Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and actor. His lyrics often focus on the underbelly of society and are delivered in his trademark deep, gravelly voice. He worked primarily in jazz during the 1970s, but his music since the 1980s has reflected greater influence from blues, rock, vaudeville, and experimental genres. He made his film debut in Paradise Alley (1978), with Sylvester Stallone (in his directorial debut), Armand Assante, Anne Archer, and Joe Spinell.
Waits produced the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola‘s film One from the Heart (1981), with Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia, Nastassja Kinski, Lainie Kazan, and Harry Dean Stanton. He would subsequently make cameo appearances in several Coppola films including The Outsiders (1983), with C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane; Rumble Fish (1983), with Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Vincent Spano, Lane, Nicolas Cage, and Dennis Hopper; The Cotton Club (1984), with Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Cage, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon, and Fred Gwynne; Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), with Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, and Cary Elwes; and narration for Twixt (2011), with Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Ben Chaplin, Alden Ehrenreich, David Paymer and Joanne Whalley.
Waits has also frequently collaborated with independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, appearing in Down By Law (1986), with John Lurie and Roberto Benigini; voice work in Mystery Train (1989), composing for Night on Earth (1991), appearing in a segment of the anthology Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), with Iggy Pop; and the horror comedy The Dead Don’t Die (2019), with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, and Selena Gomez.
Other films include Héctor Babenco’s Ironweed (1987), with Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Carroll Baker, Michael O’Keefe, Diane Venora, Gwynne, and Nathan Lane, Cold Feet (1989), with Keith Carradine, Bill Pullman, Sally Kirkland, and Rip Torn; Babenco’s At Play in the Field of the Lord (1991), with Tom Berenger, John Lithgow, Daryl Hannah, Aidan Quinn, and Kathy Bates; Queen’s Logic (1991), with Kevin Bacon, Linda Fiorentino, Joe Mantegna, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Malkovich, Ken Olin, and Chloe Webb; Robert Altman‘s Short Cuts (1993), with Lily Tomlin, Julianne Moore, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Jack Lemmon, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Matthew Modine; and Mystery Men (1999), with Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Janeane Garofalo, Paul Reubens, Kel Mitchell, Wes Studi, Geoffrey Rush, Lena Olin, Eddie Izzard, and Claire Forlani.
Later films include Tony Scott‘s Domino (2005), with Kiera Knightley, Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Delroy Lindo, Mo’Nique, Mena Suvari, Lucy Liu, and Christopher Walken; Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006), with Patrick Fugit, Shea Whigham, and Shannyn Sossamon; Terry Gilliam‘s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), with Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law; The Book of Eli (2010), with Denzel Washington, Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, and Michael Gambon; and Martin McDonagh‘s Seven Psychopaths (2012), with Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Walken, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, and Željko Ivanek; Joel and Ethan Coen‘s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), with James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson, Tyne Daly, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Harry Melling, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, and Saul Rubinek; and David Lowery’s The Old Man & the Gun (2018), with Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Glover, Tika Sumpter, and Sissy Spacek.
Uncredited roles include Wolfen (1981), with Albert Finney, Diane Venora, Hines, Edward James Olmos, and Tom Noonan; The Stone boy (1984), with Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Glenn Close, Wilford Brimley, Linda Hamilton, Dean Cain, and Jason Presson; The Two Jakes (1990), with Nicholson (who also directed), Harvey Keitel, Meg Tilly, Madeleine Stowe, Richard Farnsworth, Frederic Forrest, David Keith, Rubén Blades, Tracey Walter and Eli Wallach; and Gilliam’s The Fisher King, with Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, and Michael Jeter
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Paradise Alley (1978) – directed by Sylvester Stallone
- One from the Heart (1981) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola – composer, uncredited actor
- Wolfen (1981) – directed by Michael Wadleigh – uncredited
- The Outsiders (1983) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
- Rumble Fish (1983) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
- The Stone Boy (1984) – directed by Christopher Cain – uncredited
- The Cotton Club (1984) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
- Down By Law (1986) – directed by Jim Jarmusch – also contributed to soundtrack
- Ironweed (1987) – directed by Héctor Babenco
- Candy Mountain (1988) – directed by Robert Frank & Rudy Wurlitzer
- Big Time (1988) – directed by Chris Blum – co-writer, composer – concert documentary
- Greasy Lake (1988) – directed by Damian Harris – short – uncredited narrator
- Mystery Train (1989) – directed by Jim Jarmusch – voice only
- Cold Feet (1989) – directed by Robert Dornhelm
- The Two Jakes (1990) – directed by Jack Nicholson – uncredited
- Queens Logic (1991) – directed by Steve Rash
- The Fisher King (1991) – directed by Terry Gilliam
- Until the End of the World (1991) – directed by Wim Wenders – uncredited
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) – directed by Hector Babenco
- Night on Earth (1991) – directed by Jim Jarmusch – composer
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola
- Short Cuts (1993) – directed by Robert Altman
- Mystery Men (1999)* – directed by Kinka Usher
- Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) – directed by Jim Jarmusch
- Domino (2005) – directed by Tony Scott
- The Tiger and the Snow (2005) – directed by Roberto Benigini
- Writscutters: A Love Story (2006) – directed by Goran Dukić
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) – directed by Terry Gilliam
- The Book of Eli (2010)* – directed by Albert & Allen Hughes
- The Monster of Nix (2011) – directed by Rosto – short
- Twixt (2011) – directed by Francis Ford Coppola – narrator
- Seven Psychopaths (2012) – directed by Martin McDonagh
- The Laughing Heart (2012) – directed by Travis Carr – short
- The Moon’s Milk (2018) – directed by Ri Crawford – short
- The Old Man & the Gun (2018) – directed by David Lowery
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) – directed by Joel & Ethan Coen – anthology
- The Dead Don’t Die (2019)* – directed by Jim Jarmusch
- Licorice Pizza (2021)* – directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
- Keyhole Garden (TBA) – directed by Marco Perego Saldana