You may know him as the priest in the original Exorcist (1973), Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980), or maybe Lor San Tekka in The Force Awakens (2015) or the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones (2016). But Max von Sydow had a long and varied film career that included a few notable historical costume productions. He passed away a year ago on March 8, 2020, and we were remiss in posting a retrospective then, so I’ll try to make up for it now. Max von Sydow has been called Sweden’s Laurence Olivier for his classical training and intense acting style, though his frock flick resume isn’t particularly flashy. Kind of a pity because he was a fine looking fella who’d have filled out a frock coat or breeches and tights elegantly! What he did leave us with are some brilliant films, often in Swedish, plus a number of Hollywood flicks where he tended to play the baddie.
Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal (1957)
The outstanding Ingmar Bergman film about a knight who plays chess against the Grim Reaper & contemplates matters of life, death, & religion.
Also, look at that profile!
Albert Emanuel Vogler in The Magician aka Ansiktet (1958)
Set in 19th-century Sweden. When guy-liner was cool.
Töre in The Virgin Spring aka Jungfrukällan (1960)
Getting gritty in 14th-c. Sweden.
Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Mixing things up by playing ye olde son of God.
Rev. Abner Hale in Hawaii (1966)
While the movie is pretty dull, it’s a surprisingly not insensitive take on 1820s American missionaries in Hawaii. Max von Sydow’s character starts as a pushy priest but at the very end he sees how he’s been hurting the indigenous people of the islands.
Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (1967)
The first American TV adaption of the famous story.
Karl Oskar in The Emigrants aka Utvandrarna (1971)
Based on a novel series, this epic story follows a family immigrating from Småland, Sweden, to the United States in the 1840s.
Karl Oskar in The New Land aka Nybyggarna (1972)
This sequel to The Emigrants was filmed concurrently & follows the family as they arrive in Minnesota in 1850.
Harry Haller in Steppenwolf (1974)
Based on the Hermann Hesse novel & set in the 1920s.
Larsen in Foxtrot (1976)
Supposedly set in the 1930s, but I’m not catching that vibe from this screencap.
Captain Ortiz in The Desert of the Tartars (1976)
Looking suave with that foil, sir!
Captain Schroeder in Voyage of the Damned (1976)
Emoting his distress as the captain of the SS St. Louis in 1939, when the ship tried to re-settle German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
Francois Marneau in March or Die (1977)
Something about the French Foreign Legion in the 1920s?
S.A. Andrée in The Flight of the Eagle (1982)
Biopic of a Swedish engineer who attempted to fly over the North Pole in 1897. Scenes from this movie were used in a 1997 documentary about S. A. Andrée.
Sidka in Samson and Delilah (1984)
Biblical TV movie.
August Strindberg in Oviri (1986)
In this biopic of French artist Paul Gauguin, Max von Sydow portrayed one of his friends, the Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, & painter Strindberg.
Lassefar in Pelle the Conqueror (1987)
Max von Sydow received his first Best Actor Oscar nod for his performance in this moving story of a boy & his grandfather immigrating from Sweden to Denmark in the late 1850s.
Father Siemes in Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes (1990)
This TV movie shows the perspectives of various people right before & after the atomic bomb was dropped.
Johan Åkerblom in The Best Intentions aka Den goda viljan (1991 / 1992)
This semi-autobiographical drama about Ingmar Bergman’s parents was firs shown as a 6-hour miniseries on Swedish TV, & then it was edited to become a 3-hour theatrical version in the following year.
Sigmund Freud in “Vienna, November 1908,” The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1993)
One thing I loved about this TV series was spotting all the big-name classical actors that would pop up in cameo roles, like this!
Baron Franz von Trotta und Cipolje in Radetzkymarsch (1994)
A TV miniseries set during Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph I’s reign.
Knut Hamsun in Hamsun (1996)
Max von Sydow plays the Norwegian Nobel Laureate who supported the Nazis during WWII.
Uncle Alp in Heidi (2005)
The crotchety uncle who takes Heidi in & comes to love the little kid.
Tiberius in The Final Inquiry (2006)
Biblical, but take the Roman side (they have better clothes ;).
Cardinal Von Waldburg in The Tudors (2009)
Somebody’s gotta fight Henry & that pesky Reformation!
Josiah Kane in Solomon Kane (2009)
A horror flick supposedly set in the early 17th century, I think I need to watch it for a future Snark Week just because of all the leather.
Sir Walter Loxley in Robin Hood (2010)
Robin’s dad in the the Russell Crowe version.
What’s your favorite frock flick featuring Max von Sydow?