6 Great Paul Newman Classic Movies

A Handsome American Anti-Hero

Paul Newman’s rugged American good looks, piercing blue eyes and irresistible air of weary virility made him a top box-office attraction for decades and a genuine movie star in the great tradition of Hollywood. Here are six classic Paul Newman movies you won’t want to miss.

Newman should have won an Oscar for his role as the ambitious, self-destructive, self-hating young pool hustler "Fast Eddie" Felsen in this gritty, absorbing drama. Famed comedian Jackie Gleason plays Minnesota Fats, the best pool player in the world. Piper Laurie and George C. Scott match Newman’s skill in this bleakly existential movie. (Newman did win the Oscar years later in a sort-of sequel, 1986's The Color of Money.)

“What we have here…is failure to communicate.” In Cool Hand Luke, Newman is once again the anti-hero, but this time he’s a stubborn, rebellious convict who stands up to The Man (in the person of cruel southern chain gang warden Strother Martin). Jailed for drunkenly beheading parking meters, he becomes the prisoners’ unlikely champion and cause for hope. You'll be moved by his ultimate self-sacrifice.

Two of the world’s most gorgeous actors, paired in one of the best buddy films of all time, with a witty script and a light directorial hand. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is close to perfect -- funny, touching, sprawling, warm. Newman's easy charm paired with relative newcomer Robert Redford’s appeal made this offbeat story of turn-of-the-century western outlaws a huge hit. (Warning: Also includes the diabolically catchy, Oscar-winning tune “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”)

Paired again in another George Roy Hill movie, Newman and Redford did the impossible: they made a second perfect movie together. The Sting is a great buddy picture, a tightly plotted con-man caper with wonderful, bittersweet performances from a great ensemble cast. Like Butch Cassidy, it’s warm and witty and has a delightful sense of place -- gangland Chicago in the 1930s. It’s a beautiful bit of story-telling with a fabulous piano rag theme song that will echo in your head.

Newman plays an alcoholic former college football star, starring with​ Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat in this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play. Unfortunately, the homosexual subtext that lies at the heart of the scorching play was so toned down it was almost invisible in the movie. A little too much for 1950s sensibilities. Nevertheless, Newman, Taylor and Burl Ives as Big Daddy do a great job.

Only a great actor can take a thoroughly unlikable character, a real bastard, and show enough humanity to preserve a shred of sympathy. Newman pulls it off in Hud, the story of the unscrupulous scion of a Texas cattle family, a modern cowboy at once attractive and despicable. Patricia Neal is wonderful as the middle-aged housekeeper brutalized by the soulless charmer.