Total Recall: Al Pacino's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Stand Up Guys star.

5. Glengarry Glen Ross

94%

Pacino's career has seen its share of high points, but 1992 was a pretty good year to be Al -- not only did he score a Best Actor Oscar for the hit Scent of a Woman, but he also picked up a Supporting Best Actor nomination for his work in another film -- and one that, unlike Scent, has grown into a cult classic over the decades. Carried nimbly by an impeccable cast and directed with cool precision, James Foley's adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross may have failed to find a wide audience during its theatrical run, but its uniformly impeccable performances, endlessly quotable script, and sadly resonant themes have made it an enduring favorite for a steadily widening circle of film buffs. Applauded Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, "The performers achieve a true ensemble rhythm; at times, the entire office seems like a single, shouting organism."

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4. The Insider

96%

For a certain breed of film fan, a truly great thriller is one that can get the viewer's pulse pounding with sharp dialogue and an artfully assembled plot rather than a lot of action -- and that's pretty much The Insider in a nutshell, which might explain why it nabbed seven Academy Award nominations in spite of being a commercial flop that took a behind-the-scenes look at a landmark 60 Minutes segment in which a tobacco exec blew the whistle on deceptive practices prevalent in the industry. It might sound like awfully dry material for a film, but Michael Mann's propulsive direction made The Insider's extended running time fly past -- although it certainly helped that he had a pair of fine leads in Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. "What I didn't expect," admitted the New York Observer's Andrew Sarris, "was an intelligently absorbing entertainment that ran for two hours and 40 minutes, during which I didn't once look at my watch -- just about the highest praise I can bestow upon a film these days."

3. Dog Day Afternoon

97%

Truth is often stranger than fiction, and that's definitely the case with Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet's darkly comic take on a real-life bank heist that went utterly awry and ended up captivating New York City during one sweaty August afternoon in 1972. Working as a dramatic thriller, a love story, and a poignant statement on the American sociopolitical landscape of the early '70s, Afternoon was nominated for six Academy Awards (including one for Pacino, picking up his third Best Actor nomination) after racking up $50 million during its theatrical run. Still a consistent critical and audience favorite, it's currently enshrined in the National Film Registry -- and still picking up positive reviews from critics like Movieline's Stephen Farber, who applauded, "Dog Day Afternoon brims over with energy, rude humor and understated pathos."

2. The Godfather, Part II

99%

Some movies are such big hits that they basically guarantee a sequel, while others are so beloved that even thinking about trying to follow them up requires a monumental amount of filmmaking chutzpah. Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather falls squarely into the latter category, which is part of why 1974's The Godfather Part II is such an incredible achievement: Not only did it follow in its predecessor's blockbuster footsteps at the box office, but it also (nearly) replicated its critical batting average -- and while it lacked Marlon Brando's magisterial presence, it more than made up for his absence with a generation-spanning storyline that juxtaposed the impossible choices facing Michael Corleone (Pacino) with the ruthless rise of his father (Robert De Niro). "This film has an even broader scope than the original," mused Jeffrey M. Anderson for Combustible Celluloid, "but does not fail in its depiction of small, intimate moments and surprising emotional reveals."

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1. The Godfather

100%

We cover a lot of critical winners in these Total Recall columns, but very few of them boast a perfect 100 percent on the Tomatometer -- let alone the level of blockbuster commercial success enjoyed by The Godfather, which briefly held the distinction of being the top-grossing film of all time. It's all richly deserved; one of the most influential entries in the modern cinematic canon, it unfolds a sprawling, multi-generational saga with power and grace, using a solid screenplay (adapted by director Francis Ford Coppola from the Mario Puzo novel) and an impeccably assembled cast (including the Oscar-nominated Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall, and led by Best Actor winner Marlon Brando) to deliver what TIME's Jay Cocks praised as "that rarity, a mass entertainment that is also great movie art."

