Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I adore Robert Redford.
I mean, the man can rock a turtleneck, a newsboy cap, a moustache….
He can even pull off this look. (And I don’t know anyone who could pull off this look.)
Aside from being very pretty to look at, Robert Redford is a fantastic actor with a canon of amazing films. With the recent release of the long-awaited Robert Redford: A Biography by Michael Feeney Callan, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of RobRed’s most iconic roles. It seems impossible to compile a list of the best, considering how good they’ve all been, but I’ve managed to rank five of my personal favorites.
#5 - Johnny Hooker, The Sting
What’s better than a smart caper involving charming con men? A smart caper involving charming con men played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman! For his role as a small-time grifter making his way through a big-time revenge scheme,
Redford was nominated for the Academy Award – and deservedly so. He is stellar as the charismatic, street smart novice, and his chemistry with Newman is unparalleled. Add to that supreme writing and directing, a perfect soundtrack of Scott Joplin ragtime, and an intricate plot that keeps the audience guessing, and you’ve got yourself one of the best films of all time.
And the awesome assortment of hats and pinstriped suits isn’t too shabby either.
#4 - Roy Hobbs, The Natural
You’ve got a great sports tale, an inspirational “second shot at life” story, a romance, and Wilford Brimley. Oh, and you’ve got a smokin’ hot Robert Redford as the unlikely yet gifted hero, pitcher-turned-slugger, Roy Hobbs.
Redford’s journey from the nineteen-year-old kid determined to be the best there is – until he’s shot by a crazy-pants Barbara Hershey – to the thirty-five-year-old “middle aged rookie” is heartfelt, stirring, and something we can cheer for. He’s sweet, indomitable, and we want nothing more than for him to succeed (and end up with Glenn Close’s Iris.)
Plus, we get a lot of scenes of him being super athletic and hunky on the field.
is so wonderful because he shows that if an aging ballplayer with a homemade bat and no professional baseball experience can become the best player in the league, anything is possible. Hobbs
#3 - Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby
Take one of the greatest novels of all time, have Francis Ford Coppola adapt it into a screenplay, and put Robert Redford into the title role. Of course this movie is going to be fantastic.
Not many actors could take on the legendary role of Jay Gatsby and play it so well. (Though Leonardo DiCaprio is currently filming a new version, and I feel pretty confident in guessing that he’s going to be phenomenal also. I mean, he’s Leonardo DiCaprio.) But Robert Redford takes the Gatsby we all know from the page and brings him to life with complexity and humanity. Yes, he is still that man no one really knows, shrouded in mystery, but
Redford does a phenomenal job of revealing all of Gatsby’s many layers. He’s lovelorn, yet determined; filled with false pride, yet wounded; ostentatious, yet reclusive. The audience is just as fascinated by Redford’s Gatsby as Nick Carraway and all of the residents of East and West Egg are.
And I dare you to watch him, dressed in his old army uniform, dance with Mia Farrow’s Daisy, his lips pressed to hers and not swoon.
Seriously. Watch it. You’ll swoon.
#2 - The Sundance Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
As I mentioned with The Sting, there is nothing quite like the dynamic of Redford and Newman, and in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, that beautiful partnership was born. They play off of each other so perfectly, and their back and forth banter and one-liners make this movie what it is.
Sundance wakes up to find his girlfriend on a bicycle with Butch.
Sundance: What are you doing?
Butch: Stealing your woman.
Sundance: (pauses, sighs, scratches himself) Take her. Take her. (Goes back inside.)
What’s also fun about this movie is that Sundance is such a departure from the preppy roles we’re used to seeing Robert Redford in. He’s a rugged, silent outlaw notorious for his dead shot - and his inability to swim. He’s laid back, defers to Butch for the big ideas, and inserts his two cents with the most perfectly deadpan demeanor and impeccable timing.
Oh, and maybe another reason this movie is so great is because neither of these guys are bad to look at.
I think we’re all in agreement that every girl who watches this movie likes to imagine herself as Katharine Ross - am I right, ladies?
#1 - Hubbell Gardner, The Way We Were
At the beginning of The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand’s Katie sees an old college acquaintance sleeping – yet looking gorgeous in his naval uniform – in a crowded restaurant, and the way she wistfully says his name says it all:
I can say that I love all of Robert Redford’s films – and I do – but for me, he will forever be Hubbell. I love Hubbell. I even named my car after him. (Seriously.)
As the man that “everything comes too easily to,”
Redford portrays Hubbell with dry wit, effortless charm, and the sexiest element of all – a brilliant mind. It’s no wonder Katie falls so hard for him. Who wouldn’t?
Hubbell starts out as the All-American dream boy in college. The best athlete. Popular. A talented writer. On paper, it would be easy to hate someone like that, but Hubbell is just so likable. When he calls Katie – a near stranger who runs in a completely different social circle – across the street and confesses with a hint of humility that he sold a story, we know right away that there is so much more to him than the pretty jock we see on the surface. And when he takes Katie’s foot in his hand and ties her shoe – well, I’m pretty sure you, me, Katie, and everyone who has ever seen this movie melted just a little bit.
The beauty behind The Way We Were comes from the chemistry, passion, and romance its two stars ignite from the screen, so it’s interesting to think that initially, Robert Redford turned down the role. No other actor could make us love him and want to shake him at the same time, could convey so many layers of emotion in the words, “Katie, you expect too much,” could express so much in one look, could look so good in a uniform…
And no other actor could make us want to touch his hair, the way that Barbra Streisand does.
So, what do you think? Is he Robert “Hubbell”
Redford to you too? Are you surprised that Barefoot in the Park and All the President’s Men didn’t make it on the list? (I kind of am.) I’d love to hear your feedback below!