5 Great Philip Seymour Hoffman Performances

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman blessed us with ground-breaking performance after ground-breaking performance. His incredible body of work in a career sadly cut short is unsurpassed in the modern era.

God’s Pocket arrives in UK cinemas this week, marking the final time actor Philip Seymour Hoffman will appear on our screens in a new theatrical release. To celebrate his work, Top 10 Films & The Reel Deal pick five great performances from Hoffman’s sadly shortened career.

5. Twister

twister-top10films-alan-ruck-philip-seymour-hoffmanWe begin our top 5 with a film about bad weather. REALLY bad weather! In Twister, Hoffman proved his talent could shine through despite a film’s principle character being a piece of CGI trickery. The action-packed drama follows a group of storm chasers researching tornadoes. One of the group is a scene-stealing Hoffman whose over-enthusiasm for the chase belies the true danger they face.

4. Almost Famous

almost-famous-philip-seymour-hoffman_top10filmsIn fourth is another one of Hoffman’s support roles as straight-talking rock journalist Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s cinematic love letter to rock n roll Almost Famous. In a film about the coming-of-age of a young, aspiring writer, based on the director’s own experiences as a teenage scribe for Rolling Stone magazine, Hoffman is the old hand guiding the young blood. At times acting with nothing but a phone in his hand, he still manages to excel. His weathered, burnt out exterior and sage but almost bitter understanding of the business, conveys the war wounds of sleepless nights, loud music and the carnal delights of rock’s most dedicated fans – the groupies.

3. Better The Devil Knows You’re Dead

before-the-devil-knows-your-dead_top10filmsIn third place, Hoffman teams up with the great actor’s director Sidney Lumet for Better The Devil Knows You’re Dead. This tightly strung, intimate crime drama sees its plot twists driven by the push and pull of family politics as a pair of brothers, in need of a quick buck, plot to rob their parents’ jewellery store. Hoffman is typically brilliant as a drug-addled pencil pusher, displaying a desperation to appease the guilt he feels but clouded by a mischievous determination to escape his previous misdeeds anyway he can.

2. The Master

hoffman_the-master_top10filmsIn second, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Hoffman’s last great performance. The fact writer-director Anderson cast the late actor in almost all his films, shows not only a faith in his abilities but an acknowledgement of his uncanny knack of portraying so many different types of character on-screen. In this Oscar-nominated 2012 effort, Hoffman plays the charismatic leader of a religious cult who comes to the aid of psychologically scarred World War II veteran Freddie Quell (played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix). Hoffman is at his hypnotic best here, a quiet authority shielding us from a powerful rage that bubbles beneath.

1. Capote


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…But Hoffman’s truly astonishing performance in Capote is our number one pick. Rightly bagging the Academy Award for Best Actor, the film follows the celebrated author, portrayed with understated elegance by Hoffman, as he works on his true crime novel In Cold Blood. Focusing on perhaps the most significant period in Capote’s life, Hoffman’s powerful portrayal is an authentic personification of the man, providing a subtle yet deeply moving insight into one America’s most renowned literary figures.

Written by Daniel Stephens & Presented by Joe Forrester

You can see more from The Reel Deal on Top 10 Films or on YouTube.

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    I was actually thinking about doing one of these for PSH, Dan. 🙂 You beat me to it. I just saw A Most Wanted Man, one of his last roles. He’s absolutely brilliant in it as well. I like all of your choices, and glad to see that you included his turn in Twister. Another one worth mentioning, just because he made me laugh in it, is Charlie Wilson’s War.

    Hoffman might be the greatest actor of all time, he’s that good. Such a tragic loss and I was sad to hear of his passing.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Heaton Reply

    I definitely agree with #1, #2, and #4, and I’d put Lester Bangs as high as the second spot (and maybe even first). He embodies that character and steals ever scene, and his time on screen is pretty limited. I’m not sure that Twister would be up there for me, but I know it’s splitting hairs at #5. He does a great job in Magnolia in a nicer role than he often plays. The 25th Hour, State and Main, and even Mission Impossible 3 were also good options.

  3. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    Yea, he was such a prick on MI3, that’s another great role.

  4. Avatar
    CineGirl Reply

    Brilliant actor, brilliant choices! Well done guys!

    My personal favorite is Almost Famous but you must watch the extended version for more Hoffman!

  5. Avatar
    Roy Cavener Reply

    You could honestly pick any film in which he’s appeared. Plaudits for choosing some great films here. My favourites are Magnolia and The Savages.

  6. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    Excellent performances, especially The Master. My personal favorite Hoffman roles are in Pirate Radio and 25th Hour.

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