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11 Most Memorable Philip Seymour Hoffman Movies ...

By Lyndsie

On February 2, 2014, the world lost a talented, eloquent, and thoughtful actor, causing everyone to start thinking about their favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman movies and moments. As an avid fan and longtime admirer, I started thinking about them too – after admittedly crying, because PSH is one of my favorite actors, and has been since the 1990s, when his career really kicked off. Losing someone gifted, someone who entertains you and makes you deeply connect with the characters they portray, is always difficult, but even more so when they're taken so senselessly and so soon. I hope you'll join me in remembering this amazing man. My list of the most memorable Philip Seymour Hoffman movies might not match yours, but I also invite you to share your favorites – the roles, the anecdotes, the moments, and the memories.

Table of contents:

  1. Boogie nights
  2. Doubt
  3. Capote
  4. The big lebowski
  5. The hunger games: catching fire
  6. The master
  7. Magnolia
  8. Before the devil knows you're dead
  9. The talented mr. ripley
  10. Almost famous
  11. Charlie wilson's war

1 Boogie Nights

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

This is unquestionably one of my favorite PSH films, not in the least because it was the first time I remember really seeing him in a movie. Scotty is such a sad, creepy, sympathetic creature. His feelings for Dirk are so painfully obvious, his attempts to reveal his crush so painfully awkward, and his acknowledgments of his own clumsy maneuvering so poignant, you can't help but love him. In that way, it's one of the most classic Philip Seymour Hoffman movies, because he gets you emotionally invested in this bumbling, unattractive, graceless character – who, in the scheme of things, is one of the only stable characters in the film.

2 Doubt

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

Did he or didn't he? Was he or wasn't he? In this movie, especially, Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance has the power to leave you doubting your own instincts. First you're sure Father Brendan is innocent, and then you begin to doubt, as you're supposed to. As the movie progresses, you can't decide whether to trust the fiercely moral and stern Sister Aloysius, Meryl Streep's impeccable foil to PSH's priest, or to believe that Father Flynn's interest in young Donald is innocent. By the end, however, you're never sure. It's due in part to the writing of John Patrick Shanley's play and screenplay, but no one does moral ambiguity like Philip Seymour Hoffman.

3 Capote

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

I'm a die-hard Truman Capote fan, and also enjoyed the overshadowed Infamous, which came out at around the same time and starred a rather wonderfully cast (in voice and appearance, especially) Toby Jones. However, Capote is my favorite; while Jones looked and sounded a lot like Capote, PSH embodied the eccentric writer. This is one of his most well-known, most praised roles, earning him a much-deserved Oscar. I liked the depiction of the relationship between Capote and Perry Smith better in this version as well, and I like to think that the writer himself would have approved of the film as a whole.

4 The Big Lebowski

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

I mention this movie on way too many film posts, but if you couldn't tell already, it's one of my all-time favorites. I love the entire ensemble cast, but owing to the epic brilliance of The Dude, Walter, and even darling little Donny, the actual “Big Lebowski's” gopher, Brandt, is too often overlooked. PSH plays the perfect toady, however, and seeing the way he genuinely seems to like The Dude is just such a delight. He's a smiling, smooth, good humored apologist for his cantankerous boss, and something about that is just classic Hoffman.

5 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

Although this is a newer movie, of course, I loved PSH as Plutarch Heavensbee. To me he perfectly exhibited that subtle, sly kindness the Head Gamemaker had to exhibit, so that he didn't give away the plot. His niceness tied in with his subterfuge, and Philip Seymour Hoffman had the rare distinction of depicting subtlety as superbly as he displayed flamboyancy.

6 The Master

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

Philip Seymour Hoffman as cult leader – is there anything more perfect? As Lancaster Dodd, leader of The Cause, he is suitably twisted and perfectly certifiable. He received an Oscar nom for this as well, proving that his work with Paul Thomas Anderson was some of his best. I love Lancaster's relationship with his wife, I love the conflict with and the fight for Freddie Quell's soul, and in the same way I love Plutarch's subtlety, I love Lancaster's ostentation.

7 Magnolia

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

Magnolia is a powerfully beautiful, moving movie, and that's coming from someone who doesn't even particularly like Tom Cruise. I loved Jason Robards, however, and naturally I love Philip Seymour Hoffman – especially when he works with Paul Thomas Anderson. This is another collaboration between the two and PSH's Phil Parma is just an angel. He's an angel. He had me from his first appearance on screen – to the point where I sometimes fancied meeting the man, and simply asking, “How's today?”

8 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

PSH does subtlety well, and he's great at flamboyance – that's definitely been established. In this film, however, audiences get to witness the range of his rage for the first time. This movie is dark and daring and dramatic, and if a plot that involves a thieving pair of brothers seems overdone, that's only because you haven't seen it done this way. There are points in this film where you're almost too uncomfortable to keep watching – but that's why you push on.

9 The Talented Mr. Ripley

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

It takes a very, very special actor to outshine accomplished pretty boys like Jude Law and Matt Damon, let alone accomplished beauties like Cate Blanchett, but Philip Seymour Hoffman managed it. The casting here is just so perfect. You can see something of the spoiled rich boy in a younger Hoffman, plus Freddie Miles is quite creepy as well. I've always thought PSH drew on this performance when playing Freddy Lounds in Red Dragon – not because of similar first names, but because the subtle sleaze factor in Freddie comes out full-blown in Freddy.

10 Almost Famous

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

Almost Famous is a nearly flawless film, but that might be because I always dreamed of being a journalist-groupie. Philip Seymour Hoffman did so well at portraying real-life figures on-screen – see Capote and Moneyball, for a start – and his turn as Lester Bangs is no different. You don't see him a lot in this film, but he still steals every scene, and after watching this, I found myself following his advice when it came to my more biographical writing: it's honest and unmerciful.

11 Charlie Wilson's War

On iTunes: itunes.apple.com

I love Charlie Wilson's War, in part because I'm a huge Tom Hanks fan as well. Seeing him alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman is always a joy for me when I rewatch this. As Gust Avrakotos, he's someone else entirely. From looks to mannerisms, he does what good actors do: completely reinvents himself. You're not watching PSH playing a character; you're watching Gust Avrakotos – and that's why he got an Oscar nom for this, as well.

There are so many other fantastic PSH films, but hese are the ones that always stick out in my mind. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a scene-stealing chameleon capable of making audiences experience rage, sympathy, embarrassment, and that squirmy, uncomfortable feeling a great actor inspires when he or she plays an awkward, creepy role to the hilt. I will miss this man enormously, and I for one am so glad that we will still get to see him in the final installments of The Hunger Games. There's even a TV series in post-production, but I haven't heard anything about what may happen there. What are some of your best memories of Philip Seymour Hoffman? Which movies will you cherish?

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