The 10 Best Philip Seymour Hoffman Movies

The 10 Best Philip Seymour Hoffman Movies

Philip Seymour Hoffman was one-in-a-million, a generational talent. Each role he took on was completely transformational yet at the same time unmistakably him. Whether he was performing in small-market, character-driven films made by filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, and the Coen brothers or multi-million dollar blockbuster franchises like Mission: Impossible and The Hunger Games, Hoffman truly left it all on the court, so to speak. He gave the films he performed in his entire self. His premature passing as a result of his decades-long battle with drug addiction was tragic. Film as a whole is worse off because of this loss. Nonetheless, he left behind a wealth of worthwhile roles in great films.

Boogie Nights (1997

Paul Thomas Anderson is a widely-respected filmmaker today, but it wasn’t always that way. Anderson truly broke into popular consciousness with Boogie Nights. The film details a young star (Mark Wahlberg) in the pornography industry during its peak. Hoffman plays a boom operator who harbors something of a crush for the aforementioned star. In typical Anderson fashion, it is both a funny and harrowing look at human behavior.

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The Big Lebowski (1998)

In the Coen brothers’ classic film The Big Lebowski, a case of mistaken identity between two people results in the Los Angeles area slacker Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges)’s rug being ruined. Seeking restitution, he confronts the wealthy Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski (David Huddleston) and his assistant Brandt (Hoffman). It is unlikely anyone reading this has yet to see it, but it remains one of the late-20th century American classics.

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The Master (2012)

Anderson’s The Master was perhaps Hoffman’s last truly great role. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a troubled World War II veteran searching for purpose upon returning home. He finds some semblance of purpose when he meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), the leader of a cult called “The Cause.” The two develop a strange relationship over the coming weeks and months. “The Cause” and Hoffman’s character are inspired by the Church of Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard, though Phoenix’s haunted vet is the central focus of the film.

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Synecdoche, New York (2008)

In typical Charlie Kaufman fashion, Synecdoche, New York is incredibly unique, powerful, personal and haunting. Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a stage director whose life is seemingly falling apart. As a manner of coping, he builds a mockup of his hometown in a warehouse and hires actors and directs them to go about their day within it. It is assuredly one of Hoffman’s greatest performances.

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Mission: Impossible III (2006)

In a surprisingly high-budget directorial debut, J.J. Abrams brought the Mission: Impossible franchise out of development hell for the first time in six years. The film sees a more mature Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) who is looking to get out the field and settle down with his fiancee Julia (Michelle Monaghan). He is suddenly called back into action when his personal relationships come into contact with mysterious black market dealer Owen Davian (Hoffman). It is the most claustrophobic of the franchise so far and Hoffman gives an impressive muted performance. He continues to be the gold standard Mission: Impossible villain even now, more than a decade later.

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Hard Eight (1996)

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s feature directorial debut, an aging gambler named Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) takes aimless young man John Finnegan (John C. Reilly) under his wing. Sydney shows John the ropes of gambling as a manner of sustaining oneself. Hoffman gives a brief but truly great turn as an unnamed craps player. His performance is one of the most memorable of the impressively strong first outing.

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Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

As their relationship grew throughout the projects in which they collaborated, Anderson seemed to enjoy giving Hoffman more antagonistic roles. For how flawlessly he performed them, Hoffman too must have enjoyed it. It allowed him to truly cut loose. He does so here in Punch-Drunk Love. Adam Sandler plays an emotionally-stunted bathroom supply salesman who struggles to get out from under the collective thumb of his many older sisters. As a result of searching for something to ease his loneliness, he finds himself the target of an intense extortionist played by Hoffman.

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25th Hour (2002)

The Spike Lee-directed, David Benioff-written 25th Hour was met with some acclaim, though it had become somewhat forgotten in the years since. It seems a man named Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) going about his final day of freedom before a seven-year prison sentence. Among the people he sees before his impending incarceration are his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) and his longtime friends Jacob Elinsky (Hoffman) and Frank Slaugherty (Barry Pepper). It is a truly tragic, emotional film.

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Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball dramatizes the nonfiction book of the same name about the Oakland Athletics attempt in the early 2000s to find a way to be competitive in Major League Baseball with their limited budget. Their methods are risky and untested, and as such, General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Assistant General Manager Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) frequently butt heads with the team’s manager Art Howe (Hoffman). The film is characteristically snappy due in large part to its script co-written by Aaron Sorkin.

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Capote (2005)

Capote, on the whole, is a sturdy, if not particularly remarkable biographical picture. It is pretty cut and dry in its style and form. What makes it noteworthy is Hoffman truly incredible, pitch-perfect portrayal of the eponymous Truman Capote. Though he was nominated for four Academy Awards throughout his grand albeit somewhat brief career, he only won once, for his turn here as Capote himself.

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