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The 11 best Al Pacino movies to stream right now

If you haven't seen these Pacino films, it's time to get streaming

Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II
Paramount Pictures

At this point in his esteemed career, Al Pacino is an elder statesman. Whenever he shows up in something, you know you’re in for something unexpected but completely committed. Few actors have had more varied careers, and even fewer have had the same caliber of work.

Over the years, Pacino has worked with everyone from Francis Ford Coppola to to Christopher Nolan, and in that time, he’s amassed a body of work that any actor would be jealous of. A list of the best Al Pacino movies also doubles as a list of some of the best movies ever made. Without further ado, these are the Pacino movies that rise to the top of the pack.

The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather
100%
9.2/10
175m
Genre
Drama, Crime
Stars
Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
Watch on Amazon
Perhaps the greatest movie ever made, and Pacino is right at the center of it. Marlon Brando gets a lot of attention for his performance as Vito in the first Godfather, but Pacino is just as great as Michael, a young upstart who is trying desperately to avoid the criminal clutches of his family. Michael’s ultimate assumption of his father’s role inside the family may be inevitable, but Pacino plays Michael as a truly conflicted figure. He’s so good in the role that you come to believe he can be saved from the life of crime that eventually subsumes him, even if that was always an illusion.

Scarface (1983)

Scarface
65%
8.3/10
169m
Genre
Action, Crime, Drama
Stars
Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
Directed by
Brian De Palma
Watch on Amazon
Scarface is very much of a piece with all of the gangster movies of its type, but it’s one of Pacino’s most dynamic performances, and it may be the role he’s best known for outside of The Godfather. Pacino plays Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who comes to America and quickly starts murdering everyone in his path as he steps into the drug trade. Tony’s paranoia and his ever-growing list of enemies prove to be his ultimate undoing, but Pacino is utterly committed from the first frame to the last. It’s the kind of big performance that would signal some of Pacino’s later, more spotty work, but sometimes, as was the case in Scarface, going big is exactly what’s called for.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon
86%
8/10
125m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning
Directed by
Sidney Lumet
Watch on Amazon
As the later chapters of his career prove, Pacino is an actor who is very capable of doing something huge and unexpected. In Dog Day Afternoon, though, Pacino is big in all the right ways. His depiction of Sonny Wortzik, an actual bank robber who finds himself managing a hostage negotiation, is frenetic and alive for every moment of this taut thriller’s run time. Dog Day Afternoon is deeply humane, and that’s part of what makes Sonny’s tragic end even more heartbreaking. He’s a good guy in a bad spot, and he finds himself totally trapped by a world that seems to be pushing him away at every turn.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Official Trailer - Al Pacino Movie

The Godfather Part II (1974)

The Godfather Part II
90%
9/10
202m
Genre
Drama, Crime
Stars
Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
Watch on Amazon
If Marlon Brando dominated the first Godfather, then Pacino is allowed to fully bloom in Part II. This movie, which had the impossible task of following up on its predecessor, does so splendidly thanks in part to the careful portrait it paints of Michael’s attempt to keep the Corleone family above water and out of the public eye. Pacino is forced to play Michael as a burdened mafia Don, even as he has to continually remind the audience of the Michael we knew early in the first Godfather, who wasn’t interested in the life of crime that has now totally consumed him.

The Insider (1999)

The Insider
84%
7.8/10
158m
Genre
Drama, Thriller
Stars
Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer
Directed by
Michael Mann
Watch on Apple TV+
In this excellent two-hander, Pacino plays Lowell Bergman, a veteran CBS producer who begins to sense that big tobacco is hiding something major from its customers. Although The Insider came out in 1999, an era when Pacino was famous for delivering enormous performances, he’s remarkably subdued here, and to great effect. He’s a reporter who knows how to uncover a story, and he’s full of outrage at everything that stands in his way. Ultimately, though, The Insider works because Bergman will do anything to uncover the truth, even if that means unraveling the lives of the people who give it to him.

Heat (1995)

Heat
76%
8.3/10
170m
Genre
Action, Crime, Drama
Stars
Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer
Directed by
Michael Mann
Watch on Amazon
Robert De Niro. Al Pacino. That was all Michael Mann’s thriller needed to sell most audiences, and Heat didn’t disappoint. Pacino plays the cop to De Niro’s criminal, and the movie is essentially the cliche “we’re not so different, you and I,” given life for almost three hours. Even so, what makes the movie work is the commitment of both Pacino and De Niro, and the fact that they share an iconic scene doesn’t hurt either. Pacino is doing a lot here, but it works, in part because you get the sense that his cop has been beaten down by all of the darkness he’s seen in his decades on the beat.

The Irishman (2019)

The Irishman
94%
7.8/10
209m
Genre
Crime, Drama, History
Stars
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci
Directed by
Martin Scorsese
Watch on Netflix
De Niro and Pacino’s decision to reteam for The Irishman sees the two of them on much less contentious terms than they are in Heat. De Niro takes on the lead role as Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who becomes involved with organized crime and ultimately gets involved with Jimmy Hoffa, played by Pacino. Pacino’s performance in the role is delightfully over the top, but it’s well balanced by De Niro’s subtler work. Jimmy and Frank are close friends for much of the movie’s runtime, and the ultimate breakdown of their relationship is heartbreaking in part because of Pacino’s utter commitment to the role.
The Irishman | Official Trailer | Netflix

Ocean's Thirteen (2007)

Ocean's Thirteen
62%
6.9/10
122m
Genre
Crime, Thriller
Stars
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
Watch on Amazon
This is one of Pacino’s most cartoonish performance, but he’s playing a villain in an Ocean’s movie, so it makes sense to leave it all on the floor. Pacino plays Willy Bank, a casino owner who screws over a member of Danny Ocean’s crew, and leads Danny and his gang to seek revenge. Pacino gets plenty of ridiculous line readings in, but he’s perfect for the role of Bank, who is above all else a showman, and fits in perfectly in the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas. Ocean’s Thirteen is not a high-stakes movie, but Pacino makes every one of his scenes sing, and he gets to work against a number of incredible actors in the process.
Ocean's Thirteen Trailer

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
83%
7.6/10
162m
Genre
Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
Watch on Hulu
In a small role, Al Pacino plays a producer of Hollywood schlock who is interested in making movies with Leonardo DiCaprio’s fading movie star. Pacino only has a couple of scenes in the sprawling epic, and he may have been on set for a total of two days, but none of that takes away from the brilliant comedy of his performance. Tarantino is clearly in love with the kind of movie-loving producer that Marvin Schwarz is a stand-in for, and he also loves the kind of movies that Schwarz makes. He’s a king of schlock, and Pacino is hilarious in the role.

Insomnia (2002)

Insomnia
78%
7.2/10
118m
Genre
Crime, Thriller
Stars
Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Directed by
Christopher Nolan
Watch on Amazon
Pacino is genuinely great in Insomnia, which may also be Christopher Nolan’s most straightforward movie. Pacino plays Detective Will Dormer, a veteran LA police officer who is sent to a remote Alaskan village to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Dormer suffers from insomnia, and the sun never sets in this remote Alaskan village, leading to an increasingly unhinged Pacino performance as he tries desperately to get some shut-eye. Pacino plays the guilt of his character perfectly, and he’s well-matched by performances from Hilary Swank and Robin Williams, who play wildly different but equally compelling characters.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Scent of a Woman
156m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn
Directed by
Martin Brest
Watch on Amazon
Scent of a Woman stars Pacino as Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a blind, retired military officer who is grumpy and depressed. The story follows Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), a prep school student who takes a job as Slade’s caretaker over Thanksgiving weekend. What Charlie expects to be a simple job turns into a wild and transformative experience. Slade takes Charlie on a whirlwind trip to New York City, including a luxurious stay at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Their journey is filled with emotional moments as Slade grapples with his disability and contemplates suicide. Charlie, in turn, gets caught up in a school scandal and needs Slade’s help to clear his name. The film explores themes of honor, loyalty, redemption, and finding humanity in unexpected places. Pacino delivered a powerful performance that earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Movie images and data from:
Joe Allen
Contributor
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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