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Every Steve McQueen Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Actor Steve McQueen, one of Hollywood's first and still best action stars, roared onto the scene in the late 1950s with rugged good looks, piercing blue eyes, and a mix of grizzled toughness and dashing charm that could make a nun blush. Always at his best when he was playing cold-hearted rebels, reckless free spirits, and arrogant tough guys, he was the star of some of his era's most memorable films, from war dramas to Westerns. He was no stranger to controversy either, with his public affair with Ali McGraw and his behind-the-scenes feud with superstar Paul Newman, which only seemed to enhance his bad boy image.

From his earliest films — classic monster movies and forgotten gangster flicks — all the way to his most famous thrillers and legendary actioneers, his talent and on-screen presence were unmatched. But later in his career, looking to get away from his image as an action hero, he branched out into some more serious dramas. Tragically though, his career was cut all too short after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 1980 (via Biography). Despite last ditch efforts to prolong his life that sent him to Mexico for risky procedures, McQueen lost his battle shortly after the release of his final film, "The Hunter."

With his catalog spanning more than two decades, let's look back at every film in Steve McQueen's career, and rank them from worst to best. 

26. The Hunter

It's unfortunate that actor Steve McQueen had to end his career on a low note, as the worst film would also wind up being his final appearance on screen. Released just months before his tragic death at the age of 50, "The Hunter" starred McQueen and was based on the travails of real-life bounty hunter Ralph "Papa" Thorson. Adapted from a book about his life, the film recounts several bounty adventures, as Papa apprehends a pair of fugitives in Illinois who he returns to Los Angeles. It follows his troubled relationship with his girlfriend Dottie, a teacher whose pregnancy creates conflict between them.

But Papa's life becomes a nightmare when Dottie is targeted by a dangerous ex-con named Rocco Mason, one of Papa's previous assignments. Though there's plenty of fast-paced thrills and spills in the picture, it was heavily criticized for a laughable series of set pieces, a complete lack of story logic, and a ton of unrealized potential. An action movie starring one of the previous decade's biggest action stars might sound like a recipe for success, but McQueen is utterly wasted with an incomprehensible script that fails to show off his strengths. Roger Ebert predicted the film could kill McQueen's career, and sadly, it would indeed prove his last after his terminal cancer diagnosis that same year.

25. Never So Few

In a supporting role, Steve McQueen co-starred in "Never So Few" alongside a broad ensemble cast that included Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lawford, and Charles Bronson. Sinatra takes the lead role as Captain Tom Reynolds, a U.S. intelligence operative stationed in the Eastern front during World War II. Along with a British unit, Reynolds is there to help local revolutionaries in the region that borders China in their fight against the Japanese advance. McQueen plays Reynolds's right hand man, a resourceful and loyal corporal named Bill Ringa.

While Reynolds and much of the company leave the area to spend time away from the front, he proceeds to woo a young woman named Carla (Lollabrigida), girlfriend of a local merchant. When they, return however, they find that their camp has attacked and raided by a unit of renegade Chinese soldiers looking to protect their territory from incursion. A middling feature, it has some nice battle scenes and decent performances, but is held back by a weak romantic subplot. 

McQueen impressed, though, and it turned out to be an important film in his career. He was added to the film following a falling out between Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., who had originally been slated to play the role of Ringa. As it turns out, the film's director John Sturges would go on to cast McQueen in his next film, "The Magnificent Seven."

24. The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery

Filmed on location in the town where it occurred, "The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery" is based on the daring real-life attempted heist that took place just six years before its release. Steve McQueen stars in the film as George Fowler, a failed college student who is recruited by mob boss John Egan to serve as his getaway driver in a bold plan to rob St. Louis' Southwest Bank. One of the crew, a man named Gino, enlists the aid of Fowler, his sister Ann's ex-boyfriend, as Egan dreams of using the score to flee to Mexico and enjoy his retirement.

But when George reconnects with Ann, she discovers what he and her brother are planning, and tries to stop them from going through with this. This puts her on the wrong end of Egan, a fowl thug who harbors a deep hatred of women thanks to his abusive mother, and he makes sure that Ann cannot intervene. But when George is forced to be more than just a getaway man, he must confront the truth about the terrible person he has now become. It's a fresh take on a time-honored premise, but its slow pace for what should have been an exciting heist film knocks it down a few notches. Still, it's a worthwhile film for McQueen alone, who impresses in an early career role.

