Top 10 Marlon Brando Performances

Since he first made a name for himself on the stage as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ play "A Streetcar Named Desire," Marlon Brando became known as one of the most talented and unique actors on the scene. In the 1950s, his film career took off, with the film version of the play that made him famous, as well as other triumphs like "The Wild One," "On the Waterfront," and "Julius Caesar." Brando made a comeback in the ‘70s with other successful outings in "Last Tango in Paris" and "The Godfather," but by the next decade he retired and only made a few more films in his lifetime. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down Marlon Brando’s top 10 performances.
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He’s one of the most talented and temperamental actors in history. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for Marlon Brando’s top 10 performances.

#10 – Max: “The Score” (2001)

Kicking off our list is Brando’s last role before his death. The two Vito Corleones unite for method acting at its finest, and bring Ed Norton along for the ride. The temperamental Brando puts on a show as an extravagant and often funny criminal, and makes us wish he hadn’t retired – though the film crew probably disagrees. Also, Brando was winging it in half of his scenes with DeNiro, but that’s fine with us.

#9 – Carmine Sabatini: “The Freshman” (1990)

Brando may have retired from acting in 1980, but that didn’t really keep him from taking movie roles. Here, he reprises his Godfather part – sorta – to great comedic success. Go figure. Did you know Brando was funny? Eccentric? Yes. Talented? Obviously. But funny? Not really. Brando makes the film, plain and simple: without him it would just be average.

#8 – Major Lloyd “Ace” Gruver: “Sayonara” (1957)

The already-established Brando lends gravitas to this story of interracial love, and his supporting cast helps it even more. The internal struggle against his own intolerance swiftly turns to certainty when he makes his final decision, and showcases the best of Brando. Against objections by the higher-ups, he put on a southern accent for this role, but the director later withdrew his protests and dubbed Brando’s performance “perfection.”

#7 – Johnny Strabler: “The Wild One” (1953)

Brando inspires fans to don thick sideburns, slanty caps and leather jackets for a ride on their motorcycles. This is a seminal Brando role, not only for his superb acting and charisma, but also for the iconic cool quotient of his character. It’s almost been ruined by copycats, but ignore them and you’ll remember why this movie is such an enduring piece of pop culture.

#6 – Marc Antony: “Julius Caesar” (1953)

Brando was nominated for four Best Actor Oscars in a row, including one for “Julius Caesar.” His part in this Shakespeare classic is one of the roles that helped establish him as the most unique and talented actor of our time. Critics worried he wasn’t up to the part, but were proven wrong by Brando’s authoritative performance. All of Rome was helpless but to listen.

#5 – Paul: “Last Tango in Paris” (1972)

Though this movie is notorious for its brutal sexual content, “Last Tango” also features some of Brando’s most impressive acting. If you can get past the rape and other scandalous scenes, you see our star as a lonely widower who acts desperately to avoid his problems. This movie was released the same year as “The Godfather” and helped momentarily boost his sagging career with yet another Oscar nod.

#4 – Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

All it took to get Brando in this film was millions of dollars in exchange for a month’s work. Brando showed up on set larger than life. Literally. His weight gain necessitated black clothes, creative camera shots and a rewrite of the ending. No matter: Brando still makes an almost mythical appearance that lives up to the hype, both in the movie and in life.

#3 – Terry Malloy: “On the Waterfront” (1954)

This movie finally won Brando Oscar gold, and for good reason: not only does he shine as a wannabe boxer; he also largely ad-libbed the film’s most famous scene. Director Elia Kazan deemed Brando’s performance as a dockworker who rats on his union to be the best film performance ever. No other actor could pull off the duality of this part: on the one hand a tough guy, on the other a tender soul.

#2 – Don Vito Corleone: “The Godfather” (1972)

By this point, Brando was a diva: he lengthened shoots, cost a fortune and usually came to work with an attitude. That’s why he was almost not cast as Don Vito. Fortunately Francis Ford Coppola fought for him – and it’s a good thing he did or we wouldn’t have such an unforgettable role to put on lists like this. Believe it or not, Brando’s Oscar speech almost manages to eclipse this memorable role. Almost.

#1 – Stanley Kowalski: “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951)

Taking the top spot on our list is the role that made Brando a star. After building his name in the Broadway version of this Tennessee Williams play, he brings the same intensity and melancholy to the film. With this part, he singlehandedly revolutionizes method acting and gives one of the most significant performances in cinema history. The fact he lost the Oscar is still considered highway robbery.

Marlon Brando is considered one of the most influential actors of all time, so he must have lots of great roles: subscribe to tell us which of your favorites we’ve left out.
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