How many of Paul Newman’s hundreds of films are considered masterpieces among film fans? A look at 20 of Newman’s greatest films, rated from worst to best.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Absence of Malice (1981), and The Verdict (2000) were just a few of Newman’s many Oscar nominations that went unnominated for Best Actor (1968). While the Academy gave him an Honorary Award for his work on “The Color of Money” in 1985, it gave him a competitive award the following year (1986). On the heels of “Nobody’s Fool” (1994), he was cast as the lead and as a supporting actor in “Road to Perdition” (2002).
Joanne Woodward received an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Rachel, Rachel,” directed by Woodward, who won a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild Award for the film.
In 1994, Newman received the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his considerable charitable contributions. Two years later, he was awarded the SAG Life Achievement Award and the Kennedy Center Honors for his work with Woodward.
“Empire Falls” (2005) garnered Newman an Emmy for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for his performance. Prior to that, he was nominated for “The Shadow Box” in 1981 and “Our Town” in 2003 for his acting and directing roles.
20. CARS (2006)
His final feature film was a Pixar animated adventure that turned out to be his most lucrative of all time. It’s a fitting farewell for a racing fan, given that he voices a 1951 Hudson Hornet dubbed Doc, a three-time Piston Cup winner, in the movie. With Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, the hot-shot racer who learns about camaraderie after being stranded in Radiator Springs, the majority of the film’s plot revolves. Best Animated Feature and Best Song nominations were given to “Cars.”
19. SLAP SHOT (1977)
Considering the box office success Newman and director George Roy Hill had with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) and “The Sting” (1970), it’s surprising that “Slap Shot” failed to make an impression in 1977. (1973). However, the wild sports comedy about a struggling hockey club that starts winning when they play dirty has had a nice run. Awkward coach Reggie Dunlop (played by Newman) is a hoot to watch. The R-rating was created for this type of film, which is full of slang and bawdy gags.
18. THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)
With “The Towering Inferno,” catastrophe films of the 1970s reached their peak with a Best Picture Oscar nomination for a big-budget, all-star spectacle that was nominated for Best Picture. Newman plays an architect whose 135-story skyscraper catches fire only hours before it is set to open, endangering the lives of everyone who is trapped within. Steve McQueen (the gruff Fire Chief) joins him in the rescue mission. Silly? Absolutely. The film, on the other hand, is exaggerated and overlong enjoyment. For cinematography, film editing, and “We May Never Love Like This Again,” the film won awards.
17. THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)
“The Hudsucker Proxy” is one of those films that you enjoy despite its flaws. As a visual delight, this screwball comedy stars Tim Robbins as a naive mailroom clerk (Tim Robbins) who is duped into becoming president of a marketing firm through a stock swindle. Dennis Gassner’s art direction faithfully evokes 1930s screwball comedies. Instead of fully developed characters, the focus is on archetypes rather than realism. Aside from Newman’s portrayal of the sinister ruler, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s portrayal of an exasperated reporter is flawless. In addition, there are plenty of belly laughs.
16. HOMBRE (1967)
For Newman and Martin Ritt, “Hombre” is the perfect conclusion to their lengthy partnership. Set in the Arizona Territory, it tells of a white man (Newman) who was brought up by Apaches and now lives on a stagecoach full of people who shun him. He’s their only hope of survival when they’re ambushed by a gang of outlaws, however. In addition to being a fast-paced western tale, the novel touches on important issues of race and culture.
15. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (1972)
‘The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean’, by John Huston, is one of the most unusual westerns ever made, an almost nostalgic view of a bygone era with surrealism and raucous humor. Roy Bean, a notorious bandit who takes on the role of town judge in a small Texas town, is played by Newman. Film director John Huston and screenwriter John Milius fill the film with a diverse cast, many of whom appear only briefly before being hanged.
14. ABSENCE OF MALICE (1981)
As a result of his performance in Pollack’s newspaper drama, Newman received another Oscar nomination. When an FBI investigator (Bob Balaban) tells an intrepid reporter (Sally Field) about the abduction of a union leader at the hands of a reclusive booze merchant, it all begins (Newman). It’s all a hoax, the accused man tells her, as she goes along with the story. They work together to uncover the truth, and fall in love as a result. Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond) won the Best Actor award for Newman.
13. SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH (1962)
Reunited with Richard Brooks, Newman and Brooks collaborated on another Tennessee Williams adaption, this one even more clean-cut than the previous film. he portrays Chance Wayne, an ex-gypsy who returns to his hometown with a faded star of the silver screen (Geraldine Page). For the first time since he was forced to flee the town by Shirley Knight’s father, Ed Begley, he reunites with his ex-girlfriend (Shirley). Even though Begley was awarded a supporting actor Oscar and Page and Knight were nominated for supporting roles, Newman was left out of the running (though he did snag a Globe bid).
12. HARPER (1966)
A affluent widow hires Lew Harper, a private investigator, to find her husband, who has gone missing. Humphrey Bogart’s widow is placed in a role reminiscent of that of General Sternwood, played by Humphrey Bogart’s character in “The Big Sleep” (right down to the wheelchair). With his own movie star charisma, Newman doesn’t have to worry about filling in the footsteps of Bogart. A sequel, “The Drowning Pool,” was inspired by the film (1975).
11. NOBODY’S FOOL (1994)
One of Newman’s best late-career performances depicts him as an adolescent imprisoned in a time warp. After reconciling with his estranged son (Dylan Walsh) and grandson, a free-lance construction worker living in a boarding home with his eighth-grade teacher (Jessica Tandy), he attempts to grow up a little bit (Alexander Goodwin). Robert Benton’s film, based on Richard Russo’s novel, is a humorous and accurate depiction of small-town life. Forrest Gump’s Tom Hanks nabbed the Best Actor Oscar, despite Newman’s two best actor awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and National Society of Film Critics.
10. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956)
Robert Wise’s famous boxing movie made Newman a star, despite the fact that he had his big screen debut in “The Silver Chalice” (1954). He portrays Rocky Graziano, the World Middleweight Champion of 1947, who grew up in poverty and became champion at the age of 28. For all the speculation we can do about how James Dean would have handled the role, it’s hard to picture anyone other than Newman bringing Graziano’s story to life. The black-and-white cinematography and art direction of the film won it an Oscar.
9. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958)
With all due respect to Hollywood’s puritans, the film adaptation of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” retains all of Tennessee Williams’s stage-to-screen magic. He portrays Brick, an ex-footballer whose days are consumed by alcoholism and the rejection of his beautiful wife’s advances (Elizabeth Taylor). Big Daddy (Burl Ives), his father, is dying of cancer, and his other children are vying for their share of his enormous riches. In addition to a Best Picture nod and acting accolades for Newman and Taylor, the picture received six other Oscar nominations. David Niven (Separate Tables) defeated the leading man in the first of many defeats.
8. THE STING (1973)
Only two films starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford were made, and both of them were directed by George Roy Hill, making their absence all the more notable. Robert Shaw plays a racketeer who has murdered Redford’s companion in “The Sting.” Redford and Shaw team up to conduct an intricate deception on the racketeer (Shaw). David S. Ward’s witty story, period-appropriate design, and Scott Joplin soundtrack make this one a joy to watch. The box office juggernaut won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, making it the most successful film of the year. Despite Newman’s snub, Redford made the cut for Best Actor.
7. THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986)
Fast Eddie Felson (Tom Cruise) is an old hustler who teaches a cocky young protege (Newman) the tactics of the trade in this quasi-sequel to “The Hustler” (1961). Although “The Color of Money” was directed by Martin Scorsese, it doesn’t have the depth or style that characterizes Scorsese’s best work. Even if Newman’s victory was overdue, it’s hard to deny that he deserves credit for achieving it. His absence from the ceremony was due to his fear of casting a curse by accepting the prize in person.)
6. ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)
In “Road to Perdition,” Conrad L. Hall’s breathtaking cinematography portrays a rain-soaked environment that is bathed in nearly constant shadows (the film brought him a posthumous Academy Award win). Sam Mendes’ gangland epic about a Depression-era hitman (Tom Hanks) who must hide his son (Tyler Hoechlin) after he sees murder is a gloomy, elegiac exploration of violence and love. John Rooney, the mob leader who sees Tom Hanks as a surrogate son, won Newman his final career nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Supporting Role. (Adaptation’s) Chris Cooper beat him in the competition.
5. COOL HAND LUKE (1967)
“Failure to communicate” is what we have here. Those are the words of Captain (Strother Martin), the hard-nosed prison gang leader, to an unruly convict, Luke Jackson (Newman). “Cool Hand Lukelead “‘s character’s refusal to submit to authority, a common emotion of the time, is what has made the film so popular over the years. He refuses to yield, to to the joy of the audience, despite the almost terrible suffering. In the Heat of the Night’s Rod Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the role.
4. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
For this satirical western, Paul Newman teamed up with Robert Redford, resulting in one of the most beloved film pairings ever. George Roy Hill’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” presents the two as amiable outlaws who are on the run from a posse in the Western. While director George Roy Hill relies on his actors’ chemistry to carry the day, William Goldman’s brilliant script supplies its stars with one funny scene and bit of dialogue after the other. It also won awards for cinematography by Conrad L. Hall and Burt Bacharach, as well as for the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”
3. HUD (1963)
In contrast to Hollywood studios’ offerings at the time, “Hud” was shot in a gritty black-and-white with a frankness that’s almost disturbing. Martyn Ritt directed this film adaption of the novel by Larry McMurtry that stars Newman as an unruly Texas ranch hand who antagonizes his old father while sexually assaulting their housekeeper. His nephew is caught in the middle of it all. James Wong Howe, the cinematographer, won the best cinematography Oscar for his work on the film. Sidney Poitier (“Lilies of the Field”) beat out Newman for the Academy Award for Best Actor, which went to the latter.
2. THE VERDICT (1982)
Alcoholism has wrecked countless lives, and now the once-great professional is desperately trying to redeem himself in the last-ditch effort. “The Verdict,” on the other hand, shows Newman bringing an almost revolutionary subtlety and vulnerability to the iconic part.” He portrays Boston lawyer Frank Galvin, who takes on a medical malpractice action against a large Catholic hospital while inebriated. Instead of giving up, he gathers his wits and fights for the justice in which he still believes. In part because of Newman’s outstanding performance, director Sidney Lumet’s film, which is based on a brilliant scenario by David Mamet, delivers a seismic emotional jolt. Unfortunately, the Academy chose to honor Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi”) instead for his work.
1. THE HUSTLER
When it comes to Paul Newman roles, “Fast” Eddie Felson is a near-perfect fit. With “The Hustler,” directed by Robert Rossen, Felson (Felson) takes on billiards legend Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), who is a skilled but cocky player. He falls in love with a boozed-up writer (Piper Laurie) and falls for a conman (George C. Scott) who promises to help him break into the big time. With the BAFTA award, he lost to Maximilian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg) at the Academy Awards. “The Color of Money” (1986) won him that long-overdue Best Actor award, which he reprised 25 years later.