It is a sad but inescapable fact that the last time we saw Mr. Gene Hackman on a movie screen was in the flaccid 2004 farce called Welcome to Mooseport. Presently 82 years of age, the brilliant actor seems to have faded into a life of well-deserved retirement. And as much as I'd love to see the man deliver at least one more stellar performance, hell, the guy's done enough great acting for three lifetimes. So in honor of an actor I've adored since I was a wee little movie nerd watching Superman, here is a list of my ten favorite Gene Hackman movies.
Oh, and today is the man's 82nd birthday!
Bonnie & Clyde (1967) -- Nominated for his fantastic turn as Buck Barrow, the ill-fated big brother to Clyde.
The French Connection (1971) / French Connection 2 (1975) -- OK, so Part 2 is little more than a vehicle for Hackman to reprise a great role, but the first French Connection is easily one of the coolest crime films ever made. Hackman owns the whole damn movie -- except for maybe that car chase.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972) -- He may go a little "overboard" (sorry) as the film goes on, but there's no denying that Hackman's straight-talkin', no-nonsense preacherman is a fascinating hero for a disaster movie. One shudders to think of this role with someone else besides Mr. Hackman.
Scarecrow (1973) -- If you've never seen this fascinating little indie drama (that co-stars Al Pacino!), do yourself a favor and do it now. Right now.
The Conversation (1974) -- Arguably Mr. Hackman's finest performance. To even talk about this film too much seems a disservice to its awesomeness. Coppola made it between The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2, and some film freaks believe that it's better than both.
Superman (1978) / Superman 2 (1980) -- The movie version of a comic book supervillain must be colorful (of course) but still dangerous and malicious. Hackman handles the latter with a wonderfully oily charm, and for the former he has fantastic support from Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine. He skipped Part 3 -- and you can skip Part 4 -- but Hackman brings so much fun to the first two Superman films, it should be illegal.
Hoosiers (1986) -- What probably should have been a pretty typical "rah-rah" sports drama is enlivened (endlessly) by a great supporting turn from Dennis Hopper -- and a magnetic lead performance by Mr. Hackman.
Unforgiven (1992) / The Quick and the Dead (1995) -- In the former, Gene Hackman portrays the truest distillation of "western movie evil" you'll ever see. It's amazing to watch. In the latter film, he flips the seriousness on its head and plays cartoonish evil like nobody's business. It's endlessly entertaining to watch.
Crimson Tide (1995) -- He slaps Denzel Washington in the face -- and we buy it. THAT is acting.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) -- In a word, flawless.
Bonus pick: the man's wonderfully weird cameo performance in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. "I was gonna make espresso!"
Bonus part 2: the Gene Hackman films currently available on Netflix Insta-Stream are as follows: Riot (1969), Eureka (1983), Another Woman (1988), Split Decisions (1988), Extreme Measures (1996), The Chamber (1996), and Under Suspicion (2000).
Oh, and Superman (1978)!