Happy birthday to a true star, Robert Redford, who turns 80 on August 18 with a film career going stronger than ever. In fact, he's starred in more movies in the past few years than he had in the whole previous decade. It's a challenge to select just five key films for a star like Redford, so take this as a suggested starting place only. There are plenty more great Redford movies to explore.
I got to thinking about Redford because I recently watched All the President's Men for the first time. I know, what took me so long? When Spotlight won the Oscar for Best Picture this year, many hailed it as the finest movie about journalism since this 1976 Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman feature. Based on the book of the same name by legendary reporters Woodward and Bernstein, the film tells the story of the investigation that broke the Watergate scandal. This intelligent, suspenseful film has barely aged a day in 40 years. It keeps you in the palm of its hand from the start. It's a perfect choice for Spotlight fans, and vice versa. If you've seen it already, Redford starred in a satire of electoral politics in the 1970s, The Candidate, that's also worth your time.
Redford teamed up with Paul Newman for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and they make a terrific team as a couple of legendary outlaws on the run. Even if you don't usually like old westerns, you'll probably enjoy this one: It offers some action, romance, humor and tension in a classic buddy story. (Redford and Newman worked together so well that they re-teamed for 1973's The Sting, another career high for both of them. Redford was Oscar-nominated for best leading actor.)
For iconic Redford roles, you can't overlook The Natural, an adaptation of the classic baseball novel by Bernard Malamud. With a cast stocked with great talent (including Barbara Hershey and Robert Duvall), this is the story of a talented player who missed his chance at the big leagues in his youth but gets another crack at glory later in life on a minor team.
Redford also succeeded behind the camera as a director. It's become a cliche for successful actors to complain, "what I really want to do is direct." Many try, but the results are often mediocre. Redford's best efforts, however, are truly outstanding. If you're going to watch just one of his directorial efforts, it's got to be Ordinary People. With classic performances from Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland (pre-Hunger Games), Judd Hirsch and a young Timothy Hutton, this adaptation of the novel by Judith Guest is the shattering drama of a family recovering from a son's death. Curious for more of Redford's directorial efforts? Try Quiz Show, featuring Ralph Fiennes, about a scandal surrounding a TV game show in an almost mythically innocent 1950s.
As I mentioned above, Redford's had an acting resurgence lately, including a smart turn in the Marvel franchise entry Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where his persona as a symbol of American integrity is put to good use. At the moment, he can be seen in theaters starring in the critically acclaimed family film Pete's Dragon. But as an acting vehicle, I'd recommend All Is Lost among his recent films, a quiet drama about a man who runs into trouble at sea by himself. It's an independent film of a kind that's a bit more common today, thanks in no small part to the major role Redford played in the founding of the Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Institute, which have supported hundreds of indies over the past several decades. You can find many of them in our catalog.
Let the record show that Redford also found success in romances like The Way We Were and romantic comedies like Barefoot in the Park, in which he reprised a role he played on Broadway. (I'm crossing my fingers that he and Jane Fonda will reunite to bring Our Souls at Night to the big screen, as is being reported in the trades. It would be a welcome return of old Hollywood, even if it does take Netflix to pull it off.)
Here's to you, Robert Redford. You've adapted to the times while adapting the times for the better.
Fellow movie fans, we'd love to hear what your favorite Redford film is in the comments.