Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford Classic Movies

Spanning four decades and seven films, the collaboration between director Sydney Pollack and actor Robert Redford produced some of the biggest commercial and critical successes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Whether revisionist Westerns or sweeping romantic dramas set against the background of historical events, their films contained powerful performances while provoking social consciousness. Perhaps because he was an actor himself, Pollack was able to draw out some of Redford’s best performances of his career and in return, Redford gave Pollack star power that made these films big box office hits.

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Jeremiah Johnson; 1972

Jeremiah Johnson Movie Poster
Warner Bros.

After commencing their collaboration with the Depression-era drama This Property Is Condemned (1966), Pollack and Redford reunited for this classic revisionist Western that echoed the public discord with the Vietnam War. Redford played the titular Johnson, an ex-soldier pre-Civil War who drops out of society to live by himself as a mountain man in the Colorado wilderness, where he tries his best to live peaceably in the harsh environment. But he eventually forms a family despite his desire to be alone, only to lose them in a massacre which turns him into an unrelenting Indian killer. One of the biggest box office hits of 1972, Jeremiah Johnson was one of the best films made between Pollack and Redford.

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The Way We Were; 1973

The Way We Were Movie Poster
Sony Pictures

Another critical and commercial hit for the director-actor duo, The Way We Were paired Redford with ​Barbra Streisand in this Oscar-winning romantic drama that took place during the Red Scare. Redford played Hubbell Gardiner, a well-to-do playboy with a talent for writing who attracts the attention of independent-minded activist Katie Morosky (Streisand) who has a flair for pacifism. Over the years, the two fall in love as Hubbell goes to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, only to see their passionate affair are ripped apart by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. Two decades later, they reunite at the dawn of the hippie era, only to struggle with wanting to reignite their affair despite old feelings resurfacing. Nominated for six Academy Awards, ​The Way We Were earned Streisand a nomination for Best Actress and was another big hit with audiences for Pollack and Redford.

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Three Days of the Condor; 1975

Three Days of the Condor Movie Poster
Paramount Pictures

Without a doubt, their most successful collaboration and one of the greatest paranoid thrillers of all time, Three Days of the Condor marked a true high point in their collaboration. Redford played a bookish CIA analyst who narrowly avoids an office massacre and goes on the run after nearly getting offed by his own boss. He traverses New York City trying to uncover a larger conspiracy and along the way comes to trust an innocent woman (Faye Dunaway) who becomes his only ally. A massive hit, Three Days of the Condor was a tense and compelling thriller that continues to attract new generations of fans.

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Out of Africa; 1985

Out of Africa Movie Poster
Universal Studios

A multi-Oscar winning romantic drama loosely adapted from Isak Dinesen’s autobiographical novel of the same name, Out of Africa earned Pollack his only Academy Award for Best Director. Though Redford had a leading role, the central character of Karen Blixen went to Meryl Streep, a married woman who loses her drunk womanizing husband (Klaus Maria Brandauer) when he leaves her shortly after they move to a plantation in Nairobi. It’s then that she meets a charming, but the aloof hunter, Denys Finch Hatton (Redford), who’d rather carry on an affair than fall in love, leading to Karen’s growing dissatisfaction with her situation despite the overwhelming power of her feelings. Highly acclaimed, Out of Africa was the last triumph for the Pollack-Redford collaboration, which stumbled to a conclusion with the meandering Havana (1990).