R.I.P. Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015): His Most Iconic Roles

The world lost a true icon earlier today when Christopher Lee passed away at the age of 93. He was a living legend, occupying a place of reverence in the minds of film lovers for seven decades. In his 70 years in the business, he played some of the most beloved roles of all time, scaring the hell out of us in the process. With nearly 300 credits to his name, he leaves behind the kind of legacy that most actors only dream of, one that will live on well past the time that anyone reading this will remain on this earth. His gangly frame and deep, hypnotic voice were instantly recognizable by movie goers across generations and became indelibly linked to whatever role he occupied. In the process, he crafted some of the most memorable characters of all time.

To honor his life and his work, we revisit some of his best roles throughout his career. From his earliest roles to his latter day renaissance, Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee holds a special place in our hearts and minds. Thanks for the memories, good sir. They won’t soon, if ever, be forgotten.


Outside Bela Lugosi, no one has ever owned the role of Bram Stoker’s vampire king as hard as Sir Christopher Lee. Starting in 1958’s The Horror of Dracula, Lee didn’t play Count Dracula so much as he became him. Though he would portray the Count 9 times over a 15 year period, none of them ever quite achieved the same level of acclaim or intensity that The Horror of was able to muster, but throughout them all, Lee maintained a level of creepy camp that solidified his legend. “Sleep well, Mr. Harker,” he says with his trademarked aristocratic intonation. But that’s not bloody likely, is it?


Nobody could have filled the shoes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s villainous white wizard with the same gusto that Christopher Lee did. Though he was nearly 80 when Fellowship of the Ring first premiered, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Saruman was the role he was born to play. His wisdom matched only by his lust for power, Saruman is, in many ways, the perfect villain and Lee occupied the character the same way he always did, which is to say completely and wholly. He was the perfect counterbalance to Ian McKellan’s kindly Gandalf, holding a place of dread and foreboding that cast a shadow darker and longer than the Black Gate throughout the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

Count Dooku

Say what you will about the prequel trilogies, Lee’s Dooku was an oasis of awesome amidst a desert of mediocrity, his scenes elevating the generally frustrating Attack of the Clones to something that was, at the very least, worth seeing for him alone. The former Jedi Master to Dark Lord of the Sith was just about the only interesting thing to come out of that steaming pile of…sorry, I almost lost track of my purpose there. Dooku/Darth Tyranus was an interesting villain in a series that desperately needed one, and though his screen time may have been truncated, who can forget the cheers of joy that rumbled through the theaters the first time you saw Yoda unleash his light saber to face off against Dooku and his shadowy menace? Though he was dispatched with ease in the next movie, Count Dooku was a magnificent addition to an otherwise unremarkable series.


Of fucking course Christopher Lee played Rasputin. Rasputin: The Mad Monk would not be memorable in anyway were it not for the presence of Sir Christopher, but his portrayal of the Grigori Rasputin is this stuff legends are made off. So intense was his performance that Rasputin’s own daughter supposedly once remarked that Lee “had her father’s expression.” I don’t doubt it. Rasputin was a man whose intensity was so known that his death has become a myth unto itself. Imagine that: A legend embodying the role of another legend. I’m not sure who should be more honored by this; Lee for being able to play Rasputin or Rasputin for being played by Lee. Neither of these are men I would want to screw with, so perhaps it’s best if we just call it a draw.


Though portrayed in Alexandre Dumas’s Musketeer novels as a sort of comical foil, the cinematic versions of Comte de Rochefort cast him as something a bit more sinister and foreboding. Lee owned this role across three Musketeer movies: The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers. With his eye-patch, rapier wit, and, well, his rapier, Lee’s Rochefort was a menacing foil for the Musketeers, swashbuckling his way into our hearts with his menacing callous. He was the perfect villain, the living embodiment of the evil henchmen who could match swords with the best of them.


For his 90th birthday, Christopher Lee decided to celebrate in the most menacing way possible: Releasing a metal concept album about Charlemagne. A sequel to a previous, more symphonic concept album about Charlemagne (whom Lee claimed to be a descendant of) this release marked a move towards more traditional metal, giving him the distinction of being the oldest metal performer of all time. It’s bizarre, it’s off putting, and it totally makes that rager you threw when you turned 30 look like a kid’s party with clowns and a bounce house.

Do you have some favorite memories of Christopher Lee? Sound off in the comments.

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2 Responses

  1. It is unfortunate, however, that the portrayal of Rasputin was of the Hollywood myth, not the reality in which he was persecuted for being a humanitarian, as compared to the Czar who condoned the lethal raids on Jews and peasants, caring little for the suffering of his people. Rasputin never harmed a soul nor caused bloodshed.

    This, of course, isn’t Christopher Lee’s fault. But for more accurate information on the real Rasputin (some of which is based on the reports of his long-time Jewish friend and secretary), see The Real Rasputin website and read “Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History” and “Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary.”

    1. All very interesting, yes. Unfortunately, not exactly the point of anything in this article at all. Since one can see by clicking the link in your username that you are the author of the books you referenced, I can only assume you’ve had a field day filling up various comment sections with this information since Christopher Lee’s death.

      This article is intended to celebrate the career of a great actor, not to tear apart the portrayal of his characters (which, as you said yourself, is not his fault anyway).

      I’m sure there are many communities on the Internet that would gladly have this whole conversation with you, but if you should find those people, I would recommend you own up right from the beginning that the books you’re using as support were authored by you. There are better ways to market, guy.

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