- Marlon Brando’s naturalistic performances revolutionized the film industry, setting the gold standard for modern film acting.
- Many actors, including Jack Nicholson and Johnny Depp, cite Brando as a chief influence in their careers, admiring his ability to genuinely transform into his characters.
- Brando’s performances in films like “The Godfather” and “On the Waterfront” showcase his exceptional talent and emotional depth, earning him deserved acclaim and awards.
Known as one of the greatest actors ever, Marlon Brando elevated every role he took, making for a fantastic filmography. Brando was widely known for adapting the Stanislavski system, also known as method acting. His early film work in the 1950s was massively influential, with movies like A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront popularizing his naturalistic performances and revolutionizing the film industry. Marlon Brando is considered among the actors who massively changed Hollywood, essentially setting the gold standard for modern film acting.
Actors like Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling, and many more have cited Brando as a chief influence in their careers, admiring his ability to enter the skin of his characters, genuinely transforming. Marlon Brando is, of course, best known for playing Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, another performance with enormous cultural influence, where the actor is almost unrecognizable. When Brando stepped into a role, he channeled something beyond himself, and many of his films offer a masterclass in his craft.
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10 The Fugitive Kind
Directed by Sidney Lumet (1960)
One of the best directors Brando collaborated with was Sidney Lumet in The Fugitive Kind. He played the character Valentine “Snakeskin” Xavier, who arrives in a small town and becomes entangled in the lives of its eccentric residents, including two women who vie for his attention. The actor plays one of his more troubled characters, and Brando plays Snakeskin with incredible charisma amidst his internal conflicts.
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9 Mutiny On The Bounty
Directed by Lewis Milestone (1962)
Mutiny on the Bounty is a sea-faring drama based on a classic novel that is based on an actual historical event. Brando plays Fletcher Christian, a First Lieutenant who initiates a mutiny against the ship’s cruel Captain William Bligh. It’s a thrilling period drama, and Brando co-stars with talented actors like Trevor Howard and the great Richard Harris. Mutiny on the Bounty is one of Marlon Brando’s most entertaining films, and he brings a personable depth to the character, making it so easy to root for him.
8 The Chase
Directed by Arthur Penn (1966)
Brando stars alongside icons Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in The Chase, a classic crime thriller. It’s another film set in a small town where an ensemble cast becomes involved in a series of dangerous events following a prison break. Brando plays Sheriff Calder, a lawman caught in the mix of things. He’s one of the actor’s more sympathetic characters, and Brando gives an unbelievable, intense performance.
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Brando famously turned down his Best Actor Oscar win for The Godfather, drawing attention to Hollywood’s history of demonizing Native Americans.
7 Julius Caesar
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1953)
In the screen adaptation of the classic historical Shakespeare play, Brando plays one of his most entertaining roles as the cunning Mark Antony. The film is centered around the assassination of Julius Caesar and the political conspiracies that developed in the aftermath. Mark Antony was one of Caesar’s closest supporters, but he’s manipulative by nature, making him a captivating and complex character. Antony gives the famous “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech, showing a mastery of rhetoric and the ability to capture the hearts of the Roman people and, naturally, the play’s audience. Brando’s interpretation is powerful and emotional.
6 Superman: The Movie
Directed by Richard Donner (1978)
According to Superman star Christopher Reeve on Late Night with David Letterman in 1982, Brando didn’t really put his all into portraying Jor-El in Superman: The Movie. Yet, even if the performance wasn’t all the actor could muster, it still made a lasting imprint on the Superman mythos, adding a level of gravitas to the first major screen adaptation. The spectacle of the film is Reeve’s Superman and Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor, but Brando’s scenes on Krypton are still fantastic and memorable.
5 One-Eyed Jacks
Directed by Marlon Brando (1961)
Marlon Brando only ever directed one film in his career, and it happens to be one of the most original and captivating Westerns ever. Brando plays Rio, an outlaw betrayed by his longtime partner, resulting in him being imprisoned. Years later, Rio is freed and seeks revenge, only to meet his ex-partner’s stepdaughter, whom he falls for. One begins as a highly typical Western narrative transforms into a tale about the desire for vengeance clashing with humanity.
4 A Streetcar Named Desire
Directed by Elia Kazan (1951)
Another iconic Marlon Brando film based on a play, A Streetcar Named Desire, is the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ classic story of the same name. A woman, Blanche, moves in with her sister and brother-in-law, leading to a clash of personalities. Brando plays the brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, an intensely masculine, brutish man. His unbelievable performance launched the actor from a relative unknown to a world-renowned movie star, earning him an Academy Award nomination and influencing decades of screen performances.
3 On The Waterfront
Directed by Elia Kazan (1954)
In terms of a Marlon Brando film with a raw, emotional performance, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront are Brando’s classics. In the latter, Brando stars as Terry Malloy, an up-and-coming boxer persuaded by a local mob boss to throw a fight, sacrificing his career. Malloy struggles with his conscience after the event and becomes entangled in union corruption as a dockworker. Brando plays the character with exceptional nuance as he undergoes his moral journey, earning the star his first Academy Award.
2 Apocalypse Now
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
- Release Date
- August 15, 1979
- 147 minutes
Marlon Brando is a supporting member of the Apocalypse Now cast and is only in the film for a small period at the end. However, Francis Coppola’s Vietnam epic is one of the best war movies of all time, and Brando’s performance as Colonel Kurtz is sensational. Kurtz is a US Army colonel who’s gone rogue, and the film’s premise sees a group of soldiers sent to assassinate him. No character or audience member could predict what they’d find, though, as Kurtz has become a haunting, enigmatic man, resembling the immense madness the war has caused. Brando does incredible things with minimal screen time, and it’s worth waiting for.
1 The Godfather
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
- Release Date
- March 24, 1972
- 175 minutes
Not only is The Godfather Marlon Brando’s best movie, it’s commonly considered the best movie of all time. Brando plays Vito Corleone, the aging patriarch of a New York crime family. The film earned Brando his second Academy Award, making for one of the most well-deserved Oscars ever granted. From the moment the actor comes on screen in the crime epic, his quietly alluring presence grips the viewer into his world. In appearance, voice, and composure, Marlon Brando transforms into the mafia Don, rounding out a phenomenal cast with one of the most captivating screen performances ever.