In a career that spanned decades, Pacino has been a major part of some of the most famous crime films ever made. Whether as a mobster or honest cop, his performances are often riveting and unsettling.
He is arguably at his most formidable as Tony Montana in this gangster classic from director Brian De Palma. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance that should be required viewing for fans of the actor.
After delivering a mesmerizing performance as tortured mob boss Michael Corleone, Al Pacino cemented himself as a major Hollywood force with this iconic gangster flick. He stars as Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who rises through the cocaine trade to become the leader of an empire. Pacino’s amoral character is both evil and compelling.
Despite the title, Pacino doesn’t appear to have 88 minutes of life left in this stupid thriller. The movie is a total mess, replete with a phony ex-boyfriend, sex with every hottie in sight and a plot that’s ludicrous from beginning to end. The only saving grace is Sidney Lumet’s searing Brooklyn-set drama. The gomovies film proves that few could match Pacino’s energy as one of Hollywood’s most gifted leading men. He also starred in Martin Scorsese’s mob classic, Carlito’s Way and Serpico.
2. Donnie Brasco (1990)
Pacino and Johnny Depp team up in this sexy mafia thriller, which is loosely based on a true story. It’s the granddaddy of mob movies, setting the bar by which all subsequent gangster epics would be measured.
Sidney Lumet’s searing Brooklyn-set drama finds Pacino at his best as the only straight cop on the New York City police force who becomes a whistleblower against his corrupt colleagues. He was deservedly awarded an Oscar nomination for this iconic role.
Oliver Stone helms this volatile behind-the-scenes look at an American football franchise that starred Pacino as a veteran coach leading a squad of hapless gladiators into battle. The film influenced many a Rockstar game, and is also a highlight of his career. It features some of the actor’s most raw, angry and vocal performances. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Actor.
3. Cruising (1980)
Following the critical and commercial disaster that was Bobby Deerfield, Pacino turned things around with this combustible drama. In addition to a powerful performance from Pacino, the movie also features a star-studded cast that includes Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton.
Friedkin pushes the envelope with this sexy thriller, which follows a detective who infiltrates the New York gay scene to find a serial killer targeting homosexuals. Pacino is a force to be reckoned with here, even though his character is pretty unlikable.
Despite being a fairly cheesy film, Cruising still holds up quite well. It may not be one of the most underrated Pacino movies, but it’s definitely worth a look. Especially for fans of crime films. It’s a great way to see Pacino in a different light. And he delivers one of his most memorable and gut-wrenching monologues.
4. Carlito’s Way (1993)
An arthouse-style take on the gangster genre, this movie features a heart-stopping climax and a story that has influenced Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto. Pacino is at his most convincing as the sleazy crook Carlito, who’s desperately trying to make ends meet in a world where everyone wants to kill him. Director De Palma’s Puerto Rican gangster flick is a cool, stylized thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Pacino’s performance here is arguably the best of his career, alongside a top-notch cast of supporting actors. The highlight is definitely his showdown with Lalin and Kleinfeld, two of his former friends who betrayed him to the FBI. A benchmark film in the crime drama genre. Pacino was nominated for an Oscar for his role in this film. This is a must-see for all fans of the actor.
5. Serpico (1973)
The film that cemented Pacino as an icon of the gangster genre. Released between the first two Godfather movies by Francis Ford Coppola, it was a massive critical and commercial hit.
The story revolves around NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who discovers corruption in the police department and attempts to alert his superiors to it. He is rebuffed and even accosted at times. He soon finds himself a lonely crusader against the system.
The acting is top notch and the script is superb. This is one of those underrated films that deserves to be seen. Pacino’s performance is remarkable and shows the range he was capable of. After this Sidney Lumet movie, Pacino went on to make some more gangster classics including Carlito’s Way and Dog Day Afternoon. He also made a few other excellent films during this period.