Oscar-winning film director William Friedkin died on Monday, August 7, from heart failure and pneumonia three weeks shy of his 88th birthday, according to Variety. Friedkin was best-known for helming The Exorcist, a 1973 film that is widely recognized as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. But that was just one of the 19 films and eight documentaries that Friedkin made over his 61-year career in Hollywood. Friedkin had some occasional misses, but when he was on his game, he was personally responsible for some of the best films of the 1970s and ’80s.
To celebrate the life and career of Friedkin, we’re looking back at three classic William Friedkin movies you should watch right now. These are the Friedkin films that you shouldn’t miss, and they are a vital part of any cinema education.
In addition to The Exorcist, The French Connection is widely regarded to among Friedkin’s greatest films. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider star as Detectives Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, respectively.
After inadvertently stumbling on a plot by Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) to smuggle a massive amount of heroin into New York City, Popeye and Cloudy go to extremes to catch Salvatore “Sal” Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and Pierre Nicol (Marcel Bozzuffi) to get any evidence leading back to Charnier. By itself, Popeye’s pursuit of Nicol is one of the most memorable chase sequences in cinema history. In the greater context of the film, it’s just one of several transcendent moments that make it a classic.
Four years after The French Connection premiered, Scheider reunited with Friedkin in Sorcerer. But don’t let the name fool you, as there’s no magic or sorcery in this film, just four very desperate men: Scheider’s Jackie Scanlon, as well as Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer), Kassem (Amidou), and Nilo (Francisco Rabal). The film takes its time establishing why all four men are in exile, and what they would do to reclaim their lives. The four strangers are hired to deliver trucks of dynamite across some rocky terrain. And the dynamite is so unstable that their survival from moment to moment is always in question.
Before he went on to headline CSI, William Petersen starred in Friedkin’s mid-’80s neo-noir To Live and Die In L.A. as Secret Service Agent Richard Chance. When Chance’s partner, Agent Jimmy Hart (Michael Greene), is murdered by counterfeiter Eric “Rick” Masters (Willem Dafoe), Chance drags his new partner, Agent John Vukovich (John Pankow), down with him. There’s nothing Chance won’t do to get his revenge, including theft, intimidation, and even murder. And Vukovich has no choice but to follow Chance’s lead.
To Live or Die in L.A. is not currently available to buy, rent, or stream.
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