There has already been so many articles and lists celebrating and remembering the life and career of the great actor Philip Seymour Hoffman that it is difficult and next to superfluous to add much of anything else to the mourning din that hasn’t already been said. However, that doesn’t in the least mean that it shouldn’t be said or that another tribute of remembrance isn’t deserved. Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor of the highest versatility and the deepest complexity. He often specialized in characters that were incredibly unlikeable but perhaps inherently redeemable, which is ultimately a reflection of humanity itself. Here is a list of movies that you may have forgotten featured the talented Mr. Hoffman, but contain some of his most overlooked and intriguing work.
6. Twister (1996)
He plays Dustin Davis, a tornado specialist on Helen Hunt’s tornado chasing team. There was a certain point in the 90s when “yeah-dude”, long haired, rock n’ roll rebels were a must have in everything from drama to comedy, and Hoffman pretty well fits the bill in this weather disaster movie. He spends the movie rockin’ out to everything from hair metal to Eric Clapton and thinks calling their competitors “losers” is the ultimate insult. The character is classic Hoffman – charming, eccentric, but with more than a hint of the detestable.
5. Red Dragon (2002)
Speaking of detestable, Freddy Lounds in this Silence of the Lambs prequel (or Manhunter reboot, whichever you prefer) is the height of despicable. He plays an easy-to-hate, slimy, and underhanded tabloid journalist whose most inexcusable act is sneaking into the hospital and taking and publishing photos of the gravely injured FBI Agent Will Graham as he lie comatose in the hospital. It’s so easy to hate him and to deeply disapprove of him – and yet, when he his taken by the psychopathic killer who calls himself the Red Dragon, we also fear deeply for his safety. And when he finally comes barreling down the street, lips bitten off, strapped to a wheelchair, and on fire, it is a testament to his talent as an actor that we both feel that he has got his comeuppance and that his fate has been terribly unfortunate.
4. Hard Eight (1996)
No new Paul Thomas Anderson movie will ever be the same knowing that Philip Seymour Hoffman will not be in it. Hoffman has been in every one of the director’s feature films except for There Will Be Blood, and that of course includes his first feature film, Hard Eight. Hoffman plays an unnamed, but very prominent, craps table player at a scene in a casino. While he often times displayed an understated, tired, dryness, he could also mysteriously display an incredible frenetic energy and that’s what he does here. As he plays craps, he picks out and harasses Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) in a cringe-worthy, unrelenting way. Again, we dislike Hoffman for acing so unabashedly despicable, but when all is said and done, he pleasantly and hopefully offers to buy Sydney a drink, as if it were all a game. We really don’t know whether to love or hate him.
3. Patch Adams (1998)
Hoffman’s Mitch is the misguided, arrogant antithesis of Robin Williams’ Patch Adams. He believes that he can heal using only medicine and science and is not only exasperated with Adams’ frivolous techniques, but openly contemptuous of him as a person. He firmly believes that his way, the tried and true conventional way of doing things, is the only right one. He is a character made to pity and dislike, but when he finally comes around to the possibility that he could be wrong, we immediately forgive his misguided arrogance. It seems firmly ingrained in Hoffman’s being that no matter how unforgivable the character, there remains a hint of redemption – something that makes us accept him regardless of his faults.
2. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
The only real reason we dislike Hoffman’s Freddie Miles in this movie is that he has a bad feeling about the film’s anti-hero, the beautifully boyish, ambitious, obsessive, devious, and talented Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). If we weren’t routing for Ripley, Freddie’s suspicion and contempt of our hero would never seem as unforgivable as it feels – in fact, his behavior is incredibly and completely justified given the circumstances of the film. At the same time, he does nothing to hide how he feels about Ripley and actively antagonizes him. Its no wonder that he ends up getting his head bashed in with a large plaster bust.
1. The Big Lebowski (1998)
There’s something so simultaneously dry and campy about this movie that suits Philip Seymour Hoffman so well that you forget he was even in it, never mind one of the best parts of it. He plays the Big Lebowski’s lawyer, Brandt, and is one of the few characters to immediately buy into The Dude’s mythology. Hearing Brandt walk through the movie and entirely seriously call Jeff Bridges “Dude” is one of the sweetest pleasures of the film. It lends credence to a persona that is otherwise only affirmed by a very small and eclectic inner circle of scruffily dressed characters. Brandt is a suit wearing, job holding member of the real world who makes us believe in the otherwise incredulous legend of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski.