Hollywood lost a true legend when the 67-year-old actor and action star Ray Liotta died on May 26, 2022. At the time, no cause of death was announced but nearly a year later, it was disclosed that he died as a result of complications in his heart and respiratory system. Legal documents attribute Liotta’s passing to respiratory insufficiency caused by pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) and acute heart failure. He also had atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the thickening or hardening of arteries due to plaque buildup along the inner lining.
The Emmy-award-winning actor got his start in primetime TV, but the big screen was where he truly shone. To honor Liotta, let’s take a look back at the best movies of his amazing career!
Liotta’s early life
Ray Allen Liotta was born in 1954 in Newark, New Jersey. Liotta grew up a successful athlete in high school, playing both basketball and soccer. After graduating in 1973, Liotta studied acting at the University of Miami. His first major role was as Joey Perrini on the daytime soap opera Another World.
After moving to Hollywood to pursue his growing career, Liotta landed the role of Ray Sinclair, opposite Melanie Griffith in the 1986 rom-com Something Wild. Critics and audiences alike fell for the fresh-faced star, launching Liotta’s career overnight. He went on to star in cinema classics like Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, Field of Dreams, and new releases like No Sudden Move.
Goodfellas is hands down the most renowned Ray Liotta movie in history! Written and directed by Martin Scorcese, Goodfellas follows the true story of mobster Henry Hill (played by Liotta), his wife Karen Hill, and his mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito. The cult-classic film is considered one of the best movies in recent history.
In a 2021 interview with The Guardian, Liotta was asked if he would ever appear in another Scorcese film. He replied, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask him, but I’d love to.” Even though his most celebrated role was thanks to Scorcese, Ray Liotta never appeared in any other of the director’s films.
The Many Saints of Newark (2021)
Speaking of mobsters, Liotta returned to his gangster roots in the recent Soprano‘s prequel The Many Saints of Newark – based in Liotta’s own hometown! Not only did he appear in the film, but he also played two roles – the Moltisanti twins.
The film follows the early life of Tony Soprano in an attempt to humanize the mob leader and self-confessed murderer.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Ray Liotta wowed audiences as Shoeless Joe Jackson in the 1989 sports-fantasy drama Field of Dreams. The film follows Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) as he tries to fulfill his dream of building a baseball diamond good enough for baseball legend “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (played by Liotta) to play on. The film went on to be nominated for best picture, best screenplay, and best score at the 1990 Academy Awards.
The studio built the entire baseball diamond set on a rural farm in Iowa. Following filming, the family who owned the farm kept the baseball field and sold souvenirs. Today, visitors are welcome to play baseball there for free!
No Sudden Move (2021)
Set in 1950’s New York, No Sudden Move follows a group of gangsters and criminals as they try to untangle a scheme gone wrong. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and featuring huge stars like Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Jon Hamm, and of course Ray Liotta – the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021 and garnered a positive reception from critics.
Liotta played mob leader Frank Capelli, who organized a blackmail scheme that triggers a classic gangster-style shootout.
Liotta is barely recognizable in a goatee for the 2002 grimy thriller Narc. The film follows retired narcotics officer Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) as he is forced back on the beat when the trail of a murder investigation goes cold.
Both Ray Liotta and his co-star Jason Patric participated in the film for barely any money! Despite paychecks bouncing and legal issues, Liotta and Patric genuinely respected the director Joe Carnahan and didn’t want to see his career ruined by backing out. The low budget meant that background actors couldn’t be cast, so the majority of passers-by in the film are actual pedestrians unaware of what was happening.
Unlawful Entry (1992)
In this psychological thriller, a couple befriends handsome cop Pete Davis (Ray Liotta) after an intruder breaks into their home. Things soon get out of hand when a love triangle forms. Unlawful Entry was a huge success, making a whopping $10 million on its opening weekend!
Hannibal is the final installment of the Hannibal Lecter series, which began with the horror classic Silence of the Lambs. Liotta plays FBI agent Paul Krendler, a corrupt official who has it in for heroine Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore). Directed by Ridley Scott, many fans believe the film is an underrated but thrilling sequel to Silence of the Lambs.
Liotta’s character met an untimely and gruesome end at the hands of Hannibal Lecter. We’ll spare you the gory details but let’s just say it involves sauteed brains.
At the time of Liotta’s death, the actor was working on a project called ‘Dangerous Waters’ in the Dominican Republic. According to Liotta’s publicist, he passed in his sleep. He is survived by his daughter, Karsen, and his fiancée, Jacy Nittolo.
Many celebrities are shocked and saddened by Liotta’s sudden death. Jennifer Lopez, who starred alongside Liotta in the TV series Shades of Blue, shared her thoughts about her co-star on Instagram:
“Ray was the epitome of a tough guy who was all mushy on the inside … I guess that’s what made him such a compelling actor to watch… Like a raw nerve, he was so accessible and so in touch in his acting and I will always remember our time together fondly. We lost a great today.”