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Top 10 John Travolta Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born February 18th, 1954, John Travolta jumped from a starring role on TV in "Welcome Back, Kotter," to an ultra-successful movie career within a few short years. From there, he showed off his impressive singing and dancing skills in movies like "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease," before finally showing audiences he could actually act, too. After his hits in the ‘70s, Travolta had a career lull that lasted until the mid-‘90s. His comeback film was the super popular Quentin Tarantino flick "Pulp Fiction,"" and he never looked back. In this video, counts down John Travolta’s top 10 performances.

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He sings, he dances, he irons! Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for John Travolta’s top 10 performances.

#10 – Michael: “Michael” (1996)

Kicking off our list is quintessential Travolta. He turns the traditional idea of an angel on its ear by portraying Michael as a slob who drinks, smokes, eats like a pig, and flirts with the ladies. In other words: it’s a character most actors would kill to play. “Michael” is packed with the things we love about Travolta, like singing, dancing and inexplicable charm.

#9 – Jack Terry: “Blow Out” (1981)

Before a career lull that lasted till the mid-‘90s, Travolta went out with a bang – or at least a “Blow Out.” This thriller is a change from the smashes Travolta had been making before it: he plays a b-movie soundman who inadvertently stumbles onto a web of crime. “Blow Out” lets fans focus on Travolta’s acting rather than his singing or dancing, and what they get is one helluva performance.

#8 – Governor Jack Stanton: “Primary Colors” (1998)

Travolta takes his turn to do a thinly-veiled President Clinton impersonation in this film. But his performance is more than that – if it were just an imitation, Travolta never would have been nominated for a Golden Globe. Plus, it’s no mean feat to take on a caricature of a sitting president. Travolta is a dominant presence in the film, both when he’s on-screen and when he’s off.

#7 – Edna Turnblad: “Hairspray” (2007)

One of these things is not like the other... What can we say; we love a man in drag. And a fat suit. Singing. And Dancing. With Christopher Walken. Travolta could not be more committed to this role, which was his first musical in decades. Travolta managed another Golden Globe nod as Tracy Turnblad’s curvaceous mother, and proves that big is beautiful.

#6 – Vinnie Barbarino: “Welcome Back, Kotter” (1975 – 1979)

The Italian Stallion known as Vinnie Barbarino is the TV character that launched Travolta into the spotlight. In fact, he’s so good as the leader of the Sweathogs, audiences thought that was the real Travolta – especially since his “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” roles were kinda similar. He eventually proved he was more than a one-note actor, but we’ll always remember Vinnie’s enduring insults.

#5 – Chili Palmer: “Get Shorty” (1995)

Coming off the career-reviving success of “Pulp Fiction,” Travolta takes a similar part in this crime comedy, and wins a Golden Globe for his trouble. Travolta is the reason this movie was a success: he insisted the author’s original words be used in the movie, instead of some sterile, rehashed screenplay dialogue. Alongside a great supporting cast, Travolta makes menacing an artform – and gives Danny DeVito some tips.

#4 – Sean Archer/Castor Troy: “Face/Off” (1997)

This may be one of the most effective screen couples ever. Like, seriously: Who doesn’t want to see Travolta and Cage impersonate each other? Okay, the script is convoluted beyond compare, and the movie is filled with John Woo-isms. But Travolta flawlessly captures the humor and madness of his co-star, and also plays the quietly understated hero perfectly. Why is “Face/Off” on this list, you may ask? It’s just awesome.

#3 – Danny Zuko: “Grease” (1978)

Catchy tunes, charming stars and endless nostalgia are what make “Grease” great, despite what critics say. But Travolta has a pretty big part in it too: he helps things along by showing off his sweet dance moves, velvety singing voice and slicked back hair as the swaggering leader of the T-Birds. It’s a great example of vintage Travolta, and kept his 1970s’ winning streak alive.

#2 – Vincent Vega: “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

This movie revived a lot of careers, and Travolta was lucky that his was one of them. Travolta almost missed this chance to dance onscreen in favor of Michael Madsen, but he bowed out to film “Wyatt Earp” and has been kicking himself ever since. After a string of lame flicks and sub-par sequels, Travolta earned himself his second Oscar nomination by riffing on Big Macs, foot massages and talking to himself in the mirror.

#1 – Tony Manero: “Saturday Night Fever” (1977)

Taking the top spot on our list is the role that took a hot TV celeb and made him into a Hollywood superstar. Travolta and his Brooklyn accent are the life of the party, and his swaggering yet stripped down portrayal is perfect. But it’s the dancing that really makes this movie, and Travolta is flawless. Boy, you can tell by the way he uses his walk, he’s a woman’s man... Well, you get the picture.

John Travolta has made so many memorable performances; it’s hard to include them all. Subscribe to, and give us an idea which of your favorites is missing.

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