On Sunday, we learned of the passing of one of Hollywood’s brightest and talented stars, Anton Yelchin. Most famous for his work as Chekov in the new Star Trek films, Yelchin died in a fatal car accident at age 27.
Starting out as a child actor in films like Hearts of Atlantis and Along Came A Spider, Yelchin made a strong impression from the very beginning. To remember the actor we lost way too soon, we reflect on our favorite performances from Anton Yelchin’s successful and varied career.
I didn’t expect much about Rudderless as I went into it, a film about using music as a passage for grief, centered on a father, who lost his son. It’s moving and Billy Crudup is wonderful, but the film once again shined a light on how talented Anton Yelchin was. Soulful, enthusiastic, harboring internal struggle as this wayward character and sharing a genuine rapport with Crudup, he brought a youthful exuberance to the film. – Allyson Johnson
Sweet Chekov. Amongst the many faces of the Star Trek series, Yelchin stood out in the 2009 film for his characters optimism, youthful but confident nature, and delivered on one of the funniest scenes of the rebooted franchise as he raced down the halls of the Enterprise, shouting “I can do this, I can do this!” to beam Sulu and Kirk up to safety. He fit perfectly in the ensemble cast, bringing new life to an old character. His presence was warm and effortlessly comic, often being a bright light when the films veered into darker territories. He brought the same amount of energy and skill to this blockbuster mega-hit as he would to his more independent fare. Perhaps it isn’t his most dynamic work, but it’s one that automatically makes him iconic. – Allyson Johnson
I had just seen Anton at a Q&A for Green Room three months ago. He had talked about the joys of working with director Jeremy Saulnier and Sir Patrick Stewart in this gory thriller. Green Room turned out to be one of my favorite films of 2016 so far, and Anton is a big reason for that. His character, Pat, is a bass player in a punk rock band, but he’s far from being hardcore. He’s a dorky individual who never once takes on the role of an “action star.” Even when he’s trying to survive, he fumbles about, gets scared, and even cries at a point. Anton doesn’t just let us know he was playing in a thriller, he makes us believe that this is real. – Yasmin Kleinbart
Like Crazy isn’t just a typical romance; it’s probably the most accurate depiction of a long distance relationship. Anton and Felicity Jones play Jacob and Anna, a couple forced to be apart after Anna’s visa expires. The film goes back and forth between them as they try to keep their relationship strong. Anton plays a guy desperate to keep his girlfriend through any means necessary. With just a few words and facial expressions, he’s able to convey love more than any other cheesy romantic comedy out there. – Yasmin Kleinbart
In Jim Jamusch’s smart and wild take on the vampire film, Anton Yelchin costarred with Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowski, and John Hurt…and proved he could more than hold his own as a contemporary performer with such big names. Arguably the least flashy role in this stylish picture full of oddballs, he turned his character Ian into something special. While the foil for Hiddleston and romantic interest of Wasikowska, he was the voice and eyes for the audience into this strange world of the undead. And through that performance, he reflected the natural wonder, seduction and ultimate tragedy of vampirism with a strange sense of wide-eyed wonder and sadness. – Lesley Coffin
Like his performance in the drama Like Crazy, Yelchin showed his skills as a romantic lead, this time in the romantic-comedy 5 to 7. As a young writer who falls in love with an enchanting French woman in an open marriage, he finds a balance to play few actors his age could. His character of Brian may be naïve and out of his element with his lover, but he is neither dumb nor immature…simply inexperienced and without a trace of cynism. He has a light touch with the comedic and romantic scenes opposite Berenice Marlohe, confident enough to trust their simmering chemistry would be seen by audience, and he didn’t have to try to “sell” their relationship. He also has a memorably strong platonic friendship opposite Olivia Thirlby’s Jane that always feels completely honest and refreshing. – Lesley Coffin