23. Baby the Rain Must Fall

A dark drama from 1965, "Baby the Rain Must Fall" tells the story of Georgette Thomas (Lee Remick), a young single mother who returns to Tyler, Texas to reunite with her daughter's father Henry (Steve McQueen). Recently released from prison, Henry has lived a troubled life and continues to be haunted by his difficult youth. Now a struggling musician, he dreams of being a star, while Kate — the overbearing woman who raised him — threatens to make his life hell if he doesn't settle down and find a real job. She also does whatever she can to stop him from building a life with Georgette and his newly discovered daughter, who she views as a roadblock for him ever living a "normal" life.

But when Kate dies, Henry snaps, and is back in trouble with the law. Can Georgette bring him back to reality, and make the three of them a family? Or is Henry doomed to a life of poverty and crime? A compelling story with some intriguing developments, "Baby The Rain Must Fall" is ultimately about a young woman's fight to find a normal life, but it never quite lives up to its promise. Still, its two stars give good performances, and if you're a fan of either of them, it's more than worth a watch.

22. The Honeymoon Machine

In 1961, Steve McQueen took a rare comic detour in the madcap romp "The Honeymoon Machine," a wartime laugher where he starred as Lt. Fergie Howard — a role originally envisioned for Cary Grant. In the film, Howard's friend Jason works with a new and highly experimental supercomputer. The pair believe that, with the right, modifications they can use it to run the table at casinos and win big in games of roulette. Together, they plot an elaborate scheme under Admiral Fitch's nose, where Jason will work the computer remotely and send messages to Fergie in the casino through a complicated signal system. 

As their plan begins working they score big bucks, and Fergie begins romancing the Admiral's daughter. But when the Admiral spots their signals, he mistakes it for a military code, and comes to believe that the enemy is planning an attack. The Soviets get wind of the message and are put on high alert themselves. Now, to avoid a diplomatic incident, Fergie must confess, and may have to marry the Admiral's daughter to stay out of trouble. A wild caper film that fits well in its era, it's weakest spot is actually McQueen, who can't keep up with the more charming comic actors of the day, including Grant, who was probably a better choice for the role.

21. Never Love A Stranger

A gangster vehicle for John Barrymore, "Never Love A Stranger" was a crime drama based on the pulp novel of the same name by Harold Robbins that was briefly banned for indecent content. In the film adaptation, Barrymore stars as Frankie Kane, a young man raised in a Catholic orphanage who falls in love with the maid of his friend, Jewish attorney Martin Cabell (Steve McQueen). But when it's discovered that Frankie is actually Jewish, and is promptly sent packing from the Catholic home, he is left disenchanted and bitter. 

Striking out on his own, Frankie turns to crime, and the film chronicles his steady decade-long rise to the top of one of New York's biggest criminal syndicates. But this soon puts him directly in the path of his former friend, as Cabell is now the city's District Attorney and is determined to crack down on the notorious crook. A decent enough gangster flick, "Never Love A Stranger" begins the trend of McQueen being far too old to convincingly play a youthful character, though at least here it's confined to the first act set a decade earlier than the rest of the film. It is interesting to see McQueen cast against type as a scrupulous boy scout, but beyond that it's a fairly predictable pulp story, with few surprises and some by-the-numbers gangland action. 

20. The War Lover

The 1960 British war movie "The War Lover" starred Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner and Shirley Anne Field. Centered on a self-serving serviceman named Buzz Rickson (McQueen), we see how his reckless maneuvers in the sky often succeed, but at the cost of many lives. Over and over Rickson is shown flouting orders, disregarding protocol, and engaging in dangerous behaviors in and out of the cockpit. A slick, smarmy, egotistical airman, he gets away with it because he's the best fighter pilot they've got. While some fear him, his First Lieutenant Eric Bolland (Wagner) trusts him unconditionally.

The two pilots then meet a young British woman named Daphne and fight for her affections. She ultimately sticks with Bolland, turned off by Rickson's arrogant attitude. While he puts on a face, Rickson covets the young woman's love for his loyal lieutenant, and their friendship is put to the test during a dangerous bombing run where only one of them can make it out alive. Though the film doesn't quite match up to other, better war movies of the era, it's still an effective film about an arrogant pilot who longs to be a hero. McQueen is perfectly cast in the role, and delivers with aplomb with his customary swagger and charismatic conviction.

