For several decades, Robert Redford — most recently seen in Disney’s Pete’s Dragon remake — has been recognized as Hollywood royalty. From his work as an actor and director to creating the Sundance Institute in 1981 to support independent films, Redford’s impact on the industry is largely unmatched.
In the early 1960s, he appeared in guest spots on shows like Maverick, The Twilight Zone, and The Virginian, all the while landing roles in films like the 1962 drama War Hunt (his first big-screen credit) and Inside Daisy Clover, which earned him a Golden Globe for best new star. By the time Barefoot in the Park came around in 1967, the actor was poised for major stardom, which he would achieve with his very next film role (more on that in a moment).
Now that Redford has announced his intention to retire from acting, we’re looking back at the most memorable roles the venerable actor has tackled over his illustrious career. Of course, with 45 film credits to his name, the below list barely scratches the surface of what Redford has achieved. Nevertheless, we’re confident in saying that these are the best of the best; the roles he’ll be remembered for for decades to come. Without further delay, let’s get started — in chronological order — with a trip back through Redford’s must-see films.
1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The film that lent Redford’s independent film organization (and its subsequent film festival) its name, this classic Western helped establish the archetypal buddy action film genre. Redford’s chemistry with co-star Paul Newman is legendary, and as a pair of outlaws on the run, the two actors are at the top of their game in the George Roy Hill-directed adventure. This is the film that cemented Redford’s status as a bonafide leading man, and its Oscar-winning William Goldman screenplay is often considered among the best ever put to film.
2. Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Director Sydney Pollack put Redford in another Western, this time with the star playing the titular character. Reportedly based on the life of mountain man Liver-Eating Johnson, the film sees Redford battle with a group of Native Americans, as he gets caught up in an age-old vendetta. Riding on the actor’s undeniable charisma, the film was a box office hit and earned near-universal praise, a testament to Redford’s do-no-wrong standing in the wake of his previous hits.
3. The Sting (1973)
As shocking as it may be, this film earned Redford his only acting nomination for an Academy Award. Yet, though Redford never snagged a acting Oscar (he did win for Best Director for Ordinary People), director George Roy Hill reunited with Redford and Paul Newman for this spiritual sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As a pair of con man with their eyes on the ultimate hustle, the pair crackle again.
4. Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Redford reteamed with director Sydney Pollack for this political thriller that also stars Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow. Based on the 1974 James Grady novel Six Days of the Condor, the film didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, but it earned largely positive reviews and, more importantly, has endured in the 40 plus years since its theatrical release. As a CIA researcher charged with solving a horrific crime, Redford is ever the reliable presence here.
5. All the President’s Men (1976)
One of the most acclaimed political dramas ever made, this Alan J. Pakula-directed film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name and follows a pair of Washington Post journalists who are investigating the Watergate scandal. Redford and co-star Dustin Hoffman are dynamite together, and the film is truly one of the best cinematic representations of political paranoia. It has since been recognized as a culturally relevant work of art and selected for historic preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry.
6. The Natural (1984)
In this Barry Levinson-directed sports drama, Redford stars as baseball player Roy Hobbs, and the film tracks his life over the course of several decades. Ultimately more about the power of the human spirit than America’s favorite pastime, the film — which features a stellar supporting cast, including Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and Wilford Brimley — is often considered one of the best demonstrations of Redford’s incredible range as a performer.
BONUS: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Hardly one of Redford’s finest performances, the actor’s role in this Marvel Cinematic Universe favorite — as the villainous Secretary of Defense — did help introduce his undeniable talent to younger moviegoers unfamiliar with the aforementioned classic films. Moreover, he brings true gravitas to a sequel that vastly improves upon the original, tapping into his history in films like All the President’s Men to transform the Star-Spangled Avenger’s sophomore effort into a political thriller of its own.
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