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Every Gene Hackman Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Gene Hackman retired from acting in 2004, leaving behind a rich filmography filled with Oscar-winning classics, popcorn entertainments, and even a few duds here and there. An A-list star for nearly four decades, Hackman was capable of both carrying a film as the lead and enlivening it with a memorable supporting turn. No matter how big or small the role was, you knew you were in for a treat whenever Hackman was onscreen.

Born in 1930 in San Bernardino, California, Hackman struggled early on in bit roles in film and television before hitting it big with the groundbreaking New Hollywood classic "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967). Hackman was part of a new generation of actors (along with his former roommates Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall) who thrived throughout the late 1960s-1970s, when more realistic-looking leading men replaced the conventionally handsome ones. This, combined with an emphasis on a more naturalistic style of acting and a grittier form of filmmaking overall, cleared a path for a whole new type of movie star to thrive.

Yet Hackman didn't flourish for just one decade; rather, his flower remained in bloom right up until the time he decided to call it quits. Throughout his career, Hackman won two Oscars (best actor for "The French Connection" and best supporting actor for "Unforgiven") and competed three additional times (best actor for "Mississippi Burning" and best supporting actor for "Bonnie and Clyde" and "I Never Sang for My Father"). He also won two BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, and one SAG Ensemble prize.

Let's take a look back at all of Hackman's many films, ranked from worst to best.

76. Loose Cannons (1990)

The nadir of Hackman's long career, "Loose Cannons" holds a stinking 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the worst-reviewed entries in the actor's filmography. Directed by Bob Clarke, the film casts him as a grizzled police detective whose partner (Dan Aykroyd) suffers from multiple personality disorder. His condition is little more than an excuse for Aykroyd to impersonate the likes of Captain Kirk, Popeye, and the Road Runner, which complicates an investigation into a string of murders being orchestrated by an ex-Nazi (Robert Prosky). No one seems to be having much fun here, especially Hackman.

75. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Hackman reprised the villainous role of Lex Luthor one more time for this ill-fated "Superman" sequel. In "The Quest for Peace," Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), aka Superman, tries to ease Cold War tensions by ridding the world of nuclear weapons. His "quest for peace" is interrupted by the arrival of Lex Luthor's newest creation: the Superman clone Nuclear Man (Mark Pillow). Critics derided its thin plot, lackluster performances, and shoddy special effects, landing it a 10% Rotten Tomatoes rating. The film was so poorly received that the Man of Steel didn't make a comeback until 2006's "Superman Returns."

74. Welcome to Mooseport (2004)

Hackman retired from acting after "Welcome to Mooseport," and sadly you can't exactly say he went out on a high note. The reception to this would-be political satire was no laughing matter, with a 13% Rotten Tomatoes rating leading to a paltry $14 million box office haul. Hackman plays former two-term U.S. President Monroe Cole, who retires to the sleepy Maine town of Mooseport. He can't help but scratch that campaigning itch, so he decides to run for mayor against local hardware store owner Handy Harrison (Ray Romano).  

73. Company Business (1991)

As the Cold War was coming to a close, Hollywood was still desperately mining tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union for movie material. In "Company Business," retired CIA agent Sam Boyd (Hackman) is reactivated to escort former KGB operative Pyotr Grushenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov) to post-war Berlin for a prisoner exchange. On the way, this unlikely duo realizes they're being set up, and they work together to outwit their handlers. Written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, the film failed to make much of an impression, with Variety calling it a "muddled comedic-thriller" with an "indecisive tone."

72. The Chamber (1996)

If there was one thing you could count on in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was a new John Grisham adaptation hitting theaters. Hackman starred in three movies based on Grisham novels, including this critically maligned thriller. Directed by James Foley, it centers on a recent law school graduate (Chris O'Donnell) who launches a legal reprieve for his racist grandfather (Hackman), a former Ku Klux Klan member on death row for killing two Jewish boys in the 1960s. As Roger Ebert wrote in one of the film's many scathing reviews, the use of explosive subject matter for entertainment purposes left a "queasy feeling" in viewers' guts.

71. Lucky Lady (1975)

With an abysmal 17% Rotten Tomatoes rating, "Lucky Lady" is a low point for pretty much everyone involved, not least for Hackman. An attempt by Old Hollywood craftsman Stanley Donen to recapture some of the magic of his earlier classics ("Singin' in the Rain," "Charade") with a New Hollywood sensibility, it's a period comedy centered on a trio of Prohibition-era bootleggers (Hackman, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli) who mix business with pleasure. While the expertly crafted period details sparkle, the love triangle falls flat like expired champagne, making for a lackluster slog that manages to intoxicate no one.

70. The Split (1968)

This middling thriller centers on a professional thief (Jim Brown) plotting to rob the Los Angeles Coliseum during a sold-out football game. To pull this off, he assembles a team of ace criminals, including a sharpshooter (Donald Sutherland), a safecracker (Warren Oates), a getaway driver (Jack Klugman), and some muscle (Ernest Borgnine). Things go haywire when a corrupt cop (Hackman) steals their take, with the blame going to Brown. As Roger Ebert pointed out, this was an early Hollywood film to "deliberately, overtly exploit black-white tensions in American society," but that's about the only noteworthy thing about it.

69. Zandy's Bride (1974)

You'd think the combination of Hackman and Jan Troell, the Oscar-nominated Swedish director of "The Emigrants" and "The New Land," would be a match made in Heaven. Unfortunately, the reviews of "Zandy's Bride" prove they should've split before committing to anything too permanent. Hackman plays Zandy Allan, a 19th-century cattle rancher who sends away for a mail-order bride (Liv Ullmann). It's not love Zandy's after, but rather an extra ranch hand. But wouldn't you know it, he ends up caring for his new bride after all, despite a total lack of chemistry.

68. A Covenant with Death (1967)

"A Covenant with Death" features Hackman in a small role during the same year that "Bonnie and Clyde" turned him into a star. Set in the 1920s on the Mexican border, it's a soapy movie about a Mexican-American judge (George Maharis) presiding over a murder trial. The defendant (Earl Holliman) is accused of killing his wife, but the judge has his doubts about the case and misgivings about capital punishment in general. Things are further complicated when Holliman inadvertently kills his executioner during his hanging. Hackman steals the otherwise dull, moralizing show as a slimy, smooth-talking lawyer working the case.

67. March or Die (1977)

Released right before films like "The Deer Hunter," "Coming Home," and "Apocalypse Now" began to examine the damaging effects of the Vietnam War, "March or Die" feels almost like a throwback in many respects. It's an old-fashioned military epic about the exploits of the French Foreign Legion in the 1920s, a sort of "Gunga Din" for the boomer generation. Hackman plays Major William Foster, whose unit is tasked with protecting a Saharan archeological dig overseen by a French curator (Max von Sydow). The discovery of a sacred burial site prompts a conflict with the Arab tribes.

66. The Hunting Party (1971)

As graphic violence became more prevalent in Hollywood films during the late 1960s-70s (thanks in large part to Hackman's "Bonnie and Clyde"), a new genre cropped up: the revenge movie. "The Hunting Party" is a lot like "Straw Dogs" in its depiction of a man driven to kill by violent actions visited upon his home. This time, it's Hackman as a cattle rancher who returns home to find out his wife (Candice Bergen) has been raped by a gang of outlaws led by Oliver Reed. He exacts his revenge one by one. Critics were savage in their massacring of the film, which holds a 20% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

65. Doctors' Wives

"Doctors' Wives" is about as lurid as melodrama gets, a sort of "General Hospital" for the big screen. Based on Frank Slaughter's novel, it tells several interlocking stories about well-to-do doctors and their wives, all of whom seem to be going through some kind of torrid affair. Hackman plays Dr. Dave Randolph, a psychiatrist whose frigid wife, Della (Rachel Roberts), was actually having an affair with Lorrie (Dyan Cannon), who was killed by her brain surgeon husband (John Colicos) while in bed with another man. The film was trashed by critics, landing it a D.O.A. 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

64. Split Decisions (1988)

Much like "Rocky IV," "Split Decisions" is a boxing drama in which vengeance is exacted in the ring. Instead of Rocky taking on the entire Soviet Union in the form of Ivan Drago to avenge the death of Apollo Creed, this conflict is more intimately focused. Hackman stars as Dan McGuinn, a boxing trainer preparing his son, Eddie (Craig Sheffer), to compete in the Olympics. When his other son (Jeff Fahey) is killed by Pedroza (Eddie Velez), a boxer with ties to organized crime, he sets the Olympics aside for a revenge match between Eddie and the murderer.

63. First to Fight (1967)

"First to Fight" is the kind of old-school war epic that was completely out of step with the anti-Vietnam War movement of the day. Set during World War II, it centers on a Guadalcanal veteran (Chad Everett) who's reluctant to accept plaudits when he returns home as a decorated hero. While training a batch of recruits, he suddenly feels a need to prove himself by returning to the front lines. Hackman has a small supporting role as Sgt. Tweed, and his scene-stealing charisma hints at the stardom he would achieve that same year with "Bonnie and Clyde."

62. The Domino Principle (1977)

Given Stanley Kramer's track record of acclaimed, Oscar-winning hits, it's easy to see why Hackman would want to team up with him. Unfortunately for Hackman, "The Domino Principle" isn't one of the socially conscious dramas ("Judgment at Nuremberg," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner") the director was famous for. It's a pulpy thriller without any pulpy fun, and one that critics responded to harshly. The premise: Hackman is a Vietnam War veteran imprisoned for murder who's offered a chance at a reduced sentence. All he has to do is kill someone, which he agrees to do after his wife (Candice Bergen) is kidnapped by the shady organization hiring him.

61. Full Moon in Blue Water (1988)

As Roger Ebert pointed out, "'Full Moon in Blue Water' is such a likable film in so many little ways that you want to forgive it for being so bad in so many big ones." There is some charm to Hackman's performance as the lonely proprietor of a rundown bar near the gulf coast of Texas. Mourning the disappearance of his wife, his heart finally starts to recover thanks to the arrival of a friendly bus driver (Teri Garr). There are enough melodramatic twists and turns here to fill an entire season of a daytime soap, weighing down the charm.

60. Riot (1969)

Produced by schlockmeister extraordinaire William Castle, "Riot" would be perfectly fine as the second half of a grindhouse double bill, but viewed on its own, it's a little thin. Directed by Buzz Kulik, it's about a group of violent prison inmates who stage a riot to distract the warden from their planned escape. Hackman plays the group's leader, Red Fraker, who clashes with a fellow prisoner (Jim Brown) who doesn't want to participate in the rumble for fear it might hurt his chances at parole. It's too bad the sparks between them fail to ignite the rest of the film.

59. Banning (1967)

Hackman's role in "Banning" is so small it could fit on a postage stamp, but no matter: the same year this was released, he turned into a superstar with "Bonnie and Clyde." Robert Wagner stars as Mike Banning, a down-on-his-luck pro golfer who takes on a job as an instructor at an exclusive country club. When he discovers the owner is his former rival, Jonathan Linus (Guy Stockwell), Banning uses his skills on the course to take him down, while also hustling money and seducing women. Hackman plays Tommy Del Gaddo, a rival pro golfer in cahoots with Banning's nemesis.

58. Wyatt Earp (1994)

The legend of Wyatt Earp has been committed to the screen almost as many times as the life of Christ. Lawrence Kasdan's 1994 version seeks to turn the life of the famous lawman (Kevin Costner) into an epic, from his childhood to his death, with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral happening somewhere amid its three-hour-plus runtime. Hackman plays Earp's father, Nicholas Earp, who instills in his son the values of honor, commitment, and family that would inform his life. Made with noble intentions, the film was met with a collective shrug by critics, who found it to be too slow and ponderous.