19. The Blob

A 1950s B-movie classic, "The Blob" starred the 28 year old Steve McQueen as high school teenager Steve Andrews, who, while parked at a lover's lane with his sweetheart Jane Martin, observe a meteorite crash nearby. When the "young" lovebirds go to investigate the scene, they crash into Barney, a neighbor who'd found the downed rock and been overtaken by a strange red ooze that he found within. After taking Barney to a doctor, Steve heads back to the mysterious space relic — but by the time he gets back, the alien goo has eaten Barney, the doctor, and his nurse, growing bigger and stronger as he consumes more victims.

As the blob grows, it escapes the doctor's office and heads into town, feeding on more unsuspecting people along the way. But when Steve and Jane are dismissed by police as harmless teen pranksters, they take it upon themselves to warn the town about the alien menace. It's far too late, though, and it's not long before the slimy creature is completely out of control and invading the local movie theater, consuming dozens of new victims. Can the two teens find a way to stop it before it devours the entire town?

"The Blob" my not be a great film by empirical standards, but it's a thoroughly satisfying classic, leading to a sequel "Beware The Blob" in 1972 (without McQueen), and a remake from writer Frank Darabont in 1988.

18. Nevada Smith

The first of several Westerns on this list, the 1966 film "Nevada Smith" put Hollywood star Steve McQueen into the title role, a renegade whose real name is Max Sand. When his American pioneer father and a Kiowa mother are killed by a trio of outlaws, Sand sets out looking for revenge, with little else but the clothes on his back. As fortune has it, he comes across an old gun in the desert. He then encounters a retired gunsmith Jonas Cord (Brian Kieth), who takes pity on Sand, and fixes the gun up and teaches him how to use his newly acquired six-shooter. 

With a deadly weapon and the skills to use it, Sand tracks the first two men and scratches them off his hit list. Now a known vengeance-seeking outlaw, he changes his name to Nevada Smith and infiltrates the gang of his final target, a notorious criminal, and the gang's feared leader, Tom Fitch. Though the film received mixed reviews, most agreed it had a strong story and some good performances, as well as some old fashioned Wild West action that helped it succeed. Though no classic, and the lesser of McQueen's Westerns, it's still a fun revenge picture that holds up well against its contemporaries. If you like McQueen, and have run through his other Western adventures, this one should be next up on your watch list.

17. An Enemy Of The People

After a four year absence from Hollywood, Steve McQueen would return to take a role that would be unlike any other he'd taken before, and a major departure from his action film roots. He'd also be nearly unrecognizable, with the normally clean-shaven, neatly groomed actor donning a big scruffy beard and long hair for the part of Thomas Stockmann in the big screen adaptation of Henry Ibsen's landmark play "An Enemy Of The People." In this rather faithful translation for the screen, he plays the doctor at a local spa who discovers that the town's water supply is being heavily polluted by the nearby tannery.

When Stockmann attempts to alert the town — including his brother, the mayor — of the danger, he's dismissed as a crackpot, worried that his claims will keep the much-needed tourist dollars away. As he continues his crusade to expose the deadly contaminated waters, the town's treatment turns vicious. He becomes the most hated man in town, and he and his family become outcasts. But he won't be bullied out of leaving, and is determined to prove his claims and clear his good name.

Possibly the least known of McQueen's films, it was never a hit, but remains perhaps his most underrated film. If you want to see McQueen tackle more thought-provoking material in a dramatic and cerebral role, this is the one to watch.

16. The Reivers

Nearly a decade before "An Enemy Of The People," Steve McQueen starred in another adaptation of an acclaimed literary work, this time "The Reivers," based on the final novel by beloved author William Faulkner. Like the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, the film puts Boon Hoggenbeck (McQueen) behind the wheel of a stolen Winston Flyer, an early automobile, not long after the turn of the century. Obsessed with the motorized carriage, the thief Hoggenbeck nabs it from under the nose of its owner Boss (Will Greer), and takes it and two friends on a cross-country trip to Memphis to visit a young woman.

A series of wild misadventures ensue, with Boon losing the vehicle and entering a horse race to win it back, getting into plenty of fisticuffs along the way. At the same time, Hoggenbeck is being pursued by the car's original owner, Boss, who just so happens to be the grandfather of his passenger Lucius. The film was praised as an old-school Hollywood entertainer, and as coming-of-age story for McQueen's young co-star, with strong performances all around. In particular, Rupert Cross earned accolades for his portrayal of Boon's friend Ned, and is noted for being the first Black actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, which he earned for his role in this classic film. 

15. Le Mans

Steve McQueen had a real-life passion for racecar driving, and in the 1971 film "Le Mans," the star would get to live out what must have been a dream: participating in a recreation of The 24 Hours Of Le Mans, a race that's held every year not far from the famous French city. Starring in the film as Porsche driver Michael Delaney, the devil-may-care racer meets and falls in love with Lisa, the wife of another driver who was killed in a crash the prior year. That he had been involved in the fatal crash complicates their early courtship.

While Lisa is hesitant to get involved with another driver, who she is convinced could end up suffering the same fate as her former lover, Delaney is promoted when another driver is taken off the track. It all leads up to a thrilling race against Porsche's rival Ferrari that puts everything on the line. If he enters the race, he may lose his new love ... but if he wins, he'll be immortal. A film that the racing experts at Front Stretch called "quite possibly the best pure racing movie ever made," "Le Mans" was a personal project for the actor, which comes across in every aspect of the production and in his performance as a man for whom high octane speed is a way of life. 

14. Soldier In The Rain

Two years after "The Honeymoon Machine," Steve McQueen would return to a comedy, and this one would be a much better result. The 1963 film "Soldier In The Rain" once again put him in a military uniform, where McQueen and Jackie Gleason star as Master Sergeant Maxwell Slaughter and Sergeant Eustis Clay respectively, a savvy, well-connected officer and his bumbling, slower-witted but incredibly loyal companion. Though Clay is eager to move on from his tour in the military and return home, Slaughter has no such desire, and Clay sets out to lure his superior officer out of service and into civilian life.

To convince him of what pleasures await him if he leaves, Clay sets Slaughter up with a beautiful dame named Bobby Jo Pepperdine, a much younger woman who easily draws his eye. The two hit it off famously, but it's not until Clay winds up on the wrong side of some ruffians and Slaughter is hospitalized in a brawl that he seems to have a change of heart. A solid comedic effort — with a surprisingly sour ending — it was unfortunately buried thanks to history, as it landed in theaters the same week as the death of John F. Kennedy, and audiences weren't quite in the right frame of mind to watch a goofball comedy. 

13. The Thomas Crown Affair

A classic crime caper, "The Thomas Crown Affair" starred Steve McQueen in one of his most iconic roles, the titular Thomas Crown — a billionaire playboy with a thirst for danger. Looking for a challenge, Crown orchestrates a cunning robbery of more than $2.5 million, carefully arranging every detail so as to craft a flawless crime. Not only does he get away with the heist, but he ensures that he can never be caught. The bank's insurance company, however, hires a determined investigator, Vicky Anderson (Faye Dunaway), who is promised a large payout if she can recover the stolen funds. Her instincts quickly pinpoint Crown as the prime suspect, though she cannot prove it. 

The two then begin a back-and-forth cat-and-mouse game of wits and will, while also becoming romantically linked. While Vicky is set on proving he's guilty, Crown wants to prove just how good he is and plans a second, equally daring robbery. This time, though, he leaves Vicki with the choice of whether to aid him or turn him in. A clever psychological thriller bursting with style and charm, "The Thomas Crown Affair" was widely praised and went on to become one of the era's best heist movies. It was the subject of a remake in 1999, starring Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo, proving the film's strength and staying power.

12. Tom Horn

The second of two adaptations based on the life of the legendary outlaw Tom Horn — the fist being the TV miniseries with David Carradine just a year before – Steve McQueen starred as the infamous gunfighter in the simply titled "Tom Horn." But rather than recount the early days or even prime years of the Wild West icon, this 1980 film, one of McQueen's last, chronicled Horn's final days struggling to eke out a living as the frontier slowly gave way to a new world. In a fictionalized account of the incident that lead to his death, we meet Horn as he finds work with John Coble, who belongs to a cattle rancher collective troubled by thieves and malcontents. 

