The Local Stigmatic: Fame is the First Sin

The Local Stigmatic is a pet project of Al Pacino’s, a one-act play he had performed in the 1960s and turned into a film during the late 80s. It was never released theatrically and finally saw the light of day in a 2007 DVD version. Written by an eloquent, young talent Heathcote Williams during the late 60s, The Local Stigmatic is a disturbing and acidly funny study of psychosis, fame, obsession and jealousy. In a way, it is a precursor to Scorcese’s The King of Comedy, which during the 1980s was already ahead of its time. Williams’ work  eerily foreshadows our modern culture’s hypnotic fascination with and envy of celebrities. The play is famous for its violent and harrowing climax, in which the lead characters deliver a severe beating on a man outside a pub.


The film opens with Pacino’s character Graham monologuing in an epic angry tirade to his friend Ray (played by Paul Guilfoyle) about a supposedly bad tip he got for a greyhound dog race. Guilfoyle’s understated menace and Pacino’s manic energy clues the viewer in that something is very off-kilter about these men.  They share a symbiotic connection as their banter, laced with angry and dark humor, feels like a secret code that we are not wholly privy to. We watch them roam the London streets, playing mind games with passerby and spewing their unsettling doctrine to anyone who will listen. Director David F. Wheeler frequently uses dissolving cross-cuts during shot reverse shots to signify the strength and bond of their sociopathic behavior. They blur together, their two halves forming one dangerous whole.

Graham picks up a celebrity gossip paper,  taunting the newsstand seller by proclaiming “Fame is the first sin because God knows who you are,” incedientially the thesis of Williams’ piece. The pair are framed underneath an ad for The Elephant Man. Graham and Ray are the sick type to identify with the Elephant Man’s cruel taunters, getting pleasure in the abhorration and ridicule he endures. They are quick to view others as less than human, equating them to a lowly animal, much like the greyound dogs Graham loathed in his opening monologue. The Elephant Man also has concerns with the nature of fame and notoriety, Graham and Ray would likely condemn the film for lionizing a “disgusting” creature.


Later at a pub, Graham recognizes a famous actor at the bar. The pair walk up to him and zealously stroke his ego. Pacino delivers yet another incredible monologue, filled with vigorous smiles and his trademark intense stare. Graham showers the actor with praise, buying him a drink, complimenting his films, and acting as if they were old friends. The actor, meanwhile, is so enraptured with this hungry seduction that he is blind to who they really are. He drinks in their compliments without seeing them as real live human beings., looking beyond them and not truly listening or responding to their exact words.

capture3 Graham and Ray loathe celebrities for acting this very way. In their eyes, celebrities pompously regard themselves as better than everyone else, modern day Greek gods occasionally forced to slum amongst the common folk. They turn to violence in order to reign supreme over these modern deities. The pair offer to walk the actor home, resulting in the famed terrifying climax. It is important to consider the

Graham and Ray loathe celebrities for acting this very way. In their eyes, celebrities pompously regard themselves as better than everyone else, modern day Greek gods occasionally forced to slum amongst the common folk. They turn to violence in order to reign supreme over these modern deities. The pair offer to walk the actor home, resulting in the famed terrifying climax. It is important to consider the filmic changes to this scene, as discussed by Pacino in the DVD commentary. Due to the theatrical setting of the play, the audience’s distanciation to the scene rendered a misconnection. The theatre audiences would often concentrate on the physical blocking of the fight as opposed to hearing or concentrating on Graham’s incredible monologue.

The film uses subjective POV shots, with Graham staring into the camera/the actor’s face, arresting the spectator with the victim’s tensions and fear. This submerges the film audience into the beating in a closely felt way simply not possible in theatre. The film spectator is overcome with the oppressiveness of this moment, as Pacino stares too close for comfort with the harsh sounds of Ray’s pummeling fists and kicks in the background. Through these close-ups, the viewer can also concentrate on the eloquent and poetic beauty of the monologue. Pacino’s delivery of this soliloquy is impeccable, the words trip fluidly off his tongue with dynamic and terrifying energy.