57. All Night Long (1981)

Hackman managed to escape from "All Night Long" unscathed, with the lion's share of critical scorn going to his co-star, Barbra Streisand (who earned a Razzie nomination for her performance). It's a wannabe romantic comedy about a middle-aged drug store manager (Hackman) whose son (Dennis Quaid) is having an affair with an older married woman (Streisand). Things get complicated when Hackman falls for Streisand himself, creating a love triangle completely devoid of any form of chemistry. Despite terrible reviews, Hackman did manage to place as a runner-up at the National Society of Film Critics for best actor.

56. Eureka (1983)

Hackman should've struck it rich teaming up with art house auteur Nicolas Roeg, but the two mined fool's gold with "Eureka." He plays Jack McCann, an Alaskan prospector who literally stumbles into wealth and retires to his own Caribbean island. Trouble arises when his daughter (Theresa Russell) falls in love with a scheming social climber (Rutger Hauer) as gangsters try to take control of his island. Critics savaged the film for its eccentric storytelling, which also includes hints of voodoo and the occult. Roger Ebert, however, gave it one of its few decent reviews, calling it "a strange, perverse film about passion and greed."

55. Behind Enemy Lines (2001)

Despite some flashy visuals and kinetic editing, there's not much that separates "Behind Enemy Lines" from any number of ra-ra patriotic war films that played on the second half of many double bills during the 1940s. Owen Wilson stars as Lieutenant Chris "Longhorn" Burnett, a Navy Pilot who gets shot down over enemy territory in Bosnia. His commanding officer, Rear Admiral Leslie McMahon Reigart (Hackman), goes against protocol to rescue Burnett from a variety of stock villains. Although it was a mild box office success, the film was a critical punching bag, with reviewers savaging its threadbare plot and video game aesthetics.

54. Misunderstood (1984)

Hackman and director Jerry Schatzberg created a minor masterpiece with 1973's "Scarecrow," so it makes sense the two would reunite at some point. Unfortunately, "Misunderstood" is simply minor at best, and far from a masterpiece. The film centers on an American businessman (Hackman) living in Tunisia with his two sons, Andrew (Henry Thomas) and Miles (Huckleberry Fox). When his wife suddenly dies, he tries to hide the news from the younger Miles while giving more responsibility to the older Andrew. Despite the all-star cast (including Thomas fresh off his success in "E.T."), the film failed to register with audiences.

53. The Replacements (2000)

Although Hackman scored one of his biggest hits with the basketball drama "Hoosiers," "The Replacements" proves that not all sports movies are created alike. Loosely inspired by the 1987 NFL strike, it centers on a fictional football team that brings in replacement players to fill out the rest of the season, including Keanu Reeves as the quarterback. Hackman plays Jimmy McGinty, a veteran coach tasked with whipping this band of misfits into shape. Despite an inspired premise, there's not much here to distinguish this from any number of sports movies, as reflected in its middling response from critics.

52. Geronimo: An American Legend (1993)

After winning an Oscar for "Unforgiven," Hackman starred in a string of revisionist Westerns that examined the mythos of that classic genre. "Geronimo: An American Legend" is unique in its focus on the Native American perspective, telling the true story of an Apache chief (Wes Studi) who led a rebellion against the white settlers who took his tribe's land. Hackman co-stars as Brigadier General George Crook, who hopes to squash Geronimo's uprising by sending in the U.S. Cavalry. Although reviews were mixed, the film deserves special recognition for its humane exploration of a Native American hero. (Fun fact: this film pairs Hackman up with his old roommate, Robert Duvall; the pair famously lived with Dustin Hoffman when all three were struggling actors.)

51. Under Suspicion (2000)

For a film starring acting heavyweights Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, "Under Suspicion" is surprisingly nonexistent. That's not to say it's bad, although many of its reviews were (it currently holds a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). It's just kind of forgettable, despite having some pretty lurid subject matter. Hackman plays a wealthy tax attorney brought in for questioning about a dead girl he found in a park. Although it's initially supposed to take just 10 minutes, he's kept longer by the investigating officers (Freeman and Thomas Jane) as holes start to pop up in his story.

50. Power (1986)

Throughout his 50-year career in filmmaking, Sidney Lumet had a strong track record of directing critically acclaimed hits that brought actors Oscar nominations (and sometimes wins). Not all of the 43 films he helmed were classics, however, and unfortunately for Hackman, "Power" was one of Lumet's rare misses. It's a star-studded indictment of political corruption, focusing on a ladder-climbing consultant (Richard Gere) mired in a web of lies and deceit. Hackman co-stars as Gere's former business partner, who's appalled by the lengths he'll go to in order to succeed. "Power" has all the ingredients to be a masterpiece, but as critics pointed out, it often falls short of its own ambitions.

49. The Mexican (2001)

Audiences who bought a ticket to see Gore Verbinski's "The Mexican" based on the promise that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts were going to be on screen together were sorely disappointed to see them kept apart for most of the movie's runtime. Critics were mixed as well on this action comedy about an ordinary man (Pitt) forced into the service of a mob boss (Hackman) after he accidentally crashes into his car. Hackman tasks Pitt with traveling to Mexico to retrieve an antique gun known as "the Mexican," much to the consternation of his girlfriend (Roberts), who's fed up with his antics.

48. Heartbreakers (2001)

Although critical response to David Mirkin's "Heartbreakers" was mixed overall, there was no criticizing Hackman's performance, which Roger Ebert likened to the famously curmudgeonly comedian W.C. Fields. It's a pitch-black comedy about a mother-daughter con artist team (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt) who target wealthy men: mother marries them, daughter seduces them on their wedding night, and the two run off with the divorce settlement. Their plan hits a snag when Weaver sets her sights on an odious tobacco baron (Hackman) who believes that all people — including children — should have a cigarette dangling from their mouths.