Hired as a lawman of sorts, Horn becomes a ruthless protector of their herds, and his new position as a means to dole out his own form of vigilante justice. But when Horn's methods become increasingly violent and uncontrollable, the town's respect for him dwindles and the cattle collective plot to have him taken out of the picture, framing him for the death of a young boy. While Horn's guilt or innocence in the real-life incident has never conclusively proven, the film took a clear stance, portraying the Wild West gunman as a man wrongly accused. Whatever the real story might be, the film delivers a powerful take on the life of the notorious and complicated Horn.

11. The Towering Inferno

Perhaps one of the most famous — and probably the best — disaster films from an era rife with similar pictures, the 1974 film "The Towering Inferno" adds one more Hollywood classic to Steve McQueen's filmography. Reuniting with Faye Dunaway, McQueen starred in the picture alongside Paul Newman, who he'd once feuded with over top billing for a co-starring role in "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid" that he'd ultimately turn down. Here, though, there is seemingly no problem working together, after they cleverly devised a way of sharing credit on the film's theatrical poster.

Newman stars as Doug Roberts, the architect of an impressive new glass skyscraper that is supposed to be the pinnacle of modern technology. But during its opening gala, an unstoppable fire breaks out in the building, causing calamity as they are all trapped inside. He reveals that cost-cutting during construction is to blame. McQueen plays Michael O'Halloran, Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, who arrives on scene but cannot get control of the blaze. Together with the office's engineer (Richard Chamberlain), the lead builder (William Holden), Roberts' fiancée (Dunaway), and a self-serving conman (Fred Astaire), Roberts and O'Hallaran must find a way to survive the destruction.

A crowd-pleasing blockbuster, "The Towering Inferno" remains a classic of the genre.

10. The Getaway

A life changing film for the actor, "The Getaway" is a 1973 action thriller directed by Sam Peckinpah ("Straw Dogs") and written by Walter Hill (who would go on to direct action classics like "48 Hrs" and "Red Heat"). The film stars Steve McQueen as Carter McCoy, a man midway through a ten year stretch in prison for armed robbery. Through his wife Carol (Ali McGraw), a deal is struck with a corrupt tycoon named Jack Benyon to arrange for his release if he'll lead a risky bank robbery. But after the heist, the Jack's thug's turn on him, and McCoy is forced to gun down his two accomplices. With $500,000 in tow, he and Carol abscond with their prize to the Mexican border.

On the run from the law, McCoy also discovers that one of the henchman has survived, and now Jack and his men are looking for their money — and their revenge. A fast-paced action drama, it was not met with great reviews on release, but has become one of the many McQueen films that has only gotten better with age. But the film may be best known for what happened behind the scenes, with McQueen's red hot affair with co-star Ali McGraw leading to her divorce from her second husband, with the two stars themselves exchanging vows a year later.

9. Junior Bonner

In addition to his lead role in "The Getaway" in 1972, Steve McQueen also starred in the neo-Western "Junior Bonner" that same year, a movie that was also directed by Sam Peckinpah. As the titular Bonner, McQueen plays a veteran rodeo competitor who is well past his prime when he sets out to enter a major bull-riding event in his old hometown. In doing so, Bonner must come face to face with his past back home, including his estranged family. This includes his ambitious brother who is planning to build a trailer park where his childhood home stands, and his divorced parents: father Ace, who holds unattainable dreams of retiring to Australia, and mother Elvira, who struggles to hold everything together.

Back in the saddle once again, Bonner must convince the rodeo owner Buck to let him ride his old bull named Sunshine one more time. Skeptical that the aging rider can pull off the feat, but promised a cut of the considerable winnings, he agrees. But if Bonner is to come out on top in the rodeo and surviving his insufferable family, it will take everything he has. Part of a curious trend of rodeo movies that hit screens all around the same time (including "J.W. Coop" with Cliff Robertson), "Junior Bonner" is arguably the best of them, and features the biggest star of them all.

