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David Arquette's Best Movie And TV Roles

Some actors are chameleons, disappearing into a character so deeply it's almost a shock to learn who was behind the performance. Others are experts at being natural, delivering lines with an effortlessness that almost makes the scene feel like something out of a documentary. "Movie stars" light up the screen with their charisma and you can't help but watch them, regardless of who they're playing. Then there are the risk-takers, actors who decide to commit to the more extreme sides of their characters, often resulting in an interesting if sometimes even alienating performance.

David Arquette is a risk-taker who makes it look natural. Even when he looks ridiculous, with bulging eyes and exaggerated features, it feels right for the character he is portraying. Whether it's the cartoonishly bashful, but brave, Dewey Riley in "Scream," or wrestling-obsessed social outcast Gordie in "Ready to Rumble," Arquette makes big choices that are always entertaining and unexpectedly natural. Here are just a few of his best roles in TV and film.

Malcolm the stalker in Friends

In 1996, the same year "Scream" was released, David Arquette was a guest star on the third season of the legendary sitcom "Friends." Although we didn't get to see him interact with his "Scream" co- star — and future wife — Courteney Cox, he still made a welcome appearance on the series. He played Malcolm, a man obsessed with Phoebe's twin sister Ursula. We first met him as he followed Phoebe down the street. She confronted him about following her and it was revealed that he had her confused with her sister. A small romance brewed between the two and they began dating. 

What's so genius about his performance is that you can see why Phoebe likes him. Yes, he's a potentially dangerous stalker, but he plays the character with such sweet sincerity that Phoebe's feelings sort of make sense. At no point does Malcolm feel threatening or hostile. In fact, he's kind of lovable. Of course, none of that justifies his actions; he desperately needs professional help and there's no excuse for his unwanted and criminal advances. But Arquette makes you believe in Phoebe's feelings — even if you know she's making a terrible, terrible decision.

Benny in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Before the cult classic series, and before we knew about Joss Whedon's hostile work environments, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was just a little supernatural teen comedy starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. Also in the cast were acting greats like Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Hilary Swank, Paul Reubens, and a young David Arquette. 

While he certainly isn't the star of the film, Arquette is incredibly memorable as Benny, Pike's slacker friend. In a scene evoking a nightmare-inducing moment from the "Salem's Lot" miniseries, Benny appears at Pike's window wanting to come in. He's been changed into a vampire and is hungry. When Pike notices that his friend is floating in the air, he refuses to open the window. Benny's reaction is a small taste of the David Arquette moments we would witness in the next few years.

That's why this is such a strong role for Arquette. The character's transition to the world of the undead allows him to open up and chew the scenery a little bit. It's an excellent showcase and primer for some of the more off-kilter performances he would deliver over the next few decades.

Randy Mann in Pushing Daisies

The tragically short-lived fantastical mystery series "Pushing Daisies" was weird and quirky in all the best ways. It was funny, cinematic, and sentimental, with a lush visual style that few, if any, series can match. Given its dark but sweet tone, it's actually surprising that Arquette didn't appear in the show sooner, as he fits in perfectly with this stylized world.

As with many of Arquette's best characters, Randy Mann is misunderstood. Like the show itself, Randy is a misguided, hopeless romantic played to perfection by Arquette. A lonely guy with a fondness for taxidermy, he is the top suspect in a murder investigation involving his roommate. However, it's revealed pretty quickly that while he may be an awkward, lonely recluse, Randy couldn't hurt anybody. The character has a four-episode run on the series as a potential love interest to Kristin Chenoweth's Olive, and the two of them work excellently together.

Greg in Hamlet 2

"Hamlet 2" is an underrated parody of the "white teacher who fixes a class of troubled minorities" genre that seems to have died out. Unlike other parody films, it doesn't often go for the obvious joke. Instead, they subvert the entire premise by making the teacher a complete loser who can't even save his own loveless marriage, while making the students well-adjusted young adults who see him as someone they need to fix.

Arquette plays Greg, a man living with the incredibly unhappy couple Dana (Steve Coogan) and Brie (Catherine Keener). He is quiet, subdued, and devastatingly dull. What's so brilliant is seeing Arquette, an actor capable of devouring the scenery around him, play such an average and lame guy. You have to like him because he doesn't really do anything for you not to like him. He's like the friend of a friend that you think about and go, "Oh yeah. Greg's cool, I guess." Even when the film reveals that Greg slept with Brie and got her pregnant, Dana can't stay mad at him. 

Captain Barnabas in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

As an actor, David Arquette is well-suited for children's television because it grants him the opportunity to be both intense and lighthearted. Amazon Studios' brief revival of the classic Sid and Marty Krofft series "Sigmund the Sea Monster," now called "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters," is an excellent opportunity for Arquette to showcase his comedic chops. 

He plays Captain Barnabas, a sea captain obsessed with hunting sea monsters. While the rest of the town doesn't take him seriously, openly mocking him every chance they get, the captain is resolute in his sea monster beliefs. He exists in the tradition of villains from children's programs who may be fully-grown adults, but are far too bumbling to ever be truly menacing. No matter how close he gets to catching a sea monster, these kids are always there to thwart him.

The unique spin here is that Captain Barnabas is insecure about himself and has spent so much of his time trying to catch sea monsters that he has trouble communicating in social situations. Arquette plays the Captain's more vulnerable moments with a real sense of innocence and self-doubt that humanizes him in ways typically absent in this kind of show. He makes you believe that this is a real, if very strange, person with a heart.

George Staub in Riding the Bullet

"Riding the Bullet" is one of the lesser-known Stephen King adaptations, which says nothing about the film's quality. Even the worst Stephen King movies are at least talked about to a certain degree. This small horror film about grief and suicide, however, just seems to have gone under the radar. It's a real shame too, as it's one of director Mich Garris' best films and a solid adaptation/expansion of a Stephen King chiller.

