It is not easy to pick just 15 best Al Pacino movies. After all, there was a time he was the most electrifying actor in movies, his performances earning raves from the nations film critics, legions of fans following his work, his peers celebrating his artistry. In the seventies his work was astounding, seeing him nominated for four consecutive Academy Awards, his loss for The Godfather Part II (1974) one of the great injustices in Academy history.
He loved to challenge himself, which in part took him out of favor with his audiences, but he always managed to bounce back. The dreary love story Bobby Deerfield (1977) was the first film to explore his limitations as an actor, and there are very few with those same limitations. The comedy, well it was supposed to be, Author! Author! (1982) marked a low point in his career but he rebounded with Scarface (1983) which critics killed but audiences loved, re-discovering the film on video. Al Pacino’s next film was nearly a career killer.
Revolution (1985) was a massive historical epic directed by Hugh Hudson was one of the most critically reviled films of the decade, and a huge flop. Pacino was hammered for his wandering Scottish brogue tinged with that Bronx accent he made so famous. Stunned by the reaction to the film, he left movies, heading back to the stage. Something happened to his acting in the time in between because when he came back to films. His work was broader and louder.
It worked beautifully in Dick Tracy (1990) but not in other films such as a The Godfather Part III (1990), a pale shadow of the previous films, and even Scent of a Woman (1992)!
Since 1992, he has given perhaps three strong performances, the best, Donnie Brasco (1997) a haunting and powerful piece of acting. There have been flashes of his genius in Angels in America (2003), Spector (2013) and You Don’t Know Jack (2013). With everything said now let’s look at the list of top 15 movies of Al Pacino.
1. The Godfather Part II (1974)
Simply remarkable, both the film and Pacino, his work as Michael Corleone should have won him an Oscar. In portraying a contained fury, he radiates danger throughout the film, his silences more frightening than anything he might say. Eyes dead, devoid of compassion or love, his world is about his business, his criminal empire that he has built into a world business. Morally corrupt, to say nothing as to his soul, Michael has become a victim in his own world, corrupted absolutely by absolute power. Told his business is bigger than US Steel he fights for that power, and by the end, at a terrible cost has achieved the power he seeks. As Michael, he does unspeakable things, killing his own brother, banishing his wife from his life, ordering the murders of many men, yet he remains a near Shakespearean tragic hero because we know what he once was, and see it again in a lovely dinner scene in flashback. The finest work of the actors career, by far, that he lost the Oscar is downright criminal.