There aren’t very many highlights in Terminator Salvation, but Anton Yelchin has always been one. The character of Kyle Reese is iconic in science fiction, a grunt who places a faceless objective ahead of his own life, and through his objective discovers a humanity within himself. Terminator Salvation lacks the qualities of The Terminator but Anton Yelchin never let us forget what made the originals classics. Working through a plodding script of cheesy moral dilemmas and platitude, his portrayal of Kyle Reese reminded us that The Terminator had always about one thing, what distinguishes man from machine. The Terminator movies are famous for its cyborg characters and advanced machinery, but in Terminator Salvation, it’s Anton Yelchin who pulses the kind of beating heart that made the originals worth caring about in the first place. – Gary Shannon
Odd Thomas wasn’t great, but Anton Yelchin was. As a long time fan of Dean Kootnz’s novels on which the film is based, I was sorely disappointed in how the film turned out in every aspect except for Yelchin’s performance as the central character that can see ghosts. Odd Thomas was a character who, despite being young, always seemed world-weary to me, and Yelchin portrayed every nuance and vulnerability that went with that. Because of his ability, Odd would often go on philosophical musings about death and the dead, and Yelchin handled what could have been a maudlin topic with a sense of dry humor that was weirdly soothing. He was empathetic and sympathetic, hilariously cynical and optimistic at the same time and I enjoyed watching every minute of one of my favorite literary characters come to life because of Yelchin. And, by God, I couldn’t have asked for a better Odd Thomas. – Katey Stoetzel
Who didn’t want to be friends with Charlie Bartlett? Even though the Ferris Bueller-esque character got beat up at the start of the film, he quickly became the kid everyone went to for his or her problems (and also to pop some pills). Charlie didn’t just want to be popular for popular’s sake, though. He just wanted to be liked. Anton Yelchin’s charisma made sure we did, from the way he easily accepted Len, the mentally challenged kid no one talked to, his half-way naked dance in the streets, and the way he owned up to his faults and mistakes made Charlie an ultimately better person than Ferris ever was. – Katey Stoetzel
In the role of Mel Gibson’s eldest son, Anton Yelchin takes a fairly clichéd role and adds some surprising depth. He’s the only one in the family who has to hold them up, even in the strangest of circumstances. What makes his character so important to the film is how he wants to be completely different from his father. He creates a list of traits he shares with his father that he aspires to stop doing. Not only does this provide a good character study, it also infuses some much needed realism to a rather absurd film. Even though some aspects to his character feel unnecessary or unfulfilled (his subplot with Jennifer Lawrence being a good example), Yelchin demonstrated a maturity beyond his years that very few actors his age can emulate. – Matthew Goudreau
The horror genre thrives on sequels and remakes, so it was no surprise when they announced that the cult classic Fright Night was being remade. What was surprising was how enjoyable the 2011 horror thriller was, mostly due to Anton Yelchin’s performance as Charley Brewster, a teen boy who becomes convinced his neighbor is a vampire and has to enlist the help of a Vegas show vampire hunter to get rid of him. Yelchin made Charley Brewster funny, unsure, endearing, and persistent when it came to protecting the people he loved–the perfect campy horror movie protagonist. He had the right amount of boy-next-door charm tempered with self consciousness so that he never came off as smarmy or cliched–something that is very important in a final girl/boy character. – Bri Lockhart
From Up on Poppy Hill is a poignant one to mention because its subject matter has become emblematic of what this memorial is all about: to always move forward and never forget. Anton Yelchin plays one out of the film’s two main characters, Shun Kazama. Shun is caught in a battle to escape a painful past and look to a promising future. It’s definitely symbolic of Japan’s after the Second World War, but the film’s themes are timeless and universal. Shun, whose artistic and poetic talent represent a bright future for Japan is a saddening reminder of the talent lost with Yelchin’s passing. It ultimately tells us that what we preserve and hold onto are integral to how we move forward, including those we lose. The immensely gifted Anton Yelchin has left us too soon but in the timely and timeless tradition of celebrating those past, here’s to never forgetting. – Gary Shannon