Pacino specifically made the decision to dilute the violence, removing excessive views of blood or bruises in order to concentrate on the words. However, I feel that seeing stronger visceral ramifications of the beating would render this sequence more horrifying than it already is.


Pacino and Guilfolye are incredible as this pair of domestic terrorists. Their characters share a feral bond forged and sustained by ritualistic violence. One gets the sense that this is not the first-or last-time these characters will commit this kind of crime. I highly recommend this film if you are a fan of Al Pacino, it is possibly one of his greatest performances. Plus, it’s only 50 minutes. Heathcote Williams’ sharply written work is a dark manifesto on the toxicity of fame. He wrote this during the 1960s, and one can only imagine what his opinions would be of celebrity culture today. The film is actually available on YouTube, link below:

Scarecrow: Make ‘Em Laugh

(spoiler alert for discussing ending scenes)

Scarecrow is an underrated gem from 1973 starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. The film starts out as an on-the-road buddy comedy, the two actors playing hobos travelling across the country for different reasons. Gene Hackman plays Maxx, who is the central focus for much of the beginning, a cankerous man who is trying to get back to Pittsburgh to start a car wash business. Al Pacino plays Francis, later nicknamed Lion, who has been at sea for five years. He needs to go to Detroit to see his child, who’s birth caused him to flee. Carrying a lamp as a present (he is unsure of the gender) he plans to meet his family and become real father after all. Lion serves as his jovial sidekick, but there is more than meets the eye to his story. By the end of Scarecrow, we realize that the story has been very much about Lion after all.


In one of the beginning scenes we learn that Lion has a certain creed, a way of life that helps get him through. He tells Max that scarecrows do not actually scare crows, but instead makes them laugh.

Lion: That’s right, the crows are laughin’. Look, the farmer puts out a scarecrow, right, with a funny hat on it, got a funny face. The crows fly by, they see that, it strikes ‘em funny, makes ‘em laugh.

Max: The god damn crows are laughin’?

Lion: That’s right, they’re laughin’ their asses off. And then they say, “Well that ol’ farmer Joe down there, he’s a pretty good guy. He made us laugh, so we won’t bother him any more.

By imparting this to the hotheaded Max, he is suggesting that the he mellow his enemy with humor. Using clowning as opposed to hostility will lessen the chances of Max always ending up with a black eye.

­Throughout much of the film, Lion is the funny side man, there to diffuse awkward situations with his child-like humor. Always smiling and lighthearted, Lion seems amazingly free of any angst or anxiety. We see Lion using his joking as ways to cover for Max many times throughout the film, trying to stop him from getting into fights or throwing off tense situations. Lion feels that his advice and worldview will work in Max’s favor, since it has seemingly worked for him. In one important scene, we see how his jesting is truly a defense mechanism for Lion. One that will not always work out in his favor.

Max and Lion have ended up in jail. Max has been in jail before, he knows the ropes and is not there to make friends. But the goodnatured Lion quickly gains a friend, who ends up wanting him for malicious intentions. Lion and Riley end up alone in a room, where Riley starts cornering and attempting to sexually assault him. At first Lion laughs it it off and makes a Frankenstein reference “Get back, Igor”. But the audience can see the horror behind Lion’s smile. Riley is infuriated, thinking Lion is laughing at him. Lion ends up getting severely beaten by his “friend.”

One scene is the climax for Lion’s arc, where the audience sees that there is so much more brewing beneath Lion’s joyful exterior. It begins where a drunk Max has started a fight with yet another guy in a bar. Lion again attempts to diffuse the situation by turning a famous striptease song on the jukebox. But instead of Lion putting on a show it is now Max, who willingly stops himself from engaging in another fight. Lion is then forced to confront the realities of his worldview, when his pupil has put his principle into practice. It is now Max’s turn to make ‘em laugh. The camera focuses on Lion in a long shot, we study his reaction. The long shot conveys that Lion’s humor has just been a mask, which is slowly fading away. Lion has been hiding his true self underneath this clown’s mask all along, and the film’s ending scenes hits this home even further.

