The ratings on Philip Seymour Hoffman’s movies were largely positive, according to viewers and critics on RottenTomatoes and Metacritic. Many of his most profitable endeavors were lowest rated, including Patch Adams and Mission Impossible III. Notably excluded in this list are the Hunger Games series, because PSH should have been in Battle Royale instead. In no particular order:
10. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
Are you in a super dark place and want to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman murder people with the world’s best silencer? So was author of this screenplay, penned by the little known Kelly Masterson. It is also known for being the ultimate film Sidney Lumet’s of illustrious directorial career. Ethan Hawke (in a prosaic role) and Hoffman are brothers with a fearless scheme for parricide. Stay for the creepy drug fueled murderin’ and also stay for Hoffman’s sensual encounter with Marisa Tomei’s character. The film was smaller and didn’t do too well, so it’s flown under the radar and has even less than a cult following.
There’s a reason this one’s in the number nine spot, because that’s where the worst joke goes in the Top 10 List. Remember Bill Paxton had a nemesis in a movie about tornado chasing? And remember when he tied himself to a pipe with a belt and survived a big old tornado? In Twister, the villain was not the tornado itself but a fellow storm chaser named Dusty, played by Hoffman. This movie was pretty awesome at the time, and Helen Hunt is pretty cute for an old lady. But does it hold up? Probably not. Many of the moviegoers fond memories occurred because they were 12 and it was their first PG-13 film. And of course, the flying cow in the trailer! Hoffman’s performance certainly does hold up, because he was cast in a role that fit his body type. A nerdy rainbow colored candy fueled weirdo.
8. Mary and Max
This Claymation black and white indie (think Wallace and Gromit) is technically Hoffman’s best work, but that’s cheating. He voiced one of the main characters. The film is fascinating and a rare departure for Philip Hoffman, and is one of the few movies discussing Asperger’s. It achieved critical acclaim but suffered from a small release. The plot is a little bizarre, involving chocolate international penpals and adult themes couched in a G-rated setting. This is blossoming writer and director Adam Elliot sophomore feature and is certainly promising. Those who’ve seen it seem to enjoy it, and since Hoffman’s unfortunate death (God Bless The Dead) it’s likely to gain a few more eyeballs.
7. The Big Lebowski
How many times have you heard someone saying they really didn’t like this movie? It’s likely close to zero. This is frequently lauded as a cult hit (and even generated meme content), with Hoffman playing a bit part in what’s now deemed a classic by most movie buffs. It’s only laugh out loud funny if you’re indefinitely intoxicated on marijuana cigarettes, but it’s eminently quotable and ripe for a re-watch. The ensemble cast overshadows Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the Dude’s assistant, however. His lines aren’t particularly notable, but he certainly shines in this part — like he does in most.
6. Almost Famous
Lester bangs out his famous monologue here in Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece. This is the highest rated movie of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s career according to Metacritic, and certainly holds up. He plays a journalist and mentor to the young main character and really kills it with his wizened nature. He’s integral to the character development in this case, and contributes to the overarching theme of the film like no one else could. The greatest part of the film is the fleshing of the characters and not particularly the storyline, and this requires excellent journeyman actors. This film solidified him into the public consciousness, as well as cementing a newfound star in Matthew McConaughey.
5. Boogie Nights
Markey Mark ditches his rap game and finds a groove with this 1997 period piece about the Southern California porno industry. Set in the 1970s and 1980s, this awesome movie should be owned on DVD or Blu-Ray for the Philip Seymour Hoffman completist in you. Plus, it isn’t available on Netflix anymore. It’s one of the first and last times a shy boom mic operator named Scotty really shined on the silver screen, even though we just get the sweetness of Mark Wahlberg’s toned and handsome body as a consolation prize. Meanwhile, Hoffman’s line read of “I’m a f—-n’ idiot!” is brilliant.
Don’t like baseball? This movie is still a well-written romp. Don’t like Aaron Sorkin’s long-winded soapbox diatribes? He avoids those to a degree. So sit back and watch Hoffman play Art; he’s cast against type in the best way. Next to Chris Farley, can you think of a more unathletic person to represent a scouting director? Hoffman hits his third billed stride again here, playing third fiddle to the magnanimous Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill’s first dramatic role. If you do actually like baseball, then you already know about the conflict of high-OBP and station-to-station stuff vs. stolen bases and homers. Watch it anyway?
3. The Talented Mr. Ripley
This movie is one of those you watch on cable… when it’s on. It’s a movie in the list that most movie-going adults would have seen, with Hoffman being third billed to Matt Damon and Jude Law. It’s the one where Matt Damon pretends to be Jude Law and then — spoiler alert — Jude Law pretends to be Matt Damon and then strangles him with a scarf. Not really, but Hoffman plays the only sane guy in the movie and the movie is framed in a way that makes him the disgusting one somehow! This is also a testament to Philip’s superb acting skills. Playing characters the audience is designed to dislike is the sign of a courageous craft choice, and this is no exception. Oh, and check out Talented Mr. Ripley Fanfiction here. Or, you know, don’t.
A coinflip exists with the late actor’s prestigious career: Heads he will play a detestable person, and tails he will not. In this role, he was a neutral and even an empathic character, playing the nurse to a terminal cancer patient. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, There Will Be Blood) works again with one of his muses. Hoffman was in the right place for this movie, because Anderson set out to write his masterpiece and it just happened to totally pan out. This is arguably Tom Cruise’s best roles of the 1990s, and he eerily channels the men’s motivational speaker circuit with an axiom that is best paraphrased as “respect the rooster”.
Hoffman was long overdue for a starring vehicle in 2005. Luckily, he bore a physical resemblance to the author Truman Capote and those in the know say he nailed the peculiar affect the scribe possessed. With the hand he was dealt, Hoffman did yeoman’s work with the role, and he won the Oscar in 2006. It’s widely regarded as his best. The plot follows the research of the book In Cold Blood, a murder mystery that measured the stark contrast of 1960s traditional American life with a brutal slaying of a helpless Midwestern farmer. The film also won Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener). For an in-depth interview about his feelings on the role, Slate did an excellent interview.