'Kramer vs. Kramer' (1979)
Hoffman won his first Oscar for playing a workaholic who, after his wife leaves him, must learn to be a single father to his seven-year-old kid. The fact that Hoffman was, by many accounts, going through his own marital discord at the time may have helped play into how raw the performance is – the movie is still brutal to watch long after the Op-Ed pieces it inspired about the era's "divorce epidemic" lined bird cages. And where's no denying that the movie tilts fully in favor of his role over Meryl Streep's conflicted mother (it's first and foremost a post-feminist male weepie), the imbalance of sympathies doesn't make his tough exchanges with the actress or his remarkably tender scenes with youngster Justin Henry any less impressive. It's hard not to watch him sprinting through uptown Manhattan, son in his arms, to an emergency room and not get a lump in your throat.