Max and Lion finally arrive in Detroit. Instead of showing up at his ex-girlfriend’s home unannounced, Leon decides to call her. But his phone call is not welcomed. Annie tells Lion that she miscarried due to her turbulent emotions after his abandonment. The film cuts to Annie in her home, where we see a young boy, five years old, who looks EXACTLY like Al Pacino. Clearly, Annie is lying. She then preys on Lion’s Catholic guilt by reminding him that since the unborn child was not baptized, he live in purgatory for eternity. (Lion’s Catholicism was touched upon in earlier scenes, already establishing that his faith was important to the character.) After they hang up, Lion is clearly devastated. But he turns and cheerfully makes up an excuse to Max that he doesn’t need to see his child after all.


The next scene shows Lion playing around with neighborhood children, doing imitations of the pirate Long John. The film is explicitly conveying just how much humor serves as a way of coping and glossing over his pain. Soon the joking stops, and something in Lion snaps. He carries a child further into the fountain. This can be seen as Lion’s way of baptizing his son, making up for the loss in this abstract way. A scene follows at the hospital where we learn that Lion has suffered from a catatonic breakdown, he lays on the bed unmoving and dead-eyed.

But Scarecrow does not end on an entirely somber note, for Max leaves for Pittsburgh promising to return to Lion with money to pay for his hospital stay.

Scarecrow begins as a slightly typical buddy comedy, with one lead and a supporting jester. But the jester turns out to be a sad clown, making for an introspective look at the way we all play roles in our life, and how humor can often be used as a Band-Aid for our pain. Scarecrow is commendable for turning the tables on the audience by taking the story in an unexpected direction.

(Also,  I’d like to NOT thank the DVD for having this picture on the back and fooling me into thinking that he would meet his adorable son.)


Dog Day Afternoon: LGBT Characters in 1970s Film

Dog Day Afternoon was released in 1975; the real life events of the film took place in 1972. It is primarily a film about the death of the 1960s movement, with themes that touch upon the political anti-establishment, or disenfranchised Vietnam veterans. Sonny is challenging the system, the police and FBI, and becomes a symbol of anti-establishment for the crowd. (See the infamous “Attica!” scene) But Dog Day Afternoon also stands in film history for being one of the first films to openly portray queer characters. Between the real robbery and the release date of Dog Day Afternoon, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Homosexuality (or any sexuality or gender identity outside of the norm) was rarely portrayed in film. If so, it was with a tragic ending, or diluted and merely hinted upon. (See The Children’s Hour. Also Midnight Cowboy, which was rated X at the time for “homosexual frame of reference” which is much more undertones than outright pronouncement)

The film really starts out as a comedy. Sonny is a fumbling and crazed bank robber that doesn’t really know what he’s doing. What was supposed to take thirty minutes takes over eight hours as Sonny, his partner Sal, and the hostages are in an eight-hour standoff with the police. Sonny is friendly to the hostages, doesn’t want to kill or hurt anyone but refuses to give up. Over the course of the movie we learn more about Sonny through his conversations with the police and hostages, and eventually meet his family and unconventional love life. This draws a rich and sympathetic portrait of who Sonny is. The tension boils into a simmering drama as Sonny’s background unfolds.

Sonny gives the police his wife’s address to have them bring her down. There’s another scene where we meet Angie, who the audience believes to be the wife they were called to collect. Angie is an overbearing, overweight, and overly frenetic woman. We learn she has two kids with Sonny. But then, about an hour into the film, we see an effeminate looking man in a hospital robe escorted by the police. It is Leon, and we learn that he (correct pronoun would be she, but it is improperly used in the film. Again, given the times) is a transwoman currently living as a man unable to afford sex-reassignment surgery. This surgery is the reasoning for Sonny’s attempted robbery.


The police explain that Leon was located where Sonny asked them to find his wife. We eventually, through TV broadcasts, learn that Leon indeed married Sonny in a white dress and proper church ceremony. Although Sonny is referred to as homosexual by the news outlets, he is really bisexual. Here we have a 1975 film representing not only a bisexual character, but a transgender one as well. Also, technically, a polygamist! Sonny not only maintained his gay relationship but is also presented as being, at the same time, a ‘family man,’ with a wife and children.

