Oscar History

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Sidney Lumet: 43 Feature Films, 5 Oscar Nominations, 1 Fine Career.

A goodbye with gratitude to prolific director and Honary Oscar winner Sidney Lumet who died this morning at the age of 86 from lymphoma. He was small in stature (5'5") but his legacy looms large as one of Hollywood's most prolific and beloved directors. 

He was a stage actor and a television director before moving into feature films. Actors always loved him and he returned that love guiding several of them through signature roles. He worked with some stars multiple times including, notably: Sean Connery, Timothy Hutton, James Mason, and Al Pacino. The stage-to-screen movie, the courtroom drama, the social conscience narrative, and the true crime story would never have been the same without him. He is survived by his wife of 31 years Mary Gimbel, and children and grandchildren (you'll remember that his daughter Jenny Lumet wrote the blissful Rachel Getting Married screenplay. Our thoughts go out to the family today.

After the jump, the posters for all 43 of his theatrical features with thanks to google, the IMDb and IMP!

How many have you seen?


Lumet never won a competitive Oscar but his 43 features pulled in 45 Oscar nominations (4 Best Picture bids and 17 acting nominations among them) and 6 Oscars wins between them. He himself was nominated five times and received the honorary Oscar at the 2005 ceremony. My two favorite films of his are unquestionably Network (1976) and, a more personal choice, Running on Empty (1988) which is almost always a movie that pops into my brain when someone asks about grossly underappreciated movies. It's so moving and exquisitely acted. Which are your favorites? How many have you seen?

His last picture, the crime drama Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) opened to the strongest reviews he'd had in 20 years so he went out with a bang.

Rest in peace, Lumet.

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Reader Comments (38)

His best is Network, by far. It's one of the greatest acted films ever, with brilliant performances from the whole cast, Peter Finch in particular.

RIP Sidney.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew R.

Murder on the Orient Express has been ny favorite movie my entire life.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

I love Network and was kinda surprised to see Find me Guilty there, I had no idea it was his and had completely forgotten about that film. I think it's quite underappreciated as well.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

Network is my favourite film ever, and that's not going to be changing anytime soon.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJCS

Seen 19 of those 43 (and I still have yet to see 'Long Day's Journey Into Night', 'The Pawnbroker' and 'Fail-Safe'), and among those, '12 Angry Men' would be my favorite, with 'Dog Day Afternoon' as a close second and 'Network' and 'The Verdict' not too far behind, either.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

lumet top 10 - in order, as much as possible:

dog day afternoon
12 angry men
prince of the city
running on empty
the verdict
the hill
the pawnbroker
before the devil knows you're dead

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel H.

I think i've only seen 10, but I loved most of them (especially Network, Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict and Serpico).
Favorite is Running on Empty, i love this movie.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstarfish

Serpico. So sad that he's gone.

Also, my mission in life is to memorize Arthur Jensen/Ned Beatty's bombastic soliloquy in Network.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Favorite? Serpico and Network. Going to have to find that Bridges/Fonda movie. Didn't know that existed!

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCity_Of_Lights

Biiig fan of Running on Empty and Network. Though Gloria with Sharon Stone looks interesting...

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSam Brooks

My favorite Lumet is 12 Angry Men, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead a very close second.

Along with those two, I have also seen Murder on the Orient Express, The Verdict, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and Long Day's Journey into Night.

He was one of my favorite directors and I will miss him dearly. RIP Mr. Lumet

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Dog Day Afternoon is my personal favorite of his.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Hamer

He was an amazing director. Must confess I haven't seen most of his movies, but what I've seen I loved. 12 angry men was definitely my favorite, loved that movie, and it had an amazing impact on me. It seems like we're losing legends rapidly.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNina

His work with Connery was fantastic - The Offence, Murder On the Orient Express, and especially The Hill. And the director of Dog Day Afternoon AND Network is beyond criticism.

On a personal note, I love A Stranger Among Us for being so wrong it's right. Melanie Griffith among Hasidic Jews? What's not to like?

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott

I'm not sure how many of his films I've seen - but i've seen all of the major/acclaimed ones I think. I really don't want to damage my opinion of him by watching something like Gloria. He is someone I love because i think he understands how important scripts are and how to cut straight to the heart of a story w/o too much excess like other directors. And yet, his films are still visually interesting and compelling.

My two favorites are undeniably Network and A Long Day's Journey Into Night. Network is one of my favorite films of all time. I watch it once or twice a year. A long day's journey is a film that simply works, and that is continually compelling. His work with actors, and his ability to construct this film is really interesting. Also, the fact that he got that performance out of Katherine Hepburn when he was just a kid and she was Katherine F**** Hepburn - huge star - is really impressive.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Wow. First I'm hearing of this. "Network" is one of my favorite films of all time.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

He made no film that I'd call my favorite. However he is responsible for The Wiz and I don't give a damn about those who hate the film -- it holds a special place for me from childhood.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

I've seen about half his movies, he will be missed. Network, Murder on the Orient Express, and Long Days Journey into Night are my favorites. His direction on the latter is phenomenal, getting career-best performances from Hepburn and Robards.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSam C.

top six -

running on empty
the verdict
dog day afternoon
murder on the orient express

ps - his films accounted for 18 acting nominations

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

Scott -- what's not to like? How about EVERYTHING. So wrong is right. I don't know about so wrong it's right ! ;)

Joe -- good point. I just got a Katharine Hepburn book so i'm eager to see if that is discussed.

City -- If I'm remembering it correctly (and my memory of it is way fuzzy) The Morning After is in some ways a garden variety thriller but Fonda is pretty great in the lead role. I remember critics going bazonkers for her and it was around the time i started reading reviews of films i was curious about. what are people saying?!