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In case you were wondering, here are Pacino's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:

1. The Godfather -- 97%
2. The Godfather, Part II -- 96%
3. Scarface -- 93%
4. Heat -- 92%
5. Scent of a Woman -- 90%
5. Dog Day Afternoon -- 90%
7. Carlito's Way -- 88%
8. The Insider -- 87%
8. Glengarry Glen Ross -- 87%
10. Donnie Brasco -- 85%
10. Serpico -- 85%


Take a look through Al Pacino's complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Stand Up Guys.

Finally, here's a collection of of Pacino's best lines from some of his most memorable films:

Comments

Henrik Schia

Henrik Schia

I've a feeling the discussion on this list will get very heated.

Jan 30 - 09:36 AM

King  S.

King Simba

Things get heated when Heat doesn't make it to the top ten.

Jan 30 - 11:57 AM

Andrew Chaney

Andrew Chaney

I completely agree with you there. Heat was epic.

Jan 30 - 04:03 PM

Sergio Arias

Sergio Arias

Agreed!

Feb 1 - 02:26 AM

ram b.

ram bond

great comment mate, where the he*k is the modern crime drama classic, HEAT, it has to be up there with godfather no way this list is missing

Feb 3 - 12:47 PM

Jonny-Nature Ryane

Jonny-Nature Ryane

My God! Heat is not on this list!?!?!?

Jun 24 - 10:28 AM

J.W

James Wood

Where's Jack and Jill? ;)

Jan 30 - 09:40 AM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Or Gigli?

Jan 30 - 10:14 AM

Chris Buckley

Chris Buckley

Or Two-Bits?

Jan 30 - 01:49 PM

Paris Smallwood

Paris Smallwood

88 Minutes.

Jan 30 - 09:38 PM

Marian-Virgil Mirea

Marian-Virgil Mirea

Righteous Kill

Jan 31 - 11:03 PM

Sandeep Rathore

Sandeep Rathore

are u serious bro james wood.jack n jill?!!!!!!!

Jan 31 - 11:13 PM

Keith Allison

Keith Allison

REVOLUTION!!

Feb 4 - 02:23 AM

Eoghan Wallace

Eoghan Wallace

It says a great deal about Pacino's stellar filmography that not even 'Heat', the greatest heist movie of them all, was deemed worthy enough to make the list.

Jan 30 - 09:44 AM

Rbaldelli7

Michael Baldelli

Only if you don't consider Reservoir Dogs a Heist film. I would argue that Heat isn't even the best Pacino heist movie. That would go to Dog Day Afternoon.

Jan 30 - 07:41 PM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

I agree, Michael.

Feb 2 - 01:32 AM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Or Gigli?

Jan 30 - 10:14 AM

Chris Buckley

Chris Buckley

Or Two-Bits?

Jan 30 - 01:49 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Was always a Devils Advocate fan myself.

Jan 30 - 10:14 AM

Muse Ikkle

Muse Ikkle

Agreed, has the devil ever been portrayed better?

Jan 30 - 02:22 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I liked Peter Stormare in Constantine but he's a far second to Pacino.

Jan 30 - 07:48 PM

Kyle Frame

Kyle Frame

Agreed, he was awesome for that genre. Hope they do a sequel, I loved that movie.

Feb 3 - 05:23 AM

Pedro Lourenšo

Pedro Lourenšo

yes, robert deniro, harvey spencer...

Jan 31 - 09:45 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Jack Nicholson in Witches of Eastwick for me.

Jan 31 - 08:19 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I like where all of you went with this. Great choices! Love De Niro in Angel Heart. No one eats an egg more sinister.

Feb 1 - 12:11 AM

Kyle Frame

Kyle Frame

Completely different genre, but I always liked Elizabeth Hurley's rendition in "Bedazzled". If nothing else, the Devil certainly has never been as sexy.

Feb 3 - 05:23 AM

David Miller

David Miller

Al Pacino was amazing in the Devil's Advocate. My favorite performance.

Jan 30 - 09:06 PM

Troy Theisen

Troy Theisen

Agreed!!! One of the best roles by anyone, ever!