47. Extreme Measures (1996)

"Extreme Measures" is the kind of salacious movie title that could apply to any number of genres, from legal dramas to erotic thrillers. Perhaps that lack of clarity about its subject (coupled with tepid reviews) led to its disappointing $17 million box office haul. Directed by Michael Apted, it stars Hugh Grant as an emergency room doctor who treats a homeless man with strange symptoms. When the patient and all his medical files disappear, Grant does some digging and gradually starts to suspect that the hospital's respected neurosurgeon (Hackman) is performing experiments on homeless people in an attempt to cure paralysis.

46. Cisco Pike (1971)

Between his Oscar-winning roles in "The French Connection" and "Unforgiven," Hackman carved out a comfortable niche for himself playing lawmen who straddle the line between good and bad. He's firmly on the bad side in "Cisco Pike," playing a corrupt police officer who blackmails an ex-con rock star (Kris Kristofferson) into selling 100 kilos of marijuana. As Roger Ebert wrote, the film is "far from a masterpiece, but it has a nice hang-loose texture to it, and a group of good performances." In other words, it's a perfect minor 1970s anti-authoritarian piece of entertainment. 

45. The Gypsy Moths (1969)

Hackman teamed up with legendary director John Frankenheimer for this sturdy auctioneer, which falls somewhere in the middle of both their careers, critically speaking: it's nowhere near the heights of their best works, but it's also nowhere near the worst for either of them. "The Gypsy Moths" is the story of three professional skydivers: leader Burt Lancaster, daredevil Hackman, and rookie Scott Wilson. While in Kansas, the team stays at the home of Wilson's aunt (Deborah Kerr) and uncle (William Windom), and a love affair sparks between Lancaster and Kerr reminiscent of their famous romance in "From Here to Eternity."

44. Absolute Power (1997)

Hackman won his second Oscar under the direction of Clint Eastwood, so it's little wonder the two would reunite at some point. Although it failed to receive the same level of critical praise as "Unforgiven," "Absolute Power" is a good channel-surfing movie for a Sunday afternoon. Eastwood stars as a professional thief who witnesses a romantic tryst between a married woman (Melora Hardin) and the United States President (Hackman) while robbing a millionaire's home. When things turn violent, two Secret Service agents murder the woman, and the crime is pinned on Eastwood. It's up to Clint to clear his name and take down the President before it's too late.

43. Narrow Margin (1990)

The 1952 noir quickie "The Narrow Margin" isn't exactly a sacred text, but that didn't stop some critics from decrying director Peter Hyams for attempting a remake (although some did like it). The bare bones of the plot are more or less the same: a Los Angeles District Attorney (Hackman) is accompanying a murder witness (Anne Archer) from Canada back to the United States, where she's set to testify against the Mafia. Hackman has to break out the combat training he picked up in Vietnam when he learns that the train they're traveling on is swimming with hitmen out to get Archer.

42. The Quick and the Dead (1995)

Three years after his Oscar win for "Unforgiven," Hackman saddled up for another revisionist Western, albeit a more rambunctiously comedic one. Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead" centers on Ellen, aka "The Lady" (Sharon Stone), a gunslinger who rides into the Old West town of Redemption seeking revenge against her father's killer, the evil mayor John Herod (Hackman). She challenges Herod in his yearly quick-draw contest, where the goal is to be the last man (or woman) standing. Reviews were sharply divided, with some critics hailing Raimi's energetic style and others panning its threadbare narrative.

41. Uncommon Valor (1983)

You could almost think of "Uncommon Valor" as a more emotionally engaging "Behind Enemy Lines," since both center on Hackman's efforts to rescue a fallen soldier in hostile territory. In this film, he plays a former Marine who holds out hope that his son is still alive 10 years after he went missing while serving in Vietnam. He decides to take matters into his own hands, assembling a team of soldiers to track through the jungles of Laos and find him. While most critics praised Hackman's poignant performance, others were disappointed by its routine storytelling, leading to a mixed reception.

40. Twilight (1998)

No, Hackman didn't star in that "Twilight" film. This Robert Benton-directed neo-noir has nothing to do with vampires and everything to do with the winding down of life. Paul Newman stars as Harry Ross, a retired private detective living on the grounds of a massive estate owned by his lifelong friends, fading movie stars Jack (Hackman) and Catherine Ames (Susan Sarandon). Dying of cancer, Jack asks Harry to come out of retirement to help with one last assignment that opens old wounds for everyone. Though there's no faulting the performances, some critics did take issue with the film's sluggish pace and melodramatic plotting.

39. Marooned (1969)

Before there was "Apollo 13," there was "Marooned," which eerily predicted some of the fateful events that would inspire Ron Howard's 1995 Oscar winner. Although it's not nearly the classic that film is, it's still an entertaining yarn that capitalized on increased interest in the space race (it was released just four months after the 1969 moon landing). Directed by sturdy Hollywood craftsman John Sturges, it centers on three astronauts (Hackman, Richard Crenna, and James Franciscus) who get stranded in space on their return flight. It's up to NASA (headed by Gregory Peck) to bring the men home before their oxygen runs out.

38. The Package (1989)

"The Package" is the gold standard for dad cinema, meaning it's the perfect movie to watch with your old man over the weekend. Directed by action master Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive"), it stars Hackman as Johnny Gallagher, a former Green Beret tasked with transporting a prisoner, Airborne Ranger Thomas Boyette (Tommy Lee Jones), from West Berlin to the U.S. for a court-martial. When Boyette escapes, Gallagher enlists his ex-wife (Joanna Cassidy), a former servicewoman, to help track him down. Roger Ebert called it "smarter than most contemporary thrillers," and most critics agreed.

