Robert Duvall’s 20 best performances – ranked!

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20. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)

A beauteous unusual and atypical relation for Duvall successful which helium was possibly not good cast. He plays a Brit, Dr Watson, sidekick to Nicol Williamson’s legendary detective Sherlock Holmes successful this non-canonical instrumentality fabrication communicative (a genre that professional Gilbert Adair called “shlock Holmes”). Watson is convinced that Holmes is suffering cocaine-induced delusions (due to ingesting his “7% solution”), takes him to spot Sigmund Freud – and they upwind up solving a case.

19. Sling Blade (1996)

A tiny, unsympathetic and possibly uninteresting Duvall relation successful this breakthrough movie for writer-director-star Billy Bob Thornton, who plays Karl, a 40-year-old antheral with learning disabilities who has conscionable been released from psychiatric hospital, having arsenic a kid killed his parent and her person with the “sling blade” of the title. In a cardinal scene, helium confronts his glowering, adjacent soundless aged dada (Duvall) with the maltreatment that traumatised him. Thornton doesn’t springiness Duvall overmuch to do, possibly suspecting helium would get horribly upstaged.

18. The Conversation (1974)

This is fundamentally a cameo for Duvall, and yet his beingness present is grounds to however iconic helium already was. Coppola’s classical of paranoia has Gene Hackman arsenic the shabby surveillance expert, hired by Duvall’s mysterious, shadowy “Director” to spy connected his wife, who appears to beryllium carrying connected with different man. Hackman obsessively replays a bugged speech betwixt the 2 and feels the Director’s oppressive presence.

Powerful debut … To Kill a Mockingbird.
Powerful debut … To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: pr

17. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

This was 21-year-old Duvall’s surface debut, playing the troubled but misunderstood recluse, Arthur “Boo” Radley, who fatefully rescues Jem and Scout, and becomes analogous to the title’s susceptible mockingbird. There was not overmuch for Duvall to do, but helium maximises each 2nd connected screen, and the relation introduced audiences to the testosterone of a calved quality player.

16. True Grit (1969)

Going up against John Wayne is simply a situation for immoderate actor, but the young Duvall did successful the archetypal True Grit, playing “Lucky” Ned Pepper, the notorious bandit chased down by Wayne’s ageing one-eyed gunslinger, Rooster Cogburn. “I mean to termination you successful 1 minute, Ned!” shouts Cogburn. “Or spot you hanged successful Fort Smith astatine Judge Parker’s convenience. Which’ll it be?” Duvall’s villain sneers rashly: “I telephone that bold speech for a one-eyed abdominous man” – precipitating a hair-raising gunfight.

15. The Paper (1994)

Duvall excels astatine ageing authorization figures (often with a hot-tempered youngster nether his helping needing to beryllium kindly schooled), and the cantankerous paper exertion is simply a relation helium was calved to play. In Ron Howard’s underrated newsroom drama, Duvall is Bernie White, the exertion of a New York tabloid called the Sun. Hit with a prostate crab diagnosis, helium hopes that his overworking protege Michael Keaton doesn’t sacrifice his beingness to enactment the mode helium did.

14. A Civil Action (1998)

Robert Duvall got a champion supporting histrion Oscar information for his ripe scene-stealer successful this courtroom drama, playing Jerry Facher, a shrewd firm lawyer moving for the atrocious guys – large corporations accused of polluting the town’s drinking water. John Travolta plays the crusading lawyer acting for the families, but Travolta’s show is nary lucifer for Duvall’s wily, folksy, grandfatherly aged feline with the instincts of a cobra.

13. The Judge (2014)

More legal-eagle shenanigans for Duvall, playing a cunning but charming aged sidewinder of a judge, who is present ailing. When helium is accused of murder, helium realises that determination is lone 1 lawyer who tin get him off: his son, a smartmouth, big-city operator, played by Robert Downey Jr, from whom helium has agelong been painfully estranged. They volition person to heal their wounds earlier the proceedings begins: a grandstanding crook from Duvall.

With Lukas Haas successful  Rambling Rose.
With Lukas Haas successful Rambling Rose. Photograph: Ronald Grant

12. Rambling Rose (1991)

This is classical mid-period Duvall successful the benignant of coagulated workplace play that utilized to beryllium Hollywood’s bread-and-butter. He plays Mr Hillyer, a kindly paterfamilias successful Alabama during the Depression; helium and his woman (Diane Ladd) instrumentality successful a young miss retired of the kindness of their hearts to beryllium a maid. This is Rose, played by Laura Dern, whose artless sexuality soon causes trouble. Duvall was a small upstaged by the mother-daughter squad of Ladd and Dern, but his surface beingness is irresistible.

11. Get Low (2009)

Duvall is heavy into his crusty oldster signifier successful this movie: route-one casting, perhaps, but with immoderate laughs and each precise good performed. He plays Felix Bush, a mean aged reclusive feline based connected a existent fig from 1930s Tennessee, who 1 time decides to fake his decease conscionable to perceive what the townsfolk volition accidental astatine the funeral: a cynical undertaker played by Bill Murray falls successful with the plan. It squares up similar a wide achromatic comedy, but Bush turns retired to beryllium a analyzable quality individual.

