The best of Dustin Hoffman

The most Methodic of Method actors, Dustin Hoffman has a small oeuvre compared to Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Gene Hackman. “You have to be willing to be ugly,” he bragged in a promo interview for the release of Little Big Man (not listed below because I haven’t watched it since high school). The classic verbal fencing with Sydney Pollack in Tootsie (1982), in which Pollack’s agent accuses Hoffman’s Michael Dorsey of letting a commercial go overtime because he thought it “illogical” for a tomato to sit down, probably happened in real life many times. You can argue that with The Graduate‘s Benjamin he and Mike Nichols and Buck Henry created the quietly hysterical male Jewish stereotype on which careers like David Schwimmer have depended.

Like Denzel Washington, Hoffman excels at being feral. In Straight Time, his least seen great performance, Hoffman plays Max Dembo, an ex-con still looking for trouble. Aided by a galaxy of excellent character actors like M. Emmett Walsh, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton, and Theresa Russell, he is mean and taut and unreachable. He’s settled into Beloved Curmudgeon status, though maybe he’s got an elderly Ratzo Rizzo in him.

1. Tootsie
2. Straight Time
The Graduate
4. Midnight Cowboy
5. Papillon
6. I Heart Huckabees
7. Kramer vs. Kramer
8. All the President’s Men
9. Death of a Salesman
10. Wag the Dog

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