Paul Newman's Best Roles
From 'Cool Hand Luke' to 'Cars', these are Paul Newman's best roles.
Go ahead, celebrate his blue eyes and chiseled face. But don’t forget that Paul Newman (in addition to being a great philanthropist) received 10 Academy Award nominations (winning one for Best Actor for The Color of Money) and gave us more than 50 years of fantastic acting performances. Here are our favorites.
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The Long, Hot Summer and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Based on works by William Faulkner, Summer follows Newman’s Ben Quick as he encounters the Varner family (Orson Welles, Anthony Franciosa and Joanne Woodward) after drifting into their small Mississippi town. Some characters were based on Tennessee Williams' 1955 play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Newman starred in the film adaptation of Williams’ play five months later (as Brick Pollitt), opposite Elizabeth Taylor.
The Hustler (1961) and The Color of Money (1986)
The Library of Congress and the Academy Film Archive selected the 1961 Robert Rossen–directed film, about an ambitious pool shark (Newman) taking on the best player in the country, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), for preservation. Newman revisited the role of Edward "Fast Eddie" Felson in the Martin Scorsese–directed 1986 follow-up, which features Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and John Turturro.
Premiering at the Venice International Film Festival, the revisionist Western Hud was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three—though Newman didn’t win for Best Actor. To prepare for the role, Newman worked on a Texas ranch and slept in a bunkhouse for 10 days.
Torn Curtain (1966)
This Cold War political thriller features Newman as an embattled American physicist and Julie Andrews as his accompanying assistant and fiancée. It was the only time the two actors paired up with director Alfred Hitchcock.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Luke is a hardheaded prisoner in a Florida prison camp who embodies the anti-establishment fervor felt during the Vietnam War. Famous for the line "What we've got here is failure to communicate,” it boasts a 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Newman’s Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid escape to Bolivia after a string of train robberies in the movie filmed in Utah’s Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park and the ghost town of Grafton, among other locations.
The Sting (1973)
Robert Redford again teamed up with Newman to play two swindlers who con a mob boss (Robert Shaw) in a caper film that was nominated for 10 Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The story is based on the real-life brothers Fred and Charley Gondorff, who were documented in David Maurer’s 1940 book The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man.
The Towering Inferno (1974)
Based on the novels The Tower by Richard Martin Stern (1973) and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson (1974), this disaster film—the highest grossing of 1974—features an ensemble cast of Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, O. J. Simpson, Robert Wagner, Jennifer Jones (in her final performance) and more. Newman later told Parade that the movie embarrassed him.
Slap Shot (1977)
Despite not being a hit at the time, the tale of a minor league hockey team trying to save their on-the-brink-of-collapse small town by resorting to violent, entertaining play has since become a cult hit among sports comedy fans.
Absence of Malice (1981)
Named after a journalistic term used to highlight the conflict between damaging personal information and the public's right to know it, Absence of Malice follows a man framed for murder (Newman) who makes enemies with, then befriends, a reporter (Sally Field) and spars with the U.S. Attorney General (Wilford Brimley).
The Verdict (1982)
Newman is an alcoholic, ambulance-chasing lawyer who takes on the case of his life in this Sidney Lumet–directed film. Roy Scheider, William Holden, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford were all allegedly considered for the lead role.
Nobody's Fool (1994)
Richard Russo wrote this comedy-drama as a novel, then Robert Benton wrote and directed it for the screen. Newman stars as an old curmudgeon at odds with a local contractor (Bruce Willis), the son of his landlord (Jessica Tandy), a police officer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and more. Nobody's Fool was Tandy’s final film.
Road to Perdition (2002)
In his last live-action big-screen film role, Newman plays a Depression-era mob enforcer (based on the real-life John Patrick Looney) in a game of cat and mouse with his biological and adopted sons (Daniel Craig and Tom Hanks, respectively). The movie won cinematographer Conrad L. Hall a posthumous Oscar.
Cars (2006) and Cars 3 (2017)
Doc Hudson, the town judge and medical doctor, is an anthropomorphic car—as are all the characters in this Pixar film about racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson). Cars was Newman’s last acting role, but unused archived recordings of Newman’s voice resurrected Doc in Cars 3.
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