We all know Kirk Douglas has always been a fighter, and we’re not just saying that because of the image that was projected in his movies. For starters, the amazing man is over 100 years old, and, given his appearance at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, is showing no signs of slowing down. And this is despite the fact that he suffered a severe stroke over 20 years ago. It’s exactly that kind of strength that has kept us fascinated with him for all these years, and will ensure his legacy will live on long after he’s gone.
Born Issur Danielovitch (c’mon, it’s a natural progression to Kirk Douglas from there) on Dec. 9, 1916 in Amsterdam, NY, he made his film debut in 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, but catapulted to stardom only three years later with Champion. Things just continued from there, with Kirk starring in one classic after another, and moving from cop stories to Westerns to period dramas, most notable among them is 1960’s Spartacus.
What follows is a countdown of a dozen of his most popular films, and they genuinely just start to scratch the surface of all that he has been able to achieve.
Kirk Douglas Champion
#12 Champion (1949)
Kirk plays Michael "Midge" Kelly, a guy who, desperate to pull his life together and help those around him, turns to boxing and has a shot at a championship. But then he's told to throw the fight, which he has no intention of doing.
Kirk Douglas Out Of The Path
#11 Out of the Past (1947)
Robert Mitchum plays gas station owner Jeff Bailey, who used to be a private eye, and is desperately trying to shake his past. Kirk plays criminal Whit Sterling, who starts coming around again and won't let things lay.
Kirk Douglas Bad And The Beautiful
#10 The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
Movie producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk) has made a career by crushing anyone who has gotten in his way, but now he finds that he needs a writer, director, and actress that he abused in the past while making them successful and the question is whether or not they'll work with him.
Kirk Douglas Lonely Are The Brave
#9 Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Now this is an interesting twist: Kirk plays a cowboy who intentionally gets himself arrested, and, once in jail, begins planning an escape for himself and an old friend.
Kirk Douglas Seven Days In May
#8 Seven Days in May (1964)
Martin "Jiggs" Casey (Kirk) is serving as aide to the President of the United States (Frederic March) when he discovers that General James Scott is plotting a military coup in seven days, and must figure out how to prevent it. One of the writers is Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone; and Stanley Kubrick directs.
Kirk Douglas Paths Of Glory
#7 Paths of Glory (1957)
Kirk finds himself in the middle of a complicated situation when he is told that three innocent soldiers are going to face court-martial for a mistake made by his superior officer. Also directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Kirk Douglas Detective Story
#6 Detective Story (1951)
Detective James McLeod (Kirk) is a cop with no tolerance for criminals, and his views interfere with a case involving an abortionist who has claimed at least one victim. From there, secrets are revealed that threaten to destroy his very world.
Kirk Douglas Gunfight At The Ok Corral
#5 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
What seems like a good idea at first goes disastrously (and historically) wrong when lawman Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) and outlaw Doc Holliday (Kirk) decide to put their differences aside, which ultimately leads to the infamous gunfight that nobody leaves happy from (but how many gunfights do result in happy participants?).
Kirk Douglas 20000 Leagues Under The Sea
#4 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Set in the late 1800s, this Disney classic, based on the Jules Verne novel, sees a team of people (including Kirk as harpooner Ned Land setting out to sea to hunt a giant sea monster that has reportedly been attacking ships. Instead, they find the advanced submarine captained by James Mason's Nemo.
Kirk Douglas Lust For Life
#3 Lust For Life (1956)
In what was an extremely different role for him, Kirk took on the character of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh in a telling of his life story.
Kirk Douglas The Vikings
#2 The Vikings (1958)
A long feud has gone on between Viking Prince Einar (Kirk) and the slaved Eric (Tony Curtis), which grows increasingly worse when Einer kidnaps the intended bride of King Aella (Frank Thring), Princess Morgana (Janet Leigh). Things get a wee bit more complicated when Einar learns that Eric is his half brother.
Kirk Douglas Spartacus
#1 Spartacus (1960)
Whether he likes it or not, this is likely the role that Kirk will always be best known for, playing the Thracian gladiator who leads a revolt against the Roman Republic.