'Death of a Salesman' (1985)
This TV-movie adaptation of Arthur Miller's Pulitzer-winning play was treated like a major event: One of the great American theater roles, played by one of the era's great American actors. For a generation that caught this prestigious CBS presentation on the small screen, Hoffman was the Willy Loman – it was his Emmy-nabbing performance you thought of when you thought of the tragic "underappreciated prince" of punctured 20th-century hopes and dreams. And while his fellow cast members from the 1984 Broadway revival all turn in top-notch turns – especially John Malkovich and Avatar's Stephen Lang as Loman's sons Biff and Hap – it's the star's stooped, shuffling, screaming turn as the defeated everyman that hits deepest here. (The line-reading of "I'm short, I'm ugly" is delivered with a sense of pathos that Hoffman makes you feel is personal.) Attention must be paid.