Eli Wallach Top 10 Movies

Eli Wallach Top 10 Movies
Eli Wallach Top 10 Movies

Wallach had a long and distinguished career as a renowned character actor, delivering memorable performances from his screen debut in Baby Doll in 1956 right up to his final role in The Train (2015). Over six decades in the business, he racked up an impressive 172 film and TV credits!

Eli Wallach was a Hollywood legend who passed away in 2014 at the impressive age of 98. As director Steven Soderbergh said of the late actor:

"Eli Wallach was a wonderful guy and a fine actor. I had the great honor of working with Mr. Wallach on a film years ago, and I will never forget that delightful and enriching experience."

As a lifelong movie buff, I've always admired Wallach's versatility and ability to disappear into any role. Here is my personal look back at the top 10 films that showcased his immense talent:


Tough Guys (1986)

This underrated buddy comedy pairs Wallach with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as ageing ex-cons who reunite for one last score. Though the film didn't make much of a splash at the time, it's a fun showcase for the veteran actors' still-sharp comedic chops.

How can you live in a hell hole like this? If I lived in a place like this, I'd kill myself in an hour.


The Holiday (2006)

Wallach brought gravitas to this otherwise lightweight romantic comedy, playing ageing screenwriter Arthur Abbott, who shares sweet scenes with Kate Winslet. Of her co-star, Winslet remarked:

"Eli was a dream to work with - humble, gracious and enormously talented."


The Godfather Part III (1990)

As the cunning Don Altobello, Wallach added masterful manipulation amid the psychotic family drama of this controversial Godfather sequel.

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Winter Kills (1979)

This criminally underrated conspiracy thriller stars Jeff Bridges on a quest to uncover the truth behind the president's assassination. Wallach shines as slippery nightclub owner Joe Diamond.

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Interestingly, the film's ending had to be re-shot after a test screening elicited boos from the audience!


The Misfits (1961)

Though remembered as the final film for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, Wallach's Guido stands out in Arthur Miller's complex modern Western drama. Wallach called Gable "a prince," while Monroe was "very sweet" but struggled on set.


The Hunter (1980)

Steve McQueen's flawed final film is elevated by Wallach as money-hungry bail bondsman Ritchie Blumenthal, boss to McQueen's modern bounty hunter. A guilty pleasure that gained a cult following on cable TV in the 80s.


How the West Was Won (1962)

It's easy to get lost among the star-studded ensemble of this epic Western, but Wallach makes his mark in a pivotal role as the vengeful outlaw who re-enters Karl Malden's life.

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Wallach originally signed for just two days of filming but ended up working for over two weeks.


Baby Doll (1956)

Wallach's career began with a bang in this controversial drama as Silva Vacarro, the lascivious Sicilian cotton gin worker, battling Karl Malden for Carroll Baker's affections. The film was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency but embraced by audiences.

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The Magnificent Seven (1960)

This classic Western remake needed a charismatic villain to match its heroes, and Wallach delivered as the ruthless bandit Calvera who threatens a besieged Mexican village. When asked about his inspiration for the character, Wallach said:

"I patterned Calvera after the most vicious bandido I had ever seen in Mexican films...But I tried to make him, for all his cruelty, a charming rascal with style."


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Wallach's undisputed finest hour is as the iconic, scene-stealing Tuco, the comically treacherous bandit seeking the same fortune as Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in Sergio Leone's masterpiece. On his experience making the film, Wallach remarked:

"Sergio Leone's style involved multiple takes, each take a little different from the one before. It was like being a kid in front of the candy store window and not being able to touch the candy."
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A true legend.