Total Recall: The 15 Greatest Paul Newman Movies - Page 4 - Rotten Tomatoes

Total Recall: The 15 Greatest Paul Newman Movies

RT chooses our favorite movies starring the legendary actor.

by Jeff Giles | Wednesday, Oct. 01 2008


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Slap Shot (1977)
Tomatometer: 83%

Newman reunited with director George Roy Hill for this wonderfully lewd and profane look at minor-league hockey in the '70s, which has overcome a certain degree of initial critical indifference to become one of the best-loved sports films of all time. Slap Shot's high raunch quotient doesn't exactly jibe with Newman's reputation as one of Hollywood's classiest acts, but it's easy to see why it was one of his favorite films to make; Nancy Dowd's script (adapted from her own book) is full of terrific dialogue and plenty of the over-the-top violence that hockey fans craved in the sport's younger, woolier days. The movie's enduring appeal is perhaps best encapsulated by the public mea culpas of Gene Siskel, who said his greatest professional regret was giving Slap Shot a bad review; like pretty much everyone else who's seen it, Siskel's enjoyment only grew with repeated viewings. And really, what's not to love? Ogie Oglethorpe, the Hanson Brothers, Newman playing the sort of embittered burnout...heck, even a fuddy-duddy like Vincent Canby of the New York Times couldn't resist, noting that "Slap Shot has a kind of vitality to it that overwhelms most of the questions relating to consistency of character and point of view."








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Absence of Malice (1981)
Tomatometer: 77%

Media-bashing has become so trendy that you'd almost never know that being part of the Fourth Estate was once regarded as an honorable profession -- a public service, even. Of course, that isn't to say reporters haven't always been dogged by questions of ethics -- and few directors were better at framing a thorny ethical debate than Sydney Pollack, which made him the perfect person to guide the cameras for the film that kicked off the back half of Paul Newman's career. Here, Newman plays the son of a Mafia boss who is outed as the subject of a murder investigation by an ambitious (and somewhat scruple-deficient) reporter played by Sally Field. Though a large number of critics felt Pollack and screenwriter Kurt Luedtke failed to present a truly compelling picture -- and some, like Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews, dismissed it as a "well-meaning liberal message story" -- others praised its strong performances and overall intelligence. As James Rocchi wrote, "the ultimate conclusion of the film will leave you thoughtful and even perhaps a touch sad -- rare for any film, and even more rare for a thriller."








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The Verdict (1982)
Tomatometer: 96%

The late '70s were less than kind to Newman, but the early '80s found him enjoying a career renaissance, kicked off with 1981's Absence of Malice and continued with 1982's superb courtroom drama, The Verdict. This is a movie whose pedigree demands excellence -- aside from Newman in the central role of a burned out alcoholic attorney who stumbles onto the case of a lifetime, it boasts a David Mamet screenplay and typically taut direction from Sidney Lumet. It may unfold a tad too languidly for modern audiences (Kevin Carr of 7M Pictures describes it as "not an action flick by any means"), but if you can set aside your craving for jump cuts and explosions for a couple of hours, The Verdict will slowly draw you in. As Roger Ebert put it, "The performances, the dialogue, and the plot all work together like a rare machine."




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