Staff Picks: Best Philip Seymour Hoffman Movies
Tony Beaulieu: I can’t think of one good g*d d*mn Philip Hoffman movie. He didn’t draw attention to himself in supporting roles, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. On the contrary, he was a rock-solid actor who did his piece and went home. Didn’t have to be flashy to be incredible, he just loved the craft of acting. I guess this is a weird way of saying I can’t pick just one Philip Hoffman movie. He was never not great.
State and Main
Eric Norcross: I think Philip plays a writer wonderfully (Almost Famous, Capote). State and Main was my entry film – so to speak – and it was after seeing that at a cineplex in Vancouver that I went back to look at other movie she had done.
Jesse Blume: I haven’t seen Capote yet, so for me that leaves only one single option: DOUBT. One of the biggest unanswered questions in all of dramatic literature is the one at the root of John Patrick Shanley’s play. As a man who grew up Catholic and to this day has a great deal of affection for the men and women of the cloth, this film spoke volumes to me. I could praise the story for hours, but we’re here to honor Hoffman. If he hadn’t risen to the occasion and performed this role as he did, the whole film would have suffered. He perfectly embodies the story’s theme of uncertainty. He’s a likable man, but every now and then, he says and does some things that make you wonder. You want to believe in him, but when the curtain falls, you have doubts. You have such doubts.
Caleb Masters: Phillip Seymour Hoffman is an incredible actor who has gifted us with not just one type of character, but rather a multitude of memorable and iconic roles that I believe will be remembered. He’s been a ruthless spy villain in MI3, the leader of a seemingly nonsensical obsessed cult in The Master, and the beacon of hope in Magnolia. He is truly one of the greats of acting that will be sorely missed.
Of all his roles, my favorite has to be his work as father Flynn in Doubt. I believe his turn as the ambiguous yet seemingly sincere priest to be mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and also remarkably surprising for such a seemingly simple role. It’s an impressive film that is often overlooked with fine performances from all the leads, however none of them are quite as great as Hoffman who steals the show to deliver what will always be the iconic Hoffman role in my mind.
Caliber Winfield: My all time favorite movie. There are so many incredible performances in this film that it’s arguably the greatest acted film of all time. Phil played Scotty, a closet gay audio assistant who wanted nothing more than Dirk. All he wanted to know was if he liked his car…and can he kiss him? Can he just kiss him? Well…does Dirk want to kiss him? He’s just…he’s just drunk…well…does Dirk at least like his car? ‘Cause if not…he was just…he was just gonna take it back.
Seriously, Phil gave a master class in making the most out of what you’re given in this movie, creating a performance & character that stood out immensely when for all intents & purposes it wouldn’t have.
Patricia Márquez: My favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman movie is Boogie Nights; in fact, it’s my favorite movie of all time, as mentioned above. However, my favorite performance of his is in Synecdoche, New York. I often find myself thinking of some of his lines, written by the exquisite Charlie Kaufman. One is when he is about to bed Emily Watson’s character, and she says to him that maybe he likes guys. He responds with, “No, I’ve only ever loved women.” It encapsulates the theme of the movie regarding romantic love and creative passion, and his acknowledgement of this theme is apparent in his entire delivery, how he understood this theme holistically and used it to guide his entire performance. Another great line is when his dying daughter refuses to forgive him for running out on the family (which he never did). She dies in front of his weeping eyes, and her vindictive step-mother (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) says to him, “I hope you’re happy.” His response, “I’m not happy… I’m not happy.” His performance in this movie is so excellent that he’s able to portray the same unfortunate character through youth to old age and death. A second before the moment of his death, he has one last idea how to complete his magnum opus… and then we fade to white. I like to think that’s how he lived his life; not succumbing and giving in to his addiction, as the press likes to portrays it, but always working and planning for his next role, his next great performance. It’s a tremendous loss, but we should be thankful to have lived and watched movies during a time when Philip Seymour Hoffman worked and lived and gave a hell of a show.