8. The Cincinnati Kid

Headlined by Steve McQueen and co-starring Edward G. Robinson ("Soylent Green") and Ann-Margret ("Bye Bye Birdie"), and a young Rip Torn ("Men In Black"), "The Cincinnati Kid" is a 1965 drama with an excellent cast about an upstart poker player who challenges a reigning master. McQueen plays Eric Stoner (nicknamed "The Kid"), an emerging star in the world of poker in New Orleans, who gets word that the longtime champ Lancey Howard (nicknamed "The Man") is coming to the Big Easy. With aims of becoming the best himself, The Kid knows he first has to prove it by beating the best, and sets out to secure a match with The Man.

But first, The Kid must wheel and deal with bigger players in the city, including a ruthless player named Slade, who The Kid defeats in a drawn-out match. But Slade uses The Kid's friendship with his childhood buddy Shooter against him, maneuvering to sabotage The Kid's upcoming game with The Man to get even. A compelling and suspense-filled drama, the tension of high stakes poker games was slickly portrayed, and made the film a tense nail-biter. While some may have seen it as McQueen's response to rival Paul Newman's "The Hustler," it was anything but an imitator, and still ranks among the best gambling movies Hollywood has ever produced.

7. Hell Is For Heroes

In one of the most dramatic and intense war films you're likely to see from the era, Steve McQueen starred in "Hell Is For Heroes." Set during the closing days of the Second World War, it introduces the US 95th Infantry Division — and in particular, Private Reese (McQueen), a beleaguered officer who'd been bumped all the way down from Master Sergeant following a court martial. He finds the prospect of being rotated out of combat dispiriting. A true loner, Reese is a man the rest of the division — including its leader Larkin — avoids for his anti-social behavior and reckless actions.

But just when they think they are due for leave, the division is sent back to the front ... only to discover that their lines spread thin and are vulnerable to a terrifying German pillbox. Now the ragtag group of soldiers must use their unique talents and skills to improvise a defense against an overpowering enemy. In the face of impossible odds, they'll have to survive 48 hours of non-stop German attacks while they wait for expected reinforcements. A gripping war story, it's McQueen in a role he was made for: a disgruntled rebel and heroic soldier.

6. Love With The Proper Stranger

In what might be the actor's best romance film, actor Steve McQueen plays Rocky Papasano, a charming jazz musician, in "Love With a Proper Stranger." The movie stars Natalie Wood ("Rebel Without A Cause") as a shy young woman named Angie, who uncharacteristically engages in a tawdry one night stand with the exciting and dashing Rocky, but winds up pregnant as a result. When she discovers that she is with child, she returns to Rocky in the hopes that he can help her get an abortion, as she is not yet ready to start a family or be a single mother. But when Rocky sees the back alley doctor they've found to perform the procedure, he refuses to let Angie bet her life on the operation. Instead, Rocky hopes to win her over and start a life together.

But Rocky fails to impress the young Angie who doesn't believe he's fit to be a father or a husband, while his bitter brother's brusque attitudes towards Rocky's life choices succeed only in pushing her away. Now dating a new man named Anthony (Tom Bosley), Rocky faces an uphill battle to win her back and become a family. Nominated for five Academy Awards, it would net Natalie Wood her third Oscar nod, this one for Best Actress.

5. Papillon

The acclaimed film "Papillon" is not about a dog, but tells the story of Henri "Papillon" Charrière, a convicted French felon serving years in a brutal forced labor camp in the 1930s. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner ("The Planet Of The Apes") and written by Dalton Trumbo ("Spartacus"), it starred Steve McQueen in the title role of Papillon, a safe-cracker and thief. Dustin Hoffman co-starred as his fellow prisoner and loyal friend Dega, convicted of forgery and embezzlement, and the film recounts the two's blossoming friendship while imprisoned. 

As Papillon vows to escape, Dega isn't so sure, but reluctantly goes along with his many schemes to free himself. The film chronicles their many harrowing attempts at escape, as well as the torture they endured the hands of oppressive guards. Through years of mistreatment, in vile conditions, Papillon never loses hope, and never stops trying to be free.

A story of one man's search for justice and liberty, it earned McQueen a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, and is still remembered as one of the best prison movies ever made. An all-time classic, it was the subject of a 2017 remake starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek.

