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10 Greatest Films of Philip Seymour Hoffman

February 03, 2014 18:28 IST

10 Greatest Films of Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Paloma Sharma in Mumbai

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was one of the greatest actors of his time. Here's why.

Widely regarded as one of the best actors of his time, Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed away on February 2.

Hoffman had a background in theatre, breaking onto the small screen in 1991 with a role in Law and Order’s episode titled The Violence of Summer before he moved on to films a year later.

Only 46 years old at the time of his passing, Hoffman has left behind an impressive body of work, with films ranging from commercial successes to low-budget indie projects.

Here’s looking at his greatest performances.

10. Boogie Nights (1997)

The charm of Boogie Nights was that it was the average person’s chance to look behind in the scenes of movies that everyone watched but nobody talked about.

Boogie Nights followed the life of Eddie Adams from his rise as a porn star during the Golden Age of Porn in the 1970s to his fall, a decade later. 

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights was nominated for 32 awards out of which they won 17. Even though Hoffman did not receive a single one of these nominations, he left a deep impact.

Despite having worked in major films as a supporting actor before, Boogie Nights is considered his breakthrough role. Hoffman played Scotty J, a gay boom operator, who harbours unrequited feelings on Eddie Mark Wahlberg’s character.

Watching Scotty crave for Eddie’s attention, grab and kiss him and then cry in the front seat of his car upon being crushed by Eddie’s rejection is one of the most memorable scenes of the film.

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Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Boogie Nights


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9. The Big Lebowski (1998)

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There’s not one but two of them -- Jeff Lebowski or ‘The Dude’, a drunkard, druggie and slacker; and Jeffery Lebowski or The Big Lebowski, an elderly multi-millionaire who lost his legs during the Korean War.

A case of mistaken identity follows and soon enough, the two Lebowskis find their lives entangled for better or for worse.

This Coen Brothers’ cult classic sees Hoffman playing The Big Lebowski’s gloriously sycophantic personal assistant, Brandt.

Brandt appears briefly but his embarrassed, politically correct chuckle rings in your ears every time The Dude makes a fool out of himself.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Goodman in The Big Lebowsk


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8. Magnolia (1999)

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The critically acclaimed film Magnolia saw Hoffman collaborate with director Paul Thomas Anderson once again.

Magnolia follows the lives of unknowingly connected individuals searching for peace and forgiveness. It takes place in the San Fernando Valley over a period of 24 hours.

Hoffman plays Phil Parma -- nurse to a television producer, who is dying of cancer.

Unlike his previous roles, Hoffman portrays a softer character this time, bringing a touch of compassion to the celluloid.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia


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7. The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)

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Although much of the screen time was devoted to Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Jude Law, Hoffman played a pivotal part.

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr Ripley chronicles the tale of a small time con, Tom Ripley, who goes on to live like a king -- almost. 

Hoffman’s character, Freddie Miles, appears snobbish and stupid at first sight. You instantly dislike him for the way he treats Ripley (Matt Damon) but emerges as a faithful friend by the end of it. Seemingly of low intellectual capacity, Freddie turns out to be the first one to blow Ripley’s cover.

Hoffman makes you hate Freddie at first sight but eventually melt at his loyalty towards Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Talented Mr Ripley


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6. Almost Famous (2000)

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Director Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical comedy-drama Almost Famous is based on events from his own life as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone magazine.

Hoffman plays Lester Bangs, a legendary rock journalist, who mentors wannabe rock journalist and protagonist of Almost Famous, William Miller (Patrick Fugit).

Hoffman’s telephone conversation with his protege serves as an almost prophetic moment in the film where he tells young William to be ‘honest and unmerciful’ while doing his job and to be wary of musicians who will make him feel like he belongs with them in order to get good reviews; and that, ‘The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.’


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous


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5. Capote (2005)

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One of the best performances of Hoffman’s long and fruitful career, Capote saw him as the titular character, Truman Capote.

A biographical film, Capote documents the time while Truman Capote was working on his non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood, which in turn documents the events that led to and the aftermath of the quadruple murder of the Clutter family.

Hoffman transformed into the Truman Capote -- perfectly mimicking his mannerism, his diction and his tone of voice -- and won multiple awards for his portrayal of the late writer including a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, an Academy Award and an Oscar.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote


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4. Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

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Philip Seymour Hoffman is Gust Avrakotos, a CIA operative who helps US Congressman (by day) and party animal (by night) Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) manipulate the Afghan mujahedeen in order to help US interests against Russia.

A highly notorious film, Charlie Wilson’s War will probably always be remembered more for its politics than its performances.

Hoffman is smooth yet angry -- at the establishment, at his lack of resources and at the rest of the world -- and you can feel that anger radiating off the screen.

Charlie Wilson’s War was not very well received by several sections of people but Hoffman managed to bag nine awards for it.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War


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3. Doubt (2008)

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Based on John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, Doubt: A Parable, Doubt takes on a few of the most controversial subjects of modern times -- the Church and sexual abuse, racism and the strength and weaknesses of religion.

Hoffman is seen going toe-to-toe with the legendary Meryl Streep as the two of them battle it out over suspected abuse of a child at the hands of Father Flynn (Hoffman).

Hoffman makes for a terrifying Father Flynn. His motivations are never clear. The air around him is dangerously charming. Never can you guess whether he’s a predator or a victim of Sister Beauvier (Streep). There is always doubt.

Hoffman’s performance is electrifying and comes to a close second to The Master (more on that later).

The film won him seven nominations for various awards, including a BAFTA and an Academy Award.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt


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2. The Master (2012)

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Philip Seymour Hoffman teamed up with Paul Thomas Anderson for a great film , possibly his best.

The Master stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, weaving together the illusion and reality of the journey to find the truth. Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, and his character is based on L Ron Hubbard, a cult leader, who walks the thin line between a guru and a quack.

Hoffman seems intensely comfortable in his space, presiding over the events of the film, almost as if he were omnipresent.

The Master explores the origins of Scientology and has been received extremely well by critics almost unanimously.

Hoffman walked away with four awards for The Master.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master


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2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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Hoffman was last seen by audiences in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as Plutarch Heavensbee. 

As Heavensbee, Hoffman plays the new Head Gamemaker whose loyalties are in question. Hoffman has you hanging by a thread in this one. You want to believe that he is the good guy but the ploys he comes up with are a little too devious for you to delude yourself.

On the other hand, his plans keep playing President Snow into uncertainty.

Deliciously manipulative, Hoffman should have been seen more often with meatier roles in mainstream cinema.

Thankfully, we’ll still catch a glimpse of him in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.


Image: Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


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