IMDb says Brando is considered the greatest movie actor of all time. The AFI named him the fourth-greatest male star of all time. Personally, I wouldn’t rank him so high. But there’s no denying that he belongs in any discussion of Great American Things.
Seldom has an actor changed so much as he aged. It’s hard to believe the young Brando of On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire is the same person as the mature Brando of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather (Great American Things, June 21, 2009). His appearance changed, but so did his acting style, reflecting some of the problems that he experienced in his off-screen life.
Even so, look at the films he’s been in. In addition to the four listed above, he starred in The Wild One… Guys and Dolls… Mutiny on the Bounty… and Last Tango in Paris. Most actors would have considered any of those as the movie of their lives, and Brando had eight. He won the Oscar for Best Actor twice, Supporing Actor once, and was nominated a total of eight times. (Of course, he didn’t always accept his awards, but that’s for another blog to explain.)
He essentially parodied his Don Corleone part in the movie The Freshman, but it’s always been one of my favorite small films. Even so, Martin Scorsese said, “He’s the marker. There’s ‘Before Brando’ and ‘After Brando’.” Brando became somewhat more cynical in later life, saying, “The only reason I’m in Hollywood is that I don’t have the moral courage to refuse the money.”