best film:  The Royal Tenenbaums. This category is putting me to the test with my allegiance (as always, based on merit I hope) to Wes Anderson and his crowning masterpiece, The Royal Tenenbaums. I don’t want to say it feels wrong but it’s a little surprising that this scores out (only film currently in my top 100 of all-time) as the best Gene Hackman film. It FEELS like the choice here should be Eastwood’s best film as a director (Unforgiven), Coppola’s paranoia stylistic dazzler (The Conversation) or William Friedkin’s no-nonsense adrenaline rush (The French Connection). Still, Wes is the baton-carrier for the long strong lineage of masters of mise-en-scene and I still feel like this is his strongest accomplishment and one of the best films of the 00’s decade. It’s a proud film to have as your best if you’re an all-time great actor like Gene Hackman is. The only other masterpiece yet to mention is Bonnie and Clyde which really was Hackman’s taking off point (he was famously was cut from Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (he was supposed to play Hoffman’s Dad- the William Daniels’ part)).

best performance: The French Connection but there’s virtually no difference between 1-4 below—talk about a Mount Rushmore for top four performances/films! He’s splendid (and varied) in four masterpieces (two in the 70’s, one in the 90’s and one in the 00’s).  Hackman’s trademark grit and temper have never been better than his Academy Award winning turn as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle. There’s great physical acting (almost Kuleshov effect-like with the montage of the chase) in the car and pursuit sequences from Hackman. He takes a cliché (racist, crude cop) and turns it on its head. It’s so remarkable that it creates (or rather recreates) the archetype.

stylistic innovations/traits:  Hackman has 27 archiveable films, 2 Oscar wins and has performances like his work in Superman and Crimson Tide that can’t find any room in a crowded (and impressive) top 10 performances. Scarecrow gives him a fifth uncanny top-notch performance beyond that Mount Rushmore and that and The Conversation give him such variation and range. If you close your eyes and think of Hackman it’s probably his determination and toughness in films like Crimson Tide, Hoosiers and The French Connection that become is trademark but he may give the single best performance in a Wes Anderdson film (one of the main auteurs of the past 25 years and  comic genius), too. Still, it takes size and presence to stare down Clint Eastwood in The Unforgiven. The isolated drug sequences in The French Connection II is a worthy addition to any actor’s body of work and I Never Sang For My Father starts a run from 1970-1975 (capped with the brilliant Night Moves) that match any actor from that era ; Which is saying something considering the unbelievable runs Pacino and Nicholson were on during that stretch—clearly a time for actors.

directors worked with:   Surprisingly light here- Penn (2) and then once a piece with Friedkin, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Mike Nichols, Clint Eastwood and Wes Anderson

Top 10 Performances:

  1. The French Connection
  2. The Conversation
  3. Unforgiven
  4. The Royal Tenenbaums
  5. Scarecrow
  6. Night Moves
  7. The French Connection II
  8. Hoosiers
  9. I Never Sang For My Father
  10. Mississippi Burning

Archiveable films

1964- Lilith
1967- Bonnie and Clyde
1969- Downhill Racer
1970- I Never Sang For My Father
1971- The French Connection
1972- The Poseidon Adventure
1973- Scarecrow
1974- The Conversation
1974- Young Frankenstein
1975- French Connection II
1975- Night Moves
1977- A Bridge Too Far
1978- Superman: The Movie
1980- Superman II
1981- Reds
1983- Under Fire
1985- Twice In a Lifetime
1986- Hoosiers
1987- No Way Out
1988- Another Woman
1988- Mississippi Burning
1989- The Package
1990- Postcards from the Edge
1992- Unforgiven
1995- Crimson Tide
1995- Get Shorty
2001- The Royal Tenenbaums