The “Scarface” that launched a thousand rap careers, Al Pacino is known as much for his on-screen histrionics and catchphrases as he is for his legitimate acting. Chances are, though, you only really know his biggies: Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, Heat, and of course the list goes on. Perhaps it’s time to broaden your Al Pacino horizons? Read on for a list of the ten best Pacino movies you’ve never seen.
1. The Merchant of Venice (2004)
Shakespeare’s classic tale was given a modern-ish spin, casting Al Pacino’s Shylock as a sort of dark anti-hero. Though the movie was a commercial failure, critics thought Pacino brought a unique intensity to the role that, in a certain sense, redefined one of drama’s oldest characters. All this, and Pacino isn’t even Jewish! Which is why it’s called acting, remember?
2. Chinese Coffee (2000)
Here’s one you’ve probably never seen because for a long time, Pacino wouldn’t let anyone see it. The movie was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and not released until years later as part of a forgotten, low-selling box set. He shouldn’t have held it back: The movie is a heartfelt night-long conversation between Pacino’s character, and the late Jerry Orbach, that plays like an all-male Before Sunrise.
3. …And Justice for All (1979)
Pacino anchors an all-star cast in this goofy comedy, in which he plays
an idealistic defense attorney opposite talents like Jeffrey Tambor,
Craig T. Nelson, and Dominic Chianese. For
his (soon to become typical) high-energy performance, he was nominated
the Oscar and the Golden Globe.
4. Scarecrow (1973)
Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, Pacino turns in
one of his most earnest and loosest performances as Francis Lionel
“Lion” Delbuchi, a free spirit on the road with an uptight Gene
Hackman. A classic road movie, and again, a rare, restrained
performance that completely works.
5. The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
Pacino’s first major film role, as a heroin addicted junkie, shows that
he’s an acting force to be reckoned with. It also shows an early
determination not to shy away from tough material: The movie is one of
the first mainstream flicks to show the graphic injection of heroin
into an addict’s arm.
1. The Recruit (2003) – While too much of this movie is spent on Colin Farrell’s character — and the movie does work as a kind of “torch passing” from Pacino to Farrell — it’s Pacino who, as usual, steals the show.
2. City Hall (1996) – Who wouldn’t want Al Pacino to be mayor of New York? Well, given that he plays a terrifyingly corrupt mayor in this “ripped from the headlines” movie… Nobody.
3. Two Bits (1995) – “Heart-warming” isn’t normally a phrase you’d associate with Pacino, but we’ll make an exception just this once, as Pacino turns in a rare sweet and sad performance.
4. The Local Stigmatic (1985)
Deja vu! Pacino held back the release of this movie for years before
allowing it to be released in yet another low-selling box set. In another movie that’s essentially an extended conversation, Pacino
proves that he’s just as good being natural as he is going over the top.
5. Me, Natalie (1969)
A must for Pacino completists, this marks the screen titan’s first
movie role, opposite Patty Duke. It’s a small, minor role, but in his few minutes of screen-time, Pacino exhibits the fire hewould display on-screen for years to come.