At the time, Al Pacino was a huge star. He was hot off the heels of his debut in The Godfather, the hit Serpico also with Sidney Lumet, and The Godfather sequel. It was controversial and risky for someone of his stardom to take this role. Sidney Lumet says in the DVD interview “No major star that I knew of had ever played a gay man.” It was unheard of for a straight man to “lower” himself by playing that kind of character. Also, Al Pacino’s claim to fame was Michael Corleone, the epitome of masculinity and male power. A homosexual character (or rather, the idea of a stereotypical homosexual character) was the complete opposite of the imperious Corleone leader.


Al Pacino had reservations for playing Sonny. (Pacino will go on to push the envelope even further in 1980s Cruising, which amps up the controversial content. He plays an undercover cop who has to find a serial killer in the gay S&M underworld. See picture below)


In the DVD special features, Pacino talks about a moment that was in the script that didn’t get filmed. There’s a scene where Leon (escorted by the police) and Sonny meet in front of the bank, and after they talk they kiss. Pacino did not want to include this in the film, his reasoning that “When a relationship comes to an end, how often does sex come into it?” In the real-life event, there was no kiss. So yes, it is true to the facts that they did not kiss. Perhaps Pacino felt it would be disingenuous to their crumbling relationship. (After all, Leon is in the hospital because he tried to get away from Sonny by trying to kill himself).

Pacino continues by saying that the audience didn’t need to keep being reminded by pushing the gay issue in the audiences’ face. This sounds a bit ignorant, as if Pacino was covering up the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with- or even wanting to do, a gay kiss. But Sidney Lumet says that Pacino wanted to show “Two people who love each other and cannot find a way to live with each other.” Pacino finishes his reasoning by saying that he wanted to portray “the human conflict and the human cry for connection, and a kiss seemed to be exploitative.”

One has to wonder the kind of media reaction of the time if this kiss was included. For one, I don’t feel that we should sensor the physicality of gay relationships on screen for fear of “pushing it on the audience” or “rubbing it in their faces.” But in terms of how the relationship of Leon and Sonny plays out in the film, perhaps it was a good choice to not keep it in, even if Pacino is not wording it in the best way. He did want to show the humanity of these characters. It seems that he felt the connection they had should be shown as a bond of the soul. We can see the love Sonny has (at times misguided, but still strong) for Leon. Just look at his face after he wishes him happy birthday, you can see the joy he feels and how much he cares for Leon shining through.


The phone call scene with Leon is one of the best scenes captured on film, thanks to Pacino and Chris Sarandon’s brilliant performances. Pacino and Sarandon’s performances are devoid of gay stereotypes and physical and vocal clichés.

There’s a scene where Sonny dictates his will to a bank teller. Actor Chris Sarandon remarked that at a screening he was afraid that audiences would laugh at the line “Leon…whom I love as no other man has loved another man in all eternity.” But the theatre was silent, enraptured in the performance. This is a testament to the believability of the performances and the writing of the characters, as well as a great leap for the 1970s filmgoers. There’s no mocking of these people, for they feel as we feel, despite being lovers of the same sex.

Sarandon said in an interview “This wasn’t about the relationship of a drag queen and his boyfriend. This was a relationship about two people trying to come to grips about what is wrong with their relationship.” They’re not erasing the sexual identities of these characters. But by showing that they are just two people that care about each other, that breaks down the barriers and preconceived notions of homosexuals. (Or bisexuals, transgendered, etc.) Remember, it was considered a mental illness at the time. They were looked upon as people with something severely wrong with them. But here they are shown for what they really are- human beings just like everyone else.

Dog Day Afternoon is a pivotal film in 1970s film making, an exciting and captivating piece of cinema that portrays one of the most engaging characters of all time, and sensitively portrays his sexuality and relationships.

(Please note that I am not saying we should overly applaud straight actors for playing gay, bisexual, or transgendered characters. (Etc. “it’s so brave of you!”) I just admire the filmmakers for giving them an honest portrayal. The actors do deliver fine performances. I know that proper representation by actors is important in today’s film making world, but this piece is framed with the 1970s film goers and filmmakers in mind.)

