Best James Caan Movies to Stream

When James Caan’s family announced his death It sent shockwaves through cinematic circles on Thursday — not because his passing was par...


When James Caan’s family announced his death It sent shockwaves through cinematic circles on Thursday — not because his passing was particularly premature (he was 82), but because he seemed such a vibrant and outsized personality, you thought he might to live forever.

He had not retired, nor even slowed down a lot, in old age. He co-starred (with Ellen Burstyn, Jane Curtin and Ann-Margret) in “Queen Bees” last year and has another film yet to be released. More than that, he had maintained an active presence on Twitterfrequently sharing images of his films and memories of his collaborators and always concluding his messages with the phrase “End of tweet”.

Yet Caan was a series of contradictions: a Jewish actor best known for playing an Italian, a leading man who never quite became a movie star, an actor equally adept at playing strength and weakness, rage and vulnerability. His attack on his abusive brother-in-law in “The Godfather” is one of the most visceral scenes of violence in movie history. But just the year before, he had starred in a film that is still remembered for its ability to make men cry. We’ll begin our look at his long and varied career there.

Caan had already racked up several years of television work and a handful of juicy movie roles (including memorable appearances in Howard Hawks’ “El Dorado” and “Red Line 7000” and Robert Altman’s “Countdown”) when he starred in this “ABC Movie of the Week.” Caan and Billy Dee Williams starred as real life Chicago Bears teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, the first interracial roommates in NFL history and best friends until Piccolo’s untimely death from cancer in 1970 Caan and Williams’ easy rapport sells the relationship, and Caan is truly heartbreaking in the final scenes, which prove an all-too-rare showcase for his tenderness and warmth.

1972

Post it on Paramount+. Rent it on Amazon, AppleTV, google play, Vudu and Youtube.

Caan’s breakthrough role came the following year in Francis Ford Coppola’s sensational adaptation of Mario Puzo’s bestseller. The director – who had used Caan to good effect, in a much milder role, in ‘The Rain People’ (1969) – cast the actor as Sonny, the angry older brother of the Corleone clan. The studio wanted Caan to play Michael (executives didn’t care at all about that Pacino kid Coppola was stuck on), but the filmmaker knew Caan had the mix of ladies’ man charisma and brute force so essential. to Sony. It was a scene-stealing role, and Caan took advantage of it, playing the character’s many memorable moments to the end: his memorable in the act entrance, his mocking “bada bing!” moment with Michael, that street-fighting humiliation of his brother-in-law, and most importantly, his shocking, bullet-riddled final gasps on the Jones Beach Causeway.

As with most actors associated with “The Godfather,” Caan was quickly elevated to starring roles following his astonishing success. The best of this bunch might just have been this thorny story of a privileged English teacher who discovers that his high-society pedigree and formidable intellect are no match for a spiraling gambling addiction. Caan’s duality – his ability to seem to move between worlds, ethnicities and classes – was rarely more effective than here, as his Axel Freed must seem at ease both in class, lecturing on the works of Dostoyevsky, and in the back rooms of New York’s seedy gambling underbelly, trying to buy his bookie more time.

1975

Rent it or buy it on Amazon, AppleTVand Vudu.

In our current cinematic landscape, an actor who faces critical hits like “The Godfather” and “The Gambler” is usually ripe for the cast of the superhero industrial complex, received a good salary and easy filming in swapping class and seriousness ready for a popcorn movie. Caan taking the lead in Norman Jewison’s big-budget sports flick might have looked like the same move, downgrading his considerable on-screen intelligence to something a little more brawny. But “Rollerball” is not your typical sports movie. Set in the distant future of 2018, it’s a prescient warning of the dangers of corporate overreach, overt violence, and class warfare in sports-entertainment — and society at large — and Caan conveys both the character’s fierce physique and intellect with ease.

Caan turned in arguably his best — and certainly his most emotional — performance in this stunning combination of detective film and middle-aged melodrama from writer-director Michael Mann (“Heat”). Mann specializes in working-class criminals, guys who see their job as work and nothing more, a way to earn a living without knocking a clock. Few actors have understood this character like Caan, who plays safecracker, jewel thief and ex-con Frank as a man who will break the law but not his moral code, and who yearns so much for the fruits of his labor that he carries a collage. of his perfect suburban life imagined as a moving vision board. Caan wears the character’s heaviness like a winter coat; he does what he has to do to get by, always chasing the last big score that always seems just out of reach.

1990

Post it on Show time. Rent it or buy it on most major platforms.

Caan spent much of the 1980s in self-imposed exile, exhausted from his busy 70s, battling addictions and caring for his children. He returned to the industry with this Rob Reiner adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller, but did so with a generosity of spirit: rather than choosing a solo vehicle that would show off his gifts, he took on the role decidedly secondary to bedridden novelist Paul Sheldon. and ceded the spotlight to relative newcomer Kathy Bates, who had the much flashier role of her obsessed superfan Annie Wilkes. She won an Oscar and thanked him profusely in her acceptance speech“I really am your #1 fan, Jimmy.”

Caan spent the 90s adjusting to his new position as a respected actor, with numerous supporting roles in film and television. Sonny Corleone’s remnants made him a no-brainer for villainous roles, and he played them well, but some of his most memorable work reversed and confounded those expectations. One of the best examples is this romantic comedy from writer-director Andrew Bergman, starring Nicolas Cage as a newlywed who plays a weekend with his wife (Sarah Jessica Parker) at Caan’s high roller. On paper, the character is reprehensible – but Caan invests it with an amorous sweetness that gives the image, and its central conflict, unexpected ripples.

1996

Post it on HBO Max. Rent it on Amazon, AppleTV, google play, Vudu and Youtube.

Caan may have had visions of John Travolta’s “Pulp Fiction” return when he accepted a supporting role in Wes Anderson’s promising debut feature, a cuddly image about a team of incompetent criminals. It didn’t have the same result – the film didn’t find its audience until years later, after Anderson had established himself – but Caan’s unsung comedic side shines in the role of Mr. Henry, a mastermind hulking criminal (and owner of a successful landscaping business). It was one of his best performances late in his career, deploying his ever-powerful badass attitude and undermining it with an unexpected, self-aware spirit.

When you live and work as long as Caan, you become beloved by every generation for a different role, and if Baby Boomers loved him for “The Godfather” and Gen Xers for “Bottle Rocket,” this hit family comedy l endeared Generation Z. A lesser actor, cast as North Pole elf father Buddy (Will Ferrell), could have winked or mugged and ruined everything; Caan wisely played this harassed dad close to the bone, fully aware that the straighter his face, the funnier his scenes. Drama, comedy, suspense, action, kids movies – there really wasn’t anything James Caan couldn’t do.



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