Twentieth Century Fox, Broad Green Pictures, Paramount Pictures
Twentieth Century Fox, Broad Green Pictures, Paramount Pictures
He was best known to theatergoers for his essential role as Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, but at 27 he had already amassed quite the resume with a wide range of roles, from the dark misfit-teen comedy Charlie Bartlett to the star-crossed romance Like Crazy and the gritty white-knuckle thriller Green Room.
The Russian-born and Los Angeles-bred actor made his onscreen debut at 11 in an episode of ER and never looked back, spending the rest of his life doing what he knew as a child he was meant to do.
And while there should have been much more of a career for fans to savor, Yelchin left the world with a fascinating array of work behind him—including the still-to-be released We Don't Belong Here. On what would have been his 28th birthday, here are some options to get you caught up on his legacy right this minute:
Lions Gate Films
House of D (2004): Streaming with Amazon Prime, Yelchin's breakout role came playing the 13-year-old version of David Duchovny's troubled ex-pat artist, Tom, who takes a look back at his life to figure out the source of his issues in this drama, which was also Duchovny's feature directorial debut. Then-wife Téa Leoni plays young Tom's mother, while Robin Williams plays a janitor who's also the boy's best friend.
"As for [discovering] Anton, I didn't want to work with a 13, 14 year old," Duchovny said in a 2005 interview with Tail Slate. "His name was brought up to me early, but I said I don't want to work with a kid that I can only work with for six hours a day...Butut I finally gave in and agreed to see Anton, because everyone kept talking about him. And when he came in, it was just like, 'That's the man I'm going to marry.' That's the boy, that's him, and I was so scared of losing him.
"I thought, this kid is undeniable, and if I let him go Spielberg's going to have him in a day and offer him money I can't give him. And I actually ran out and stopped him and his mother and said, 'What do I have to do to get you say you're going to do my movie, before you leave me right now?' It was like trying to get a girl's number at a bus stop. He's just an extraordinary person. He's freakishly mature, artistic, and I learned things from him."
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
Charlie Bartlett (2007): Streaming with Amazon Prime, Yelchin played a trouble-making rich kid who feigns various psychoses and ailments in order to get his hands on prescription drugs to sell. But Charlie's charisma also makes him a natural confidante among his peer, making him a Ferris Bueller-style BMOC—and life especially starts to look up when he starts dating Kat Dennings' Susan, the daughter of his new school's alcoholic principal played by a scene-stealing (obviously) Robert Downey Jr.
And if you've seen Charlie Bartlett already, may we also suggest this engaging joint interview with RDJ:
Odd Thomas (2013): Yelchin is a clairvoyant short-order cook who senses trouble's a-comin' in this supernatural thriller, based on the Dean Koontz novel and currently streaming on Netflix.
The Beaver (2011): That was Yelchin playing Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster's son in the unfortunately titled (and timed) dysfunctional-dad dramedy in which Gibson's depressed businessman starts communicating only via Beaver puppet. Jennifer Lawrence—yes, that Jennifer Lawrence—plays a schoolmate. The twist is real in this one, but it's worth a watch and is currently streaming on Netflix.
"I really like Mel's sense of humor, and we get along really well, and Jodie too," Yelchin told Collider in 2011 about his experience making the film. "For as sad as all the characters are, and as depressing as the film can get, it was a really light and fun set. It was a blast."
Broad Green Pictures
Green Room (2015): Yelchin probed even darker territory in this thriller, currently streaming with Amazon Prime, in which he played a member of a punk band that shows up for a club gig, only to wind up fighting for their lives against neo-Nazis and the club's insane owner, played by Patrick Stewart in his least Xavier or Picard-like role.
Trollhunters (2016): Head back to Netflix to perk things up with this animated series (OK, not a film, but commercial-free and with movie studio pedigree), created by Guillermo Del Toro, in which Yelchin voiced Jim, a teen who finds a magical amulet that propels him on a journey to save two worlds. The show just premiered this past December, after Yelchin's death.
Del Toro recently told Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, that work the actor did for his character's story arc before he died will be featured in the Netflix/Dreamworks original series' second season.
"We knew we wanted to preserve as much of the performance of Anton as possible, both from an artistic and a human point of view, and also simply because I think it's a tribute to what we think he brings to the role of Jim," the director said.
Burying the Ex (2014): Also streaming on Netflix, breaking up is hard to do in this horror-comedy when the unlikable girlfriend (Ashley Greene) of Yelchin's character Max, who also happens to work in a Halloween store, dies in an accident but comes back to terrorize him and his new girlfriend as a zombie.
Delivering Milo (2001): This world-can-wait twist on Heaven Can Wait stars Yelchin in one of his first roles as Milo, the adolescent version of a baby who hasn't yet been born (but is chillin' in the celestial waiting room, or Life Training Center, where children wait to be born) to mom Elizabeth, played by Bridget Fonda. The rub is that Milo isn't in any rush to be born and he's holding up the natural order of things because babies are born in the exact order in which they're conceived in this uplifting but obviously trippy-as-all-get-out flick—which is streaming with Amazon Prime.
Like Crazy (2011): It'll take a few extra clicks (and $3.99) to rent this one from Amazon but we can't recommend enough this tender—and eerily relevant—romance starring Yelchin as an American who falls in love with a British student, played by Felicity Jones, while she's studying abroad in New York but ends up barred from returning to the U.S. after she overstays her visa.
Sony Pictures Entertainment
In addition to more Trollhunters coming to Netflix, the suburban-dysfunction drama We Don't Belong Here, which Yelchin shot in 2014, is finally slated for an April 4 VOD & DVD release. Catherine Keener plays the addled matriarch of an unraveling family and Yelchin is her bipolar son, Max, who goes missing. Riley Keough, Maya Rudolph, Cary Elwes and Molly Shannon also star.
And, of course, Anton Yelchin starred in three Star Trek films, Fright Night, Terminator: Salvation, the Showtime series Huff and many more—all of which aren't too difficult to track down in this day and age.
The forever-young star, who will be remembered for all the wise-beyond-his-years potential he showed as well as what he already accomplished, is missed.