Look Back at Willem Dafoe's Most Memorable Roles Ahead of His 'Saturday Night Live' Debut

Between Spider-Man's Green Goblin and Platoon's Sergeant Elias Grodin, here's a breakdown of Willem Dafoe's most iconic movie roles over the years

Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin, Jesus, and Sergeant Elias. Photo: Shutterstock; Universal/Everett; Orion Pictures/Everett

Willem Dafoe has done it all – and now he's adding hosting Saturday Night Live to the list.

The renowned actor, iconically known for his memorable portrayal of the Green Goblin in the original Spider-Man franchise, is set to make his SNL hosting debut on Saturday, Jan. 29 on NBC.

Dafoe's had an illustrious career spanning across three decades playing some of the most memorable roles in movie history.

Sony Pictures/Marvel Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Although 1979's Heaven's Gate is technically considered his first role, per his IMDb page, Dafoe told Vanity Fair that he "[doesn't] really count that as [his] first movie," because he was fired from the project. That surely didn't stop the actor from pursuing his passion as he went on to have a show-stopping career.

Between his portrayal of Jesus in 1988's The Last Temptation of Christ and a fish named Gill in 2003's Finding Nemo, Dafoe's acting ability has range. He's played villains, heroes, and worked alongside some of the greatest directors and actors in the film industry, including director Martin Scorsese, actor Robert Pattinson, and director Zack Snyder, making him one of the most recognized actors in Hollywood.


Dafoe's been honored with a number of accolades for his work over the years, despite never winning an Academy Award – though he has been nominated four times, in addition to earning four Screen Actors Guild nods and three Golden Globe nominations.

With nearly 150 acting credits to date, keep scrolling for his most iconic roles, from Sergeant Elias Grodin in 1986's Platoon to J.G. Jopling in 2014's The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Sergeant Elias Grodin in Platoon

PLATOON. Everett

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest war movies of all time, Dafoe plays Sergeant Elias Grodin in Oliver Stone's 1986 Platoon. Chronicling the struggles and exploits of infantrymen in the 25th Division of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Dafoe's idealistic, yet disillusioned Elias fights alongside a star-studded cast of characters played by Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp, and Tom Berenger.

Debuting alongside other notable war movies such as Full Metal Jacket and Hamburger Hill, Platoon won Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards, while Dafoe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Green Goblin in the Spider-Man franchise and Spider-Man: No Way Home

Willem Dafoe
Spider-man (2002); SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Moviestore/Shutterstock; Sony Pictures

Dafoe's iconic portrayal of the infamous Green Goblin in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy is regarded as one of his most memorable movie roles to date. In addition to appearing in the sequels from the original films, Dafoe reprised his role in Marvel Cinematic Universe's 2021 Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The actor also recently achieved a Guinness World Records title, alongside original Spider-Man costar Tobey Maguire, for having the longest career as a live-action Marvel character, lasting 19 years and 225 days.

Marcus in John Wick

John Wick
John Wick - 2014. Summit/Kobal/Shutterstock

Dafoe plays Marcus in the John Wick franchise created by Derek Kolstad in 2014. His character is a highly-ranked assassin, who serves as a mentor and friend to Keanu Reeves' John Wick.

"I like doing action sequences. It's fun because it's athletic and really requires timing, a correct touch," Dafoe told Metro about the action-packed film. "I'm always open to action sequences, they're very particular. It's what I like about performing, which is that you have a strong action."

J.G. Jopling in The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel. Martin Scali/Fox Searchlight

Dafoe plays assassin J.G. Jopling in Wes Anderson's quirky comedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which premiered in 2014. The film chronicles the events of a concierge and a lobby boy who must work together in an attempt to prove the concierge's innocence after being framed for killing a hotel guest.

The film won four Oscars and five British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA). Dafoe went on to work with Anderson again for his movie The French Dispatch in 2021.

Bobby Hicks in The Florida Project

The Florida Project
The Florida Project. A24 Films

Dafoe's role in 2017's The Florida Project was a unique opportunity for the veteran actor, as he was cast alongside actors making their film debut. Directed by Sean Baker, the coming-of-age film follows Dafoe's Bobby Hicks who manages the Florida hotel where young girl Moonee and her mother reside as they struggle to make ends meet.

His performance earned him much recognition, as he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as well as a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

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