Your Top Three is a series here at Movies.com where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.
Nobody gets their official cinephile membership card until they've seen Lawrence of Arabia. It's the one movie starring Peter O'Toole that you're most likely to have seen if you visit sites like ours regulalry. An exception can be made, however, if you haven't seen it yet because you're waiting to watch it on the big screen in 70 mm. I tried holding out, too, but I eventually gave in so I could check off that box on the list of greatest films ever made. And it was just so accessible via TCM, which was showing it for the billionth time. At least I didn't view it on an iPhone, right?
O'Toole earned his first Oscar nomination for Lawrence, then he went on to receive seven more nominations over the course of half a century. He famously lost all eight times, holding a record for this fact, though he did receive an honorary Academy Award in 2003. Movie geeks of today are less likely to have seen the other seven, which include Becket, Venus, The Lion in Winter, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. But there is a good chance you've all seen Ratatouille, in which the actor voices snooty food critic Anton Ego.
I too was embarrassed upon hearing of O'Toole's death over the weekend that I'm more familiar with his work in Supergirl, Club Paradise and King Ralph than his quality roles -- it's just a shame I grew up during the lower point of his career. My introduction was with Neil Jordan's mediocre High Spirits and unfortunately my strongest memory of his acting due to the strange experience was watching Man of La Mancha in Spanish class, dubbed in Spanish. I'd feel better if I'd even seen his non-nominated acting in acclaimed and popular films like The Last Emperor and What's New, Pussycat?
Sadly, it has taken his death to make me realize all the films of his I need to catch up with, and I shall get on that task ASAP. For now, here are my top three Peter O'Toole movies:
1. Lawrence of Arabia
Not so much an obvious choice as a fundamental one. As T.E. Lawrence, O'Toole provided us with an archetypal movie character, influencing a number of fictional go-betweens as gateways to understanding another culture. Not just because his was a real man, O'Toole's original has always been a complex cut above the rest because he had the chops to pull off such a deep role.
His "villain" of a critic is maybe even more delicious than the food portrayed on-screen. The character required a highbrow accent that could have easily been faked, but there's a certain authenticity to the voice coming from O'Toole, as one of the last of the great classically trained English thespians of his generation.
3. King Ralph
While I have a weak spot for Supergirl, my favorite of the lesser O'Toole movies seen as a child is this even less remembered movie starring John Goodman as an unlikely heir to the English throne. O'Toole is the most perfect choice for the part of utmost class to contrast with Goodman's utmost crass.
Your Picks (the top 3 being Lawrence of Arabia and then a tie for second with The Ruling Class, Ratatouille and The Stunt Man):
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