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Happy birthday Sean Penn: Best performances by the American actor

Famous actor Sean Penn is known for his great films and the roles he portrayed. Penn is known to bring screen characters to life creating an immersive experience for the audience. Here are seven of his best performances.

US actor Sean Penn in “This Must Be the Place” year in brackets

Sean Penn, the American actor is well known for his impactful performances and roles. From emotionally charged dramatic characters to thought-provoking ones, Penn's ability to breathe life into a diverse array of roles is a treat to look at. He effortlessly transforms into characters that leaves a long lasting impact on audiences’ minds. Whether he's a grieving father seeking justice, or an eccentric rock star on a quest for redemption, he fits into every role. The legendary actor turns 63 today. On his birth anniversary, here are some of his most memorable and compelling performances:

  1. Harvey Milk in Milk (2008)

In the Gus Van Sant-directed biographical movie, Penn portrayed Harvey Milk, the first openly gay political figure in California. He won his second Best Actor Academy Award for his depiction of Harvey Milk.

  1. Samuel Bicke in The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004)

In this lesser-known film, Penn portrayed Samuel Bicke, a man who attempted to hijack a plane with the intention of assassinating President Richard Nixon. At the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, it was shown in the Un Certain Regard section.

  1. Sam Dawson in I Am Sam (2001)

Penn portrayed a mentally challenged man battling for custody of his daughter in this touching drama. His performance received plaudits for its depth.

  1. Matthew Poncelet in Dead Man Walking (1995)

In this emotional drama, Penn starred as a death row inmate named Matthew Poncelet. His interactions with a nun, played by Susan Sarandon, explore themes of redemption and forgiveness.

  1. Jimmy Markum in Mystic River (2003)

In this Clint Eastwood-directed criminal drama, Sean Penn played Jimmy Markum, a dad whose daughter's death forces him to confront his past and seek retribution. Penn won his first Best Actor Oscar for his work in the film.

  1. David Kleinfeld in Carlito's Way (1993)

In Carlito's Way, Penn's performance as David Kleinfeld, a corrupt lawyer, opposite Al Pacino's Carlito Brigante, was a standout in this crime drama directed by Brian De Palma.

  1. Cheyenne in This Must Be the Place (2011)

In this film, Penn plays an aging rock star who embarks on a journey to find the Nazi war criminal who tormented his father during World War II.

His most recent movie, Black Flies, had its world premiere on May 18, 2023, at the 76th Cannes Film Festival. Based on Shannon Burke's 2008 novel of the same name, it is an American thriller drama film that Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire directed. Penn will portray Gene Rutkovsky, a skilled paramedic who is regarded as one of the best in New York, in the film.