Paul Newman's Top 15 Movies

Robert Redford (left) and Paul Newman in a still from the film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Paul Newman may be a beloved movie icon to those of us older than, say, 40. But many of the nation's younger moviegoers may have seen only one Newman movie in their lives: "Cars," in which he provides the voice to the old racer Doc Hudson.

They don't know what they're missing. Let's tell them. Newman has more than 80 roles in his filmography, but these 15 best define his unforgettable charisma. All are on DVD and available on Netflix.

Somebody Up There Likes Me

In Newman's second film, a drama by Robert Wise based on the autobiography of boxer Rocky Graziano, he gave a powerful performance as Rocky, who discovers pugilism to escape an aimless life. After 1956, Newman was no longer a TV star, but solidly a movie star.

The Long, Hot Summer

Martin Ritt's 1958 melodrama, based on stories by William Faulkner, paired Newman and Joanne Woodward in a movie for the first time. Their ease with each other is the best thing about the film, in which Newman plays a drifter with a fiery past who blows into a small Southern town and, in more ways than one, changes the destiny of a troubled family.

The Left-Handed Gun

Newman's turn to play Billy the Kid. (Newman had played The Kid before, on an episode of "Philco Television Playhouse.") The 1958 film was based on a play by Gore Vidal and directed by Arthur Penn, who liked taking famous outlaws and making them pop-culture heroes. Once you get past the silly theme song, Newman owns the movie as a man who turns to revenge after his mentor is killed.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The first filmed adaptation of Tennessee Williams' classic play, directed by Richard Brooks, stars Newman as Brick. His wife ( Elizabeth Taylor) can't understand why Brick doesn't love her, and his father is demanding a grandchild. Newman earned his first of 10 Oscar nominations, even though Williams hated the film because all references to homosexuality were excised. It was, after all, 1959.


In 1961, Newman had his greatest performance up to that time, and arguably of his entire career. Robert Rossen's gritty drama centers of Fast Eddie Felson (Newman), a pool shark so full of himself he challenges the greatest of them all, Minnesota Fats ( Jackie Gleason). Eddie comes to regret his bravado. Newman with a pool cue at the ready is as iconic as film images come. Not to be missed.

Sweet Bird of Youth

In 1962, Newman reprised the role he played on Broadway, as a self-absorbed man who goes back to his Southern hometown, bringing along a movie star, whom he uses in an attempt to gain fame. Richard Brooks again adapted Tennessee Williams and again cut out the most graphic stuff, but the acting is wonderful. In addition to Newman, Ed Begley, Geraldine Page and Shirley Knight stand out.


Newman played a bastard, very charismatically, in Martin Ritt's 1963 adaptation of a story by Larry McMurtry about the changing of the old West to the less-savory new West. Melvyn Douglas, Brandon De Wilde and especially Patricia Neal are excellent as the people who warily share their world with the bitter Hud. Newman looks gorgeous playing, ironically, a man you really wouldn't want to know.

Cool Hand Luke

The sweatiest movie ever made, with loads of 'tude. Stuart Rosenberg's 1967 crime drama stars Newman as a man jailed for a misdemeanor, who defies the rules any way he can. He becomes a hero to his fellow members of the chain gang, but a thorn in the side of The Man. One of the greatest lines in movie history — "What we got here is ... failure to communicate" — comes from this film.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid