Sydney Pollack: A Retrospective

RT looks at the filmmaker's highest-rated films.

With two Oscar wins and plenty more nominations under his belt, Sydney Pollack was a filmmaker that Hollywood admired. He was also a proven actor's director whose fruitful relationships with performers like Robert Redford resulted in films like Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were, and Jeremiah Johnson; even his off-screen friction with Tootsie actor Dustin Hoffman gave way to one of Pollack's most famous on-screen performances.



Pollack undoubtedly knew how to frame a star, working with the likes of Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and Paul Newman to superb results. He also worked freely within genres, infusing thrillers, comedies, and Westerns with a personal brand of socio-political reflection. Below, we count down the ten highest-rated films that Pollack directed, and then take a look at the late filmmaker's most memorable performances in front of the camera.

Sabrina
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10. Sabrina (1995)
Tomatometer: 62%

Pollack took on the legacy of Billy Wilder in updating the romantic comedy Sabrina, about a beautiful young woman (Julia Ormond) caught between a charming playboy (Greg Kinnear) and his no-nonsense brother (Harrison Ford). While comparisons to the original abound -- along with its cast of Golden Hollywood legends Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden -- Pollack's Sabrina turned out this side of Fresh and garnered two Oscar nominations, for John Williams' score and the song "Moonlight," performed by Sting.






This Property is Condemned
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09. This Property is Condemned (1966)
Tomatometer: 64%

A pre-Godfather Francis Ford Coppola co-scripted Pollack's second feature (along with Fred Coe and Edith Sommer) based on a Tennessee Williams play; the result was the consequently steamy, seamy tale of a boarding house floozy (Natalie Wood) and a railroad man (Robert Redford) caught in a tragic romance in a poor Mississippi town. Pollack would go on to direct Redford in six more films, including the Oscar-winning Out of Africa.





The Scalphunters
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08. The Scalphunters (1968)
Tomatometer: 75%

At the tail end of the civil rights movement, Pollack directed this social satire-masquerading-as-comedy Western starring Burt Lancaster, Ossie Davis, Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters. When a trapper (Lancaster) is forced to "trade" his prized pelts for an educated slave (Davis), he goes after the offending Indians; when they are in turn killed by a band of scalphunters (led by Savalas), he turns his attentions to them. Pollack would team up with Lancaster again in his next film, The Swimmer, co-directed with Frank Perry.





The Firm
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07. The Firm (1993)
Tomatometer: 76%

One of the few thrillers in Pollack's filmography (see Three Days of the Condor below) is The Firm, which along with The Pelican Brief, helped launch a wave of John Grisham fever in 1990s Hollywood. The tale of an ambitious attorney who discovers sinister doings at his new law firm also captured star Tom Cruise at the height of his thirtysomething career; Pollack would reunite with Cruise six years later in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, appearing on the other side of the camera.





Absence of Malice
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06. Absence of Malice (1981)
Tomatometer: 71%

One of the best movies about journalism came courtesy of former Detroit Free Press editor Kurt Luedtke, who co-scripted Pollack's Oscar-nominated film about a man with familial mob ties (Paul Newman) wrongly implicated in a crime by a hungry newspaper reporter (Sally Field). Supporting actress Melinda Dillon picked up her second Academy Award nomination for her role as a devout woman whose tragic secret gets splashed across the front page.

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