Marlon Brando was considered many things--icon, rebel, cautionary tale--but first and foremost, he was a great actor. He was a harbinger of a new film acting style, stressing a more naturalistic approach that sometimes clashed with the artifice of '50s Hollywood. At his best, Brando was sly, insightful, daring, brave and ironic. At his worst, he was indifferent and self-indulgent. Throughout his illustrious career we got to see the inner drama of an actor in a love/hate struggle with the craft of acting. His choice of movies was always interesting because, unlike those of so many actors today, Brando's choices were not always calculated. Emotion and intellect were often the choices behind the decisions Brando made as an actor. In some cases, they were egotistical choices such as Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), The Chase (1966) and the whacked-out Candy (1968). Other times his taste would be flat-out magical: On the Waterfront (1954), The Godfather (1971) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), one of the actor's finest moments. And of course there are the roles that just leave you scratching your head, like 1979's Apocalypse Now. But those are just a few of the films from Brando's career. Here are a few more samples of the Brando oeuvre.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)--Much maligned and misunderstood at the time, Brando's only picture for which he was credited as director turns out to be one of the best Westerns ever made. Wonderful acting and, at the time, revolutionary use of Hispanic actors highlight this tale of revenge and redemption. Beautifully shot with epic pacing, the film also features masterful performances by Karl Malden, Ben Johnson and the incomparable Katy Jurado.
Burn (1969)--Brando stars as the infamous warmonger Sir William Walker, a man who would go to countries and facilitate the starting of wars. Beautifully photographed, with a smolderingly intense performance by Brando. This was the subject of another film, Alex Cox's jumbled but fun Walker (1987).
The Missouri Breaks (1976)--With Jack Nicholson just off of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, director Arthur Penn just off of Night Moves, and Brando just off his rocker, this should have been a great film. Nicholson gives a good try, and Brando has a hammy good time as a sadistic bounty hunter, but unfortunately it turns into a heavily re-edited failure. Worth a look for why it doesn't work.
The Night of the Following Day (1968)--A film I was obsessed with as a kid because it was on late-night television when I had insomnia (a 9-year-old with insomnia, no dysfunctional home life here!). Brando and Richard Boone play kidnappers who face an existential crisis during the job. A great weird ending and an awesome crying scene from Brando make it worth a look.