10. Colors (1988)

The LAPD has repeatedly been Duvall’s situation (see True Confessions), and successful this Dennis Hopper-directed play astir the pugnacious streets of South Central, he’s a straight-arrow bull taking connected the gangs. But helium has to contend with his brash and profoundly annoying young spouse (Sean Penn), who behaves similar a hoodlum. In immoderate ways, he’s a priestly fig , retired to prevention Penn’s bull soul.

Playing pompous … M*A*S*H.
Playing pompous … M*A*S*H. Photograph: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy

9. M*A*S*H (1970)

In the TV show, the uptight commanding serviceman Frank Burns was played for laughs arsenic a prissy prig by Larry Linville, but it wasn’t rather the aforesaid communicative successful the archetypal movie from Robert Altman. Duvall plays him arsenic a charmless, pompous, incompetent rule-fetishist, taunted by Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) astir his illicit narration with “Hot Lips” Hoolihan. A dark, brooding figure, Burns goes connected the onslaught and gets taken distant successful a straitjacket.

8. True Confessions (1981)

Duvall and Robert De Niro get the champion retired of each different successful Ulu Grosbard’s intelligent movie, co-written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, and based connected Dunne’s caller inspired by the Black Dahlia case. Duvall plays a pugnacious LAPD detective successful the 40s, haunted by a corrupt past that helium has enactment down him. His younger member is De Niro’s idealistic young christianity priest, who receives donations from a somewhat shady businessman. A gruesome execution brings the 2 into a mutually anguished confrontation.

7. The Great Santini (1979)

Duvall fto the acheronian retired with this large relation arsenic US Marine Corps officer, “Bull” Meacham, a subject aviator who is admired connected base, but feared and adjacent hated by his household astatine location for his drinking and temper. He is successful the wont of playing one-on-one hoops games with his teenage lad Ben and cannot judge it erstwhile Ben yet beats him, bullyings and humiliating him successful an unwatchable scene.

THX 1138.
THX 1138. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy

6. THX 1138 (1971)

George Lucas’s dystopian and pessimistic pre-Star Wars sci-fi is acceptable successful a Huxleyesque futureworld of white-clad individuals with numbers alternatively of names, wherever a constabulary authorities enforces instrumentality and bid with android cops and emotion-suppressing drugs. (The weird ambience was mocked by Woody Allen successful Sleeper.) Duvall plays a mill technician called THX 1138, imprisoned for having enactment with his roommate, who escapes. It’s a vehemently dramatic, romanticist and intersexual relation for Duvall, possibly the nearest helium ever came to an enactment lead.

5. Network (1976)

In this satirical classical from screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky, Duvall plays cynical, blowhard TV enforcement Frank Hackett, who is electrified by the realisation that his profoundly depressed newsreader Howard Beale (Peter Finch) has go a coast-to-coast deed by threatening to termination himself unrecorded connected air. Hackett doesn’t attraction astir his employee’s intelligence health, conscionable astir ratings.

4. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Before determination were memes, Duvall became 1 with his little but sensational show arsenic Lt Col Kilgore, the surf-crazed Wagner enthusiast who, with his “Air Mobile” part of helicopters, leads an onslaught connected a Vietnamese colony successful wide daylight, speakers blaring The Ride of the Valkyries. In theory, it is to airlift Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) and his men, but each excessively clearly, helium conscionable wants an excuse for a whooping and hollering cavalry attack. Later helium squats connected his haunches to code the men: “I emotion the odor of napalm successful the morning!” – adding with a mysterious hint of regret – “Some time this war’s gonna end.”

With Tess Harper successful  Tender Mercies.
With Tess Harper successful Tender Mercies. Photograph: Photo 12/Alamy

3. Tender Mercies (1983)

Duvall got his champion histrion Oscar for Bruce Beresford’s Tender Mercies, successful which helium plays Mac Sledge, a state vocalist who has mislaid his wife, girl and vocation to drink. Waking up broke and hungover successful a Texas motel, helium persuades the manager (Tess Harper) to fto him enactment and winds up marrying her. It’s a lovely, gentle show from Duvall, who has a large singing dependable and performs 2 songs of his ain composition: Fool’s Waltz and I’ve Decided To Leave Here Forever.

2. The Godfather (1971) and The Godfather Part II (1974)

Duvall’s Tom Hagen successful The Godfather is 1 of his subtlest and astir misunderstood performances. A mild, self-effacing consigliere for the Corleone transgression family, it is helium who is liable for the astir macabre and legendary enactment of unit successful the Godfather canon. When Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone tasks him with flying to Los Angeles to unit a definite movie shaper into casting Vito’s godson, the Sinatra-esque vocalist Johnny Fontane, Tom masterminds with deadpan calm placing a horse’s caput successful the man’s bed.

The Apostle.
The Apostle. Photograph: Moviestore/Shutterstock

1. The Apostle (1997)

This was Duvall’s ain passionateness project, arsenic writer, director, shaper (in the consciousness of putting up his ain money) and star. But this is not a specified vanity piece: it is simply a genuinely large and scandalously neglected classic. Duvall plays the charismatic Christian preacher EF Dewey, who has mislaid his woman and children due to the fact that of his drinking. When helium fatally hits his estranged wife’s caller fellow with a shot bat portion drunk, helium goes connected the run, winding up successful Louisiana wherever helium sets up a caller religion and becomes a much-loved fig successful the municipality – until the constabulary drawback up with him. It is simply a lovely, astir Hardyesque story, and Duvall is superb.

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