Paul Newman has starred in many classic movies. In some roles, he played the classic cowboy or bad guy trying to swindle others, in such movies as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. In other movies, Paul Newman played the part of a businessman, such as in The Towering Inferno. He played these roles alongside many famous actors and actresses, including Robert Redford in The Sting, Jackie Gleason in The Hustler and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Paul Newman’s career, however, did not die out as he aged. He continued to make movies in his later years, in the decades of the 1980’s to 2000’s. This article will explore ten of Paul Newman’s best films in these three decades.
1. Absence of Malice (1981). Absence of Malice stars Paul Newman and Sally Fields. Paul Newman plays Michael Gallagher, who is being investigated for murdering a union official. The reporter, Megan Carter (played by Fields), simply read the information from a file that was left on a federal prosecutor’s desktop. The action ensues as Gallagher tries to clear his name with the help of Carter. It doesn’t make matters easier with the fact that Newman’s character Gallagher’s father was once a criminal, even if his father has now passed away!
2. Quintet (1979). Although this film technically was released in 1979, I placed it in the later era of Paul Newman’s films, lumping it in with the 1980’s to 2000’s films. Quintet occurs after an ice age. The scene is a deserted frozen area, with Paul Newman’s character Essex traveling with a pregnant woman to meet up with his brother. Once he arrives at his brother’s abode, the pregnant woman is killed. While trying to track down the attacker, Newman becomes involved in the game of Quintet. Unfortunately for him, in this game if you die in the game, you die in real life!
3. The Verdict (1982). Paul Newman is an ambulance chasing lawyer on his last legs. He can’t win a case, with or without the alcohol that has become his more successful passion. His legal buddies throw a medical malpractice case his way, one they think will easily settle. However, to their surprise, Paul Newman’s character Frank decides to take the case to court. The plaintiff is a woman in a coma from potentially being given the wrong anesthetic, so the relatives are suing. Incidentally, Frank has become involved with a woman, Laura. For some reason, everything in the case seems to go wrong for Newman’s character. How does the defense keep catching so many breaks? Well, perhaps Laura isn’t the lover she claims to be. Can Frank still win the case after running into so many obstacles?
4. Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1980). Paul Newman stars with his wife Joanne Woodward in this film about a married couple. In the movie, the setting is the 1940’s, with a wealthy family with a patriarchal husband. He treats his wife like he owns her and disrespects his grown children. The films gives an insightful look into the unequal relationship of spouses in the early 20th century. Watch this one for its historical value.
5. The Color of Money (1986). Well, in this Paul Newman film you get two great actors for the price of one: Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. I won’t even mention that Paul Newman received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Fast Eddie in the film. Do you remember the Newman film The Hustler? Paul Newman played Fast Eddie as a pool shark trying to make the big hustle. This movie continues about twenty years after The Hustler ends. At first, Newman’s character is training a new hustling team to win pool games and hustle people for money. However, eventually, Newman ends up wanting to get back into the game himself. But can he still play the game, and the hustle?
6. Blaze (1989). Imagine this: Paul Newman is playing the role of a Louisiana Governor! It takes me time just to adjust to this image. Paul Newman’s character Earl Long falls in love with a stripper, Blaze Starr. During the movie, Earl Long tries to get voting rights for the black citizens in Louisiana. Will having Blaze by his side help his chances or hurt them?
7. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh join Paul Newman in a comedy film! Paul Newman doesn’t have too many comedies to his credit, so I found this film refreshing. Paul Newman’s character hires Tim Robbin’s character in a scam. He finds a way for Robbins to become the President of the company after the former President has committed suicide. He wants the stock to lose its value so he can take over the company. Will Robbins fit the mold, or does he have his own agenda?
8. Twilight (1998). Twilight is worth watching just for its all star cast, including Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon and Reese Witherspoon. We even catch a glimpse of Liev Schreiber in this film. Paul Newman plays the part of Harry Ross. Harry is living in the guest house of a couple in their twilight years. Harry does the husband a favor by delivering a package, and finds himself involved in a case where the wife’s ex-husband disappeared twenty years prior. Watch to see who is at fault for the ex-husband’s disappearance!
9. Nobody’s Fool (1989). Paul Newman plays the part of a childlike older construction worker. He finds out he has a grandson. Will this change his immature ways?
10. Where the Money Is (2000). Enter a married couple, highschool sweethearts who still are in love with each other. The wife, however, is still up to her old ways where she continuously gets the two into trouble. She certainly has found her latest endeavor when a legendary bank robber ends up as a patient under her care in a nursing home. Paul Newman plays the role of the husband. The couple soon find out that the bank robber may be faking his injuries, and so they get him to come up with a new scheme for his final bank robbery. See Paul Newman in one of his last major film roles!
What are your favorite Paul Newman movies from his later years?