Kevin Bacon is one of the most revered actors on the planet. The veteran star began his acting career in the late-1970s and has amassed an impressive body of work since then.
His filmography includes more than 100 credits, and he's worked with so many different actors that his name has been given to the parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, whereby players arbitrarily choose an actor and connect them to another actor via a movie that both actors have appeared in together, repeating this process until Kevin Bacon is reached (which is usually within six moves).
In this piece, we'll take you through his 36 best performances.
36. Tom Stark in Rails and Ties
Rails and Ties is a 2007 drama about a young boy whose mentally ill widowed mother commits suicide in her car by parking on a railroad track. Bacon plays Tom Stark, a crewman on board the train that killed the woman.
It's not a good movie, but Bacon turns in a solid performance that grabs your attention, regardless. He plays a hard, contemptuous man very well, and his chemistry with the ever-brilliant Marcia Gay Harden, who plays his troubled wife, is the movie's highlight.
35. Nick Hume in Death Sentence
2007 movie Death Sentence is a vigilante action drama film loosely based on the 1975 novel of the same name. It's about a man called Nick Hume who takes the law into his own hands after a gang murders his son as an initiation ritual. Bacon plays Nick Hume.
Death Sentence is a poor movie, but Bacon is great in it and by far the best thing about it. He has a haunted look about him and dark eyes that brilliantly conveys his character's grief.
34. Himself in The Guardians of The Galaxy Holiday Special
Bacon played a fictionalized version of himself in 2022's Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. The 42-minute Disney+ presentation saw the eponymous Guardians come to Earth to kidnap Bacon as a Christmas present for the Footloose-obsessed Peter Quill.
The star was a great sport and proved very game in this charming little film. While it hardly tested Bacon's acting chops, his performance is funny and entertaining.
33. Theo Conroy and Stetler in You Should Have Left
Bacon plays two roles in the 2020 psychological thriller You Should Have Left (based on the 2017 book of the same name). He portrays the retired banker Theo Conroy and Stetler, the evil spirit who haunts the house in which Theo and his family vacation.
It's not a great movie, but Bacon's dual role is praiseworthy. He plays the jealous husband brilliantly, without stretching himself, and is incredibly creepy as the malevolent spirit.
32. Chip Diller in National Lampoon's Animal House
1978's National Lampoon's Animal House was Bacon's acting debut. He played Chip Diller in the anarchic movie about a troublemaking fraternity – a minor antagonist and a pledge boy who's snobby, sarcastic, and rude.
It was an impressive acting debut for Bacon and provided an excellent platform for him to become a star. He played his character brilliantly and was wholly unlikeable (which is a good thing in this case).
31. Jack in Friday The 13th
1980 slasher horror Friday the 13th had Bacon appear as Camp Crystal Lake counselor Jack. It was the first movie in the iconic franchise and the one where Pamela Voorhees – Jason's mother – was the killer.
Bacon's role is relatively brief – he gets killed off with an arrow through his throat early on in the movie – but it's memorable. He plays the typically sex-obsessed teenager very well and comes across as natural and likable.
30. Ray Duquette in Wild Things
Wild Things is a 1998 neo-noir thriller about a high-school guidance counselor in South Florida who is accused of rape by two female students. Bacon plays police detective Ray Duquette, who investigates the case, believing it to be a scam.
Bacon shines in a cast of stars, including Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Robert Wagner, and Bill Murray, who all enjoy their offbeat roles. It's trashy, but Bacon knows it and seems to have fun.
29. Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man
Inspired by the 1897 novel The Invisible Man and its movie adaptations, Hollow Man is a 2000 sci-fi horror. Bacon plays Sebastian Caine, an arrogant scientist who develops a serum to make a subject invisible and volunteers to be its test subject.
It could be a better movie, but Bacon plays the eponymous character well. He's genuinely creepy and nefarious and benefited greatly from the fantastic visual effects that made him seem invisible.
28. Balto in Balto
Balto is a 1995 animated adventure movie in which Bacon voices the eponymous character. Balto is about the life of a real-world Siberian Husky-Arctic wolf hybrid who helped to save children infected with diphtheria in the 1925 serum run to Nome.