37. A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Richard Attenborough's "A Bridge Too Far" hopes to be an epic reminiscent of David Lean, but as critics at the time pointed out, the film's narrative falls short of Lean's best work, ultimately buckling under the weight of its massive scope. That's not to say it isn't watchable, even at a lumbering three-hour runtime. It's an action-packed, all-star World War II drama about the Allied attempts to weaken the German offense by capturing several strategically important bridges in the Netherlands. Hackman co-stars as Maj. Gen. Stanisław Sosabowski, a Brigadier Commander in the Polish Armed Forces.

36. Hawaii (1966)

Hackman made one of his earliest screen appearances in this molasses-slow epic, one of the last gasps of the classic studio filmmaking that would go out of fashion when the New Hollywood came roaring in with Hackman's own "Bonnie and Clyde." Set in the 1820s, it centers on a minister (Max von Sydow) and his wife (Julie Andrews) who travel to Hawaii to spread Christianity to the natives. Hackman plays Dr. John Whipple, who travels with the couple to the island. Although some critics trashed it, others found it to be watchable enough, and the film did receive seven Oscar nominations.

35. Lilith (1964)

Hackman made his big-screen debut in "Lilith," and if nothing else, you have to thank this film for introducing him to Warren Beatty, who would later cast him as his brother in "Bonnie and Clyde." Produced during the psychoanalysis boom of the 1960s, it's the story of a war veteran turned therapist (Beatty) who finds work in a sanitarium and falls in love with one of his patients: the beautiful, unstable Lilith (Jean Seberg). Things get complicated when another patient (Peter Fonda) falls in love with her as well. Hackman has a small role as Norman, who's having marital problems with his wife (Jessica Walter). Even with his limited screen time, it's no wonder he became a major star just three years later.

34. Target (1985)

Hackman gave two of his best performances under the guidance of director Arthur Penn, first in "Bonnie and Clyde" and again in "Night Moves." Although "Target" received nowhere near the amount of critical acclaim that was awarded to their previous collaborations, it's still a fantastic showcase for the actor. He plays Walter, an American businessman at odds with his daredevil son, Chris (Matt Dillon). When Walter's wife, Donna (Gayle Hunnicutt), goes missing while in Europe, he travels abroad with his son to find her, and Chris is surprised to find out that his conservative father is actually a former CIA agent.

33. Reds (1981)

Warren Beatty called in a ton of favors when he was bringing "Reds" to the screen, especially when it came to filling out its massive cast. It's a sprawling biopic about American journalist John Reed (Beatty), who chronicled the Communist Revolution in Russia with his romantic partner, writer and suffragette Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). Beatty assembled an all-star cast to play the many historical figures Reed encounters throughout his journey, including Hackman in a cameo as fellow journalist Pete Van Wherry. Critics hailed the film for its epic scope and intelligent storytelling. It was nominated for 12 Oscars and won three, including best director for Beatty.

32. Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Hackman was famously fired from "The Graduate" during rehearsals, as director Mike Nichols thought he was too young to play Mr. Robinson (probably making things awkward with his former roommate, Dustin Hoffman). The two eventually patched things up and even worked together a couple of times, with Hackman making a small appearance in Nichols' Hollywood satire. Written by Carrie Fisher, it's a thinly veiled tell-all about the actress' struggles with substance abuse and her feud with her famous mother, Debbie Reynolds, with Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine portraying the daughter and mother, respectively. Hackman plays a paternalistic director who offers Streep more work if she can clean up her act.

31. Another Woman (1988)

Hackman only worked with Woody Allen once during his long career, and not in one of the director's famous comedies. "Another Woman" is one of many cinematic odes Allen made to his hero, Ingmar Bergman, a deeply serious drama without a single joke or gag. Gena Rowlands stars as a philosophy professor who rents an apartment next to a psychiatrist's office so she can finish her new book. She soon overhears the therapist's sessions with a pregnant patient (Mia Farrow), and those conversations cause Rowlands to re-evaluate her relationship with her husband (Ian Holm) and her lost love with his best friend (Hackman).

30. Heist (2001)

For fans of David Mamet, "Heist" is cinematic heaven, a crackerjack crime thriller with the kind of streetsmart dialogue and twisty narrative that have made the writer-director famous. It's also a performance showcase for its A-list cast, led by Hackman as a professional jewel thief who has to retire after his face is caught on security camera footage during a robbery. His plans to sail off into the sunset with his young wife (Rebecca Pidgeon) don't sit well with his handler (Danny DeVito), who pulls him back in for another job and insists he add his nephew (Sam Rockwell) to his crew (which also includes Delroy Lindo and Ricky Jay). Read no more if you haven't seen the film, which is filled with surprises.

29. Class Action (1991)

"Class Action" is one of those legal dramas with a premise so ludicrous you'd almost expect it to be a network television pilot. Yet the majority of critics were won over by director Michael Apted's intelligent handling of potentially melodramatic material. The premise: Hackman is a liberal civil rights attorney long estranged from his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) over his many infidelities. They're brought back together in an unexpected way when Mastrantonio, now a ladder-climbing corporate lawyer, is hired to defend an auto manufacturer in a wrongful injury suit against her father, who is representing the injured plaintiff.

28. Bite the Bullet (1975)

If there was one place Hackman was comfortable, it was the saddle. The actor starred in a number of Westerns throughout his career, including this sturdy adventure flick from Old Hollywood journeyman Richard Brooks. Set in the early 1900s and based on actual events, "Bite the Bullet" recounts a grueling 700-mile horse race across the desert. The journey is undertaken by a ragtag group of horsemen (and horsewomen), including a pair of ex-Rough Riders (Hackman and James Coburn), an aging cowboy (Ben Johnson), a gunslinger (Jan-Michael Vincent), an English gentleman (Ian Bannen), and a former prostitute (Candice Bergen).

27. Runaway Jury (2003)

Hackman starred in one of the worst John Grisham movie adaptations ("The Chamber") and two of the best (more on the second one later). "Runaway Jury" is also notable for being the only cinematic collaboration between Hackman and his former roommate, Dustin Hoffman (although they came close with "The Graduate"). Directed by Gary Fleder, it's a meat-and-potatoes movie about a lawyer (Hoffman) taking on a corrupt jury consultant (Hackman) over a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer. Hackman has stacked the jury in favor of the defense, until he realizes that one of the jurors (John Cusack) and his girlfriend (Rachel Weisz) have different plans for the verdict.

