It’s never easy to pick the best films for an actor, especially not one with a career as lengthy and influential as Al Pacino. With a legend like Pacino it’s much easier to pick the most memorable performances. In such a case discussing a mesmerizing character is sometimes more important than discussing a brilliant film (the picture as a whole). A bad movie can still have a memorable performance- the type of performance that keeps the audience entertained throughout and sticks in the memory long after the credits roll. Though none of the following films are bad by the smallest stretch of the imagination, they may not all be the most obvious choices as “the best Al Pacino films of all time!” What follows is a list of the most memorable Al Pacino performances, because a great actor can elevate the quality of any film.
The Godfather: Al Pacino’s haunted (and haunting) portrayal of Michael Corleone was a career-making performance. A man caught between his wife and his family, his love and his responsibilities, Pacino turns in a bravura performance here. Though The Godfather: Part II is often regarded as the best of the trilogy thanks to the acting of Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola’s original film is where Al Pacino really shines.
Dog Day Afternoon: This bank-robbing crime film by acclaimed director Sidney Lumet allows Pacino a chance to show his range and depth as an actor. Sonny Wortzik is perhaps one of Pacino’s most charismatic and memorable characters to date: a hero of anti-establishment and a Vietnam veteran, Pacino’s shouts of “Attica!” spoke for the counter-cultural revolution and cemented the actor’s place as a blooming movie star.
Scarface: Any list of Al Pacino films would be remiss not to mention Brian De Palma’s game-changing action epic. Thanks to this film, Tony Montana became a legendary gangster icon (to this day it is impossible to find a hip hop artist who doesn’t worship at Montana’s alter). “Say hello to my little friend” will go down as one of the most infamous (and most quoted) lines in the history of cinema thanks to Al Pacino’s dramatic delivery.
Glengarry Glen Ross: James Foley’s film (based on David Mamet’s adaptation of his original play) is certainly the least cinematic work on the list, but Al Pacino’s heightened performance is one of the actor’s best. As with usual Mamet, the characters in Glengarry Glen Ross talk a lot and often in nothing more than single syllable call-and-response. Al Pacino’s portrayal of Ricky Roma, the top dog of the office, is mesmerizing. He makes the most of every line and even manages to overshadow an extremely over-arch cameo by Alec Baldwin.
Gigli: Martin Brest crafts a brilliant film that allows Pacino the chance to…just kidding.
Heat: The epic police drama by director and screenwriter Michael Mann features an astounding cast. Al Pacino’s turn as Lt. Vincent Hanna perfectly balances (and mirrors) Robert De Niro’s portrayal of expert thief Neil McCauley. It’s Pacino, however, who steals the show as a policeman obsessed with his work and a father breaking his family apart.