Jan 31 - 01:27 PM

Clay Maracle

Clay Maracle

Heat should be 10 or 9.

Jan 30 - 10:19 AM

Mac

Joe Jarosz

It's funny, on one hand, he could be considered 1 of the top 20 greatest actors ever, but on the other, no one gets made fun of more than big Al. Think about it, His filmography is so good, that not only Heat was no on this list, but either was Dick Tracy. That's impressive. I think he's great, even though he gets a bad rap nowadays.

Jan 30 - 10:22 AM

Robert Beveridge

Robert Beveridge

The public wisely, and correctly, left Insomnia off their list. No idea what the critics were drinking when they watched it. Or they were reviewing the much superior original rather than Nolan's emasculated piece of crap.

Jan 30 - 10:36 AM

Dave J

Dave J

I've seen the original and don't think it's neither better nor worst than Nolans version because the original dwelled on atmosphere(notice the fog) and less dialogue, as opposed to Nolans which consisted to have reasonating dialogue! If the original was remade here in North America scene per scene then it would not have worked here at all since the police system is totally different!

And I just want to say that the users on here enjoyed all the "Twilight" and "Transformer" films than the RT critics do meaning if you have so much faith with the users so much then perhaps you should stop listening to the critics!

Jan 30 - 05:35 PM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

No kidding Robert! The remake was TERRIBLE.

Feb 2 - 01:33 AM

Kyle Frame

Kyle Frame

I always felt like the female roles in Insomnia were criss-crossed. Maura Tierney should have been the cop and Swank could have been the inn keeper. Otherwise, the only thing drawing me in was the rare chance at the time, to see Robin Williams play the villain. However, your hinting at some vile loathing of all things Nolan, which makes your opinion biased and untrustworthy. A good critic will attempt open mindedness at all times.

Feb 3 - 05:26 AM

Johnny Boy

ved 76

Carlito's Way also deserves to be here...

Jan 30 - 10:57 AM

Anca Burlacu

Anca Burlacu

True. Or You don't know Jack and Frankie&Johnny.

Jan 30 - 11:31 AM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

Frankie & Johnny.. come on. The 2 born to lose, lost souls finding one another shtick has been done to death.

Feb 2 - 01:34 AM

Muse Ikkle

Muse Ikkle

Correct!

Jan 30 - 02:20 PM

Anca Burlacu

Anca Burlacu

True. Or You don't know Jack and Frankie&Johnny.

Jan 30 - 11:31 AM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

Frankie & Johnny.. come on. The 2 born to lose, lost souls finding one another shtick has been done to death.

Feb 2 - 01:34 AM

Brandon Rahbar

Brandon Rahbar

Pacino is my all-time favorite actor. He's just incredible. His late career filmography has gone largely ignored, but includes some hidden gems like The Merchant of Venice and two HBO movies for which he won Emmys: Angels In America and You Don't Know Jack. His Phil Spector movie looks great as well.

It really says a lot that Pacino can have a Top 10 that doesn't even include Heat, Carlito's Way, Sea of Love and And Justice For All.

Jan 30 - 11:49 AM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

And Justice for All was AWESOME.

Feb 2 - 01:34 AM

Kyle Frame

Kyle Frame

His role in Angels in America was epic. Glad to see people remembering it.

Feb 3 - 05:28 AM

King  S.

King Simba

Things get heated when Heat doesn't make it to the top ten.

Jan 30 - 11:57 AM

Andrew Chaney

Andrew Chaney

I completely agree with you there. Heat was epic.

Jan 30 - 04:03 PM

Sergio Arias

Sergio Arias

Agreed!

Feb 1 - 02:26 AM

ram b.

ram bond

great comment mate, where the he*k is the modern crime drama classic, HEAT, it has to be up there with godfather no way this list is missing

Feb 3 - 12:47 PM

King  S.

King Simba

He may have starred in quite a few terrible films, but still it says a lot about an actor's filmography when his tenth best film is rated 88% positive.

