10 Best Marlon Brando Movies
For a time, Marlon Brando was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He was nominated for four straight Best Actor Academy Awards from 1951 to 1954 for A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar and On the Waterfront. After a dip in popularity in the 1960s — his career was revitalized by Francis Ford Coppola’s twin behemoths of the 1970s: The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. These two films are some of his best-remembered work today, but he has many more memorable roles. Here are his ten best films.
The Godfather (1972)
In Francis Ford Coppola’s watershed work based on Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather, Brando plays the eponymous patriarch of the Corleone crime family, Vito. Not only did the acclaimed, beloved film launch Coppola’s career into the highest echelon — but it also reinvigorated Brando’s — at the time he was a fading star.
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Apocalypse Now (1979) and Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)
Following the success of The Godfather films, Coppola and John Milius reimagined of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness for the Vietnam War. Brando plays Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, a military officer who goes AWOL and becomes a cult leader in neutral Cambodia. Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) is ordered to terminate Kurtz. In 2001, Coppola released an extended cut of the widely-regarded film which featured nearly an hour of previously-cut scenes.
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On the Waterfront (1954)
In Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, Brando plays dockworker Terry Malloy. Malloy is a former boxer with a lot of promise who gets caught up in union/mob violence. It is one of Brando’s best — he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
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A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
In a fashion typical Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire is deeply tragic. Down-on-her-luck southern belle Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister Stella and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. The relationship between the three is strained and become more so as the film goes on. Stanley was a breakout performance for Brando, who was relatively unknown prior to the film’s release.
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Long before Zack Snyder’s joyless 2013 film Man of Steel, there was Richard Donner’s Superman. Brando plays Superman’s father Jor-El — who sends him to Earth as an infant when their home planet of Krypton is engulfed by a supernova. Jor-El continues to communicate with his son from beyond the grave via hologram. Not necessarily Brando’s most serious role, but certainly one of note.
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One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
One-Eyed Jacks was both Brando’s first and final directorial work. It is a western — a somewhat atypical genre for him. He plays the central role of Rio “The Kid,” an outlaw who narrowly escapes Mexican police with his mentor, Dad Longworth. While critics were mixed about the film at large, Brando was generally praised for his good-faith effort behind the camera.
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Julius Caesar (1953)
In the 1953 adaptation of Shakespeare’s ubiquitous tragedy about the life and death of Julius Caesar, Brando plays Mark Antony, one of the key characters surrounding Caesar. For his performance, Brando was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the third time in a row — he would not win until the following year, his fourth consecutive nomination, for On the Waterfront.
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Guys and Dolls (1955)
Guys and Dolls is a musical picture starring Brando and Frank Sinatra as Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit respectively. Both of them degenerate gamblers, they get themselves into trouble with the law as well as the women in their lives. The film was a big hit at the time and continues to be admired by lovers of the musical genre.
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Viva Zapata! (1952)
Brando gives life to the eponymous Emiliano Zapata, the revolutionary of the Mexican Civil War. The Kazan-directed, John Steinbeck-written film dramatizes Zapata’s rise to power and subsequent death, as well as his impact on other the revolutionaries he led. It is not quite Brando’s best work but nonetheless worth mentioning.
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The Chase (1966)
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