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Just a little note: the image you provided for Child's Play is the wrong movie. Lumet didn't direct Chucky.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertony rock

tony --HA. just goes to show you to double check your work. I totally did a google search for Child's Play 1972 movie poster and that one came up and D'OH. fixing now.

April 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I saw the Child's Play poster and lol'd. Imagine how amazing that movie would be? Here's a link with the right poster.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex BBats

it's fixed now. But now i'll be imagining how Lumet would have directed a killer doll movie.

April 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Seen about half, favorite is unquestionably Dog Day Afternoon. It's been a while, but I remember thinking Q&A was much better than the reviews. Nick Nolte was great in it.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

"Network" might be my favorite film ever. This is such a staggering loss for the film community as a whole. I'm truly saddened by this death. And now the Elizabeth Taylor marathon is about to start on TCM. We're losing all of the greats. :(

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOrion

Nathaniel, check out the special features on the "Network" special edition dvd, which has Lumet's interview w/tcm. It's pretty great - he talks about a ton of his movies - and he discusses his work with Hepburn specifically. He even does a sort, but still great, impression of her.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Sawyer -- i seem to recall someone (was it siskel & ebert) pushing for Nolte to be nominated for that one. It didn't happen of course but it does make me curious about the film.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

It's such a nice thing that he lived to see Jenny Lumet's success with Rachel Getting Married. That's one of the finest scripts of the past decade. I'm sure Sidney was very proud.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Favourite would most likely be "Long Day's Journey Into Night", which might be the most heartwrenching three hours I've yet experienced.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLev Lewis

Considering Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men have been among my favourite cinematic experiences since forever (the latter earning easily a solid spot in my personal All-Time Top Ten, heck, even Top Five), I am thouroughly ashamed to learn I've only seen three further films of his (although in my defence two of those three were disappointments, and of the third one - Long Day's... - I don't remember much except for the final mesmerizing shot of Hepburn's face). Having read everyone else's comments I guess I ought to check out the Network immediately at the very least.

Still, even if he made absolutely nothing beyond 12 Angry Men, Mr Lumet would earn a place among the Greatest, if you ask me. RIP, Master.

Long time no post, by the way. Congrats on the excellent new blog, Nathaniel.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNotluke

At the risk of sounding like a bandwagon dilletante, Network is my all-time favorite film -- arguably *the* best written film. Paddy Chayefsky (and the actors) deserve big credit, of course, but Lumet managed to keep a lot of moving parts calibrated smoothly and paced perfectly. He owned the 70s, and his rich and well deserved legacy vouches for it.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

A truly unusual career. Of his films, I've seen:
12 Angry Men
Fail Safe
The Hill
The Deadly Affair
The Anderson Tapes
Murder on the Orient Express
Dog Day Afternoon
The Wiz
The Verdict
A Stranger Among Us
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

I would count Dog Day Afternoon and Network as two of my all-time favorites, and I routinely cite The Wiz as the worst movie I've ever seen. Stranger Among Us is also really bad.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead was very, very good. A worthy finale.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Another good one lost, he will definitely be missed. And he went out on a good note too, pretty rare. Dog Day and Network are it for me.

I have to say, I saw The Wiz for the first time recently and wasn't totally gross out by it. Really, it's a movie which was saved by wonderful and clever art direction and an inventive and interesting sense of spectacle and pageantry. Sure, Miss Ross is too old and no one else really registers and the music isn't as exciting as when it first came out on stage but key dance moments hit their highs and the wonder of those sets does the rest of magic for me. Maybe I wasn't expecting much but it's certainly far from the bowls of hell. LIKE OTHER RECENT MOVIES YOU COULDN'T PAY ME TO SEE.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Notluke -- thank you. Good to have you back!

Mark -- i've never seen The Wiz all the way through. Even as a kid I viewed The Wizard of Oz as sacrosanct. I think Wicked is the first time i've allowed myself to enjoy a Wizard of Oz themed property that is not Wizard of Oz.

Deborah -- isn't that crazy that the quality varies to that degree. And yet the highs are so spectacular it's like you have to go 'whatever you have to do to give us an occassional The Verdict, do it! ;)

April 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R


A brilliant performance by Anne Bancroft, plus cameos including Dorothy Loudon, Harvey Fierstein, Hermoine Gingold, and many others. I saw this with a friend when it came out (we were the only two in the theater) and we both still love it. Unfortunately, it's never been available on DVD (at least in the US - WHY?), but it is available in the original format on itunes. I saw a screening at the Walter Reade theater at Lincoln Center a while ago- they said the only print available was a rough cut pan-and-scan with several breaks in it. A shame- it's some of Bancroft's best work from the 80s. It'll make you laugh, cry, and get a little angry.

"Life is full of little injustices... either they bother you or they don't. Me, they bother."

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRoy

So many films here I haven't seen, but if he'd only made Dog Day Afternoon, I'd still consider him a master. Brilliant.

And I too loved The Wiz as a kid - saw it on TV over and over, and never quite understood all the hate for it. I haven't seen it in a while, though, so I'm curious to see if I can "relocate" what I loved about it then.

And Nat, The Morning After is worth a look for the first 1/3 of the film at least, with Fonda as a boozy actress with a dying career; Raul Julia is terriblly underutilized if memory serves (I only saw it once), and of course Jeff Bridges is always watchable (before he went into permanent "Dude" mode in his career/life). I can see how critics at the time thought it might signal a "comeback" for Fonda, but no such luck.

May 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

It sounds very good hear about to moving into the feature films his career starts with stage actor and television director and he would love guiding several of them through signature roles.


June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOscar Movies

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