Actor Billy Drago will always be remembered for his iconic villain roles and storied career. His evil smile and deep, menacing voice made his on-screen presence domineering. The Hugoton, Kansas native starred in over 80 productions in film and television. Drago, whose acting career began in 1979, was married to actress Silvana Gallardo.
One of the couple’s two sons is actor Darren E. Burrows. Drago was married only once and lost his wife, Gallardo, on January 2, 2012. Although he kept acting, he only starred in a few films afterwards. Sadly, Drago died from stroke complications on June 24, 2019. In honor and remembrance of his contribution to the industry, these are the top 25 Billy Drago movies to see.
1. Pale Rider (1985)
Clint Eastwood‘s Western film Pale Rider (1985) was one of Billy Drago’s earliest on-screen appearances in a supporting role. Drago played Carbon Canyon’s Deputy Mather, one of the movie’s antagonists. Pale Rider grossed $41.4 million on a $6.9 million budget.
2. Invasion U.S.A. (1985)
Invasion U.S.A. (1985) was Billy Drago’s first of several movies he co-starred with Chuck Norris. In the movie, Drago plays a greasy drug dealer, Mickey Seidman. Norris’ character, CIA Agent Matt Hunter, helped save the United States from terrorists and Latin American guerrillas.
3. Vamp (1986)
Vamp (1986) is Richard Wenk‘s black comedy horror that follows the lives of two fraternity pledges, Keith and AJ. Drago is cast as a member of an eerie, psychotic albino street gang. The movie received moderate reviews, as well as fair box office earnings.
4. The Untouchables (1987)
The Untouchables (1987) was Billy Drago’s breakthrough movie, giving him international recognition. He portrayed the Chicago Italian-American organized crime figure Frank Nitti. The movie co-starred Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy García, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery.
5. Hero and the Terror (1988)
Billy Drago played another supporting role in Hero and the Terror (1988). He was cast as Dr. Highwater. Drago again co-starred with Chuck Norris, who played the movie’s protagonist, Detective Danny O’Brien. Jack O’Halloran played the movie’s main antagonist, Simon Moon (The Terror).
6. Freeway (1988)
Billy Drago played 1988 Freeway‘s villain. He was cast as Edward Anthony Heller, a deeply-disturbed priest on a killing spree. His killing signature was to shoot people dead on the freeway, then calls a radio to quote bible scriptures. The movie’s protagonist, Sarah “Sunny” Harper (Darlanne Fluegel), teamed up with a former cop Frank Quinn (James Russo), to stop Heller.
7. True Blood (1989)
Billy Drago returns as the villain in Frank Kerr’s action-drama True Blood (1989). Drago was cast as Billy “Spider” Masters, a gang member who rose to become its leader. Raymond Trueblood (Jeff Fahey) must protect his younger brother Donny Trueblood (Chad Lowe) from the evil Masters.
8. China White (1989)
China White (1989) is Ronny Yu‘s Hong Kong action crime film. The movie was set in Amsterdam. Billy Drago played the Mafia boss Scalia, who seized an opportunity to intervene in Chinatown, overturning the influence of the triad organization.
9. Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990)
Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990) is a direct sequel to the Chuck Norris-led The Delta Force (1986). Billy Drago’s character, Ramon Cota, is a powerful and wealthy drug kingpin from the fictional country of San Carlos. With his growing influence and drug corruption in the United States, Norris’ Colonel Scott McCoy is brought in to take him down. Five crew members died in a helicopter crash during the movie’s filming.
10. Diplomatic Immunity (1991)
Diplomatic Immunity (1991) is one of Billy Drago’s few films where he wasn’t the outright villain. Although he played a smuggler named Cowboy, he worked with the movie’s protagonist Cole Hickel (Bruce Boxleitner), to stop a psychopath killer, Klaus Hermann (Tom Bresnahan). Hermann had an obsession with killing people and photographing their dead bodies. However, he could not be arrested because of his diplomatic immunity as the son of the President of Paraguay.
11. Death Ring (1992)
1992’s Death Ring is set in a fictional world where people can legally hunt and kill humans once every year. Billy Drago played the villain, Danton Vachs. The character is the best hunter and has chosen Matt Collins (Mike Norris) as the year’s hunt. Vachs also kidnaps his fiancé, Lauren Sadler (Isabel Glasser), to keep Collins motivated in the game.
12. Guncrazy (1992)
In Guncrazy (1992), Billy Drago is far from being the movie’s villain. He plays the snake-charming Preacher, Hank Fulton. Anita Minteer (Drew Barrymore) convinces Fulton that her pen-pal convict is a changed man. Testifying on his behalf, Fulton helps persuade the parole board to release Howard Hickok (James LeGros).
