Elliott Gould's Top 10 Movies

Elliott Gould's Top 10 Movies

Elliott Gould is an American actor who has starred in films for over 50 years. Known for his quick wit, charm, and versatility, Gould has taken on a diverse range of roles across genres from drama to comedy. His unique screen presence and ability to find depth in both comic and serious characters have made him a favourite of directors like Robert Altman.

Elliott Gould Film Info
Most Collaborated Director Robert Altman (3 films)
Most Collaborated Acting Partner Warren Beatty (3 films)

More Info

Elliott Gould Career Visual Representation

Let's take a look at 10 of the best Elliott Gould movies that showcase his immense talent and charisma as an actor.

10. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

Director: Paul Mazursky

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

Paul Mazursky's clever satire Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice marked the start of Elliott Gould's rise to fame as a leading man in the late 1960s. Gould plays Bob Sanders, an urbane Los Angeles documentary filmmaker happily married to Carol, played by Natalie Wood. Their lives are upended when their best friends, Ted and Alice, confess to an affair. This revelation forces Bob and Carol to re-examine their own relationship and attitudes towards fidelity, sparking both comedy and drama.

As Bob, Gould delivers a superb comedic performance, capturing the character's moral grappling and liberal open-mindedness. Despite the progressive era, Bob still struggles to fully embrace the free love ideas that his wife Carol passionately adopts. Gould's chemistry with Wood is delightful, and he nails the witty, insightful dialogues. The film was controversial at the time but is now regarded as a significant precursor to the sexual revolution of the 70s.

"I feel that this is my first mature performance. It's the most honest work I've done." - Elliott Gould on Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

9. Ruby Sparks (2012)

Directors: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris

Ruby Sparks (2012)

In the quirky romantic comedy-drama Ruby Sparks, Elliott Gould gives a masterclass in supporting acting. He plays Dr. Rosenthal, the therapist of Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), a neurotic novelist struggling to recreate the literary success of his debut novel. When the Ruby Sparks character Calvin writes about comes to life, he faces a moral quandary about controlling her as his literal "dream girl."

As Dr. Rosenthal, Gould brings profundity, humour, and depth to what could have been a generic "wise therapist" role. His gentle wisdom and deadpan comic timing make the scenes between client and doctor both poignant and funny. When Ruby Sparks veers into darker territory, Gould movingly conveys the therapist's concerns for Calvin's mental health and moral compass. His subtle, earnest work provides the emotional ballast to this fantastical romance.

"Gould's warm, insightful work as Dr. Rosenthal grounds the film's high-concept premise." - The New York Times on Ruby Sparks


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8. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

In Steven Soderbergh's brisk 2001 remake Ocean's Eleven, Elliott Gould sparkles as Reuben Tishkoff, an old-hand casino owner recruited to bankroll Danny Ocean's daring Las Vegas heist. Gould effortlessly slips into the role of the crotchety, eccentric millionaire who agrees to finance the robbery despite his better judgement.

Gould's twinkling presence and impeccable comic timing lend warmth and humor to this slick caper film. He steals scenes with his exaggerated mannerisms, deadpan one-liners, and cantankerous chemistry with George Clooney's Danny. Yet Gould also captures Reuben's poignancy as an aging player in a young man's game. His funny, soulful performance provides the remake with a dash of old-school Rat Pack charm.

"Elliott Gould is priceless as the slightly dotty but still sharp Reuben." - Rolling Stone on Ocean's Eleven

7. American History X (1998)

Director: Tony Kaye

American History X (1998)

Elliott Gould took on a smaller but very impactful supporting role in 1998's searing drama American History X. Edward Norton stars as Derek Vinyard, a vicious neo-Nazi sentenced to prison after committing a hate crime. The story explores Derek's complex path to reforming his worldview.

As Jerry Vinyard, Derek's father, Gould perfectly captures a parent grappling with grief, regret, and failure. Though he has limited screentime, Gould movingly conveys Jerry's pain at losing his wife, his guilt over Derek's descent into violence, and his hopes for redemption. The raw confrontation scenes between Norton and Gould form the emotional anchor points. Gould's nuanced work provides pivotal insight into Derek's past and motivations.

"Gould is associated with freewheeling 70s roles, but he's just right as the troubled Jerry Vinyard." - Entertainment Weekly on American History X

6. Bugsy (1991)

Director: Barry Levinson

Bugsy (1991)

Elliott Gould landed an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his brilliant work in Barry Levinson's 1991 gangster biopic Bugsy. Set in the 1940s, the film depicts the turbulent partnership between mobsters Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty) and Meyer Lansky (Gould) as they embark on the project that became the Flamingo casino in Las Vegas.

As the brains behind Bugsy's brawn, Gould gives a marvelously multifaceted performance as Meyer Lansky. He exudes the aura of a ruthless mafia accountant while gradually revealing Lansky's complicated friendship with Bugsy through warm, quiet moments. Gould's face subtly conveys Lansky's pain at his inability to curb Bugsy's reckless excess. His moving work provides the emotional core to this sprawling underworld epic.