Top 10: Feel-Good Movies

If you’re having a bad day, or are sick beyond belief, nothing feels better than snuggling up with a feel-good movie. A movie that never fails to make you smile or lift your spirits. Everyone has those certain special ones, and here’s a few of mine.


1. My Neighbor Totoro

If this movie doesn’t make you smile, you’re basically not human. Hayao Miyazaki is a master storyteller, and Totoro is no different from his other woks that capture the simple magic of childhood. Totoro is a playful mystical creature that brightens the lives of two little girls, taking them on a magical adventure while also teaching them about the realities of life. It can’t get any cuter than this. With gorgeous animation and adorable magical creatures, My Neighbor Totoro is guaranteed to lift your spirits.


2. When Harry Met Sally

Harry and Sally are pretty much my #relationshipgoals. Sure, they didn’t really like each other at first and it took 10 years for them to finally get together… but they end up fitting together perfectly. These are smartly written and all around great characters. Sharply played by the actors, Billy Crystal’s cynical Harry and Meg Ryan’s cheery Sally have fantastic interplay with an infectious wit. And that monologue at the end always gets me. “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Don’t we all want to hear that? When Harry Met Sally set the standard for romantic comedies that very few have ever reached.


3. Clue 

Clue is a zany physical comedy that will leave you in stitches from side-splitting laughter. Tim Curry is a huge standout, leading the wacky gang in pratfalls and mishaps throughout the sprawling mansion. Madeline Khan is also deviously funny as Mrs. White, particularly her hilarious monologue on her loathing of Yvette “Flames…on the side of my face!” It is frantic and silly, and feels more like a stage farce than anything. I’ve always thought it would be an excellent play. If I ever need a laugh, all I have to do is pop Clue in the DVD player.


4. Adventures in Babysitting

Adventures in Babysitting starts out with a fun bang in a magnetic opening. (which I wrote about here) Is it silly and unbelievable at times? Yes. But it’s a lot of fun. The kids singing ‘The Babysitting Blues’ at a downtown Chicago blues club, encountering a Thor-esque mechanic, running into the mob, and so on. Also, the 80s was a time where kids and family movies could get away with a lot more, such as a sub plot where the babysitter looks strikingly similar and keeps getting mistaken for a Playboy model. Adventures in Babysitting is fun and absolutely lovable.


5. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This is a John Hughes classic, sold by Matthew Broderick as the charming lead character. It’s about being young and having fun, with a touch of serious moments as well. Jennifer Grey is hilarious as Ferris’ jealous younger sister. Jeffery Jones nearly steals the show as Ed Rooney, determined to catch Ferris Bueller in the act of skipping school. From the sing-along at the parade, to crashing a fancy restaurant, to a joyride in the Ferrari, there are so many memorable moments. Ferris and his friends have the best day of skipping school ever. And as Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Why not have fun while you can? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off makes you feel like you are a part of that ride.


6. The Emperor’s New Groove

This is Disney’s funniest film, hands down. An all-star hilarious voice cast, David Spade, Eartha Kitt, John Goodman and Patrick Warburton bring to life the colorful characters. Kronk’s spy song and when he olds the one note leaves me in stitches EVERY time. There are too many knee-slapping moments in this. The Emperor’s New Groove is a whimsical and funky Disney feature that warms your heart and never lets you stop laughing.


7. Back to the Future

How can you not love Back to the Future? It’s one of film’s most inventive, rousing, and all around entertaining adventures. Michael J. Fox is beyond charming as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd will always be remembered as the zany time-travel inventor Doc Brown. One particular moment that will always leave you smiling is Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” solo.  Despite being set in the 80s, it really is a timeless classic.


8. About A Boy

About A Boy is not only wickedly funny, but also very touching. Hugh Grant stars as the jaded Will silver-tongued sleaze with a hidden inner decency. He loves living life with no strings attached. He manages to get involved with a young boy and his depressed mom. Along the way, he learns that you shouldn’t seal yourself off from the world, or as he says in his mantra, be an island. One of the best parts is when he plays with Will at his school concert, “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. About A Boy is a tender and charming British comedy that reminds you the importance of human connection and relationships,


9. Frankie and Johnny

I just love this movie so much, it’s vastly underrated. It’s emotional and all-around delightful romantic comedy. Frankie and Johnny has fantastic performances by the two leads, played by Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. They have incredible chemistry and really sell the intricacies of the two characters. Frankie and Johnny deals with the complications of life, how it can beat you down, yet there is still the hope of connecting with truly good people. It’s a simple but beautiful little story.


