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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'Straw Dogs' (1971)

Anyone could believe that a screen "he-man" like, say, Charles Bronson could be pushed to the brink of brutality. Convincing an audience that Hoffman was equally capable of devolving into violent savagery, however ... that was different. Sam Peckinpah's notorious revenge thriller hinges on its intellectual math professor – who's taken a cottage in Cornwall to write a book, and brought along his native-to-the-area nubile wife – being pushed past the brink of civility. The surprise isn't that Hoffman can play the odd man out, an American pacifist dropped into a landscape of English punters, perverts, psychopaths and Paleolithic-era knuckledraggers; it's that he can more than ably embody the notion that there is a killer inside every man, waiting to get out. The controversy over this complicated movie's graphic violence, beyond-problematic rape scene and ideas about masculinity hasn't lessened over the years. But by the time you get the climactic siege, Peckinpah and Hoffman have you right in the palm of their hands. Suddenly, Benjamin Braddock didn't seem like such a harmless guy anymore.

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