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Remembering Anton Yelchin’s Greatest Film Roles

From ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Green Room,’ we look back at 27-year-old actor’s finest roles

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

From 'Star Trek' to 'Green Room,' we take a look back at actor Anton Yelchin's finest roles.

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

Anton Yelchin was extraordinary, starting right from his first days of life. Born to a pair of Jewish figure skaters in what was then still the USSR, his family withstood enough prejudicial treatment and political oppression to afford them refugee status from the United States, where the Yelchin clan moved while Anton was still an infant. It was a long way to go for a man who went very far.

The 27-year-old's shocking death this past weekend was deeply saddening for all of the obvious reasons – the senseless cruelty of happenstance, the loved ones wracked with bereavement – but his youth made this particularly painful. Having long since established his bona fides as a talented performer consistently challenging himself with diverse roles, he was only just beginning what would've been a long, rich career.

As we sort through our own grief and induct another member to the dreaded "27 Club," the most meaningful tribute we can pay is to appreciate the outstanding performances Yelchin turned in while he was still alive. A few years out from 30, and he had already worked with exciting directors in well-reviewed independent films and proved his star-power in big-budget blockbusters. Here, we recall seven of his most memorable film roles.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

‘Alpha Dog’ (2006)

Nick Cassavetes' SoCal gang flick was full of stars-to-be rapidly advancing toward their prime. But even when sharing the frame with a young Emile Hirsch or Justin Timberlake, Yelchin was a clear breakout. As the unfortunate Zack Mazursky, ransomed to square up his brother's delinquent drug debt, he spent most of the film getting passed around like a human bargaining chip. But even in a role defined by weakness, he fully seized the opportunity to play a full emotional range, finding notes of rebellion, adolescent fun and pathos in his first high-exposure gig.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

‘Charlie Bartlett’ (2007)

The next year, Yelchin landed any young actor's dream: a starring role in an unusual, well-written indie with a living legend on the bill. Even when sharing the screen with a boozy Robert Downey Jr., Yelchin inhabited the role of a charismatic teen amateur psychiatrist (read: pharmaceutical pusher) naturally and believably. With this exuberant turn – the oomph he puts into faking a condition where he yells words starting with the letter V still gets giggles – he more than proved that he was ready to devour leading roles whole. The electrifying chemistry he shared with romantic opposite Kat Dennings didn't hurt, either.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

Pavel Chekov in ‘Star Trek’ Movies

Affecting a Russian accent thicker than a bowl of goulash, Yelchin must have made his parents proud with his foray into the world of summer blockbusters. Pavel Chekov is every bit the icon that Sulu, Kirk, Spock or Picard is, and Yelchin played him with the requisite fidelity to keep fans happy. But he also took the character further than the script may have demanded, reimagining him as a teenaged wunderkind always ready with a bit of handy comic relief. Even if he acts cartoonish, he's far from a sketch: When he's bumped up to chief engineer in 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness, the promotion puts a combination of pride and nerves in Yelchin's face. He plays the moment with rare credibility.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

‘Like Crazy’ (2011)

Courting Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence in Like Crazy must have been a good turn of events for a young Hollywood star on the rise. Striking a more straightforwardly romantic tone than in Charlie Bartlett, Yelchin teamed with director Drake Doremus for this love story shot through with abiding melancholy. Forever searching out roles slightly left-of-center, Yelchin's performance hinges on the quality of hopelessness in scraping a strained relationship back together, far from a standard-issue boy-meets-girl narrative. Embodying the sensitivity that would come to define his career, he charmed audiences along with the starlets.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

‘Fright Night’ (2011)

As if set on a mission to prove that no genre was beyond his reach, Yelchin added horror to a repertoire already including crime drama, sci-fi, romance and comedy. Reviving Tom Holland's cult delight sounded like a losing proposition until we all actually saw the film and found that a host of delectable performances elevated a questionably necessary project. While Colin Farrell had his fun as the vampire next door, Yelchin was stuck leading the charge against the undead, enlivening the usual "why won"t anyone believe me?!" role common in horror movies. He'd return to the "battling a remorseless threat alongside Imogen Poots" soon enough, but this capable performance solidifies the argument that Yelchin could potentially make any film more interesting simply by appearing in it.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2013)

Yelchin took a more minor role in Jim Jarmusch's cooler-than-cold-blood vampire drama, portraying a grungy groupie gratefully running errands for Tom Hiddleston's bloodsucking rock & roll recluse. Yelchin's appearance in this film is most telling when considered for what it represents; he had a serious love for his craft, and had no reservations about taking second-tier billing if it would give him the chance to work with a highly regarded filmmaker. The best actors are the ones who genuinely love film, and in his eclectic selection dotted with esteemed auteurs, Yelchin asserted himself as an artist in his own right.

Anton Yelchin, Memorable, Acting, Roles, Rolling Stone

STAR TREK, Anton Yelchin, 2009. Ph: Industrial Light & Magic/©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount/Everett

‘Green Room’ (2015)

Cooped up in a neo-Nazi clubhouse with no way out other than a drag-down fight, Yelchin and his punk bandmates made for unlikely heroes. But that was the genius of the film, and the brilliance of Yelchin himself: Regardless of a role's extraordinary circumstances, he gave a rational, recognizable human being's response to it. Green Room, then, is an action flick where the hero spends the entire film scared shitless, searching frantically for a makeshift weapon with which to defend himself. Far from a dauntless John McClane type, Yelchin played his part with reasonable terror, as if one of your college-dropout buddies had stumbled into a pulpy thriller. It's perhaps that quietly brilliant quality of regular-guy-ness that it still feels like such a personal loss.

In This Article: Star Trek

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