10. Down With Love

Down With Love is a stylish romp that homages 1960s classics such as Pillow Talk. It’s basically like a chocolate bar, (pretty much like the one Ewan McGregor seductively unwraps in one scene) deliciously light and sweet and guaranteed to make you feel good. It’s unabashedly silly, cute and charming movie fluff.

Top 10: Al Pacino Performances

In honor of the current book I’m reading Al Pacino: In Conversation with Lawrence Grobel (which is a great look into the actor’s mind, life and acting process) here is what I personally consider to be Al Pacino’s best performances. Al Pacino is regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, his leap from the stage to the screen led him to a blazing start, appearing in some of history’s most famous films.

Although many like to poke fun that Al’s work gets gradually bigger and louder as time goes on. That he has now mastered the art of screaming and yelling on the top of his lungs, until it has become redundant. But nonetheless, Al Pacino’s performances are varied and vibrant.

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1. Michael Corleone – The Godfather

How can there be any other choice for #1? Francis Ford Coppola campaigned for Pacino against the studio’s wishes, refuting that there was no one else more perfect for the role. When he read the book, someone like Al Pacino was who he pictured in his head. Pacino would’ve preferred to play James Caan’s role as the hothead Sonny, (and Al eventually gets his wish and plays yelling hotheads many times throughout his career) but Pacino is masterful as the quiet, calculating Corleone. His still and subdued performance is much more powerful in the unspoken than any shouting could ever emote.

In this scene below, watch how he struggles to hold himself together despite the utter shock and contempt he feels for hearing what Kay has done. (And for a devout traditional Catholic, it is even more horrible) Note the wave of anger as he lashes out and slaps her, but you can see he regrets it as he quickly steps back.

There are far too many clips I could show from the first two films that demonstrate his fine work in this infamous role.

2. Sonny Wortzick – Dog Day Afternoon 

For all the stillness and subtly Pacino conveys in Corleone, he shows the complete opposite in his portrayal of Sonny Wortzick, a zany bounciness fueled by nervousness and hysteria. The role of Sonny was slightly controversial, a high-profile actor taking on the role of a gay man robbing a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change operation. This was one of the first main gay characters to ever appear in a mainstream film.

But Pacino doesn’t play him flamboyantly or override him with stereotypes, instead he is filled with passion and love for his partner. Overall, there is such a beloved earnestness in Sonny. The combination of that earnestness and naiveté is wholly endearing, as the not-so-well planned heist ends up becoming a media circus. (Foreshadowing the days of reality TV and the allure of fifteen-second fame.) His rallying cry of “Attica! Attica!” was completely improvised, earning the status of becoming one of the most famous film lines of all time. You can’t get a better example of Pacino’s energy and passion as an actor with this role.

3. Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade – Scent of a Woman 

This is the film that finally gave Al Pacino an Oscar. After being a seven-time nominee, most feel that this was given to Pacino more of as a consolation prize, making up for all his losses, rather than the part actually being deserving of one. Some feel the film is too long and overly schmaltzy. However, I view it as a heartwarming, moving, and triumphant drama with a lot of merit. Although it’s undeniable that the film would be nothing without Al Pacino’s performance. Al Pacino a Lieutenant Colonel Slade is a tortured soul, underneath all of his sarcasm and bravado, he is a lonely man. Blinded by an act of his own making, he is in the dark, both literally and figuratively.

Others feel that this role is very over-the-top and Oscar bait. But I think Pacino’s theatrical tendencies suit this character. Slade has got a lot of anger, a lot stirring up inside of him. And when it comes out, it over-bubbles.

That famous hoo-ha was Completely improvised by Pacino during his own private character work. If there’s anything I’ve learned by reading his interviews, is that despite a decades long career he still manages to take the time out to do private work for his characters. That’s someone who’s truly dedicated to their craft. Also, the closing speech is inspiring and audience-rousing.

