Paul Newman was truly one of the greats. Although gifted with classic wholesome good looks and his famous blue eyes, he didn't settle for classic parts, instead choosing challenging roles of conflicted characters, at odds with themselves. If anti hero films were a genre of their own, Newman would be one it's patron saints. He preferred films and characters with a message, or sometimes just a question. Few actors have had the staying power of Newman, whose career lasted from 1952 to 2006. His consistency is well demonstrated by his 1986 return to the Fast Eddie character, he had created in 1961, finally winning a long deserved Oscar. In all that time, his acting never lost it's power and his presence could make even a bad movie watchable. In movies like the Road to Perdition, his relatively small part made a good movie great. This list has many omissions as I could choose ten and keep it a top ten list. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments, as I'd love to hear your thoughts. Outside of the movies, he seemed a much nicer person than his characters, becoming as well known for as philanthropy as he ever was for his acting. Who knows, maybe all those parts taught him something. But we'll certainly never see another like him. Rest in Piece Paul Newman, "The King of Cool."
10)Brick Pollitt, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
9)Ben Quick, The Long Hot Summer
Powerful town figure Will Varner (Orson Welles) has a problem, he'd like to have a grandchild before he dies. Not thrilled with the prospect of either of his not very masculine son's producing offspring, he decides to pair up his daughter Clara (Joanne Woodward) with the shady, driven and hyper masculine Ben Quick, a natural con man and suspected criminal, just drifting through, who sees the well off Will Varner as a great profit opportunity, taking a job under Will with the intention of turning it into more. Will quickly sees Ben as more capable of handling the family business than his own sons, which sets up some serious conflict. Clara doesn't like being thought of as property, which sets up a different kind of conflict as Ben is determined to get what he wants. His only real obstacle is that Clara is a lot stronger than he anticipates, and to get what he wants he ends up giving up a little more than he thought he would.
8)Lew Harper, Harper
Lew Harper is a PI out of the Sam Spade school with some contemporary touches. Hired to find Mrs. Sampson's (Lauren Bacall) missing husband, he has to fight and quip his way through a practical carnival of characters, including an armed lawyer, a fading entertainer, a jazz singer, a guru scam artist, and all sorts of thugs, finding more mysteries than he started with. Harper doesn't trust anyone and isn't hung up on pride or principles. he just wants to make a buck. He's not above fishing coffee grounds from the trash to make his morning coffee or making prank calls to amuse himself. He devastates everyone he runs into verbally, while snapping chewing gum. The real question we arrive at is does he care about solving the case more than making a buck, believing as he does that "The bottom is loaded with nice people, Albert. Only cream and bastards rise." You can bet that Harper doesn't plan to hang out on the bottom for too long.
7)The Sting, Henry Gondorff
6)Michael Gallagher, Absence of Malice
Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman) is a businessman whose father was a powerful crime figure. When a prosecutor can't make any headway on a certain murder case, he figures that "leaking" information that Gallagher is suspected of involvement will flush out some information. This is only possible with the cooperation of ambitious young reporter, Megan Carter (Sally Field) The story has serious consequences for Gallagher, even costing him the life someone he loves. Megan's story, although false is protected due to "Absence of Malice" Rather than assist in the investigation, Gallagher sets out to even the score in his own way, which is made easier by everyone underestimating his intelligence. A brilliant performance that makes you reevaluate who the good guys are sometimes.
5)John Russell, Hombre
John Russell was raised by the Apache, and considers himself one of them. When his stepfather dies and leaves him a boarding house, he decides to sell it and head to Arizona. This puts the boarding house manager, Jessie, (Diane Cilento) out of work, leading John and Jessie to take the same stage coach. They're joined by Alex and Audra Favor, a well to do couple who profit from shorting the Apache's food shipments, and Cicero (Richard Boone) a thug who forces his way onto the stagecoach in order to set up a robbery. Hearing of Russell's Apache ties, Audra asks that Russell ride on top of the coach rather than share their space. She is taken by the band of robbers afterwards although Russell holds off the robbers enough to keep the money and water, which the robbers become desperate for, intertwining the two groups. Russell has no love for any of them, seeing the affair as a coldly practical matter of survival. He ends up their only chance at survival and luckily for them, he's willing to save them even if they don't deserve it.
4)Butch Cassidy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) are great friends a partners in robbery. Set in the Wild West, the two live by their wits, Butch being the brains, Sundance, the sharpshooter. After a train robbery goes wrong, they're pursued by a relentless posse, and they decide to head to Bolivia. This doesn't stop their robbing habits however (after a brief attempt at going straight.) They soon end up pursued by not only the Bolivian police but the military as well. Based on actual events, it's an interesting film in that the ending is grimmer than the actual story, which leaves open the possibility that Butch and SUndance got away and lived in hiding for many years. While, it's a fun and solid story, it's the chemistry and energy between Newman and Redford (and Katherine Ross, playing Sundance's girlfriend Etta Place) that make this movie brilliant.
3)Fast Eddie Felson, The Hustler
2)Hud Bannon, HUD
Hud Bannon is the surviving son of Homer Bannon, (Melvyn Douglas) an old school rancher, who values family and morals, far more than profit. Hud is Homer's opposite, thumbing his nose at conventional morality, by habitually sleeping with married women, and urging Homer to look out for himself, when an epidemic hits their cattle. Hud is also looked up to by his nephew Lon, (Brandon De Wilde) a wet behind the ears young man who hs been raised by Homer. Lon finds Hud's selfish, thrill seeking lifestyle intriguing, but he also feels loyalty to Homer's homespun values, although Homer has his own flaws. Despite his seemingly simple amorality, Hud is a complex character, with deep motivations, guilt and disappointments. Despite his charm, he doesn't always get what he wants either, thanks to Alma (Patricia Neal) the Bannon's housekeeper, and eventually "the one who got away." A deep and beautiful movie about Lon's choice, and the changing of patriarchs to match the times.
1)Luke, Cool Hand Luke