The Best of Dustin Hoffman: 20 Essential Roles

From 'The Graduate' to 'The Simpsons,' looking back on the best of the actor's big-screen and small-screen work

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'Marathon Man' (1976)

"Is it safe?" Hoffman is a Columbia grad student who gets tangled up in some nasty business involving his government black-ops brother (R.I.P. Roy Scheider), some valuable diamonds, a femme fatale and an ex-Nazi with a penchant for dentistry. The actor trained hard to get into shape for the part of a guy training for competitive endurance sports – it's not called Marathon Man for nothing, folks – and who ends up running for his life. And while John Schlesinger's thriller is best known for that harrowing scene of Hoffman getting impromptu molar work courtesy of a villainous Sir Laurence Olivier, it's also notable for the anecdote surrounding the filming of the scene, in which the younger star showed up having, like his character, not slept for days. "My dear boy," the elderly thespian said, "why not try acting?" Hoffman noted the press distorted the story somewhat but still confirmed the exchange took place, adding that his Method experiment "was [also] an excuse to go to Studio 54."

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