Al Pacino is one of Hollywood’s greatest dramatic actors of all time; he won multiple Emmys and Tony Awards, as well as an Academy Award for Best Actor and numerous Academy Award nominations for his roles. Next to robert deniro and Joe Pescihe is one of the most critically acclaimed and recognizable actors in the gangster film genre.
With so many movies under his belt, it’s hard to pinpoint which roles are considered the most memorable. These films are all classics in their own right, and are by no means separate and are considered the pinnacle of Pacino’s filmography. He played a lot of gangsters and a few lieutenants.
Tony D’Amato, ‘Any Given Sunday’ (1999): Tomatometer: 52%; Audience rating: 73%
There are a lot of great sports dramas out there, but Any Sunday it always feels like he gets lost in the mix. It may not have the highest critic score, but it has a solid audience score. It’s starry with Pacino at the helm, plus cameos from footballing legends Dick Butkus, Y.A. title, Emmit Smith, Terrell Owens and more.
The aging coach of a former major football team, D’Amato (Pacino) must juggle his QB problem with aging star Jack Rooney (Dennis Quaid) and young Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) while battling with the team’s new owner (Cameron Diaz). Pacino also delivers one of the best monologues in the history of sports cinema, perhaps even in the period of movie history. It’s sensational.
Ricky Roma, ‘Glengarry Glenn Ross’ (1992): Tomatometer: 95%; Audience rating: 88%
Considered one of the best films of the year, and winner Jack Lemon the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 49th Venice Film Festival, as well as Pacino nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The film was something of a box office bust, but garnered a cult following and is considered a classic today.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Memet of the same name, the film’s most popular scene can be attributed to Alec Baldwinwho comes to give a speech informing four real estate salesmen that they have two weeks to earn a living, and only the first two will remain.
Lefty Ruggiero, ‘Donnie Brosco’ (1997): Tomatometer: 88%; Audience rating: 89%
An incredible tandem of Pacino and Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco) in a fairly underrated detective film. Pacino plays aging mob hitman Ben “Lefty” Ruggiero, where Depp plays FBI agent Joe Pistone, who goes undercover as a jewelry thief named Donnie Brasco.
Through the events of the film, Brasco and Lefty develop a friendship that leads Brasco to toe the line between true criminal and FBI agent, knowing that the consequences of his actions will ultimately result in his friend’s death. The chemistry between the two great actors makes for an exciting film.
ltd. Frank Slade, ‘Scent of a Woman’ (1992): Tomatometer: 89%; Audience rating: 92%
Surprisingly, of all the gangster movies in Pacino’s career that are so beloved and praised, The scent of a woman is the film that won Al Pacino his first and only Oscar. Playing the role of a blind and alcoholic Vietnamese veteran, Frank Slade, he befriends the young Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) when Simms is assigned to take care of him over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The two bond over the ups and downs of the family and Frank considering suicide, which Charlie stops. In the end, Frank defends Charlie’s honor with his school board, after initially telling him to report his classmates, which he doesn’t end up doing. This is another fantastic Pacino monologue.
Lieutenant Vincent Hanna, ‘Heat’ (1995): Tomatometer: 88%; Audience rating: 95%
One of the best crime thrillers of all time delivered by Director Michael manit was the first time De Niro and Pacino had worked together since The Godfather Part II, a movie they never shared a scene of together, and in this one they also shared very little screen time.
It follows LAPD Lt. Hanna (Pacino) and Neil McCauley (De Niro) as each attempts to outsmart the other. McCauley for another big heist and Hanna for stopping it, each while facing their own personal struggles; which is something they actually bond over, despite being on ends with each other. This is a film that is the pinnacle of crime thrillers.
Frank Serpico, ‘Serpico’ (1973): Tomatometer: 91%; Audience rating: 88%
A biographical crime drama based on the man of the same name, the film follows Frank Serpico as he tries to navigate corruption within the NYPD, while also becoming a whistleblower against the Knapp Commission. The film is shown In medias res, beginning with Frank being rushed to the hospital after being shot by another cop, and proceeding as a long flashback.
The film was a critical and box office success, and naturally, it drew criticism from police officers. Nevertheless, it is considered one of Pacino’s best films, not just during his run in the 70s, but in his career. Pacino really manages to flex his emotional range in this film, which for fans at the time was a stark contrast to his Stoic appearance as Michael Corleone a year prior.
Carlito Brigante, ‘Carlito’s Way’ (1993): Tomatometer: 81%; Audience rating: 91%
A career criminal released early from prison, Carlito vows to turn his life around and put his past behind him. However, he gets caught up in multiple problems after becoming part-owner of a nightclub with plans to save up and move to the Caribbean.
One of the saddest endings of any gangster movie, Carlito is almost out. He has narrowly avoided death several times, and he sees light at the end of the tunnel, until Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) comes back and shoots him as he is about to run away with his pregnant girlfriend. It’s a tragic story, and one that really tugs at the heartstrings.
Sonny, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ (1975): Tomatometer: 96%; Audience rating: 90%
After shooting The Godfather and Part II together a few years earlier, Al Pacino and Jean Cazale reunited again for their third film as two incompetent and inexperienced criminals Sonny and Sal. A bank robbery quickly turns into a hostage situation and then the media and the FBI get involved, it’s total chaos.
It’s a movie that revolves around two guys in over their heads, and it ends in a sad way, but in a way that only a situation like this can end. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel sorry for the two naive scammers. Attica!
Tony Montana, ‘Scarface’ (1983): Tomatometer: 81%; Audience rating: 93%
Very, very close to taking the title of Al Pacino’s most iconic role is Miami drug kingpin Tony Montana. Tony and his best friend Manny (Steven Bauer) receive green cards from Cuba after assassinating a Cuban general. Once in Miami, Tony brutally and ruthlessly murders to rise to the top of Florida’s cocaine trade.
With his rapid rise to power, his clash with the Miami PD, and his ongoing war with the Colombian cartel, Tony eventually spirals out of control and destroys relationships once close to him. But he also comes out with the biggest hit in movie history.
Michael Corleone, ‘The Godfather’ (1972): Tomatometer: 97%; Audience rating: 98%
The Godfather Part I and II are considered two of the greatest films of all time and absolute masterpieces by the acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel by Mario Puzo. Nobody talks about Part III. Michael is the youngest son of crime boss Vito (Marlon Brando), he enlists in the army, is a straight edge and stays away from the family business.
Once his father is almost killed in a misfire, Michael inserts himself. Then, with the death of his brother Sonny (James Caan) and eventually his father, Michael becomes the boss of the family. Part II explores Michael as he becomes more rooted in family and the darkness that envelops him, as well as a story of his father Vito (played in Part II by Robert De Niro).
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Al Pacino’s 10 Best Movie Roles, According To Rotten Tomatoes – CNET – ApparelGeek