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The Trinity: Paul Newman

The Trinity: Paul Newman

We’re starting a new series at Pending Title called The Trinity. In it, the writer ranks their three favorite films from an actor. This time, I (Jacob) polled my Twitter followers and Zoe very appropriately nominated Paul Newman, one of the greatest actors of all time. 

I’ll start by acknowledging I need to do much better in terms of exploring Newman’s catalogue. 

With that said, the films I’ve seen are so damn good I feel I can pick three without feeling bad about it. So I’m doing it. In no order, here are my three favorite Paul Newman films. 

The Sting

I can’t separate Paul Newman from Robert Redford. This won’t be the last time the two show up on this list (SPOILER ALERT) and, while this isn’t my favorite pairing, it might be their best (I know, what?) A nearly perfect film, from the score to the plot to the way the two play off one another “The Sting” is an excellent crime film and drama. 

The tension builds so well throughout you can’t help but be sucked into the drama of it all. It helps that the stakes are so high. Newman has nothing to lose, something you can’t say about Redford’s character. This formula is used again in “Ocean’s 13” (part of the reason that film works so damn well) but there’s just something about Newman’s gravitas in this film that makes it one of my all time favorites. 

The Color of Money

Newman can carry a movie by himself, but put him with another world class actor and you’re just about guaranteed to get a hit. A sequel to “The Hustler,” this film puts Tom Cruise and Newman together in another near-perfect film. 

It says something about Newman that I love so many films about subject matter that couldn’t interest me less. From horse racing to pool halls, these are settings so distant from my world that Newman manages to make relevant because of the intensity he brings to his roles. 

It doesn’t hurt that Cruise and Newman are perfect together. Much like Redford and Newman, the two go back and forth in a way that makes it feel they’ve been acting together for years. Cruise deserves credit, too (hell, the dude can act) but let’s be honest: Newman is one of the best actors of all time and he’s getting the lion’s share of the praise here. Cruise would tell you the same thing. 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a good Western or maybe it’s because this film has such an emotional ending, but this has always been my favorite Newman film. Even the tagline is perfect: “Not that it matters, but most of it is true.” 

How can’t you get romantic about this film? From the open to the close, the whole thing embraces everything that makes the folk tales of the old west perfect. It’s like a Johnny Cash song brought to the big screen and I love every second of it. 

There are westerns that take themselves more seriously, but few that love their subjects more than “Butch Cassidy.” It’s a part Newman plays so well; for some I suppose that’s a criticism. For me the praise couldn’t come any higher. 

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