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The Best Al Pacino Movies To Stream Right Now

Even as he continues to do great work, Al Pacino is already a legend. He’s played a number of iconic characters and proven over and over again that he’s one of the defining actors of his generation. In his early roles, Pacino exerted effortless charisma whether he was playing sympathetic criminals or merciless crime lords (he’s played a lot of criminals). As his career continued, Pacino became known for delivering hammy, tuned-up performances, and he certainly did that on occasion.

Even so, the latter part of Pacino’s career has served up some of his best work, and it’s given him the chance to work with a number of legendary directors. Pacino is still one of the great actors of his generation, and his work continues to prove that. You may have a preference for early or late Pacino, but there’s plenty of work to be admired in both periods.

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
Perhaps the greatest movie ever made, and Pacino is right at the center of it. Marlon Brando gets a lot of the 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, even if that was always an illusion.

Scarface (1983)

Scarface
65 %
8.3/10
170m
Genre Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
Directed by Brian De Palma
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 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
As the later chapters of his career prove, Pacino is an actor who is very capable of going big. 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.

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
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, History
Stars Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer
Directed by Michael Mann
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, Thriller
Stars Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer
Directed by Michael Mann
De Niro. 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 goes big 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
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 here 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.

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
This is one of Pacino’s biggest performances, 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 Reuben, and leads Danny Ocean 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.

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
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 getting someone like Pacino to play the role of Marvin Schwarz makes the whole thing even funnier. Tarantino is clearly in love with the kind of movie-loving producer that 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, Mystery, Thriller
Stars Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Pacino is genuinely great in Insomnia, which may also be Christopher Nolan’s most straightforward movie to date. 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.

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