Icons age but they never fade. Although it”s now been 11 years(!) since his last performance, the commitment to character Gene Hackman brought to every frame he ever appeared in make his performances even more gripping after decades of viewings.
To every role Hackman played, whether in light comedy or intense drama, the reality of his characters” inner turmoil was so real and bristling at the edges, his performances brought a stunning complexity to every scene, whether the script had earned it or not.
Our greatest living film actor turns 85 today. He has sworn that he will never appear on screen again. There just are too many greats to choose from when looking through the Hackman catalog, but we suggest you raise a glass of Kentucky Bourbon and enjoy some of his finest work in these 6 films, all available on your finer streaming services.
Hackman”s breakthrough starring role, and perhaps still his greatest. Director William Friedkin said he goaded Hackman during the shoot so he would seethe with anger in every take. The intensity of his performance as morally conflicted cop Jimmy Doyle is the fountainhead from which every conflicted cop character in the years ahead sprung
Hackman at the opposite extreme of his palate, in an extremely quiet performance that bristles with equal intensity. Playing a surveillance expert who stumbles upon a possible crime, Hackman says more in the way he listens than more actors do with a script full of speeches.
“Superman” (Amazon, iTunes)
Gene Hackman all but invented the template for superhero film bad guys that has been followed since: dramatic actors playing the comic/campy role straight while supplying the villainous comedy that have kept many a film in this genre on their toes.
The quintessential, Hackman-salt-of-the-earth performance in this no frills basketball drama.
“The Royal Tennenbaums” (Amazon, iTunes,
The closing of Wes Anderson”s early period. The film threatened to fly off into the precious wonderland that would swallow many of his later pieces. In this case, Hackman”s presence as the difficult father character is so solid and real that it keeps the entire film nailed to the ground.