13. Deadly Heroes (1993)
Billy Drago played Jose Maria Carlos, the leader of the terrorist group in Menahem Golan’s direct-to-video action movie Deadly Heroes. The movie follows a former Navy Seal, Brad Cartowski (Michael Paré). Cartowski travels to North Africa with his Navy Seal buddies to rescue his kidnapped wife, Marcy Cartowski (Claudette Mink), from Carlos’ group.
14. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993–1994)
Although not a movie, it deserves a mention. Billy Drago may only have appeared in 6 episodes as John Bly in Fox’s weird Western TV series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., but it was enough to leave a lasting impression. Considered one of his most popular roles on television, Drago’s Bly was the notorious gang leader of a gang of outlaws. The series ran for a season with 27 episodes, from August 27, 1993, to May 20, 1994.
15. The Takeover (1994)
Billy Drago was cast in Troy Cook’s action film The Takeover (1994) as Daniel Stein, one of the rival drug lords. The Takeover is one of the movies in which Drago was cast as a lead actor. The movie gained popularity after one of its actors and co-producer, David Amos and Michael Woods, were arrested and jailed for the murder of Horace McKenna in 1989. Most of The Takeover plot was based on McKenna’s murder.
16. Sci-Fighters (1996)
Peter Svatek’s futuristic science fiction Sci-Fighters (1996) was supposedly set in 2009. Billy Drago played Adrian Dunn, a murderer sent to a prison on the Moon. After Dunn’s escape and return to earth, his former partner, Detective Cameron Grayson (Roddy Piper), tries to recapture him. However, Dunn is infected with an alien virus and must be stopped before he spreads the virus to humans on Earth.
17. Lima: Breaking the Silence (1999)
Lima: Breaking the Silence (1999) was based on real-life events that occurred in the Japanese embassy hostage crisis that happened in Lima, Peru. Billy Drago was cast as General Monticito Frantacino. The story follows the kidnapping of high-profile diplomats by Peruvian rebels. The kidnapping was done to force the government to release 400 political prisoners.
18. Charmed (1999–2004)
Charmed audience will easily remember the villain, The Demon of Fear, Barbas. The character was initially created to make a single appearance. Billy Drago first appeared on the show in season 1, episode 13 (“From Fear to Eternity”). He became a fan favorite and was written in for further appearances. His last appearance was in season 7, episode 1 (“A Call to Arms”) when he was successfully vanquished.
19. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004) is the fourth installment in the Tremors film series. The movie is set in 1889 in the town of Rejection, Nevada. Billy Drago played a gunslinger Black Hand Kelly and the supposed hero of the movie. However, he’s killed and eaten by a fully-grown Graboid.
20. Mysterious Skin (2004)
Billy Drago played a minor supporting role in Gregg Araki’s coming-of-age drama Mysterious Skin (2004). Drago’s character was Zeke, an AIDS client. He’s introduced into the movie when he hires Neil McCormick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who’s a prostitute. However, the emotional scene shows Zeke isn’t seeking sexual relief but to feel another person’s touch.
21. Demon Hunter (2005)
No stranger to the horror genre, Billy Drago was cast as Asmodeus in Scott Ziehl‘s 2005 Demon Hunter. Asmodeus is the Demon Lord of Lust. He’s also known as one of the rebel angels cast down from heaven with Lucifer. Half-human/half-demon Jake Greyman (Sean Patrick Flanery) is tasked by the Catholic church to work with Sister Sarah Ryan (Colleen Porch) to stop Asmodeus.
22. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Billy Drago’s most noteworthy role in the 2000s was playing Papa Jupiter in Alexandre Aja‘s directed horror film, The Hills Have Eyes (2006). Drago’s Papa Jupiter was the leader of the mutants who ambushed the Carter family, son-in-law, granddaughter, and dogs. The Hills Have Eyes was a box office success, easily grossing $70 million on a $15 million budget.
23. Copperhead (2008)
Copperhead (2008) was a Western horror film made for television. It starred Billy Drago as Jesse Evans, a gunman and outlaw of the Old West. Although not the main antagonist in the movie (the Copperhead snakes have that all covered), Drago still played a villain.
24. Dark Moon Rising (2009)
Dark Moon Rising (2009) is a horror movie about werewolves. Billy Drago played a supporting character as Charles Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux helped reveal the true nature of Bender (Max Ryan) as a werewolf. As a sheriff, Thibodeaux put Bender in jail for killing his wife. However, Bender escaped, and Thibodeaux was all out for revenge.
25. Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)
Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011) was one of Billy Drago’s last movies before his death. In Joel Soisson‘s supernatural horror movie, Drago was cast as the Preacher. The movie was released directly to DVD. The movie was also one of Billy Drago‘s last horror movies.