10 Best Al Pacino Movies Of All Time

10 Best Al Pacino Movies Of All Time

Al Pacino has crafted quite the career across fifty-three years. A career that has provided the world with endless entertainment as well as irrevocably shape the landscape for modern cinema. Here are the ten best Al Pacino movies of all time.

10. The Scent of a Woman (1992)

IMDb: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Director: Martin Brest
“A prep school student (Chris O’Donnell) needing money agrees to “babysit” a blind man (Pacino), but the job is not at all what he anticipated.”

The Scent of a Woman finds a place at #10 not just because of Pacino’s performance, but for the reasoning that it’s one of the few films where he ventures outside of his usual wheelhouse (involving crime, action, villainy, and so forth). In short, a brilliant show of versatility.

9. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

IMDb: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%

Director: Taylor Hackford
“An exceptionally adept Florida lawyer (Keanu Reeves) is offered a job at a high-end New York City law firm with a high-end boss (Pacino) – the biggest opportunity of his career to date.”

I anticipate that this may raise some eyebrows, especially in comparison to some other entries on this list. But the on-screen chemistry between Pacino and Reeves – the latter of which reportedly sacrificed upwards of US$1 million in salary just so the production could afford to secure the former – was the stuff of cinema magic. Not to mention Pacino’s dialogue being a thing of immense pleasure. Plus it’s Pacino playing the literal devil, what more could you want?

8. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

IMDb: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Director: Sidney Lumet
“A man (Pacino) robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation, which turns into a hostage situation and a media circus.”

Despite the assertions of many, this was Pacino at his most raw. Not Godfather, not Serpico, not even Scarface. There was something about the way he portrayed desperation that sets Dog Day Afternoon apart from the rest of his filmography.

7. Insomnia (2002)

IMDb: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Director: Christopher Nolan
“Two Los Angeles homicide detectives (Pacino & Martin Donovan) are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn’t set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen.”

One of Christopher Nolan’s most underrated films, Insomnia is a taut psychological thriller that highlighted both Pacino and the late Robin Williams’ capacity for deeper – more entertaining – introspection. Akin to that of Heat and The Godfather films. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a good cat-and-mouse game.

6. Serpico (1973)

IMDb: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Director: Sidney Lumet
“An honest New York cop named Frank Serpico (Pacino) blows the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him.”

No best Al Pacino movies list would be complete without a nod to Serpico. Nor could anyone else have pulled this role off. ‘Nuff said.

5. Scarface (1983)

IMDb: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

Director: Brian De Palma
“In 1980 Miami, a determined Cuban immigrant (Pacino) takes over a drug cartel and succumbs to greed.”

Bloody, over-the-top, quotable, but above all else – iconic. Some roles seem to overshadow others. Regardless of how one feels about Scarface, there’s no denying it was one of Pacino’s best. On a cultural scale if not a performative one.

4. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

IMDb: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Director: James Foley
“An examination of the machinations behind the scenes at a real estate office.”

I’ve never understood why blokes who work in sales gravitate towards Scarface when Glengarry Glen Ross is the more relevant pick. I guess it’s easier to keep a salesman’s attention with fantasies of cocaine, guns, and Michelle Pfifer than it is with, oh I don’t know, people actually making sales?

In any case, this star-studded production – which included Alec Baldwin, Jack Lemmon, and, uh… *cough* Kevin Spacey *cough* – is not just essential Pacino viewing; it’s essential cinema viewing.

3. The Godfather, (1972)

IMDb: 9.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
“The ageing patriarch (Marlon Brando) of an organised crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son (Pacino).”

No explanation required. Although, there may be one necessary to justify why The Godfather is: a) #3 on a best Al Pacino movies list and not #1, and b) why the first Godfather is below Part II.

Read on to find out.

2. Heat (1995)

IMDb: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Director: Michael Mann
“A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police (Pacino) when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.”

Pacino as Lt. Vincent Hanna in Heat is the archetypal Pacino character. In other words, a role which perfectly encapsulates the broader strokes of his career success.

Everyone seems to have this idea that it’s because he plays bad guys with a redeeming bit of good in them… when it’s actually the reverse. A good guy with an unshakeable, almost overwhelming, element of darkness in them. That’s where his finest moments shine through. And Heat is just definitive proof.

His characters understand the so-called line, understands his existence is just a side on the same coin; and fully acknowledges this while championing consequentialism (ends-justify-the-means / morality-is-relative type thinking). Apply it to any of his characters and you’ll start to see the arcs more clearly, maybe even appreciate the movies themselves a little more.

1. The Godfather, Part II (1974)

IMDb: 9.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
“The early life and career of Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael (Pacino), expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.”

Yes, the first Godfather was a monumental achievement in cinematic history which many have since attempted to recreate; though none have ever come close. It put Pacino on the map, and is yet another undeniably phenomenal performance. But – The Godfather, Part II is where he had the opportunity to really showcase that nuanced darkness I keep talking about in earlier entries.

It’s not the initial dipping of a toe from conventional morality that audiences find fascinating – it’s this. The violent descent, the sacrifice of the former self, the portrayal of greater loss. Witnessing just how far from grace one man can fall.

The transformation of Pacino’s Michael Corleone is one that’s poetic, on par with the Greek tragedies of old. Hence why The Godfather, Part II will forever hold the crown. And nothing you say could ever convince me otherwise.

Honourable Mentions

There’s more where that came from – find out why The Godfather, Part II is the perfect sequel which no other sequel shall ever come close to beating.

If you agree/disagree with our picks for the best Al Pacino movies of all time, sound off in the comments with what we may have missed.