He was the least likely movie star because he was ordinary looking; he looked like one of us. No movie star good looks, but a short, ordinary little guy who was remarkably unremarkable, yet who would become one of the greatest actors in film history. Dustin Hoffman was intelligent, did extraordinary amounts of research, and became the character as opposed to just acting it. It was essential for him to inhabit the soul and skin of whoever he was portraying, to slip into their skin and not act them, but to become them. That’s why many of the Dustin Hoffman movies are remembered till this day.
His greatest achievement was becoming a woman in ‘Tootsie’ (1982), a brilliant farce set in the worlds of acting, theater and television. As someone who has lived in those worlds, I can say with absolute confidence that the film nailed it. But what was shocking was that, though we knew Hoffman was playing an actor who was pretending to be a woman to get work, we did not expect to accept this woman as a flesh and blood character; we lost the actor, we lost Hoffman, and we gained Dorothy. It is a miraculous performance that richly deserved another Oscar for him but instead the Academy chose to celebrate ‘Gandhi’ instead (1982). Through the course of his impressive career, Hoffman has won two Oscars, one deserved, one not, been nominated for five others, and should have had at least two further nominations.
He has always been at his best when playing a somewhat mean and nasty character, someone who does not play well with others. Yet he can have a sweetness we cannot ignore, a sadness and sense of melancholy we understand and even appreciate. In so many instances, Hoffman is an everyday man, he is you and I. Perhaps that is why we connect to him and his characters, because they, like us are flawed. Yet they evolve, they grow, often right before our eyes.
Hoffman has not given a great performance since 1997, yet remains active in film. He was terrific as the old perfume expert in ‘Perfume’ (2006), and outstanding as the literature professor in a ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ (2006). He spent a season as a former mobster on HBO’s ‘Luck’, and was superb, but sadly it was not renewed. You will not find ‘Rain Man’ (1988) on this list, nor ‘Hook’ (1991), this is after all about his best. With that said, here is the list of top Dustin Hoffman films selected from his impressive filmography. You can also watch some of these best Dustin Hoffman movies on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Marathon Man (1979)
Cast as a brilliant historian who is totally innocent of any knowledge of his brothers’ dealings, which draws him into a world of Nazi wealth, couriers, and murder, Hoffman is splendid. They say a thriller is as good as the portrayal of terror in the film, and Hoffman captures this to perfection. He famously goes toe to toe with Laurence Olivier as Christian Szell, a famous Nazi dentist who has come to New York to cash in his diamonds. In a tremendous physical performance, Hoffman is brilliant.