10 Best Alan Arkin Movies

The late iconic actor Alan Arkin appeared in more than 100 movies during his illustrious career. Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 26, 1934, and grew up in a show business family. Both his mother and father were teachers, but his father was also a singer and his mother was a writer. Arkin formed a love for acting as a child and eventually attended Los Angeles City College to study theater and drama. He went on to gain notoriety for his role in the original Broadway production Enter Laughing for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.

Arkin’s first major on-screen appearance was in 1967 in the comedy movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. Arkin received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role as Lt. Rozanov. Throughout the course of his career, Arkin was nominated for three additional Academy Awards, one in a leading role and two in supporting roles. Arkin passed away on June 29, 2023, at the age of 89 but left behind an outstanding breadth of accomplishments in his impressive body of work as an actor and entertainer.

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10 Catch-22 (1970)

Alan Arkin in Catch-22

Arkin stars in Mike Nichol’s Catch-22, which is a film adaptation of Joseph Heller’s original bestselling novel. Arkin plays the protagonist Yossarian, who is caught in a web of bureaucracy and warfare from which he can find no escape. Arkin successfully delivers the comedic and satirical tone of Yossarian, who often uses sardonic wit and sarcasm as he consistently receives conflicting orders from his superior officers. His performance highlights the ludicrous nature of war as displayed by Yoassarian, who increasingly realizes the moral dilemmas and senselessness of his assignments.

9 Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001)

Alan Arkin in Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

Arkin shines in Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, an independent drama that explores various themes of happiness. Arkin plays Gene, a cynical college professor who is dissatisfied with his personal life and experiences an existential midlife crisis. Arkin’s uncertainty and vulnerability paint a nuanced picture of his character who contributes greatly to the overall thought-provoking and introspective style of the film. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing also stars Matthew McConaughey, John Turturro, and Clea DuVall.

8 The In-Laws (1979)

Alan Arkin Peter Falk in The In-Laws

The In-Laws brought Arkin together with Columbo star Peter Falk in a hilarious action comedy movie. Arkin stars in the film as Sheldon Kornpett, a dentist whose modest life gets turned upside down after his daughter starts dating an electric CIA operative named Vince Ricardo (Falk). Sheldon reluctantly gets pulled into Vince’s wild inside world of espionage, which creates many dangerous yet entertaining high-pressure situations that the two men must work together to find a way out of. Arkin delivers one of the best comedic performances in his career that has made the film a cult classic.

7 The Muppets (2011)

Alan Arkin in The Muppets movie

Arkin has a unique relationship with The Muppets franchise, as he originally appeared as a guest singer on The Muppet Show in 1980. Arkin joined the famous Muppet characters by singing a number of songs such as “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah”, and the memorable “Pig Shuffle”. These iconic performances during the early years of Arkin’s career inspired his appearance as a Tour Guide in the 2011 Muppets movie. Alan’s original appearances on The Muppet Show demonstrated the actor’s abilities as a singer and showman, one of Arkin’s many talents.

6 The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (1968)

Alan Arkin in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Arkin stars as John Singer, a deaf and mute man who becomes beloved by people in a small town for his ability to listen and care about their lives. Arkin’s full ability as a performative actor is on display in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter since much of his expressions must be conducted through his face and body alone. Arkin also brings out the central internal conflict in the Singer protagonist, which is his deep sense of loneliness and isolation due to his circumstances. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a charming and thoughtful tale that helped ignite Arkin’s acting career in the late 1960s.

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5 Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Alan Arkin in Edward Scissorhands

One of Arkin’s most memorable performances is as Bill in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Bill is the neighbor and father of Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder) who is initially very concerned and untrusting of Edward (Johnny Depp). As the film goes on, Bill becomes more open to Edward and starts to connect with him on a deeper level, unlike some of the other cruel and scrutinizing characters. Arkin brings his natural charm to the role that adds depth to the otherwise two-dimensional characters who view Edward as an outsider. Arkin’s grace as an actor made his character arc as Bill from foe to friend in Edward Scissorhands both believable and rewarding.

4 Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

In one of Arkin’s most famous performances, Glengarry Glenn Ross tells the realistic story of the cutthroat world of real estate sales. Arkin plays the part of George Aaronow, one of the salesmen forced to go to extreme lengths to secure sales for the sake of keeping his job. Arkin stars alongside an excellent ensemble cast of Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey in one of his most notable on-screen performances.

3 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Abigal Breslin and Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine talking in bed

Arkin appears in another outstanding ensemble cast in the 2006 independent dark comedy Little Miss Sunshine. Arkin plays the lovable Edwin Hoover, the oldest member of the dysfunctional Hoover family that drives across the country to get the young Olive to a beauty pageant. The off-beat, inspiring film also stars Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Toni Collette, and Greg Kinnear. Arkin delivers in his role as a bad-mouthed and wild character whose inappropriate antics create many of the film’s most hilarious and noteworthy moments.

2 Wait Until Dark (1967)

Alan Arkin in Wait Until Dark

Arkin plays a rare antagonist in Wait Until Dark, a psychological thriller about a recently blinded woman who is terrorized by a group of thugs. Arkin plays the chilling Roat, a deceptive criminal who believes that Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) is in possession of a doll that is filled with heroin. Wait Until Dark is an unusual glimpse of Arkin as a calculating villain, who is believable in his portrayal of a dangerous and unhinged threat to the vulnerable Susy. The film emphasizes Arkin’s phenomenal range as an actor in ways that very few other works have allowed him to demonstrate.

1 Argo (2012)

Alan Arkin in Argo

Argo is certainly the best movie Alan Arkin has appeared in throughout his successful career. The 2012 Best Picture winner follows the true story of a CIA operation to extract six American diplomats from Iran. Arkin plays film producer Lester Siegel who is recruited by the CIA to create a cover story to help out on their mission. Arkin delivers a hilarious dose of dry humor that pokes relieving holes in Argo’s otherwise tense plot and tone. Alan Arkin’s sharp sense of humor, brilliant acting performances, and talent for showmanship will be remembered in Hollywood for years to come.

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