Al Pacino: if you’re a movie lover, you know the name! Even if you aren’t, you probably still recognize him, simply because one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed stars of all time.
In a career that spans over 50 years, he’s made an enormous amount of classic movies, with performances that are just as famous.
Whether you know the young, quietly-spoken Pacino from the beginning of his career, or the loud and volatile roles he would take on later in life, there’s something to love for everyone.
In our guide below, we’re going to look at 15 unskippable Al Pacino movies that you should watch this very weekend. Read on!
15. Bobby Deerfield (1977)
We’re starting this list with an underseen classic that’s from the early days of Al Pacino’s career.
The 1970s is a golden period of hits for Pacino, but this one has unfairly fallen under the radar, especially since it’s directed by the famous Sydney Pollack.
Pacino plays a race car driver named Bobby Deerfield, who has become egotistical due to his racing success and fame.
When he witnesses an awful racing accident, though, he readdresses his life. At the same time, he meets an spirited and outgoing woman (Marthe Keller) with serious health issues. They fall in love, and she shows him a different way of life.
It’s a sweet and romantic film, with sadness too. Al Pacino is quiet and understated as the conflicted driver, and there are a few exciting racing scenes.
14. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
You might be surprised at this modern classic being low on the list, but that’s only because Al Pacino isn’t in it enough! He gives a great, small role as Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) boisterous agent Marvin Shwarz.
This epic from Quentin Tarantino (you know the name!) is all about Hollywood in the late 1960s, focusing on washed-out actor Rick and his stunt double, Cliff (Brad Pitt).
They navigate the movie and TV industry while occasionally crossing paths with real-life tragic star Sharon Tate.
Pacino is Rick’s funny agent, who energetically shows his love for Rick’s old movies and tries to secure him a successful future in the industry.
13. The Panic In Needle Park (1971)
This was Pacino’s first proper role, and it’s brilliant.
It might be a difficult movie, focusing on two lovers who are heroin addicts, but it allows Pacino to be at his most vulnerable and quietly erratic. He gives a sensitive, troubled performance as he struggles against his addiction.
12. Cruising (1980)
This is a notorious and exciting crime drama from director William Friedkin, who also made the gritty cop movie “The French Connection” (1971).
This is also a gritty cop film, with Al Pacino playing a detective who has to go undercover in New York’s gay S&M scene in order to catch a psychopath who’s killing homosexuals.
As you can see, it’s a sensational, dangerous story, made even better with Pacino in the lead.
As he goes deeper undercover into the heavy-leather S&M underworld, Pacino gets lost in the culture, almost becoming part of it.
He starts to question his identity, and his conflicted nature is as fascinating as the murder mystery that’s going on at the same time.
11. And Justice For All (1979)
Legal dramas always make great movies, with their high drama and tension. And when Al Pacino is the lead? They’re even better!
Pacino plays a defense attorney who becomes massively conflicted when made to defend a judge in a rape case. The thing is, it’s likely the judge is guilty.
Pacino knows that he can’t let him off, but the judge’s enormous influence and power makes it difficult to nail him.
It’s a nail-biting legal drama with plenty of moral struggles, all with Pacino playing what he plays best: morally-conflicted characters.
10. The Irishman (2019)
This epic from acclaimed director Martin Scorsese was a famous reunion between two powerhouses of American cinema: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
Not only do you get to see these two share a screen again, but you can enjoy it for the film’s brilliantly long runtime – 3.5 hours! Who could ask for more?
The film spans decades, using impressive digital de-aging technology to allow Pacino and De Niro to play their characters at all ages – young adult, middle-aged, and old.
It gives the story extra emotional weight seeing them on this entire journey of life.
And what is that story? De Niro’s a hitman working for Al Pacino, carrying out hits and getting mixed into organized crime.
9. Sea Of Love (1989)
Another one where Pacino plays a detective trying to catch a killer, this brilliant thriller miexs its drama with a very sweet (and slightly erotic) love story.
Pacino’s detective gets into hot water when he falls in love with a woman (the great Ellen Barkin) who’s a suspect in the muder case. Their forbidden love is passionate and exciting and the heart of the film.
8. The Insider (1999)
This engrossing drama sees Al Pacino and Russell Crowe share the screen, with a story focusing on the former head of a tobacco company publicly exposing the awful truth of how the tobacco industry works.
It’s a fascinating story, with plenty of real-life crossover, and lots of tension as “the insider” tries to get his story out without being silenced.
7. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Adapted from the play of the same name, this brilliant drama has an all-star cast of American character actors at their very best.
It focuses on an office of real estate agents who must sell their leads or be fired. Everybody begins to play dirty, even backstabbing others. Al Pacino plays one of the liveliest and funniest agents in a memorable role.
6. Serpico (1973)
Another Pacino masterpiece where he plays a cop who has to go undercover, this looks at an honest policeman who tries to expose his corrupt colleagues. However, this puts him in a lot of danger.
Pacino is terrific here, playing both the fresh-faced rookie Frank Serpico and progressing into the grizzled, struggling Serpico after 11 years of service. He impressively portrays what that difficult time can do a man, bringing the (real-life) cop to life.
5. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
The Godfather films brought Pacino to fame, and they’re both brilliant. In this sequel, he continues to play Michael Corleone, the head of his family’s criminal empire.
Pacino brilliantly portrays the struggle of Michael, who was once against his family’s empire, but reluctantly took on the head role and has since got sucked deeper and deeper into its immoral world.
Pacino lets us see Michael’s humanity slowly fade away, conveying every difficult decision and how it affects those around him.
4. The Godfather (1972)
One of the most beloved films of all time, this is the first part of the Godfather trilogy. Here we see Don Vito Corleone, head of the crime family, decide to hand his position to his son, Michael (Pacino).
We get to see vulnerable, sympathetic Pacino here, before the ruthless position turns Michael into a shady, shark-like boss.
3. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
I’m going to get personal here: Al Pacino’s performance in this is the best I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something with Pacino, where every role is great.
The film focuses on Sonny (Pacino) who decides to rob a small bank in order to pay for his lover’s operation. However, the heist goes wrong, and he is forced to take hostages.
Sonny is an incredibly sweet, sympathetic character who has simply made the wrong choice when put in a tough position.
Pacino has given loads of vulnerable, desperate performances, but this is his very best. He allows us to completely empathize with Sonny, even if we don’t agree with his crime.
2. Heat (1995)
This landmark masterpiece was the first time Al Pacino and Robert De Niro got to share the screen at the same time, after both being in “The Godfather: Part II” separately.
This is the definitive heist film. Pacino is the cop trying to stop De Niro’s crook, both similarly driven men who work polar-opposite jobs. Director Michael Mann offers a phenomenal series of heists, while Pacino excels as the erratic, crazed cop.
1. Scarface (1983)
We don’t need to explain this one! Al Pacino plays the infamous Tony Montana, a completely wild gangster who builds an enormous cocaine empire.
Famous for its extreme violence and enormous amount of quotable swearing, this masterpiece is simply three hours of an enormously good time.
There is a reason that this film became so famous and influential, and why it continues to still be so enormously popular over three decades later. It’s a big, bloody delight!
Al Pacino is one of the best actors there is, and his unbeatable filmography reflects that. Use our list to see his 15 best movies!
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