Gene Hackman’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked
18 mins read

Gene Hackman’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked

Summary

  • Hackman’s career spans from theater actor to film star, with standout performances in key roles like Bonnie and Clyde and Hoosiers.
  • His work in films like The Conversation and Unforgiven showcases his range as an actor, making him a standout in the industry.
  • Hackman’s ability to play both complex dramatic roles and fun, memorable characters solidifies his legacy as a versatile and talented actor.
  • SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

    SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

    Gene Hackman has gained plenty of fame and recognition, receiving multiple awards for his roles in the best movies of his career. Beginning in the early 1960s as a theater actor, then rising through the ranks of film and television through bit parts and small roles, Hackman’s breakthrough performance came in the 1964 film Lilith opposite Warren Beatty. Hackman would later co-star with him again in Bonnie and Clyde, one of Hackman and Warren Beatty’s best movies. It was for Bonnie and Clyde that Hackman would receive his first nomination for an Academy Award.

    While the height of his fame and most consistent work was in the 1970s, Hackman continued to work until his retirement and consistently worked on quality projects.

    Though Hackman is best known for his significant dramatic roles that revolutionized the neo-noir and crime thriller genres, he wasn’t afraid to take on roles that were a lot of fun. He’s one of the best live-action Lex Luthor actors in Superman, and his turn as the famous villain made the character just as important as his heroic counterpart. While the height of his fame and most consistent work was in the 1970s, Hackman continued to work until his retirement and consistently worked on quality projects. He received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in 2003.

    Movie

    IMDb Rating

    Hoosiers (1986)

    7.4 / 10

    The Birdcage (1996)

    7.2 / 10

    The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

    7.6 / 10

    Night Moves (1975)

    7.1 / 10

    Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

    7.7 / 10

    I Never Sang For My Father (1970)

    7.4 / 10

    Mississippi Burning (1988)

    7.8 / 10

    The Conversation (1974)

    7.7 / 10

    Unforgiven (1992)

    8.2 / 10

    The French Connection (1971)

    7.7 / 10

    Why Gene Hackman Retired From Acting
    Related
    Why Gene Hackman Retired From Acting
    The Royal Tenenbaums’ Gene Hackman retired from acting after his final film Welcome to Mooseport in 2004, but he had a good reason for his decision.

    10 Hoosiers (1986)

    As Norman Dale

    Hoosiers

    Director David Anspaugh

    Release Date November 14, 1986

    Cast Gene Hackman , Barbara Hershey , Dennis Hopper , Sheb Wooley , Fern Persons , Chelcie Ross

    Runtime 114 minutes

    Hoosiers is a solid film about a high school basketball team clawing its way to victory, but what makes it one of the best basketball movies is Hackman’s performance. Hackman plays Norman, the reluctant coach who washes out of college ball and takes on the impossible challenge of making a rag-tag group of boys into a team. Though the film doesn’t break new ground on the traditional tropes of a sports drama, it’s worth watching, if only for Hackman. He imbues his disaffected coach with a depth that few actors could and inspired the performances of other on-screen coaches.

    The popularity of movies and TV about small-town high school sports teams has become apparent with the rash of praise and interest in series like Friday Night Lights, and Hoosiers is an early example of why this type of story works. Middle America often goes overlooked in high-profile narratives, but Hoosiers works tirelessly to make its characters relatable, likable, and undeniably real. Hoosiers was always an unlikely story about a group of underdogs, as the film is an underdog itself, but it’s still worth remembering.

    9 The Birdcage (1996)

    As Senator Kevin Keeley

    The Birdcage

    Director Mike Nichols

    Release Date March 8, 1996

    Cast Robin Williams , Gene Hackman , Nathan Lane , Dianne Wiest , Dan Futterman , Calista Flockhart

    Runtime 117 minutes

    Although The Birdcage is a satire at heart and isn’t afraid to put its characters in hilariously uncomfortable situations, it’s a tale about human understanding and unlearning prejudice.

    The Birdcage is a remake of the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles, which is based on the 1973 stage play, and though it had big shoes to fill in adapting the classic French comedy, it was a stunning success. The plot revolves around a young couple introducing their in-laws to each other for the first time, but the parents couldn’t be more different. Hackman plays the buttoned-up and conservative Senator Kevin Keeley, father of Barbara (Calista Flockhart). He is the opposite of Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), fathers to Val (Dan Futterman).

    Although The Birdcage is a satire at heart and isn’t afraid to put its characters in hilariously uncomfortable situations, it’s a tale about human understanding and unlearning prejudice. Hackman begins the film unwilling to accept his future son-in-law’s fathers, but by the end, he has grown as a person and learned to loosen up. The film has been criticized and heralded by LGBQ+ groups, but it was never meant to be taken as a blanket representation of the entire community. At the time of its 1996 release, it pushed boundaries and showed Hackman’s diverse range of interests as a performer.