26. The Firm (1993)

"The Firm" was the first movie adaptation of a John Grisham novel released in theaters, kicking off a series of legal thrillers that dominated the box office throughout the '90s and early 2000s. It was also the first of three Grisham adaptations Hackman starred in, making him a key player in the GCU (Grisham Cinematic Universe). Directed by Sydney Pollack, it's a lively potboiler about a young attorney (Tom Cruise) who joins a prestigious law firm and uncovers its shady dealings. Hackman brings an avuncular charm to the role of Avery Tolar, a seasoned lawyer who acts as a mentor to Cruise at the firm.

25. Bat*21 (1988)

Before he rescued Owen Wilson in "Behind Enemy Lines," Hackman had to save his own tail in "Bat*21." In the last days of the Vietnam War, Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton (Hackman) is shot down in hostile territory, all on his own. His only contact with the outside world is with Captain Bartholomew "Bird-Dog" Clark (Danny Glover), who helps him plot an escape route via radio. Critics were generally positive about this old-fashioned survival flick, with Roger Ebert calling it "the kind of lean, no-nonsense war film Hollywood used to make back before the subject became burdened with metaphysical insights."

24. French Connection II (1975)

"French Connection II" fails to match the thematic complexities of its Oscar-winning predecessor, but as directed by John Frankenheimer, it's still action-packed entertainment. Plus, in all fairness, the original "French Connection" is a tough act to follow. Hackman reprises his role as narcotics detective Popeye Doyle, who's still hot on the trail of drug trafficker Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). His search takes him from the streets of New York to Marseilles, France, where Charnier's men get him hooked on the very heroin he's trying to root out. Although critical praise wasn't nearly as unanimous, Hackman did earn best actor nominations from BAFTA and the Golden Globes for his performance.

23. Twice in a Lifetime (1985)

Hackman earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Bud Yorkin's intimate domestic drama. "Twice in a Lifetime" is a small-scale story about a middle-aged factory worker (Hackman) who, on his 50th birthday, falls in love with a barmaid (Ann-Margret) at his favorite tavern. He shocks his wife (Ellen Burstyn) and daughters (Amy Madigan and Ally Sheedy) by asking for a divorce, and that's when the film forgoes sitcom conventions and instead unfolds in surprising and unexpected ways. Reviews were generally positive for the film, which got an Oscar nomination for Madigan as best supporting actress.

22. Superman II

Despite a troubled production that saw the replacement of director Richard Donner with Richard Lester (the 2006 "Richard Donner Cut" was the Snyder Cut of its day), "Superman II" is a worthy successor to the 1978 franchise starter. Christopher Reeve dons the cape yet again to play the Man of Steel, who has forsaken his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Unfortunately, a nuclear bomb he hurled into space inadvertently released the evil General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his Kryptonian henchmen from prison, and they're on their way to Earth. Hackman returns as Lex Luthor, who has also escaped from prison and is giving his arch-nemesis a tough time in his retirement. (Well, sort of returns, since Hackman refused to complete filming when Donner was fired out of loyalty to the director; his remaining scenes were shot with a stand-in and voice doubles.)

21. Enemy of the State (1998)

Hackman reunited with "Crimson Tide" director Tony Scott for this high-octane espionage thriller that has remained surprisingly relevant since its 1998 release. Will Smith stars as a labor lawyer who comes into possession of a videotape tying a politically motivated murder on the corrupt head of the National Security Agency (Jon Voight). Voight sics the NSA on Smith, framing him for the murder. Hackman co-stars as an ex-intelligence agent helping him evade capture while trying to clear his name. Critics praised "Enemy of the State" for its mixture of action and suspense, likening its surveillance paranoia to another Hackman film, "The Conversation."

20. Prime Cut (1972)

"Prime Cut" is typical of the kind of nose-thumbing, anti-establishment flicks that dominated movie theaters in the 1970s. Although some critics at the time dinged it for its brutal violence and sexuality, it's been reappraised in recent years as a minor classic from the era. Hackman chews the scenery in a villainous role as a Kansas slaughterhouse owner who also dabbles in drugs and prostitution. When his family feud with a Chicago crime syndicate escalates, a mob enforcer (Lee Marvin) is dispatched to straighten things out. Violence permeates the film, from graphic depictions of meat slaughtering to a bravura chase sequence in a field with a combine harvester, making for a (pun-intended) raw cinematic experience.

19. Scarecrow (1973)

The New Hollywood of the late 1960s-'70s was so richly creative that even films that were dismissed as minor in their time have been rediscovered as classics. Such is the case with Jerry Schatzberg's "Scarecrow," which was a modest critical success when it was released in 1973 and has only grown in stature since then. It's a gritty little drama about a pair of drifters — ex-con Max (Hackman) and homeless sailor Lion (Al Pacino) — who hit the road from California to Pittsburgh in the hopes of starting a business. While on the way, they stop off in Detroit so Lion can finally meet the child he left behind. There's not much in the way of plot, but you don't really need it to enjoy watching two titans of acting play off each other as Hackman and Pacino do here.

18. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Although the 1970s are remembered as a golden age for artistically daring films, it was also a great period for high-quality junk, typified by the disaster movies that earned hefty box office receipts throughout the decade. "The Poseidon Adventure" is one of the very best in the genre of films that placed an all-star cast in a perilous situation, be it an airplane crash ("Airport"), a raging building fire ("The Towering Inferno"), or an earthquake (er, "Earthquake"). This time it's a luxury ocean liner that flips upside down, causing nine passengers to race to the bottom in order to get out on top. Hackman stars as their leader, a fiery reverend who inspires them to persevere. The premise may be absurd, but that didn't stop critics (and even Oscar voters, who awarded it two wins and seven nominations) from lapping this up.

