Robert Altman got his start making industrial training films, and after breaking into features in the 1950s, he crafted a legendary Hollywood career. Altman has always had a reputation as a maverick, and his resume is filled with movies that most studio execs would never green-light.
That risk-taking made him a great filmmaker, but also made him wildly inconsistent, equally capable of turning in a masterpiece like The Player or churning out a dud like Ready to Wear. Here though is our pick of the ten best Altman movies.
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Starring Kathy Bates and Cher (in her second feature role) as ex-members of a James Dean fan club, this adaptation was directed by Altman on Broadway before he brought it to the screen.
Thieves Like Us
It’s a love story, it’s a heist movie, it’s a prison flick, it’s a character study — heck, this film has a bit of just about everything, and that’s what makes it so good.
Vincent and Theo
Altman took on the art world with this biopic of painter Vincent van Gogh and his brother, Theo. Tim Roth plays the troubled artist with real humanity, and Welshman Paul Rhys is a driven Theo.
The Long Goodbye
Elliott Gould plays Philip Marlowe in this deconstruction of the film noir, in which the detective is completely out of his element as he tries to solve a murder and the disappearance of his friend.
One of Altman’s most enjoyable films, Gosford Park is part social satire and part murder mystery. It earned a host of Oscar noms (including Best Picture) and a win for screenwriter Julian Fellowes.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Warren Beatty and Julie Christie open a brothel (what could possibly go wrong?) in this western tragedy, which goes beyond the clichés of the genre to reveal two well-drawn characters.
The endless opening shot is the perfect introduction to Altman’s biting satire of Hollywood, which stars Tim Robbins as a greasy studio exec receiving death threats from a disgruntled writer.
This adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short stories is three hours long, but it doesn’t feel like it. The lives of various characters intertwine over several days in Los Angeles.
You know the award-winning, long-running TV show M*A*S*H? Well, the movie the show was based on is better. It features a bunch of great actors and marks the director’s first big hit.
Altman is a master of the ensemble drama. There are many characters in Nashville, but he lets viewers get to know each one. Of them all, Lily Tomlin’s housewife is our favorite.