    8 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

    As Royal Tenenbaum

    The Royal Tenenbaums

    The Royal Tenenbaums is a 2001 comedy from director Wes Anderson. It focuses on three siblings who, after being very successful as children, grow up to be a disappointment to their father in adulthood. Like most Wes Anderson movies, The Royal Tenenbaums has a star-studded cast, including Owen Wilson, who also co-wrote the movie, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

    Although Gene Hackman originally rejected The Royal Tenenbaums, it ended up being one the most memorable films to come from the final years of his career. Collaborating with the director, Wes Anderson, turned out to be a fortuitous connection, and Hackman’s role, Royal, is a standout among characters in the Anderson oeuvre. Like all great characters, Royal is complex. He’s charming and likable but is an absent father who has wreaked havoc on the lives of his adult children. He reunites with them, and that’s why the movie gives the viewer a window into their world.

    Like most Anderson films, the film boasts a prolific cast, including Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Adding Hackman to the movie was an achievement for Anderson, who was still in the early stages of his career, and it’s difficult to imagine that the film would be half as good without Hackman. Though Anderson’s films have become even more stylized and heady as his career has progressed, Hackman is a grounding force in The Royal Tenenbaums, making it one of the more accessible films Anderson has directed.

    A composite image of Wes Anderson and his movies
    Related
    All 11 Wes Anderson Movies Ranked Worst-Best
    Here’s every quirky and eccentric movie by director Wes Anderson, from The Royal Tenenbaums to Fantastic Mr. Fox, ranked worst to best.

    7 Night Moves (1975)

    As Harry Moseby

    Looking back at Hackman’s best works, it becomes clear how in his element he is within the crime thriller genre. The 1970s indeed boasted many films of this genre, but Hackman would have found his way into this niche regardless. This is due to how well he embodies the classic archetype of the detective. While the film begins in Los Angeles, the twisting case soon leads Hackman’s Harry to Florida. Though not the typical landscape for this sort of tale, within the swampland of the American South, the Private Detective finds himself embroiled in a mystery beyond his comprehension.

    Looking at the intersection between the deterioration of the Golden Age movie star in Hollywood and the impact fame has on a family, Night Moves is not what the audience might expect. In some ways, Night Moves tries to recapture the magic and success of Hackman’s earlier and better film, The French Connection. However, the film does a good job of recognizing the parallels between the two and giving Hackman a new character to develop and work with. As always, Hackman might be the protagonist, but that doesn’t mean he’s playing the good guy.

    6 Bonnie And Clyde (1967)

    As Buck Barrow

    Bonnie and Clyde

    Director Arthur Penn

    Release Date July 18, 1967

    Cast Warren Beatty , Faye Dunaway , Michael J. Pollard , Gene Hackman , Estelle Parsons , Denver Pyle

    Runtime 111 minutes

    In 1967, Bonnie and Clyde took a true story of American crime and passion and combined it with the French New Wave filmmaking that was sweeping the international art world. The real-life couple that Bonnie and Clyde drew inspiration from was already infamous for the bloody line they carved through the United States during their epic crime spree of 1932-1934. However, in many ways, it was the film that made them unforgettable. Beatty’s Clyde and Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie are the undeniable stars of the film, but it’s supporting characters like Hackman’s Buck Barrow who flesh out the story’s world.

    As characters, Bonnie and Clyde are too wrapped up in each other and their internal myths about their spree to get a clear look at themselves. Hackman provides the vital role of audience stand-in and questions the purpose of their doomed romance.

    Buck joins up with Bonnie and Clyde for a significant portion of the movie, one of the many drifters that punctuate the violent heist sequences that shocked audiences in 1967. Hackman clinched his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for playing Buck, a recognition he deserved. As characters, Bonnie and Clyde are too wrapped up in each other and their internal myths about their spree to get a clear look at themselves. Hackman provides the vital role of audience stand-in and questions the purpose of their doomed romance.

    Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless, Steven McQueen and Ali McGraw in The Getaway
    Related
    The 10 Best Lovers-On-The-Run Movies, Ranked By IMDb
    From Breathless to The Getaway, these are the best lovers-on-the-run movies, ranked by their IMDb ratings.

    5 I Never Sang For My Father (1970)

    As Gene Garrison

    I Never Sang For My Father is a poignant character study of Hackman’s Gene Garrison and the character’s father, Tom Garrison, played by the late Melvyn Douglas. Based on the play of the same name, the movie’s literary origins are obvious based on how much of the conflict and stakes are moved through conversations between Gene and Tom. The script and dialogue shine in the film, allowing both actors to fulfill their potential as performers. Due to the character-driven nature of the movie, the film wouldn’t be as impactful if different actors took on the parts.