4. The Sand Pebbles

In the film that would garner him his only Academy Award nomination, the 1966 film "The Sand Pebbles" was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Robert Wise, responsible for some of the best pictures in Hollywood history (such as "The Sound Of Music" and "West Side Story"). Steve McQueen plays Jake Holman, a defiant Navy serviceman aboard the USS San Paolo, a gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River during Chiang Kai-shek's revolution in 1926. Thanks to a local malapropism, the ship comes to be known as the Sand Pebble, with the servicemen aboard referred to as Sand Pebbles. 

As their mission takes them further downriver, they are caught in between Chinese forces and violent war lords. Part war drama, part allegory for the war in Vietnam that was raging during the era, the film is mostly a character study of the sailor's tumultuous service on the San Paolo. The story follows the ship's crew — including Richard Attenborough as Holman's only friend, a sailor named Frenchy — as they navigate the rising tensions along the Chinese river in a time of deep political and military upheaval. Praised for its strong performances and sensitive drama, it earned a stunning eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and remains one of McQueen's best war dramas.

3. The Magnificent Seven

In 1960, a year after action star Steve McQueen and director John Sturges made "Never So Few," the two reunited for what has since become one of the most iconic Westerns ever made: "The Magnificent Seven." Adapted from the legendary Japanese movie "The Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa, the film features one of the best ensembles ever assembled, including — in addition to McQueen — Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallach. 

The adventure begins when a gang of vicious outlaws led by a man named Calbera (Wallach) brutally harasses a poor Mexican village, essentially making them prisoners in their own town. But the townspeople pool their resources and hire the services of a mysterious gunslinger in black named Chris Adams (Brynner). He in turn recruits six more gunman — a ragtag group of renegades and rogues — that includes a skilled gunman and drifter (McQueen) an Irish-Mexican outlaw (Bronson), and a nasty knife-wielder named Britt (Coburn). Together, the seven hired guns team up to fight Calvera and save the village from total ruin.

With unforgettable Western action an impeccable ensemble cast, "The Magnificent Seven" has become in some ways even more famous than the story that inspired it. It even spawned three sequels (none of which featured McQueen), a short-lived TV adaptation in the 1990s, and a big budget remake in 2016, with Chris Pratt in the role played by McQueen.

2. Bullitt

The quintessential '60s action thriller, "Bullitt" may be McQueen's most celebrated role. He stars as gritty detective Frank Bullitt, who hunts down crooks in his jet black mustang, one of cinema's most famous cars. Based on the 1963 novel "Mute Witness" by Robert L. Fish, it focuses on Bullitt's assignment to protect a former Chicago gangster who's left his organization to turn state's witness. But the simple task of protection goes sideways when Bullitt's two partners and their mobster witness are gunned down, and he's forced to go rogue to track the killers and get to the truth.

It's not long before the intrepid lawman discovers a web of conspiracies and double-crosses, and realizes that there may be more going on than they ever suspected. Now chasing slippery crook who's on the verge of getting away, Bullitt has to pull out all the stops to get his man. A stunning neo-noir thriller that moves at breakneck speed, "Bullitt" is full of pulse-pounding action, quotable dialogue, and a jazzy musical score, plus McQueen's unforgettable performance. It all adds up to one of the best movies ever made in the genre. Toss in a famous chase scene through San Francisco that ranks among the best ever put to film, and McQueen's masterpiece would become a genre defining film whose legacy and influence cannot be understated.

1. The Great Escape

Three years after "The Magnificent Seven," Steve McQueen would re-team with actors James Coburn and Charles Bronson in the ensemble prison war film, "The Great Escape." Oft-imitated, the film has become a Hollywood classic, with its eclectic, rag-tag group of misfit prisoners teaming up to escape a German POW camp. Inspired by a true story, McQueen plays Captain Virgil Hilts, who is regularly put in solitary confinement for his repeated escape attempts. He soon joins forces with a number of other Allied POWs to plot an elaborate escape, including British RAF officer Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), a Polish soldier nicknamed "The Tunnel King" (Bronson), and Australian Louis (Coburn), a man who can make almost any tool they need for the job.

Digging a tunnel beneath the camp walls, the group plan to set free more than 200 men out of the camp — not just to escape, but to lure German forces out and keep them occupied while Allied forces advance. With each man having their own unique set of skills, they combine their efforts into a cunning scheme to break out of their prison and wreak havoc on their Nazi pursuers. "The Great Escape" was easily the best — and most beloved — film of the actor's extraordinary career.