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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!