Like most of us, my introduction to Stanley Tucci left an indelible mark. Age 11 and at my best friend’s house, I sat watching It Could Happen to You and reacted the same way anybody else in my position would: confused as to why I was supposed to root for Nicolas Cage. This man was no romantic lead and yet I was supposed to believe that in some lottery-winning reality, he and Bridget Fonda would fall in love.
And that’s when Stanley Tucci showed up. Shirtless, in a towel, and eating his estranged wife’s (Bridget Fonda) macadamia nuts (after letting himself into her home uninvited — admittedly, an egregious invasion of privacy), I was infuriated by his brazenness and entitlement. He seemed the anti-Christ to Cage’s holier-than-thou. I hated and loved him in equal measure.
Twenty-three years later and I’m thrilled to announce that the latter has eradicated the former entirely. In the three decades since embarking on his onscreen career, Stanley Tucci has become a star of cinema and of our hearts, proving repeatedly that he can disappear into any role and also somehow make us want to be held by him in the process.
Or, at least, that’s been my experience. So, in celebration of his birthday today, here is a ranking of the actor’s 12 most adorable movie roles, a.k.a all the times that I’ve wanted Stanley Tucci to hold me.
12. It Can Happen To You (1994)
Because it can happen to you: Like me, you, too, can sit watching a mid-’90s iconic rom-com and find yourself completely at odds with — but bewitched by — Tucci’s Eddie, a failed actor who wants to take advantage of his estranged wife’s fortune (Yvonne, played by Bridget Fonda) after she’s gifted half a lottery ticket by a cop played by Nicolas Cage.
Is Eddie a bad person? Well, yes. He is skeezy, he hordes hard-earned macadamia nuts, and he’s so transparent that you immediately come to understand why Eddie has never struck gold as a thespian. But where most other actors would make you shudder in absolute disgust, Tucci offers enough charm that you can understand why a cool, calm, and collected Yvonne would have once been enchanted by him. He is Tucci, but with the sex appeal of a former Levi’s model. He’s got swagger. He embodies the worst romantic decisions many of us have ever made. He’s calculating. He’s the Worst™. But alas, before banishing him to hell where he belongs, I — for one precious second — want Eddie to hold me. Or more specifically, I want Stanley Tucci to hold me as Eddie.
11. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
It’s rare for me to champion the introduction of a new character into an existing story, but that’s the beauty of Tucci: I will break my own rules in hopes that he holds me.
Playing Cadenza — a person turned piano that Variety described as a “neurotic maestro” — Stanley brought to life a character who is as animated as he is musically gifted (very). Granted, any character that obsessed with music prompts flashbacks of the worst traits of John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity. But Maestro differs thanks to one important fact: He was formerly a person who had been turned into furniture, and must play to keep other characters awake. Thus, there is room for eccentricities and a preoccupation with one’s own art when you’ve morphed from a man into a music machine. Which is exactly why I want him, a piano, to hold me: Not only would I be lulled to sleep with song, I would be privy to his beautiful Italian accent, which is arguably music in its own right.
10. A Little Chaos (2014)
A man who wears a statement hat is a man destined to make a statement on our hearts. And so we meet Stanley Tucci: playing the real-life Philippe d’Orléans, Louis XIV’s brother with a famous and incredible sense of fashion, our hero marries the history and fiction that made this Alan Rickman–directed movie possible.
And who among us doesn’t love a well-dressed Tucci? Who doesn’t long to be embraced by a Tucci whose ability to wear clothes trumps the love story of the film in question? Who wouldn’t want to be folded into his ruffles and piles of pantaloons? I, after being outfitted by a man as infamous for his sex life as he was for his hats, would die for a chance to be held in celebration for how well I can carry off a vest or how great his own calves look in buckled shoes and silk stockings. Which is what this movie should’ve been about, to be honest: two souls bonding over incredible clothing so successfully that we forget for a second that there’s no indoor plumbing.
9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)
I’ll keep it simple: Our hero plays Puck, the servant sprite of Oberon, and helps incite love-potion-induced chaos in the fairy world within the magical forest. He is lovable, fun, and extremely quick-witted. But alas, imagine being held by a Tucci who has access to a love potion. Imagine being regaled with tales of the fairy world and the mischief within it. Imagine looking up at this magical Tucci and noticing the tiny horns on his head. I am. Right now. And I have never wanted to be held more.