17. Downhill Racer (1969)

Hackman had a major supporting role in director Michael Ritchie's feature debut, which earned critical raves when it was first released and has only grown in stature since then. "Downhill Racer" stars a young Robert Redford as David Chappellet, a hotshot skier who joins an American Olympic team led by coach Eugene Claire (Hackman). Chappellet's arrogant behavior puts him at odds with the team and his coach, and a rivalry eventually sparks between him and an expert skier (Jim McMullan). Ritchie's visceral direction puts audiences on the slopes right alongside Redford, but it's the performances that really help this one win the gold.

16. Under Fire (1983)

Hackman earned a Golden Globe nomination for his juicy supporting turn in Roger Spottiswoode's political thriller. "Under Fire" centers on a trio of journalists covering the fall of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua: photographer Russell Price (Nick Nolte), TV reporter Alex Grazier (Hackman), and radio reporter Claire (Joanna Cassidy). A love triangle develops between the three, set against the backdrop of political intrigue, guerrilla warfare, and questions of journalistic integrity. Reviews for the film were outstanding, with critics like Roger Ebert declaring it "one of the year's best films." Jerry Goldsmith received an Oscar nomination for his score, which was later re-used by Quentin Tarantino for a scene in "Django Unchained."

15. Young Frankenstein (1974)

Though he only has a few minutes of screen time, Hackman is a comedic highlight of Mel Brooks' horror spoof. "Young Frankenstein" takes aim at the classic Universal monster movies, parodying the moody, gothic atmosphere of James Whales' "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" with love and admiration. Gene Wilder stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who inherits his famous grandfather's Transylvanian estate and tries to replicate his attempts to bring life back from the dead. His creation, The Monster (Peter Boyle), escapes and finds refuge in the home of a blind hermit (Hackman), whose endeavors to forge a friendship go hysterically wrong.

14. No Way Out (1987)

One of the best of the '80s neo-noirs — movies with the classic trappings of film noir infused with modern-day sex and violence — "No Way Out" also features Hackman at his villainous best. Directed by Roger Donaldson, it stars Kevin Costner as a Navy Lieutenant who has an affair with a beautiful young woman (Sean Young), only to find out his direct superior, the U.S. Defense Secretary (Hackman), is also romantically involved with her. When the woman turns up dead, Costner is assigned to solve her murder, and soon finds himself the unwitting center of the investigation when Hackman tries to shift suspicion away from himself.

13. I Never Sang for My Father (1970)

Although you don't hear much about it these days, "I Never Sang for My Father" is actually one of Hackman's most revered films, with a certified fresh 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Adapted by Robert Anderson from his own Broadway play, it's an intimate family drama about a college professor (Hackman) living in the shadows of his father (Melvyn Douglas). Hackman hopes to marry his girlfriend (Elizabeth Hubbard) and move to California, but when his mother dies, he worries about abandoning his dad, whose declining mental state and physical health require constant care. Hackman earned an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor for his sensitive performance.

12. The Birdcage (1996)

In remaking the French farce "La Cage aux Folles" for American audiences, director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Elaine May avoided turning their outlandish characters into offensive stereotypes, creating representations of gay characters that remain vitally important today. Robin Williams stars as Armand, owner of a gay cabaret who's married to his main attraction, drag queen Albert (Nathan Lane). Armand's son (Dan Futterman) is engaged to his girlfriend (Calista Flockhart), but worries how her father, a conservative Republican Senator (Hackman) mired in scandal, will react to meeting his two dads. Armand agrees to host the Senator and his wife (Dianne Wiest) for dinner, putting his lifestyle back in the closet for one night. But Albert refuses to stay hidden, leading to a hilarious comedy of errors. The critically acclaimed film, which won the SAG Ensemble prize and earned an Oscar nomination for best art direction, has become an audience favorite over the years, with its reputation far outlasting that of its famous predecessor.

11. Superman (1978)

Filmed on a massive scale with A-list stars and state-of-the-art (for the time) special effects, Richard Donner's "Superman" paved the way for the big-budget superhero films that would later dominate the 21st century. Christopher Reeve stars as Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter who suddenly realizes he's blessed with superhuman powers. As Superman, he tries to defeat the villainous Lex Luthor (a scenery-chewing Hackman) while romancing Kent's fellow reporter, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). Audiences and critics alike hailed the film's mix of grand spectacle and nuanced storytelling, making it both one of the year's highest grossers and a multi-Oscar nominee (it won a special achievement award for its groundbreaking special effects).

10. Mississippi Burning (1988)

Although critical evaluation of it has changed over the years, there's no denying the power of "Mississippi Burning," both as a politically charged thriller and as a performance showcase for Hackman. Directed by Alan Parker, it's loosely based on the true story of three Civil Rights workers who were murdered in deep-South Mississippi, seen through the eyes of the two FBI agents (Hackman and Willem Dafoe) investigating their disappearance. Though reviews at the time were largely positive, modern-day reviewers have criticized its lack of a Black perspective. Yet there's no faulting the atmospheric, tightly wound filmmaking, nor Hackman's performance, which earned one of the film's seven Oscar nominations. Playing a native southerner who often schools his young partner in the ways of the Mississippians who disgust him, the actor moves gracefully between good old boy charm and simmering rage, keeping the audience on their toes with each passing scene.

9. Crimson Tide (1995)

Two titans of acting collide in Tony Scott's "Crimson Tide," a tightly wound thriller. On one side, you have Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsay, commanding officer of a U.S. nuclear missile submarine eager to attack a Russian warhead before they can strike first. On the other side, you have Denzel Washington as Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter, Ramsay's second in command, who fears his captain has gone off the deep end and plots a mutiny against him. Reviewers praised both Scott's handling of the action and the performances by Hackman and Washington, with critics like Roger Ebert saying, "Oddly enough, 'Crimson Tide' develops into an actors' picture, not just an action movie." And what an actors' picture it is!

