best film: Charting Philip Seymour Hoffman’s best film is close to impossible. Hoffman worked often with Paul Thomas Anderson of course, the greatest director of a generation. So, the discussion starts there with Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and The Master. There is virtually no separation on the artistic quality of these four (4) masterpieces from PTA. As if that were not enough, Hoffman is part of the ensemble in The Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski and Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. That next tier down includes Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley and Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York.
best performance: The Master and the main contender is Capote (which Hoffman won his Oscar for – there were another three (3) nominations over the years). His Lancaster Dodd is a blending of L. Ron Hubbard and Orson Welles. He is magnetic, smart and entirely supercilious. The processing sequence between PSH and Joaquin Phoenix is one of the greatest displays of acting in the history of cinema. Phoenix’s performance is stronger but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s achievement in the 2012 masterpiece still ranks as one of the best of the 2010s. Paul Thomas Anderson has a heavy use of close-ups, in pristine 70m photography, letting the nuance of Hoffman’s face and performance play out front and center. His work in Capote is a total immersion – and is the second high-water mark for this truly gifted, versatile actor.
stylistic innovations/traits: Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the five to ten most truly gifted actors of all-time. He is a chameleon who can disappear in a role, an accent, an embodiment of a character’s posture. Hoffman tragically died early from a drug overdose at age forty-six (46) but in his career, he produced a hefty count of twenty-two (22) archiveable films – a crazy high number for someone who did not make it to fifty (50) years old, was nominated for four academy awards, and was in a whopping six (6) masterpieces. That means that from 1997 to 2002 – a total of six (6) years – if a cinematic masterpiece was made, there was roughly a 20-25% chance Hoffman was in it. That is astounding. That said, he is one of the harder actors to rank because for large portions of his career (this 1997 to 2002 period to be specific) he is a supporting actor, a scene-stealer – much like say Thomas Mitchell, John Cazale (hard not to think of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s career from 1997 to 2002 as his Cazale 1970s stretch), or some of Willem Dafoe’s career. However, unlike those three actors, PSH had big, muscular leading performances along the way (Capote, The Master, Owning Mahowny, Synecdoche, New York). It makes it not only tough to rank him on this list – but also tough to rank his performances. He steals scenes in one of the best comedies of all-time (The Big Lebowski) and then gives a nuanced, larger performance in a weaker film opposite Meryl Streep (Doubt) – neither of which made his top ten – so impressive.
directors worked with: Paul Thomas Anderson (5), Anthony Minghella (2), Bennett Miller (2), The Coen Brothers (1), Sidney Lumet (1), Mike Nichols (1). There is certainly a what if with the Eli/Paul Sunday role played by Paul Dano in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.
top five performances:
- The Master
- Synecdoche, New York
- Owning Mahowny
|1992- Scent of a Woman|
|1994- Nobody’s Fool|
|1996- Hard Eight|
|1997- Boogie Nights|
|1998- The Big Lebowski|
|1999- The Talented Mr. Ripley|
|2000- Almost Famous|
|2002- Punch-Drunk Love|
|2002- The 25th Hour|
|2003- Cold Mountain|
|2003- Owning Mahowny|
|2007- Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead|
|2007- Charlie Wilson’s War|
|2007- The Savages|
|2008- Synecdoche, New York|
|2012- The Master|
|2014- A Most Wanted Man|
Man RIP to PSH… i think he coulda been the greatest if he was still here, hes got an amazing filmography for 30 years worth of work
Yes!!! I have waiting for PSH, in my opinion one of the 5 or so most talented actors ever. I love the John Cazale comparison. PSH was an extensive filmographyThere are really no throw away performances. Even with a film like Doubt (2008) which is nothing nothing special overall PSH out acts Meryl Streep. I love seeing Owning Mahoney in the top 5 performances. The film is not any special visually but it is a magnificent character study of a compulsive gambler. PSH range was almost unparalleled, he was just as comfortable in comedies as dramas and could play across the emotional spectrum as well as anyone. And yes definitely a scene stealer. I know few people here agree with me but I though he gave just as strong a performance in The Master as Joaquin Phoenix. Anyways RIP
How far down would his Mattress Man performance rank?
@Matthew- Can’t be far off that top five. What do you think? Indelible small parts in Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous.
I’m not overly familiar with his filmography yet, so I don’t have many hard thoughts. I’m with you 100% on PDL being a huge masterpiece though, and outside of the very final encounter I think PSH owns every single scene he’s in (the phone call scene is hands down the funniest scene in the entire film to me), so I think it has to rank high given how incredible he is per-minute in *this* level of a film
@Matthew- Well said on that last line there. I agree.
Hello, Drake! sorry for the question i just wanted to know why do you think Punch drunk love and boogie nights are better movies than The Master? i personally think TWBB is better than The Master but probably top 2 pta, or top 3 because of magnolia. I read all your pages about every PTA movie, and i know that your PTA page is from 2019, so do you still think The Master is so low on a ranking of PTA’s movies?
@Tozoco- Thanks for the comment. I’ve shared quite a bit about what makes Boogie Nights and Punch-Drunk Love special on their pages – all of the PTA films. I will be updating the director’s pages (PTA included) after the actor list and top 500/1000.
“Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the five to ten most truly gifted actors of all-time”
What other actors outside of the top 10 that would fit this bill?
@Matthew- Well you have to start the list with Brando of course. Clift feels like he is right there – but I am not sure I get to another name without at least an argument before from PSH necessarily
@Matthew – interested to see Drake’s take but a few that come to mind
Edward Norton – amazing talent and great start to career, supposedly he is difficult to work with on set
Sean Penn – amazing emotional range, his performance in Carlito’s Way is tremendous and of course Mystic River and Milk even though Milk is a solid but far form amazing film
Christian Bale – amazing in some solid but not amazing films like Vice (2018) and The Fighter (2010) and Batman Begins (2005)
Denzel Washington – carries some solid but not amazing films with incredible performances like in Training Day (2001), Flight (2012), and Crimson Tide (1995) to name a few. His screen presence is all time level in my opinion. I wish he worked with more auteurs (he worked with Spike Lee a lot early in his career) rather than mediocre action films like The Equalizer
@Matthew – I am not sure I interpreted your question correctly. Are you asking the question of “who are some actors that are amongst the most talented ever that are not in Drake’s Top 10 Actors?” Thus Daniel Day Lewis would certaily come to mind but Drake ranked him in the top 10 so he would not qualify for the sake of this question?
@James Trapp and @Matthew – Sorry yes, didn’t see the “outside of the top 10” portion. Obviously Brando is omitted. Clift and PSH would be right there probably 1 and 2 unless someone comes up with something I’m not thinking of right now.
My original post was convoluted. I was asking what actors not in Drake’s top 10 (like PSH) would crack the top 10 on a list purely based on talent/skill (like PSH)
Maybe Olivier. Newman and Dustin Hoffman are there.
How about Ralph Fiennes? Feel like he could be in the conversation too.