This movie is Bacon's only animated voice role on our list, and he does a great job alongside a talented cast that includes Bob Hoskins and Bridget Fonda. His voice acting helps to make Balto a character about whom you care.
27. Jack Morris in My Dog Skip
My Dog Skip is a 2000 comedy-drama about a nine-year-old whose life changes when he gets a Jack Russell Terrier for his birthday. Bacon plays Jack Morris, a Spanish Civil War veteran and the stern, proud father of the young boy.
He's likable as the father and has good chemistry with his on-screen wife, Diane Lane, and son Frankie Muniz. His performance helps to make this movie exceptionally kid-friendly with something of a Disney movie feel about it.
26. Alan in Lemon Sky
The 1988 television movie Lemon Sky is a drama based on the 1970 play of the same name. It's about a teen from Nebraska who moves to San Diego in the 1950s to live with his estranged father. Bacon plays the teen, whose name is Alan.
Bacon gives a mature performance as his character confronts many problems in his new family. Interestingly, it was on Lemon Sky's set when Bacon met his wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick.
25. Ricky Schroth in Digging to China
Digging to China is a 1997 drama about the friendship forged between a pre-teen girl with a vivid imagination and a man with developmental disabilities. Bacon plays Ricky Schroth, the man with said disabilities.
It was a challenging role for Bacon, and he did very well. His chemistry with the then-ten-year-old Evan Rachel Wood is excellent, and he gives a touching performance that deals with a sensitive subject wonderfully.
24. Timothy Fenwick, Jr. In Diner
Diner is a 1982 comedy-drama about a close-knit group of six friends who reunite at a Baltimore diner when one is about to get married. Bacon plays Timothy Fenwick, Jr., one of the friends in the group.
Bacon shines as part of a group that includes Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, and Timothy Daly. His chemistry with the five stars is fantastic, and his performance is funny and highly mature for someone so young at the time.
23. Charles McGuire in Black Mass
Black Mass is a 2015 biographical crime drama about American mobster Whitey Bulger, based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob. Bacon plays Charles McGuire, an FBI supervisor who is suspicious of using Whitey as an informant.
Bacon is brilliant as a character who is the FBI's voice of reason and an amalgamation of several guys high up in the FBI in the 1970s. He looks entirely at home alongside stars like Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard, and Joel Edgerton.
22. David Lindhagen in Crazy, Stupid, Love
2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love is a romantic comedy about a recently separated man looking to rediscover his manhood, so he gets taught how to pick up women at bars. Bacon plays David Lindhagen, with whom the man's wife had an affair, which caused the separation.
Bacon has to be on form to keep up with a cast that includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Marisa Tomei – and he is. He doesn't have a huge role but plays the irritating antagonist in a typically adept fashion.
21. Dick in I Love Dick
I Love Dick is a television series based on Chris Kraus' novel of the same name, and it ran for one season in 2017 and 2018. It's about a woman who becomes obsessed with a colleague of her husband's and creates an art project, a series of letters that start “Dear Dick…” and Bacon plays the Dick in question.
It's a very demanding role for Bacon – he has a lot to do in this show – and he plays it in a rugged yet soulful manner alongside the ever-watchable Kathryn Hahn, with whom he has great chemistry.
20. Sheriff Kretzer in Cop Car
Road thriller Cop Car is about two young juvenile delinquents who come across and hijack the abandoned police car of a corrupt sheriff. Bacon portrays the evil sheriff in question, Sheriff Kretzer.
The actor appears to have a lot of fun in the movie as a troublemaking cop who has to get himself out of trouble in this case. He's darkly funny, creepy, and full of surprises playing a nasty individual.
19. Lanny Morris in Where The Truth Lies
2005's British-Canadian movie Where the Truth Lies is an erotic thriller. It's about an ambitious reporter who probes the reasons behind the sudden split of a 1950s comedy duo. Bacon plays Lanny Morris, one of the duo.
Where the Truth Lies could be a better movie, but Bacon's performance is fantastic. His role is the showiest in the film, and he squeezes every last drop out of it. He and Colin Firth make a perfect duo.
