best film:   The Graduate remains Dustin Hoffman’s lone top 100 all-time but some actors before him on this list do not have a top 100 film, and fewer and fewer coming on this list after Hoffman will have one as well. The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde are the two big films to mark the paradigm shift in 1967 moving from the old guard in Hollywood to the sort of American New Wave (better known as The New Hollywood and/or Movie Brat era – roughly 1967-1979).  The Graduate  is the most singularly important film and, it is no small footnote that it is just a flat out artistically and stylistically brilliant piece of art outside of being some historical landmark. And Dustin Hoffman is the hero of the film.  His Ben Braddock spoke for a generation and Hoffman was a new kind of star. Midnight Cowboy is a fairly close second place. It is just masterfully edited. The next tier just a step or half-step down includes All The President’s Men, Little Big Man and Dick Tracy.


Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock (opposite Katharine Ross here) for the crucial final moment in The Graduate. At age thirty (30), Hoffman went from a struggling actor to a star (this was the biggest box office hit in 1967) with a towering acting performance in a top 100 of all-time film.


best performance: The Graduate and again Midnight Cowboy is the closest contender here. This is one hell of a resume to put together before anyone even knows who Al Pacino or Robert De Niro are in 1969. The Graduate performance made Hoffman a new kind of leading man so to see him disappear into character as Ratso in Midnight Cowboy is something a star really had not done much of at the time (at least since Paul Muni). Hoffman disappears – it is method acting (the famously improvised “I’m walkin’ here”) at its finest.


In genius stroke of casting and career role choices – Hoffman’s next big role after The Graduate in 1967 is to play Enrico Salvatore Rizzo – or Ratso – in John Schlesinger’s 1969 film Midnight Cowboy.


stylistic innovations/traits: Dustin Hoffman is as versatile as they come. He can disappear like he did in Midnight Cowboy, Straight Time, Rain Main or the hilarious Mumbles in his few scenes in Dick Tracy. There are impossible roles for just about anyone else (Little Big Man, Tootsie) or he can play it relatively straight and succeed (The Marathon Man, Kramer vs. Kramer). Hoffman was born in 1937 most of his best work was behind him by the 1980s. This is not uncommon for this generation of actors (De Niro, Pacino, Hackman, Nicholson) to do his best work in the 1970s – but Hoffman never had that sort of 1990s comeback or big film or late career masterpiece that belonged on his short list of best work – though he, without a doubt, has had it in him the entire time (evidence in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) from 2017. Hoffman has accumulated seven Oscar noms – but his two wins (Kramer vs. Kramer, Rain King) do not come in incredible films. Still, those dueling late 1960s masterpieces (with Hoffman standing on his head as lead or co-lead in both) got him off to such a strong start in his career – it is important to remember that Dustin Hoffman had a better career behind him already than someone like James Dean (totally worthy of admiration) by 1971. Hoffman is a method acting icon (his battles with Laurence Olivier during The Marathon Man are legendary). His characters are impressively diverse  – but they often contain ticks, obsessions, and delightful little details and nuances (that Hoffman absolutely nails and inhabits).


Hoffman as the comic legend Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse’s 1974 Lenny. Hoffman would never again the highs he did in the late 1960s, but his filmography in the 1970s includes ten (10) overall films, eight (8) of them in the archives. Lenny, the underrated Bob Fosse film lost somewhere between Cabaret (1972) and All that Jazz (1979), racked up six (6) nominations including yet another one for Hoffman.


directors worked with:  John Schlesinger (2), Barry Levinson (2), Mike Nicols (1), Arthur Penn (1), Sam Peckinpah (1), Franklin J. Schaffner (1), Bob Fosse (1), Alan Pakula (1), Sydney Pollack (1), Warren Beatty (1), David O. Russell (1), Noah Baumbach (1)


Hoffman as Jack Crabb in Arthur Penn’s rambling, and highly entertaining yarn of a film – Little Big Man (1970).


top five performances:

  1. The Graduate
  2. Midnight Cowboy
  3. Lenny
  4. Little Big Man
  5. Rain Man


archiveable films

1967- The Graduate
1969- Midnight Cowboy
1970- Little Big Man
1971- Straw Dogs
1973- Papillion
1974- Lenny
1976- All the President’s Men
1976- The Marathon Man
1978- Straight Time
1979- Kramer Vs. Kramer
1982- Tootsie
1985- Death of a Salesman
1988- Rain Man
1990- Dick Tracy
1997- Wag the Dog
2002- Moonlight Mile
2004- Finding Neverland
2004- I Heart Huckabees
2017- The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)