Anyway, there were some surprises on this list, some pleasant (Insomnia making the list) others not so pleasant (Heat missing the list) but still I wouldn't have the top 3 any other way. I have to admit I was half expecting The Godfather to get knocked from the top spot due to some critic calling it overrated (as what seems to happen with almost every great film, including the sequel) or else rottentomatoes decided to pull some 40 year-old rotten review from a critic who had most likely changed his mind since then, but thankfully that didn't happen.

Jan 30 - 12:13 PM

Kyle Frame

Kyle Frame

The Godfather isn't overrated. If I can watch it for the first time 30 years after its been made and still be wowed, it's damned good.

Feb 3 - 05:28 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"There's a bad guy coming through!"

Yeah, "Heat" and "Carlito's Way" should have replaced "Donnie Brasco" and "Insomnia" on the list, also worthy are smaller films like "Panic in Needle Park", "Scarecrow", "Author Author" and his "Looking for Richard" meta-documentary. Also, "Any Given Sunday" is one of his finest recent performances, better than "Insider" even (which was more of a Russell Crowe showcase).

Jan 30 - 12:16 PM

Dick Travis

Mick Travis

I think Pacino's best performance hands down is in DOG DAY AFTERNOON: the experience for him was so intense that he had to practically recuperate for 3 years before returning to acting from what I understand. Pacino is so funny and memorable in that role he should have won the Academy Award, although it was Jack Nicholson's time.

I like/love most of the other films on this list, however I'm a notorious non-fan of SCARFACE. I'm sorry, I've tried to understand what the allure of that movie is (particularly to rap artists), although admittedly I've never done cocaine in my life. The thing that bothers me so much is that people consider Tony Montana an underdog hero when in he fact he is nothing more than a misogynistic asshole whose English seems to be limited to just the word "fuck." Plus, I don't give a shit what rap artists say, nothing could top the 1932 original (which they seem to be ignorant as to its existence): why can't we have posters of Tony Camonte? It actually pisses me off that Universal has always shown favoritism to the remake, particularly when it never would have existed if it wasn't for the original. (PS-De Palma & Pacino attended a screening of its re-release in 1979.) By the way, I have to say it, but Pacino's over the top Cuban accent made me laugh my ass off!

Jan 30 - 12:28 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Hero? Anyone who doesn't understand that "Scarface" is essentially about the folly of pride (and the inevitable fall) doesn't deserve to consider themselves a fan of the film. Properly understood, it is powerful. For idiots, I suppose its meant to be emulated?

Jan 30 - 03:24 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

@Mick. Scarface is a lesson in excess and letting power go to your head. Plus, it has some iconic scenes, images and lines that resonate with the rap artists you are mentioning. Also, that same poster was on every white kids wall when I was in college so I take that into account as well. Tony Montana lived hard and died young, in a pool of his own blood (literally).

Jan 30 - 07:46 PM

Dick Travis

Mick Travis

@Infernal Dude You know what: I absolutely agree that the '83 version does have iconic scenes, images and lines as you say; I gave the film 2.5 stars out of 5 so it's not like I hated it. But seriously, what did you guys think of the 1932 version? (Bear in mind that "The World is Yours" did come from the original Howard Hawks-Ben Hecht version).

Jan 30 - 09:45 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

It's a classic, of course. I've found that it doesn't make much sense comparing the two.

Jan 30 - 10:07 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Ya, different eras of film making make different feeling films, IMO. To me, Scarface ('83) is a true example of '80s excess and has a very '80s vibe to it YET keeps a lot of the "gangster" themes intact. Either way, I still enjoy the film. Hell, I call someone a "fucking cock-A-roach " at least once a week.

Jan 30 - 10:44 PM

Andrew Targaryen

Andrew Targaryen

Impressive!

Jan 30 - 01:21 PM

Chris Buckley

Chris Buckley

Heat isn't eligible for this list because it already ranks number 1 on the greatest movies of all time list.

Jan 30 - 01:48 PM

Kyle Frame

Kyle Frame

The Shawshank Redemption.

Feb 3 - 05:30 AM

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