8. Night Moves (1975)

A modest critical success in its day, "Night Moves" has been rediscovered as a minor masterpiece of the 1970s, featuring one of Hackman's very best performances. He reunites with his "Bonnie and Clyde" director Arthur Penn to play Harry Moseby, a Los Angeles private detective in the midst of a messy breakup from his wife (Susan Clark). He throws himself headfirst into work, taking on a case from an aging actress (Janet Ward) trying to find her runaway daughter (Melanie Griffith). He tracks her to the Florida Keys, where she's hiding out with her stepfather (John Crawford) and his girlfriend (Jennifer Warren). And that's when things get really complicated. Hackman earned a BAFTA nomination for his performance, which imbues the standard noir detective with his typical easy-going charm.

7. Get Shorty (1995)

While previous Elmore Leonard adaptations focused mainly on plot mechanics, Barry Sonnenfeld's "Get Shorty" finds its strength from the musicality of the author's dialogue, which finds its rhythms from the vernacular of lowlifes and scumbags. John Travolta stars as Chili Palmer, a Miami mobster sent to Hollywood by his boss (Dennis Farina) to collect a debt from grade-Z horror movie producer Harry Zimm (a scene-stealing Hackman). Rather than shake Harry down for money, Chili decides to use him as a way to get into the movie business, romancing his leading lady (Rene Russo) in the process. Critical praise for the film was near-unanimous, and its formula of faithfully capturing Leonard's lyrical arias found further success in cinematic adaptations like Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" and Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight."

6. Hoosiers (1986)

As far as inspirational sports movies go, "Hoosiers" sets the gold standard for what can be achieved in a genre that's often riddled with cliches and hokum. That's thanks largely to Hackman's performance, which avoids the usual stereotypes his character could fall into. He plays Norman Dale, a disgraced college basketball coach who's offered a chance at redemption in the form of coaching an underdog high school team in small-town Indiana. With the help of the town drunk (Dennis Hopper, who earned an Oscar nomination for the role), he whips the team into shape and saves his own soul in the process. The film certainly follows a formula, but as critics pointed out at the time, it does it so well you can't help but cheer by the end.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

It's truly shocking that Hackman wasn't nominated for an Oscar for "The Royal Tenenbaums," not just because of the amount of precursor wins and bids he picked up along the way, but because of how integral he is to the film's lasting impact. As the wily Royal Tenenbaum, Hackman effortlessly walks the line between abhorrent behavior and rascally charm. Having walked out on his family years ago, Royal tries to reconnect with his wife (Anjelica Huston) and their three gifted yet deeply damaged children (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Luke Wilson). Though it's rough going at first, the entire Tenenbaum clan is eventually won over by his freewheeling antics, and so are we. It remains the very best and most memorable performance in any Wes Anderson film, and that's saying a lot.

4. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

"Bonnie and Clyde" not only launched Hackman's career, but also completely rewrote the rules for Hollywood filmmaking. Influenced by the more mature, experimental storytelling coming out of European cinema (particularly the French New Wave), it recounts the legendary story of Depression-era bank robbers Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway). Hackman plays Clyde's sensible older brother, Buck, who joins their crime spree with his wife, Blanche (Estelle Parsons), whose hysteria drives Bonnie crazy. "Bonnie and Clyde" sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood with its graphic violence and frank sexuality. Paired with "The Graduate" the same year (which Hackman almost starred in), it paved the way for more movies that spoke to the growing counterculture, forever closing the door on the Old Hollywood studio system. The film earned 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Hackman as best supporting actor, winning two (supporting actress for Parsons and cinematography).

3. Unforgiven (1992)

Hackman won his second Oscar for Clint Eastwood's revisionist Western, which implicates both heroes and villains in the violence of the Old West. Eastwood directs and stars as Bill Munny, a retired gunslinger who left his killing ways behind to raise a family. He's dragged back into one more job when a prostitute is horribly disfigured by a pair of bandits. Will rides into the town of Big Whiskey with his partners, Ned (Morgan Freeman) and the Scofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), where they're greeted by sheriff Little Bill Daggert (Hackman), who in many ways is more sociopathically violent than the career killers. Hackman is ruthless in his performance, which creates a complex character out of a tired cliché. In addition to his supporting actor win, the film also took home trophies for best picture, best director, and best film editing.

2. The Conversation (1974)

Released right before the Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign from office, Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" brilliantly captures the paranoia and unease coursing through the 1970s American psyche. Hackman is at his best as Harry Caul, a surveillance expert spying on a young couple (Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams). When reviewing the tapes, he hears a cryptic conversation that hints at possible violence headed the couple's way. But Coppola is interested in more than just standard thriller stuff: rather, "The Conversation" is more a character study about a man struggling between the duties of his job and his conscience. Hackman is riveting throughout as a mild-mannered man who slowly unravels as he's pushed to the brink. It's a performance that brought him best actor nominations at the Golden Globes and BAFTA, though not, surprisingly, at the Oscars, despite the film landing three bids, including best picture.

1. The French Connection (1971)

Choosing the best film out of a career as long and rich as Hackman's can be a fool's errand, but if you had to pick one performance the actor will always be remembered for, it's that of Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection." Based in part on a true story, William Friedkin's tightly wound police thriller broke new ground not just for its gritty, documentary-esque approach, but for its complex, nuanced take on the hero archetype. Popeye Doyle, an NYPD narcotics officer hunting down a French heroin dealer (Fernando Rey), is indicative of the kind of antiheroes '70s filmmaking explored: casually racist, prone to violence, yet determined to do the right thing. It's a high-wire act that only an actor as capable as Hackman can pull off. There's not a wasted moment in "The French Connection," which features the greatest car chase ever committed to film. (Don't believe us? Watch it.) It's little wonder it won five Oscars, including best picture, best director, and best actor for Hackman, who returned for the 1975 sequel "French Connection II."