Kirk Douglas Movies

A Classic Leading Man

In 62 films, Kirk Douglas has played many different roles as a military man or a western hero and western films; his range also extended to biblical epics, biographies, and Hollywood stories.  Handsome and masculine, he was in great demand as a leading man.

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'Champion' - 1949

Champion. United Artists

Kirk Douglas' breakthrough role was as Midge Kelly, a ruthless boxer, in his eighth film.  Plucked from obscurity by a manager who thinks he has potential, Midge soon falls prey to applause, money, and women.  As he rises in fame, his stock as a person continues a downward slide.  Mark Robson directs Douglas and his costars Marilyn Maxwell, Arthur Kennedy, Paul Stewart, Ruth Roman and Lola Albright.  This role won Douglas his first of three Academy Award nominations.

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'Ace in the Hole' - 1951

Ace in the Hole
Ace in the Hole. Paramount

Douglas plays a reporter desperate to climb his way back to the top in this Billy Wilder story, which resonates even more today than it did when it debuted. The town, the man's ex-wife, and finally, the reporter himself exploit an accident in a mine, as the man languishes, trapped in the mine. One of Billy Wilder's best films, and a stunning performance by Douglas as a man whose ambition blinds him to human needs. Also starring Jan Sterling, this film is also shown as The Big Carnival.

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'The Bad and the Beautiful' - 1952

The Bad and the Beautiful
The Bad and the Beautiful. MGM

Kirk Douglas is producer Jonathan Shields, who betrays or exploits everyone he knows. A director, a writer, and an actress are summoned to a major studio to hear his pitch for a film. Each owe his success to Shields, and each flashes back to their bad experiences with him, one of which had a tragic end. Douglas is terrific as Shields, a user who has burned a lot of bridges in Hollywood. Sharply directed by Vincente Minnelli, the film also stars Lana Turner, Barry Sullivan, and Gloria Grahame. Douglas earned his second Academy Award nomination for his performance as Jonathan Shields.

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'Lust for Life' - 1956

Lust for Life
Lust for Life. MGM

Vincente Minnelli meticulously directed this biography of Vincent van Gogh. Kirk Douglas gives a stunning performance as Van Gogh, a lonely, tortured but brilliant artist of tremendous passion and soul, as well as drive and over-eagerness. James Donal plays Vincent's calm, caring brother, and Anthony Quinn won an Oscar for his short but memorable performance as the flamboyant, arrogant Gauguin. Kirk Douglas earned another Oscar nomination and garnered a Golden Globe for his performance, although many people felt he should have won the Oscar. Definitely one of his greatest roles.

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'Spartacus' - 1960

Spartacus. Universal

Kirk Douglas has the title role in this epic film, director Stanley Kubrick's last in Hollywood. As star and executive producer, Douglas was very hands-on, and Spartacus emerges as not typically Kubrick. With a screenplay by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, Spartacus tells the story of a slave trained to kill in the arena who leads other slaves in rebellion. In Rome, the slave revolt becomes a power struggle between two senators, fighting for power. Douglas gives each scene edge and tension, well supported by Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis and other great stars. Mel Gibson's Braveheart was heavily influenced by this film, as were Gladiator and Troy.

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'Lonely are the Brave' - 1962

Lonely are the Brave
Lonely are the Brave. Universal

This was Douglas's favorite role, that of Jack Burns, a modern-day cowboy uncomfortable with life in the '60s. While others try to break out of jail, Burns, in order to help his imprisoned friend escape, breaks into jail on a drunk and disorderly charge. When he's released because of overcrowding, he tussles with a policeman and is sentenced to one year. Used to the freedom of the open range, Burns can't endure a year in prison, so he makes plans to break out. A wonderful, poignant story of a man whose time has passed and gone the way of the wild west. Directed by David Miller,

Lonely are the Brave

also stars Gena Rowlands and Walter Matthau.