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Robert Redford: 10 Great Movie Roles

Robert Redford has some surprising sleepers — and a few startling omissions

  • Redford Movies - Barefoot in the Park
    Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Redford Films

    Without simply pandering to the 'Movie Star' films, these 10 Robert Redford movie and televison roles get to the essence of Robert Redford the actor — a considerably better actor than many give him credit for.

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  • Robert Redford Movies- Twilight Zone
    The Everett Collection

    'Twilight Zone'

    Episode: “Nothing In the Dark” (1962)
    Role: Harold Beldon
    Redford portrays a wounded cop who may or may not be the Angel of Death, assigned to escort a reluctant woman (three-time Oscar nominee Gladys Cooper) to the hereafter. You can see the episode on DVD — and marvel at the tousled-haired young man who reaches out his hand, flashes that smile and gives a little wink.

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  • Robert Redford Films - This Property Is Condemned
    The Everett Collection

    'This Property Is Condemned'

    Role: Owen Legate
    Year: 1966

    Redford, in only his fourth big-screen role, commands the screen in this film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play. At first he plays it cool as a railroad executive who has arrived in a small town to lay off a bunch of workers. As he falls for the irresistible wiles of Natalie Wood’s emotionally fragile Alva, he slowly sheds his resistance. And when she breaks his heart — not once, but twice — his pain is palpable.

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  • Redford Movies - Barefoot in the Park
    The Everett Collection

    'Barefoot in the Park'

    Role: Paul Bratter
    Year: 1967

    We knew he could play the hunk, but could Robert Redford do comedy? He spends the first half of this Neil Simon laffer as a glum paddle to Jane Fonda’s ping-pong ball of a character. But when Redford’s ice inevitably melts and he gets to head off on a bender and end up dancing in Washington Square Park, he shows a delightful sense of comic timing that, with few notable exceptions, he seldom displayed over the ensuing years.

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  • Robert Redford Films -  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    The Everett Collection

    'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'

    Role: The Sundance Kid
    Year: 1969

    For 40 years, untold hundreds of films and TV shows have tried to emulate the easy, wisecracking, who-gives-a-hell interplay of Redford and Paul Newman. Only one has come close: The Sting, starring Redford and Paul Newman. The only reason neither one won an Oscar as Butch or Sundance is that it would have had to be a two-headed statuette. Their performances are that intertwined.

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  • Redford Films- The Candidate
    The Everett Collection

    'The Candidate'

    Role: Bill McKay
    Year: 1972

    The great crime against Robert Redford is that he has been nominated for an acting Oscar only once — and it wasn’t for his astonishingly nuanced performance in this stinging political satire. He plays Bill McKay, a fledgling Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, who starts out as an idealistic outsider — but as his prospects for victory improve, he finds himself compromising at every turn. McKay’s metamorphosis is at the same time hilarious, tragic and chilling.

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  • Robert Redford Movies - The Sting
    The Everett Collection

    'The Sting'

    Role: Johnny Hooker
    Year: 1973

    It’s one of those few movies you try to watch critically, but in the end you just have to throw up your arms and confess, “It’s perfect.” And much of the credit goes to Redford, who provides the necessary heart for a convoluted tale of double-cross, misdirection and flamboyantly passive-aggressive revenge. It’s Redford’s Hooker who sets the film’s exquisitely oiled machine in action, seeking retribution for the murder of his partner. Through all the hijinks, he never lets us forget the emotional center of the plot.

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  • Redford Movies - The Natural
    The Everett Collection

    'The Natural'

    Role: Roy Hobbs
    Year: 1984

    Barry Levinson’s sepia-toned vision and Randy Newman’s heart-stirring score try mightily to be the stars of this epic tale of heroism and its price. But standing astride home plate, pointing to the bleachers and ending the competition with a mighty swing, Redford is hands-down the most valuable player in what may be the greatest baseball movie of all time. The ultimate tribute to Redford’s authenticity in this role: Pick up Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel and try, just try, to imagine anyone but Redford as Roy Hobbs.

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  • Robert Redford Movies - Havana
    The Everett Collection


    Role: Jack Weil
    Year: 1990

    Redford did much of his best work with director Sydney Pollack, who, as a frequent actor himself, seemed most adept at helping his star explore regions beyond the screen image the public had come to expect. Redford is particularly out of his comfort zone here as a rough-edged professional gambler who goes to 1958 Cuba to make a killing in the casinos, but finds himself entangled with a beautiful woman (Lena Olin) and the Revolution. Redford can’t conceal his innate charm, but this is perhaps his most edgy acting job ever.

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  • Redford Films - A River Runs Through It
    The Everett Collection

    'A River Runs Through It'

    Role: Narrator
    Year: 1992

    Redford directed this sumptuous adaptation of Norman Maclean’s novel, and his love of the outdoors and affinity for exploring complex family relationships are all over it. But as the narrator, it is his voice — perhaps the most underrated of Redford’s formidable acting tools — that provides this film with its sense of timelessness. Like the movie’s titular river, Redford’s voice rolls through the film’s emotional landscape, cutting a winding, inevitable path.

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  • Robert Redford Films- Spy Game
    The Everett Collection

    'Spy Game'

    Role: Nathan Muir
    Year: 2001

    Even with director Tony Scott’s camera whirling distractingly around him, even with editing that seems to have been accomplished with a Cuisinart, Redford gives a first-class performance as a veteran CIA agent on one last mission. His movie job is to save from enemy captivity the young agent he recruited and trained, but because that fellow happens to be played by Brad Pitt, it becomes something much more: a master class in movie-starology, with the living legend teaching a thing or two to a leading light of the next generation.

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