Great Movie Performances: The Very Best Moments in Cinema History, Part 1

Yale University

Marc Lapadula is a Senior Lecturer in the Film Studies Program at Yale University. He is a playwright, screenwriter and an award-winning film producer. In addition to Yale, Marc has taught at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School, created the screenwriting programs at both The University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins–where he won Outstanding Teaching awards–and has lectured on British and American Theatre and playwriting. Lapadula has given highly acclaimed classic film lectures on a wide range of cinema topics across the country at notable venues, such as: The National Press Club, The Smithsonian Institution, The Commonwealth Club, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and The New York Historical Society.


It’s certainly not easy to create a limited compelling list of powerful and memorable acting performances in cinema history (and it would be quite impossible to include them all). Nevertheless, Yale Film Professor, Marc Lapadula, has undertaken that daunting task. According to New York Film Critic Richard Brody, just last year “The best cinematic performances don’t share some standard of craft or technique; what they have in common is a feeling of invention and discovery, of emotional depth and power, and a sense of self-consciousness regarding the idea and the art of performance itself. They also reflect broader transformations in the art of cinema during their times.”

The classic and contemporary movies we will examine (listed below) will showcase the talents of: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Peter Sellers, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Cloris Leachman, Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Daniel Day Lewis, Jodie Foster, Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Sally Field, Javier Bardem, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, and others.

PART 1: The Philadelphia Story, On the Waterfront, Raging Bull, Rebel Without a Cause, Doctor Strangelove, A Fistful of Dollars, The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, In the Heat of the Night, Malcolm X, Patton, The Last Picture Show, The Godfather Part 2, Taxi Driver, Julia, and Norma Rae.




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Joyce Dudash

Great Performances in Movies

I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation.

1 year ago
Gunter Vandeplas

wonderful selection of classic performances

This lecture made me think back on quite a few memorable movies I had already seen and a few that I have now put on my list. It’s interesting to focus on acting and styles of acting, I usually focus on the story. And we’re given enough background to some of the changes (the mumbling and method acting) with good examples that are easy to understand.

In the Q&A people were concerned about a lack of women or non-American movies (there were a few, notably Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars). It’s just hard to make any selection if you’re a true movie fanatic. I guess any choice is an exclusion of other options but ultimately that’s unavoidable.

1 year ago
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