Dustin Hoffman is one of the most versatile actors to ever grace the silver screen. Homegrown in Hollywood, the Los Angeles native has steered a career that has spanned over seven decades and brought forth some of the most vivid character creations in cinema history.
To commemorate Dustin Hoffman’s 85th birthday, Variety ranks the 13 best performances of his career.
Hoffman broke through as Benjamin Braddock, a 21-year-old who is seduced by an older married woman (Anne Bancroft) in Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate” (1967). The film became the year’s highest-grossing release, grossing more than $104 million worldwide ($857 million adjusted for inflation).
When looking at Hoffman’s first decade in the film business, it’s hard to choose any other actor in history with a better decade of movies at the beginning of their careers. The next wave brought the best picture winner “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), “Little Big Man” (1970), “Straw Dogs” (1971), “Papillon” (1973), “Lenny” (1974), “All the President’s Men” (1976) and “Marathon Man” (1976). What an endeavor.
His undeniable brilliance has been rewarded with two acting Oscars, for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) and “Rain Man” (1988) — both also won the best picture prize. Of the 44 actors and actresses that have won two or more Oscars, Hoffman is one of five whose wins have been in two best picture winners. The others are Jack Nicholson (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Terms of Endearment”), Marlon Brando (“On the Waterfront” and “The Godfather”), Gene Hackman (“The French Connection” and “Unforgiven”) and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight” and “Green Book”).
He also has managed to put an Emmy on his mantle for his turn as Willy Loman in the TV movie adaptation of “Death of a Salesman” (1985), along with three BAFTAs and multiple tributes and lifetime achievements from AFI, the Gothams, the Golden Globes and more.
Still, Hoffman’s reputation on movie sets has been less than favorable, with previous colleagues like Meryl Streep and the late Sydney Pollack speaking on his poor behavior. In addition, his legacy has been further muddied by allegations of sexual misconduct, which the actor has denied.
This year, he can be seen in Mayim Bialik’s directorial debut “As They Made Us” from Quiver and an upcoming independent feature “Sam & Kate” with Sissy Spacek and his son Jake Hoffman, currently in post-production.
Read Variety’s list of Hoffman’s best performances.
Honorable mentions: “Finding Neverland” (2004); “I Heart Huckabees” (2004); “Papillon” (1973)
Dustin Hoffman Turns 85: From ‘The Graduate’ to ‘Tootsie,’ His 13 Best Performances