best film: Bullitt though I’m not married to this one. The Great Escape is excellent, Peckinpah’s The Getaway has grown on me over the years. For now though, I’m good with Bullitt as McQueen’s best and I’ve seen the majority of his films multiple times. It features a top three all-time car chase (We Own the Night, French Connection) unless you count Mad Max: Fury Road! I have it as the fourth best film of 1968 but behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Rosemary’s Baby—that’s no insult.

best performance:  Bullitt though I’m not married to this one either. He’s little touches, nuances and ticks reportedly drove Yul Brynner nuts on Magnificent Seven because I think he could tell McQueen was stealing the film away from him. He’s equally enthralling in The Great Escape– these are large ensemble casts with really talented actors and you can’t take your eyes off McQueen. That’s saying something. Papillion is another fine option because he’s going toe to toe with the ever-so-talented Dustin Hoffman.  Still though, his quiet confidence has never been better than it is in Yates’ Bullitt.

stylistic innovations/traits: McQueen was famous for throwing away needless dialogue and saying “I’ll say it with my face”. Minimal… underacting. I love it. He was dazzling. He didn’t have crazy range. I wouldn’t want to see him take on some of the challenges of our chameleon actors or going crazy with accents—but he had poise and command of the screen through his face and non-verbal body language. His style has aged well- and is highly influential to many contemporary actors none more glaring than Ryan Gosling. McQueen was an alpha. Of his 13 films in the archives he’s solo lead in 10. That’s rarer than you may think for actors on this list. The case against McQueen is he was never in a masterpiece and didn’t work often enough with auteurs (wish he and Peckinpah could have collaborated more and in Peckinpah’s best work). Sadly, he died young, too. Age 50.

directors worked with:   Peckinpah (2), Robert Wise (2), and John Sturges (2)

Top 5 Performances:

  1. Bullitt
  2. The Great Escape
  3. The Magnificent Seven
  4. Papillion  
  5. The Getaway

Archiveable films

1956- Somebody Up There Likes Me
1960- The Magnificent Seven
1963- The Great Escape
1965- The Cincinnati Kid
1966- Nevada Smith
1966- Sand Pebbles
1968- Bullitt
1968- The Thomas Crown Affair
1972- Junior Bonner
1972- The Getaway
1973- Papillion
1974- The Towering Inferno
1980- Tom Horn