It's about a young artist who has unresolved family issues that manifest as an fixation on death. After trying to commit suicide, this young man learns that his mother has suffered a stroke, so he attempts to hitchhike to the hospital where she is being treated. He encounters all manner of uncanny apparitions, hallucinations, and truly odd individuals on the road to see his mother, but none of them are more strange, menacing, and enlightening than George Staub, played by David Arquette.

Staub is the classic dead driver who picks up a wayward hitchhiker, and Arquette shines in the role. He's funny, cracked, and truly menacing. Everything about him feels wrong, and Arquette leans into the strangeness of his character with infectious enthusiasm. Folks should really check this one out.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Sheriff Deke in Creepshow

This very small role in the anthology horror series "Creepshow," based on the underappreciated George A. Romero and Stephen King film of the same name, makes the list due to David Arquette's ability to understand the character the moment you see him. The fact is that Sheriff Deke is like an evil, alternate reality version of Dewey Riley from "Scream."

The story, "Time is Tough in Musky Holler," focuses on a group of individuals who all played a part in their small town being taken over by an authoritarian mayor during a zombie uprising. Most of what we know about the time before the story is told through illustrated comic panels. It appears that the town was in chaos during the uprising and this man forced himself into the mayor's seat. Arquette's character, Sheriff Deke, enforced the Mayor's terrible laws and used his new power to freely rape and murder citizens of all ages.

Yes, it appears that this is one of the few purely despicable characters in Arquette's resume. Everything about him — the way he walks, his venomous taunting, and all that murder — makes his ultimate punishment all the sweeter. This is a character who deserved to have his face eaten by zombies, and Arquette sells it with everything he's got.

Rob Geller in Never Been Kissed

Given his penchant for playing awkward, offbeat characters, it's difficult to imagine David Arquette being the "cool guy" at school. This is why his role as Rob in the 1999 romantic comedy "Never Been Kissed" is such a standout. 

The film is about a journalist played by another "Scream" alum, Drew Barrymore, going undercover as a high school student. She needs to get in with the cool kids and uncover the real dirt behind what life is like for a modern teenager. The problem is that she was a total loser in high school and has no idea how to make friends with popular kids. This is where her brother comes in.

Rob was a cool jock in high school, with real potential to make it as a major league baseball player, but he missed his shot. Now he works at a place called the Tiki Post, dreaming of what might have been. He goes undercover as well and is immediately popular, which makes his sister popular by association. Rob feels like a sweet, genuine guy who just wants one more chance — even if he has a questionable, vague, and entirely unnecessary "relationship" with an actual high school girl in the film.

Gordie Boggs in Ready to Rumble

David Arquette was able to publicly indulge his passion for professional wrestling in this silly comedy from 2000. "Ready to Rumble" is one of those softer loser buddy comedies that evolved over the '90s and into the early 2000s. Like "Bill & Ted" or Jesse and Chester from "Dude, Where's My Car?" Gordie Boggs and Sean Dawkins are the kind of lazy schlubs everyone feels comfortable mocking. In this case of these two, it's their mutual obsession with wrestling, particularly a wrestler named Jimmy King, that everyone in their lives latches onto when ridiculing them.

In the hands of a lesser actor, Gordie would come across as an annoying, obnoxious character with little redeeming value. Arquette plays him with such childlike naivete that it's almost endearing, however. For instance, the scene in which he tricks a convenience store clerk into giving him a new drink by making him smell his soiled finger should be completely grotesque. The idea itself is repugnant, but the lack of any menace in his performance makes you forgive the disgusting display. 

Like a lot of movies starring professional wrestlers, it isn't a masterpiece, but what works so well here is that Arquette gets to play to all of his strengths.

Purvis in Bone Tomahawk

This is another small, but important, role for Arquette, where he demonstrates his unique spin on a character by reminding us just how human he is. The first thing you see in this horror-western is Arquette cutting into a man's throat. He and Sid Haig play drifters who murder and steal from travelers. As an audience, we have exactly zero reason to like these people. However, mere seconds after murdering a man, Arquette's character makes you smile.

It would have been easy to play Purvis as a disgusting, unfeeling monster, but Arquette shows us a guy just trying to survive the horrible time he's in. He doesn't murder and steal because he gets a kick out of it (unlike his "Creepshow" character), it's just a fact of his life. Civilized people work jobs to earn money, but these are largely uncivilized times and he has to do the best with what he's given. 

None of this is explicitly stated in the film. Solely based on the strength of his performance, we can infer a whole backstory and inner conflict. Again, it's not a big role, but he excels in the short time he's seen onscreen.

Dewey Riley in Scream

David Arquette wasn't supposed to play the lovable, dorky, sweet, brave, and resilient Deputy Dewey Riley in the original "Scream." As discussed in some behind-the-scenes interviews, he was originally considered to play Billy, one of the killers, with Dewey intended to be more of a muscular jock character. In Arquette's hands, however, Dewey is a caring young man full of nervous energy at the start of his career who might be in over his head a bit. As the films progress, Dewey becomes the giant heart at the center of the franchise. No matter how many times some copycat tries to kill his friends, Dewey is right there to stand in their way. 

In an interview with Thrillist, Arquette said he feels that people sometimes underestimate Dewey and underestimate him as well. If you look at his IMDb page, without having seen "Scream" or a lot of movies on this list, it certainly does seem like he's an actor who just plays extreme characters with no substance. However, if you really pay attention to his performance as Dewey Riley, you will see what a powerhouse combination of sincerity, comedy, and sweetness he is capable of.