8. Big Night (1996)
In one of the most delightful comedies written (ever, in history), Stanley Tucci plays Secondo, the businessman brother of chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) whose authentic Italian menu isn’t drawing in the customer base needed to keep their restaurant alive. Hijinks and hilarity ensue when the two must pull off the ultimate meal to win the praises of a touring Italian-American bandleader and ensure the future of their establishment, and by even watching the movie you will suddenly resent any Italian restaurant that isn’t this one.
You will also immediately want Stanley Tucci to hold you. You will want to be close to his well-fitted suits, you will want to be close to his expressions of concern. You will want to be close to his earnestness and drive and brotherly devotion, and then you will want him to cook for (or ask Tony Shalhoub to cook for) you. All of which would naturally transpire within the generous arms of a man with vision and kindness and love in his heart, who would never, under any circumstances, be the first to break away from an embrace; he knows what you need and wants to be there for you. And no, I’m not projecting, you are.
7. Burlesque (2010)
Any man Cher deems fit enough to star in a movie alongside her is one who can and should hold me. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t even seen the whole thing.
6. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Where were you when you realized Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) had screwed over Nigel, her biggest ally? What were you snacking on when you began choking on rage, on disbelief, and on Nigel’s heartbreaking admission that he wasn’t even sure if Miranda would ever repay him for having just taken back his dream-job offer?
While I will never forgive Nigel for shaming Andy (Anne Hathaway) for eating food or being a size six (our Tucci would never), I still wanted to hold him as a means of restoring his faith in humankind. And that’s a powerful hold — one, I believe, that would inspire him to start his own fashion magazine, provided he steal as much as possible from the Runway sample closet for me before leaving.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
May we all mourn the tragic downfall of Dr. Abraham Erskine, the scientist responsible for the serum that created Captain America. Especially since Erskine’s narrative was doomed: After fleeing to the States in the wake of being forced to use an earlier version of his formula on the Red Skull’s Johann Schmidt (the freak), HYDRA still managed to catch up to and assassinate him, leaving our precious Cap heartbroken in the process.
Now, admittedly, this would be a pity hold. For the first time in this list’s history, I want to hold him the way he has always held me (in my mind); to cradle him in a way that makes up for his terrible past and the emotional trauma he was forced to endure. I want to give something back to this version of Stanley; to be strong so that he, for one moment, can be weak. I want to lift the weight of the world off his brilliant shoulders. And then hand it to Captain America because I think it’s a little too much baggage for me to handle, and Cap’s whole thing is his physical strength.
4. Spotlight (2015)
In which Stanley Tucci appears as Mitchell Garabedian, the only lawyer in Boston who’s willing to fight for the victims of predatory clergy members. Frankly, I don’t so much want him to hold me as I want him to let me sit next to him and remind myself that good people in this world exist.
3. Shall We Dance (2004)
Five words: Stanley Tucci does the cha-cha.
2. Easy A (2010)
I didn’t know if I believed in marriage or love until Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci appeared as Rosemary and Dill Penderghast, mother and father of Olive (Emma Stone) and Chip (Bryce Clyde). And then, there they were: two perfect people playing two perfect parents, with one wearing an incredibly flattering henley that simply screams, “Hold me.”
Because it’s not just their banter, their approach to child-rearing, or the obviousness of Rosemary and Dill’s love (such perfect, beautiful love) — it’s the fact that despite the pitch-perfect, scene-stealing performance of Stone, Stanley Tucci wearing a henley shines and demands to be part of an equation that involves you, him, and the softest cotton blend imaginable. Plus, you know he’d listen to you. Really listen to you.
1. Julie & Julia (2009)
In a perfect world, Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep would appear together in every film and allow us to observe from afar while our faith in humanity gets restored once more.
And that brings us to Julie & Julia, the 2009 Nora Ephron vehicle in which our Stanley plays Paul, Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) beloved husband who believes in and loves her so visibly and authentically that watching them interact obliterates years of (my) hard-learned cynicism. Because here’s everything you need to know about Paul: He loves Julia. He loves Julia so much that he champions her hopes and her dreams, and for not one single moment doubts that she can forge a career in French cooking. Stanley Tucci as Paul Child is a masterpiece.
So I want him to hold me. I want him to hold me more than I want anybody else on this planet to try, and I want to snuggle in close as he tells me that I am talented and that he believes in me and that he will always love me and wants me to be happy. I want him to hold me in the kitchen, and I want him to hold me on the streets of France. I want him to hold me while I laugh and while I cry and while I hold a chicken and make it walk like a dog on its hind legs because I am not a chef and do not know how to cook. I want him to hold me more than I want to steal and burn Amy Adams’s Julie Powell wig. And then I want him to hold me while I do it anyway because he admires my dedication to better movie hair.