reminded us of his magnificence. Wilder executed roles with a sense of poise and grace. His scenic presence was effortless, charming, and when it needed to be, intimidating. Born, Jerome Siberman, the Milwaukee native rose to dominate screens in the 1970s. During this particular decade, and after a number of amazing performances, he forever embedded himself within pop culture history.

In honour of Gene Wilder, we remember his most iconic roles.


Leo Bloom
The Producers (1967)

Part of Wilder’s legacy is owed to his collaboration with Mel Brooks. Together, the two hit it out of the park on multiple occasions. In the late 1960s, their comedic forces resulted in The Producers. In it, Wilder plays Leo Bloom, proving his timing second to none. The film initially battled negative reviews during its test screening, but quickly became a fan favourite after its worldwide debut. The most prominent and glowing review of the film, comes from the late Roger Ebert, who called it one of the funniest movies ever made.


George Caldwell
Silver Streak (1976)

Luckily for us, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor shared the screen three times during their respective careers. The best the duo had to offer, exists in the form of 1976’s Silver Streak. The comedy was helmed by Arthur Hiller, who sadly, also passed away this month. Silver Streak‘s story follows the character of George Caldwell, who gets tangled up in a murder mystery aboard the titular train. The film was critically beloved, and was also a massive hit at the box office.


Jim, the Waco Kid
Blazing Saddles (1974)

Blazing Saddles is the pinnacle of Mel Brook’s social satire. The project is greatly emphasized by Wilder’s amazing turn as Jim, the Waco Kid. The film was nominated for an extensive list of awards, and AFI ranked it as the sixth best comedy of all time.


Dr. Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein (1974)

Before the parody film worked its way into our filmic repertoire, there was Young Frankenstein. The 1974 classic remains a testament to Gene Wilder’s talents. It’s so good, that the Library of Congress has since deemed it “culturally and aesthetically significant”, forever preserving the film’s legacy. For fans of both horror and comedy, Young Frankenstein is essential viewing.


Willy Wonka
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)

The character of Willy Wonka will be forever connected to Gene Wilder’s 1971 performance. It is so incredibly nuanced, gorgeous, and terrifying all at the same time. We now know that Wilder beat out some impressive names to snag the role, even forcing out Peter Sellers and the entire cast of Monty Python (who were deemed too unknown at the time). We can understand why the studio went with Wilder, as his turn in Willy Wonka resulted in one of cinema’s best performances ever.

Aidan D'Aoust

Aidan D'Aoust

Aidan is a writer from Toronto. His favourite things in the world are music, movies, and mini dachshunds. Give him a follow on Twitter at @aidandaoust, where he’ll also accept your mixtape submissions.

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