18. Sean Nokes in Sleepers
Sleepers is a 1996 legal drama based on the 1995 book of the same name. It's about a group of men who, having been brutalized in a young person's detention center years earlier, encounter a former guard from the center and look for revenge. Bacon plays the guard in question, Sean Nokes.
It has an astonishing cast that includes Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt, Minnie Driver, and Billy Crudup, and Bacon holds his own. He plays a strong and compelling villain effectively.
17. David Labraccio in Flatliners
Flatliners is a psychological horror movie from 1990 about five medical students who attempt to discover what lies beyond death by conducting secret experiments that produce near-death experiences. Bacon plays David Labraccio, one of the students.
He contributes to this movie's incredible atmosphere with a cocky and intense performance that conveys his character's complacency and fear. His chemistry with Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Kiefer Sutherland, and Oliver Platt is excellent.
16. Tom Witzky in Stir of Echoes
1999's Stir of Echoes is a supernatural horror based on the 1958 novel of the same name. It's about a telephone worker experiencing frightening visions after challenging his sister-in-law to hypnotize him.
Bacon plays Tom Witzky, the telephone worker who gets hypnotized, and he's fantastic in the role. He's so authentic that watching him in action is creepy, which helps the movie with its atmosphere and suspense.
15. John “Jackie” Rohr in City on a Hill
City on a Hill is a crime drama television series from 2019 to 2022. Bacon plays corrupt venerated FBI Agent John “Jackie” Rohr, who forms an unlikely alliance with Boston Assistant District Attorney DeCourcy Ward in early 1990s Boston.
Bacon is terrific in this show and constantly comes out with brilliant side-mouthed wisecracks. He comes across like he “gets” Boston – to the point that you genuinely believe he might come from there (he's actually from Philadelphia).
14. Jack Brennan in Frost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon is a 2008 historical drama movie based on the 2006 play of the same name. It's about the story behind the 1977 interviews British journalist David Frost took part in with former U.S. president Richard Nixon. Bacon plays Jack Brennan, Nixon's post-resignation chief of staff.
Bacon adeptly portrays the cautious Brennan, who scrutinizes proceedings throughout, and he does so with poise and authority. Frost/Nixon has a truly astonishing cast, including Michael Sheen, Frank Langella, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, and Sam Rockwell – and Bacon looks totally at home.
13. Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class
2011 superhero movie X-Men: First Class is one of the finest movies in the X-Men franchise and focuses on the origins of Charles Xavier's X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants. Bacon plays the powerful mutant Sebastian Shaw, a former Nazi scientist and the leader of the Hellfire Club.
Bacon plays Shaw with bravado and as a character with several different shades – it isn't always apparent that he's the bad guy. That's not easy to do, but the actor did a great job and contributed significantly to this being an excellent movie.
12. Michael Strobl in Taking Chance
The 2009 historical drama Taking Chance is a television movie in which Bacon plays the lead character U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl. Based on Strobl's eponymous journal about his life as a volunteer military escort officer, it's about when he accompanied the body of a 19-year-old Marine back to his hometown.
Bacon's excellent performance earned him a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. He is eloquent, and it's clear that he cares about the story he's helping to portray.
11. Valentine “Val” McKee in Tremors
The 1990 horror comedy Tremors is among Bacon's more memorable performances. He plays Val McKee, a handyman in the small desert town of Perfection. Val wants to leave for a more exciting life but gets stopped when giant subterranean monsters suddenly appear.
Bacon is at his witty and playful best in this one – and it's clear that he enjoys himself. He comes across as pleasant and likable. As part of a great and diverse cast, he's the standout star by some distance.
10. Wade in The River Wild
1994's adventure thriller The River Wild follows a family on a whitewater rafting trip who encounter two violent criminals in the wilderness. Bacon plays Wade, the leader and most violent of the two criminals.
He's excellent in this movie, playing opposite the iconic Meryl Streep. He received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his efforts. His range gets tested as he portrays a genuinely chilling and intimidating man who, at first, appears to be kind.
9. Willie O'Keefe in JFK
JFK is a 1991 epic political thriller about district attorney Jim Garrison's investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Bacon plays Willie O'Keefe, a male prostitute and a witness to some important events leading up to the assassination.
