From “A Streetcar Named Desire” to “The Godfather” and beyond, Marlon Brando was a movie star for the ages. On April 3, Brando would have been 97.
It’s the great actor’s birthday and why not take a few minutes and look back upon some of this Hollywood icon’s best moments. We’ll do it by offering up four movies with clips that’ll show off some of this incredible actor’s abilities to mold roles into his own.
Mind you, our fab four list isn’t the be-all, end-all selections for Brando flicks. Everyone has their favorites so here’s hoping one or two of these are on your Marlon Brando movie list, too.
‘A Streetcar Named Desire’
This movie is based upon a Tennessee Williams play of the same name. In it, Brando plays Stanley Kowalski against Vivian Leigh.
Now Marlon Brando played Stanley in the Broadway version and was kept on for the 1951 film adaptation. His rough-looking behavior in how he plays Stanley really makes people draw their eyes to him.
Leigh, obviously a screen legend by this time, was put into the role by director Elia Kazan. Jessica Tandy played Blanche DuBois on stage, but Leigh gets the nod here.
The electric work of Brando as Stanley is something that movie buffs return to again and again.
Let’s take a look at Brando in one of his finest performances.
‘On The Waterfront’
Brando has teamed up again with Kazan for a powerful performance in 1953. In this movie, Brando plays Terry Malloy, a broken-down boxer who is trying to get his life together and get a job.
He’s facing tough resistance as Lee J. Cobb, in one of his best performances, proves to be one hell of an antagonist in this movie.
“On The Waterfront” produced eight Academy Award winners, including one for Brando as Best Actor. His scenes with Rod Steiger are magnetic in their words, energy, and precision. There are moments, too, of spontaneity between Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint. Watch for Karl Malden in this movie, too.
Here’s one of those amazing scenes that’ll leave you wanting to see “On The Waterfront” over and over again.
Did you really think we were going to leave out this movie? Goodness. “The Godfather,” based on the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo, shows the world of the Mafia in an upfront way.
Brando plays Vito Corleone, the head of a New York mob family. The Corleones are fighting off some competing families and gangs, looking to move in on their territory.
But Brando’s timing and sheer attraction as Vito Corleone is one that earned him his second Academy Award. This movie also stars Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and many more.
Francis Ford Coppola directed this 1972 blockbuster. Brando was coming off a decade of flops in the movie world. He needed a comeback role in a big way. Paramount took a risk in letting Coppola cast Brando. It all paid off in the end at the box office.
Let’s enjoy this scene with Brando playing Corleone in “The Godfather.”
Well, Coppola and Brando team up again for this 1979 picture looking at the dark side of the Vietnam War.
Brando plays Col. Walter Kurtz, a crazed, insane decorated U.S. Special Forces officer. He’s lost all sense of reality, staying isolated throughout most of the movie.
Martin Sheen plays Capt. Willard, who comes eye to eye with Kurtz. This movie is a blockbuster for sure but Coppola had to deal with Brando being out of shape for work. He also had to deal with Brando’s erratic behavior, too. By the way, did you know Clint Eastwood turned down the Kurtz role?
When the camera rolls, though, Brando brings out the pain and horror of war through Kurtz’s words and actions. The movie also gave new life to one of rock music’s seminal bands in The Doors. Coppola used “The End” for his main music theme.
If you’re looking for a happy flick from Brando, then this isn’t it. But it is worth watching if you have the stomach for it.
Here’s a scene with Brando as Kurtz from “Apolcalypse Now.”
These are just four of the amazing films Marlon Brando did in his lifetime. Others include “Julius Caesar,” “The Wild One,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Sayonara.”
You can find Brando films on your favorite classic movie channel or streaming service. His range and ability to make you believe in his roles are amazing.
Brando was a complicated human being, for sure. But one cannot deny his place among the pantheon of great movie actors.
Here’s to you, Marlon.