The Barstool Fund - In Support Of The 30 Day FundLearn More

What's The Best Role Of Al Pacino's Career?

Al Pacino, one of the greatest American actors to ever grace the screen or stage, turned 80-years-old today. He's been keeping audiences entertained for over half a century with his brilliant work; he won his first of two Tonys in 1969. When I was putting the above poll together, it took way longer than a silly Twitter poll should because I had to whittle the amount of iconic roles that Pacino absolutely crushed down to four. It killed me to leave off Carlito Brigante. Vincent Hanna was certainly worthy. Ricky Roma was an all-time performance. Sad-sack Lefty also 'earned' a spot. But Twit is what Twit is.

In the cinema-rich 1970s, he was nominated for an acting Oscar four years in a row and five total in the decade. I mean, look at this goddamn list...

2020 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
The Irishman (2019)
1993 Winner
Oscar
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
1991 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Dick Tracy (1990)
1980 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Leading Role
...and justice for all. (1979)
1976 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
1975 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Leading Role
The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Pacino became the third actor (after Peter O'Toole) to be twice nominated for an Oscar for portraying the same character; he had previously portrayed Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972).

1974 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Serpico (1973)
1973 Nominee 
Oscar
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The Godfather (1972)

Pacino did not attend the ceremony in protest of perceived category fraud. As his performance reflected greater screen time than that of his co-star Marlon Brando, Pacino believed he should have received a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Pacino was nominated for Best Actor five times and Best Supporting Actor four times, including nods in both categories in 1993 when he won the former for SCENT OF A WOMAN---his first Oscar win. He was certainly worthy of a win prior to SCENT but he either faced stiff competition or got shafted by out-of-touch fossil voters.

In the 1975 Oscars, Pacino lost Best Actor to Art Carney for his work in HARRY AND TONTO. IMDb describes the movie thusly: When his apartment building is torn down, a retired lifelong New Yorker goes on a cross country odyssey with his beloved cat Tonto. Once more for the people in the back: When his apartment building is torn down, a retired lifelong New Yorker goes on a cross country odyssey with his beloved cat Tonto.

So the historic, nuanced, fully-developed arc of one of the all-time great film characters played second fiddle to an old fart driving across the States with some platonic pussy in shotgun. Also worth noting that Jack Nicholson was nominated for his work in CHINATOWN, Dustin Hoffman for LENNY, and Albert Finney for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. And none of them were better than Pacino was in THE GODFATHER PART II.

A year later, he was runner-up in what was essentially a two-man race for Best Actor. Pacino's mesmerizing work as the goofy, inept bank robber Sonny Wortzik was most certainly worthy of the Best Actor trophy. But he lost to Jack's go-for-broke, reputation-making tour de force interpretation of Randle Patrick McMurphy in the Milos Forman masterpiece ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (Al and Jack were in the same category four times and Jack in CUCKOO'S was the only win for either when both were nom'd).

There's certainly no shame in 'losing' to Hackman and Hoffman (even if Roy Scheider deserved it for ALL THAT JAZZ) or to Pitt and Pesci. And though 27 years passed between Oscar nominations for Pacino, he was stil churning out tremendous feature film work in the interim. CARLITO'S WAY. HEAT. DONNIE BRASCO. THE INSIDER. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. INSOMNIA. I also really enjoyed him in the underseen and underrated DANNY COLLINS.

Pacino was lighting it up on the small screen in a handful of HBO performances as well, showing a knack for nailing real-life monsters like Phil Spector and Roy Cohn. He also turned in fantastic work as both Jack Kevorkian and Joe Paterno. He earned three Emmy nominations for the aforementioned roles and took home mantle pieces for his work as the euthanasia-administering Dr. Jack and the lecherous scumbag lawyer Cohn (only Paterno wasn't nominated).

(Just for posterity's take, he has 18 Golden Globe nominations and four wins. I say posterity because the HFPA actually nominated him for Best Actor in "AUTHOR! AUTHOR!".)

As for the answer to the hed? There's only one.