Vic’s Top 5: Al Pacino Movies


Vic’s Top 5: Al Pacino Movies

Ok, this was not easy but it became easier after I made a list and began to go through each performance  in my mind and heart.  The ones that resonated the most and made an impact on me, whether emotionally or intellectually, made the top 5. Many will disagree I’m sure but some may be surprised and agree. Anyway this is my own personal “Top 5” favorite Al Pacino films. I will keep the reasons why I like the performance brief. I wish to just share the ones that mean the most to me. Thanks and Enjoy.


No. 5 – Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

“I’m a Catholic and I don’t wanna hurt anybody” – Sonny

Based on a true story, Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik in this brilliant character study. Pacino is just amazing to watch. Also of note is the late John Cazale who plays Sal, his accomplice in a foiled bank robbery attempt. All done to try and get Sonny’s boyfriend a sex change.  The robbery is turned into a media circus. A fantastic film with 2 outstanding performances.

No. 4 – Heat (1995)

Directed by Micheal Mann

Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna in Mann’s classic Heist film. Even though at times he seems to be going a bit over the edge he reins himself in and gives a very tight and believable performance. It’s zany and wild to watch Pacino give a very multi-leveled and complex portrayal of a Cop in LA. Highly recommended.

No. 3 – Donnie Brasco

Directed by Mike Newell

“Go to the bow.”

Al Pacino is completely brilliant in this movie where he plays the down on his luck Lefty Ruggiero opposite Johnny Depp in Mike Newell’s wonderfully entertaining and gritty Mob Drama, Donnie Brasco based on the undercover life of Joe Pistone. Lefty is scary, likeable, tragic and isolated. Lefty, easily,  is a dynamic character in this story and only Pacino could have pulled this off. Another stunning performance. Highly Recommended.

No.2 – TIE: The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Pacino vastly improves on his portrayal of Micheal Corleone, the conflicted and heavy handed head of the Corleone family, in this incredibly superior sequel. He oozes dread, tension, fear and steely resolve as everything in his world including the relationship with his brother crumbles. A passionate and convincing performance.

No. 1 – Carlito’s Way

Directed  by Brian De Palma (1993)

Ok, by now you guys must think I’m insane for leaving out a shitload of great movies with Pacino. Yes, I have. Some obvious like “Scarface” and some maybe not so obvious like “The Devil’s Advocate.” This second film by Brian De Palma with Pacino (Scarface being the first) is based on the “Carlito Brigante” novels by former judge Edwin Torres and Pacino nails the rehabilitated Puerto Rican crime figure with laser precision. He just completely disappears into this role and when he isn’t speaking spanish and playing billiards, he radiates maschismo that befalls men of that era.

De Palma brilliantly pulls out of Pacino such accuracy. It totally reflects the time in which Carlito is thrust in. It is a performance made even better by Pacino acting opposite the almost unrecognizable Sean Penn as his cocaine addled lawyer. I practically know all of Pacino’s lines verbatim. That is how much I respect this performance.  If you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a rare side of Pacino’s filmography. Highly Recommended.

Honorable Mention –


Glengarry Glen Ross

Angels in America


Sea of Love

Oscar Win for “Scent of a Woman”

Ok, gang, Sound Off! Hit me with your best Pacino performances!



  1. Nice job, tricky though! As you say he has plenty of incredible movies to pick from. Sea of Love is one of my personal favourites, but good to see Donnie Brasco getting some love!

  2. My favorite Pacino performance either has to be in The Godfather or The Godfather Part II. I’d say Dog Day Afternoon and Scarface are close runners-up. Nice post.

    • Thank you! It was really hard keeping Scarface off the list. I liked Pacino in The Godfather very much especially during his transition to head of the Corleone family. Great performance.

  3. Excellent post Victor. Donnie Brasco is one of my favorite films, I think I’d put it in my top twenty. Have you ever seen Panic In Needle Park? Pacino gives a very subtle and nuanced performance.
    Cruisin’ is a pretty good movie as well, although there are several different cuts of it.

    • I have seen Panic. Good movie. Don’t remember it all to well. Cruising either. I’ll have to re-visit both. Thanks for stopping by, man!

    • Glad you liked it and thanks for reading. I know he won the Oscar for Scent but I always felt that he has done better in other movies. Not to negate his performance but I felt the Academy just gave him the Oscar that year since he was way overdue for one. Kind of like Denzel winning for Training Day but deserving it way more for The Hurricane. Just my opinion, guys. It happens. Hmm maybe I’ll do a top 5 for Denzel Washington.

    • Glad you liked the list. Man, let me tell you, it was no easy feat to pick just 5. Pacino has done some incredibly noteworthy stuff over the years. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it!

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