There's some real acting clout in this movie, including Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Laurie Metcalf – and Bacon's small role is as significant as theirs. His impactful performance changed his career trajectory, which was heading downward at the time.
8. Richard Deslauriers in Patriots Day
Patriots Day is a 2016 action thriller about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Bacon portrays Richard DesLauriers, a special agent in charge of the FBI Boston field office who gets assigned to investigate said bombings.
In this movie, Bacon gives an intelligent and empathetic performance about an event that requires dealing with sensitively. He stands out in an ensemble cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, and J.K. Simmons.
7. Jack Ross in A Few Good Men
1992's A Few Good Men is a legal drama based on Aaron Sorkin's 1989 play. It's about the court-martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine, and Bacon plays Captain Jack Ross, a lawyer serving as the prosecutor in the case.
Bacon didn't look remotely out of place in a cast of stars that included Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kiefer Sutherland. He plays Ross brilliantly as a nice guy who doesn't take nonsense.
6. Jack Swigert in Apollo 13
Apollo 13 is a 1995 space docudrama dramatizing the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission. It adapts the 1994 book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. Bacon portrays Jack Swigert, the backup Command Module Pilot who gets called up when Ken Mattingly contracts German measles.
It's one of the most critically-acclaimed productions in which Bacon has appeared, and he played a big part, holding his own alongside the likes of Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Ed Harris. His intense performance conveys the hazardous nature of the situation in which the astronauts find themselves.
5. Ren McCormack in Footloose
1984 musical drama Footloose was Bacon's breakthrough role and is still one of his most iconic. He played the lead role of Ren McCormack, a Chicago teen who moves to a small town and attempts to overturn the ban on dancing there.
He oozes 1980s cheese in this one, but his cockiness is charming and likable. He also shows he can dance adeptly in a memorable scene set in a flour mill. It's abundantly clear why this movie made him a star.
4. Detective Sean Devine in Mystic River
Bacon played Irish-American Massachusetts police detective Sean Devine in Mystic River, the brilliant 2003 neo-noir crime drama (based on the 2001 novel of the same name). In the movie, Devine investigates the murder of a friend's daughter.
Under the direction of Clint Eastwood, Bacon is fantastic, gritty, and earnest. He holds his own alongside Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, who won the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscars for their performances – and that says everything you need to know.
3. Henri Young in Murder in The First
In the 1995 legal drama Murder in the First, Bacon plays a young man named Henri Young who gets sent to Alcatraz for petty theft but later gets put on trial for first-degree murder.
Bacon shines among incredible A-list talent, including Gary Oldman, Christian Slater, and William H. Macy. His character goes crazy in solitary confinement, and the actor's raw portrayal is spectacular. The fact that he got snubbed for an Oscar remains a contention among everyone who saw this movie.
2. Walter in The Woodsman
The Woodsman is a 2004 drama movie based on Steven Fechter's play of the same name. It's about a convicted child molester who must adjust to life after prison. Bacon plays Walter, the child molester in question.
Bacon plays a complex role with poise and a haunting brilliance. It was a considerable risk for the actor – one that could have limited his future roles – but it paid off. His bravery in taking this movie on deserves endless credit.
1. Ryan Hardy in The Following
Bacon is known predominantly as a movie actor. But his career-best performance arguably came in Fox's television series The Following. It's a psychological horror thriller series, and Bacon appeared in the first season as former FBI agent Ryan Hardy. It focused on his attempts to recapture a serial killer who escaped prison.
The actor appeared in all ten episodes of 2013's first season and was the show's heartbeat. His performance is intense and sincere – and his match of wills with James Purefoy's murderous Joe Carroll is simply brilliant.
Writer and editor with ten years of experience working full-time in this capacity. I've written over 2000 pieces of published work and managed teams of 50+ writers. I've produced content for some of the world's most prominent entertainment and sports platforms. My published work includes feature articles, news and opinion pieces, listicles, quizzes, voice-over scripts, viral content, and more. I'm a British 80s kid who loves movies (horror, superhero stuff, and all things 80s are my favorites), boxing, and football (soccer), a former business owner and executive headhunter, and a Tottenham Hotspur FC fan for my sins.