"Gould's performance is a classic in the subtle way he demonstrates the mobster's affections and pain." - Roger Ebert on Bugsy


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5. Capricorn One (1977)

Director: Peter Hyams

Capricorn One (1977)

In this taut 1977 thriller, Elliott Gould brings his signature charm to the role of investigative reporter Robert Caulfield. In Capricorn One, the first manned mission to Mars is actually an elaborate hoax, with the astronauts (played by James Brolin, O.J. Simpson and Sam Waterston) forced to participate in a faked landing broadcast from an aircraft hangar. When the astronauts vanish after splashdown, Caulfield notices discrepancies in NASA's story and starts digging.

As Caulfield, Gould acts as an empathetic observer and a stand-in for the everyday person unraveling a complex conspiracy. He brings a perfect mix of wit, eccentricity and sly determination to the intrepid reporter hot on the trail. Despite the grave implications, Gould keeps a light touch that leavens the tension. His camaraderie with co-stars Karen Black and Hal Holbrook add to the fun. Capricorn One showcases Gould's underrated talent for anchoring thrillers.

"Gould, as the reporter, is the antithesis of the standard hard-drinking news hound..." - Variety on Capricorn One

4. California Split (1974)

Director: Robert Altman

California Split (1974)

Re-teaming with his MASH director yet again, Elliott Gould gives another career-defining turn in Robert Altman's 1974 comedy-drama California Split. Gould plays Charlie Waters, a charming gambling addict who forms an unlikely friendship with card player Bill Denny (George Segal). The freewheeling film follows their bonding over backroom poker games and seedy escapades in 70s Los Angeles.

As Charlie, Gould brings depth and poignancy to what could have been a simplistic role. His natural charisma and comic timing make Charlie hugely likeable. Gould also movingly conveys Charlie's resigned melancholy and need for connection beneath the scheming wisecracks. Altman perfectly utilizes Gould's improvisational skills within the film's loose, experimental style. The bittersweet ending packs an emotional punch thanks to Gould's empathetic performance.

"It's some kind of great movie, filled with success and misery and ecstasy." - Pauline Kael on California Split

3. The Long Goodbye (1973)

Director: Robert Altman

The Long Goodbye (1973)

Reuniting with Robert Altman in 1973's The Long Goodbye, Elliott Gould delivers one of his most indelible performances as Philip Marlowe. Altman subversively updates the classic Raymond Chandler detective story to 70s Los Angeles, with Gould as a chain-smoking, cat-loving Marlowe stumbling through a complex mystery.

Gould perfectly encapsulates the anachronistic Marlowe as a moral holdout navigating a warped modern world he doesn't understand. With his shaggy hair, incoherent mumbling, and lackadaisical shuffling, he embodies the shabby dignity and relative virtue of the old-school gumshoe. Gould brings wonderful physical comedy to the role while also capturing Marlowe's innate incisiveness and loyalty. His chemistry sparks with an A-list ensemble cast including Sterling Hayden and Henry Gibson.

"Elliott Gould IS Philip Marlowe, a performance to treasure." - Roger Ebert on The Long Goodbye

2. MASH (1970)

Director: Robert Altman

MASH (1970)

In Robert Altman's black comedy MASH, Elliott Gould plays the iconoclastic, wisecracking army surgeon Trapper John McIntyre. Set during the Korean War, MASH chronicles the antics of the medical team stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. They respond to the horror and drudgery of war with irreverent humor and pranks.

As Trapper John, Gould brings magnetic energy and improvisational panache to the now-classic character. He has effortless chemistry with co-star Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, with their riffing providing some of the film's funniest moments. Gould perfectly balances Trapper John's manic, anarchic side with glimpses of his underlying humanity and steadfast dedication to saving lives. His performance is filled with unscripted quips, and he thrives in Altman's signature overlapping dialogue.

"It was magic. Every day was thrilling." - Gould on making MASH with Altman

1. Contagion (2011)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Contagion (2011)

Reuniting with director Steven Soderbergh in 2011's harrowing pandemic thriller Contagion, Elliott Gould delivers an understated but extremely effective performance. As Dr. Ian Sussman, Gould represents a key voice of medical authority and moral conscience amidst the virus devastation.

As Contagion grippingly moves between the global and intimate impacts of a deadly, fast-moving virus, Gould's Sussman is a quietly commanding presence urging pragmatic, compassionate science over panic and hysteria. Gould conveys gravitas and wisdom using an economical, realistic acting approach. His interactions with CDC officials played by Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne feel authentic and bring needed humanity.

"Gould is the voice of reason - his pragmatic, forceful arguments for scientific process over conspiracy are vital." - Salon on Contagion

Elliott Gould's extensive, adventurous filmography reveals an actor who found success as both a leading man and invaluable supporting player. His work encompasses lighthearted capers, weighty dramas, gripping thrillers, and audacious satires. While he's taken on a wide range of roles, Gould brings a through-line of humanity, integrity, quick wit, and charm. These 10 films highlight his ability to deliver top-notch performances across genres and decades, making him an American acting treasure.

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