Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Most Memorable Movies

Above: Philip Seymour Hoffman with the Oscar he won for best actor in 2006 for his work in "Capote"
Above: Philip Seymour Hoffman with the Oscar he won for best actor in 2006 for his work in "Capote"

Sometimes we’re too quick to bestow the title “one of the greatest of his time” on an actor who has died suddenly, but it’s truly the only way to describe Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of an apparent drug overdose over the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, just hours before the Super Bowl, as so many of us were preparing word started trickling across the Internet: Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan apartment. The reaction was immediate and visceral—celebrities and common people alike were shocked at the sudden loss and saddened that the world lost, not just a great actor, but a once-in-a-generation talent.

His incredible performances are almost too many to catalogue, but let’s try to honour his remarkable body of work by remembering just a few of his most memorable roles:

Boogie Nights (1997)

If anyone didn’t know Hoffman before seeing Boogie Nights, there’s no chance they’d forget his name after. Hoffman played an innocent, impressionable young man trying desperately to fit into the world of ‘70s porn, but that he immersed himself so completely in the role is a testament to his fearlessness.

Happiness (1998)

An underappreciated gem of a black comedy written and directed by Todd Solondz, Happiness found Hoffman playing a bottom-rung loser who gets off on making obscene phone calls to strangers. His scenes with his therapist are some of the film’s highlights, as he somehow finds realism in his description of his character’s absurd, violent fantasies.

Almost Famous (2000)

Hoffman took a hard left away from being typecast as a shlubby loser by taking the role of real-life uber-cool rock journalist Lester Bangs. The role called for supreme confidence and don’t-give-a-damn attitude that was a far cry from many of his previous and was just the beginning of our understanding of his dramatic range.

Capote (2005)

His time as Truman Capote made Philip Seymour Hoffman a household name and immortalized him as an Oscar-winning actor. He could have given us a cartoonish impersonation of the renowned writer, but Hoffman devoted himself to a deep, many-faceted portrayal of a very complicated man.

Mission Impossible III (2006)

Forget tough-guy posturing, Hoffman gave one of the most menacing villain performances ever in Mission Impossible 3. The unflinching evil in his performance is stunning and showed his uncompromising commitment to his craft, regardless of the role.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

Another underappreciated film, Sidney Lumet’s heist film gave Hoffman the opportunity to bring together many of the elements he’d shown in his past work. His character was sleazy but desperate, heartless but insecure, and his collaboration with Marisa Tomei and Ethan Hawke is nothing short of brilliant.

Doubt (2008)

Hoffman’s portrayal of Father Brendan Flynn in the film adaptation of Doubt won him another Oscar nomination—Heath Ledger won the award, incidentally—and scores of accolades for its complexity and depth. Surely even Hoffman couldn’t have known whether his character did what he was accused of, so to play such a character without judgment would have been a challenge worthy of an actor of the highest calibre.

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Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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