4. Arthur Kirkland – …And Justice for All 

The film is a bit unbalanced, shifting between emotional drama and sitcom-like humor. (There’s really cheesy 70s sitcom music and close-ups) But Pacino’s performance certainly holds it together. Kirkland is an honest lawyer, he cares about the people and wants to obey the law and help as many as he can. This scene, below, I feel demonstrates some of his finest acting work, Especially when Kirkland admits that his client ended up hanging himself. The emotion in his voice and eventual breakdown is very well-crafted. You can really sense the other actor trying to keep up with Pacino’s skills.

…And Justice for All also features another famous ‘Pacino yelling speech’, one of the most famous. In his earlier days, before Pacino yelling became more of a joke and token staple in his films, you can see that when he nailed it he really did nail it. Similar to Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon, Pacino portrays Arthur Kirkland’s earnestness and passion as endearing and commendable.

5. Frank Serpico – Serpico

Al Pacino as Serpico is a famous and big role for him, between this and the recent release of The Godfather, he catapulted into becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. It is also a transformative role We see him go from a clean-cut fresh faced rookie cop to a grizzled hippie police outcast, the only one standing alone for what he knows is right. Watching it, it is undeniable that Pacino carries the film. Both gracefully and explosively portraying the struggles and convictions of the real-life cop.

6. Lt. Vincent Hanna – Heat

Pacino sizzles in Heat, he has a lot of fun playing Vincent Hanna and you can see it. Pacino is able to run wild with his character, a wild-eyed hothead workaholic who struggles to keep together his crumbling marriage. But in the end, work is more important as he engages in a cat-and-mouse chase for the criminal Neil, played by Robert De Niro. Heat is famously the first film to bring the acting greats De Niro and Pacino together. Pacino brings his well-known bravado and theatrics to create a fun and truly memorable character.

7. Tony Montana – Scarface

Al Pacino’s role in this is iconic, so permeated in pop culture (“Say hello to my little friend” is perhaps one of the most infamous and widely quoted movie lines) that it’s hard to believe the film was poorly received when it first came out. Many felt that the film and performance was overly flamboyant, far too over-the-top. But Pacino, aligned with what he felt was Brian De Palma’s vision, wanted to make his performance operatic. And indeed, it is. Operatic as well as wildly entertaining. For all the extravagance that Cuban immigrant-turned-cocaine drug kingpin Tony luxuriates in, how can he be anything but over-the-top? There is no gray area or reeling in with this character, and Pacino goes all for it.

8. Lowell Bergman – The Insider

A lot of Pacino’s characters seem to be passionate, dedicated individuals who fight for a cause against the odds. In line with that narrative, Pacino plays Lowell Bergman, a reporter trying to take on the corrupt tobacco industry. However, for all of his passion this is much more of a quiet intensity. Rather than relying on his past theatrics, which work for other performances, this character brings a different kind of earnestness that we don’t usually see in Pacino’s other work.

9. Carlito – Carlito’s Way 

Also directed by Scarface‘s Brian De Palma, Pacino plays a character completely opposite Tony Montana. Carlito Puerto-Rican ex-convict who tries his hardest to stay on the straight and narrow path. It is a very quiet and understated performance, he tells a lot more through the eyes. Another thing that sticks out about the performance is that you want Carlito to succeed so much, you want him to be able to stay on the right path as much as he can, despite all the temptations along the way.

His character also brings a lot of humor, like in this scene.

10. Johnny – Frankie and Johnny

Frankie and Johnny is a rather underrated romantic comedy, featuring Pacino in a performance that we rarely see from him. Instead of his tough guy characters, we get to see his lighter side, an emotional and vulnerable man with a lot of humor and a heart of gold. It’s a sweet movie with Al Pacino yet again playing another earnest character. There is nothing deceitful about him for he lays all of his emotions out on the table. Michelle Pfeiffer is also exceptional opposite him.

Honorable mention to Two Bits, where Pacino gives a heartwarming and moving performance as a sickly and dying grandfather, a sweet and touching side we rarely see in his roles.


In celebration of Al Pacino’s great work on film, I leave you with this fun remix.