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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'Wag the Dog' (1997)

You don't need to know that Hoffman is doing a partial riff on veteran producer/Hollywood schmoozer Robert Evans to savor Barry Levinson's genius satire on politics, entertainment and the ever-decreasing line between the two. But it certainly doesn't detract from the in-joke aspects of this comedy, either. Recruited to produce a war ("More like a 'pageant,'" corrects Robert De Niro's Beltway fixer) his Beverly Hills bigwig is drawn into manufacturing an international incident to distract from a President's sex scandal. Everything goes better-than-according-to-plan, thanks to his showbiz know-how ... but his moviemaker is a creature of ego, and his need for credit eventually seals his fate. There are moments that feel like Hoffman is taking personal revenge on every Tinseltown aristocrat in tennis shorts who's screwed an actor over. Plus he gets to say lines like "They told me I couldn't remake Moby Dick from the point of view of the whale ... and I made this lame turkey fly!" Both the performance and this prescient movie have aged beautifully, even if the laughs now seem to get stuck in your throat.

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