Derek Johns: Out of his many great roles the one that stuck out for me was as the jaded but still passionate music critic Lester Bangs. Hoffman’s role is brief but he certainly makes the most of it. His late night phone call in which he gives some sage advice to the wide eyed William Miller is one of my all-time favorite scenes and I could quote it forever. After telling William the advantages of being uncool, Lester closes the scene by telling him something critics everywhere should remember and that is to “Be honest and unmerciful.”
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Ruby Le Rouge: A hard decision, wow. If I think of the performance that leaps to mind first when I think of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, it would have to be The Talented Mr. Ripley. He played it so well that I hated him, lol, but the performance that made me like him was probably his most subdued, as Brandt in The Big Lebowski. A straight man in a crooked world, which is an amusing notion since he played a lawyer.
I am sad that filming was not finished on the final Hunger Games movie, his character in that was great as well. It will be interesting to see how they wrap that up.
Mike Luxemburg: For right now I’m feeling like I gotta say The Master. It’s a masterpiece of a movie about addiction (both between people and substances), which feels particularly poignant given PSH’s COD. His performance as Lancaster Dodd is a heartbreaking window into the fractured soul of a manipulative, damaged man. In all of his work Hoffman is able to display twisted people in a way that is both distressing and laden with pathos. I think basically anything he’s ever done would be a viable choice, but given the depths he plunges in The Master and the clear depth to the man himself this seems like the only choice.
Bethany Lewis: Not necessarily for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance alone, which is fun and dynamic as it stands, but for his contribution to a rich and compelling ensemble of excellent actors who tell a true story of rock n’ roll rebellion in a time of strict social conformity. While there is no doubt that Hoffman was a show stopping actor, one can never underestimate the importance of an actor who can distinguish himself in an ensemble at the same time as making the ensemble whole – and that is exactly what Hoffman does for Pirate Radio.
James Cochrane: Phil Parma
The interesting thing about Hoffman’s portrayal of Phil Parma is the subtlety. A film awash with characters operating on all cylinders Phil floats along the periphery. In any other film, in any other actor’s hands this character might have been considered a third stringer. Although Hoffman is essentially another person for Julianne Moore and Jason Robards to interact with what Phillip Seymour Hoffman brings is a weight to his roll as Earl Partridge’s nurse. His desperate trepidation throughout his phone call to find Earl’s son, to the loving respect that is expressed behind his eyes when he connects with Earl as he drifts between lucidity and hallucination. We all know Hoffman the force; Hoffman the character, but what we have here is Hoffman the subdued; the support. Hoffman the actor.
Shawn S. Lealos: I love movies and have a ton of favorites but when people ask me what my favorite movie is, I immediately, and without any other thoughts, say Magnolia. Whenever I prepared to work on a script, I pulled out my screenplay of Magnolia and read it again. I have read the screenplay for Magnolia more than any other movie script I own, usually more than once a year. That shows my love and admiration for P.T. Anderson and his filmmaking. He just knocked it out of the park with this film and his casting choices were perfect. Honestly, I can’t think of anyone who would be better as playing Earl’s nurse Phil than Hoffman. The guy brought so much emotion and sensitivity to the role that he just owned his scenes. Magnolia is the movie where I first became a huge fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman and it has stood as my all-time favorite movie for going on 15 years now.
Derick ‘d-rock’ Dotson: Hoffman has a ton of terrific roles but I can’t neglect my very first memories of seeing him in Twister. With all his amazing dramatic turns, his goofball presence as Dustin “Dusty” Davis– oddball storm chaser– is still one of my favorite characters in the film. With a film full of flat characters, Hoffman back then, almost stole the show.
Dusty: The extreme! IT’S THE EXTREME!
Bill: Oh, man. Don’t start that shit.
How can you not love “Dusty?”
Mission: Impossible III
Aidan Myles Green: Odd choice, I know, but the completely off-beat casting of Hoffman as an intimidating villain scored a home run for me. It was, for the most part, my first major exposure to Hoffman as an A-List actor, and man, did he deliver. He’s so assured, so smug, so calmly bad that he sent chills down my spine from the first scene. He’s not flashy, he’s not quirky or eccentric, he’s just bad. And Hoffman MADE this movie with his performance. Such inspired casting and such an impeccable performance.