During his career Stanton appeared in around 200 films and television shows, with his most memorable credits including Alien, 1984's Paris, Texas, which featured Nastassja Kinski as his wife, and the TV show Big Love.
So it's no surprise that Stanton bonded with Kris Kristofferson and recommended that his friend work with him in the title role of a former 1960s rock star on the downside in 1972's Cisco Pike.
"I worked with the best chiefs", Stanton told the AP in a 2013 meeting, given while chain-smoking in night wear and a robe.
While fringe roles and films were a specialty, he also ended up in the work of numerous 20th century's master auteurs, even Alfred Hitchcock in the director's serial TV show.
Baby Driver director Edgar Wright tweeted a still of Stanton from Repo Man, captioning it, "RIP to the legendary Harry Dean Stanton".
The same period also saw what will no doubt be regarded as Stanton's most emblematic role: the near mute Travis Henderson in Wim Wenders' Palme d'Or winning Paris, Texas.
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"After all these years, I finally got the part I wanted to play", Stanton once said.
Stanton was born July 14, 1926, in Irvine, Kentucky.
As a young man, he also served in World War II in the United States Navy, and was a cook aboard an LST ship during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. He starred in both Repo Man and Red Dawn ("Avenge me!") that very same year. This film offered Stanton a rare moment to be a leading man.
"She cleared out me for Tom Cruise", Stanton said regularly.
Every once in a while he was cast as a normal guy - he played Molly Ringwald's father in Pretty in Pink - but that was about it. Stanton was in six David Lynch movies and played the polygamist cult leader Roman Grant on HBO's Big Love.
"You read all kinds of things into it", Shepard said. "But I got those roles because I was angry, because that's what I projected. and I had an extreme lack of self-confidence".