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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'Rain Man' (1988)

Make all the "one minute to Wapner" jokes you want. The fact that Hoffman's portrayal of Raymond Babbitt, an autistic adult accompanying his slick-salesman brother (Tom Cruise) on a road trip, has become so instantly recognizable (and synonymous with the condition, for better or worse) doesn't detract from the commitment on display here. The star observed patients and consulted with neurologist Oliver Sacks on how to play Raymond as realistically as possible; he recalled to James Lipton how he'd been having a hard time locating the character until he found "an in-between place" during an improvisation and suddenly felt he'd started to understand the world this man might live in. Watching it now, you still notice the sideways vacant stare, the tics, the repeated "yeahs." But you also lock in to how well Hoffman is setting Cruise up as a scene partner, and how heartbreaking sequences like Raymond's trauma flashback and his brother teaching him to dance register for a viewer. It earned Hoffman a second Oscar.

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