    I Never Sang For My Father is not a happy tale, and there is no clear resolution between the father and son, leaving the audience wondering if real relationships ever reach the perfect conclusions often portrayed in films. Gene and Tom are brought together following the death of Gene’s mother, but neither man can overcome their differences and heal the wounds they have caused each other. Hackman was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards, and though he didn’t win, this appraisal for a quieter and more understated role speaks to his evolution as an actor.

    4 Mississippi Burning (1988)

    As FBI Agent Rupert Anderson

    Mississippi Burning

    Director Alan Parker

    Release Date December 8, 1988

    Cast Gailard Sartain, R. Lee Ermey, Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif

    Rating R

    Runtime 128 minutes

    Genres Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Documentary

    Hackman co-stars with a young Willem Dafoe in Mississippi Burning. The film takes on how racial violence and discrimination were overlooked and disregarded by the U.S. government for generations. Hackman and Dafoe play FBI agents who travel to Mississippi following the disappearance of a group of Civil Rights workers and leaders in a small community. While the film is based on a real criminal case from 1964, much of the plot, especially the dramatic elements, is heightened for the sake of a compelling narrative.

    Mississippi Burning remains one of the most political movies Hackman was part of because of its direct conversation with racism and the terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan. Although the subject matter of the movie is brutal, it does attempt to reckon with the violent and shameful aspects of the history of the United States and proposes a path toward a better future. However, Mississippi Burning has faced valid criticism for whitewashing events and elevating Hackman and Dafoe’s characters to the position of white saviors within the narrative.

    Watch Mississippi Burning on Tubi.

    ​​​​​​​

    3 The Conversation (1974)

    As Harry Caul

    The Conversation

    Release Date April 7, 1974

    Cast Gene Hackman , John Cazale , Allen Garfield , Frederic Forrest , Cindy Williams , Michael Higgins

    Runtime 113 minutes

    Despite not being an overwhelming success at the box office, The Conversation is well-remembered as an important film in cinema history.

    Any film directed by legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and starring an actor with the chops of Hackman is bound to be a success. The Conversation deals with the effects of living under surveillance but positions Hackman’s Harry as the one doing the watching. Paranoia mounts as Harry watches and records the lives of a couple that he becomes increasingly convinced is in danger, as he questions the motives of the man who hired him. Despite not being an overwhelming success at the box office, The Conversation is well-remembered as an important film in cinema history.

    Additionally, Hackman carries the story, as there are few moments he’s off-screen, as the narrative is told entirely from his deeply subjective perspective. Of course, The Conversation reveals that trying to understand and piece together a life based on recordings alone will never work. Harry is always one step behind and missing a piece of the puzzle, leading to his eventual undoing. All of this hits home in the final moments of the film when Harry realizes that a recording can easily go both ways.

    2 Unforgiven (1992)

    As Little Bill Daggett

    Hackman portrays the vile antagonist, Little Bill Daggett, to Clint Eastwood’s nuanced protagonist and anti-hero, Will Munny, in Unforgiven. Hackman gives a performance that has gone down in Western history. The film is one of the best movies directed by Eastwood, and Unforgiven is an exploration of the Western genre and exposes its flaws and virtues through the tale of an aging gunslinger who gets back on the horse for one last ride. Only a villain as evil as Hackman’s blank could provoke him out of retirement, and the battle of wills they embark on is thrilling.

    Throughout his career, Hackman’s interest in the deconstruction of classic American genres and playing complex, often vile, roles became increasingly apparent. It’s no easy task to play the villain, but only a man as skilled and empathetic as Hackman could take on these irredeemable characters and make the audience rapt with attention from the moment he steps on screen. Unforgiven wasn’t Hackman’s first foray into playing the villain in a Western, but it is easily his best thanks to his performance and the fantastic quality of the film.

    ​​​​​​​

    1 The French Connection (1971)

    As Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle

    Hackman’s best role and his best movie, The French Connection, won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and it’s easy to see why. Even as a young man, Hackman exudes confidence, wisdom, and a deeper purpose hidden beneath the surface. All this makes his portrayal of Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle more intricate and layered, as Popeye isn’t the kind of detective audiences root for. He doesn’t do things by the book and isn’t afraid of letting anyone get hurt, and by the end of The French Connection, his choices become difficult to watch.

    Like many films of this era, it asks whether the ends justify the means and is a look into the psyche of characters who are pushed to the edge by a relentless obsession.

    He and his partner, Detective Buddy “Cloudy” Russo​​​​​​​ (Roy Scheider), are on the trail of a French drug dealer and are excellent foils of each other. Like many films of this era, it asks whether the ends justify the means and is a look into the psyche of characters who are pushed to the edge by a relentless obsession. Of course, their obsession is not with justice or the safety of others but with proving themselves as men and feeling secure in their choices. Unsurprisingly, The French Connection is considered one of the best films of all time.

    Source link

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *