Al Pacino at 84: Five iconic moments from his filmography

Sreejith Mullappilly

“If you put Robert De Niro in a dryer, you get Al Pacino,” said Robin Williams during his speech in tribute to Pacino on his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. The actor turns 84 today, and what better occasion to compile five of the best moments from his films than this? Pacino has been part of so many great films with iconic moments, making this compilation a tricky task. But these moments stand out for the sheer drama they deliver and the signature touch that the actor brought to them.

Hoo-ah! (Scent of a Woman)

It is an exclamation at best. But Pacino brought so much zeal and authenticity to his portrayal of a blind veteran that he made his US Army exclamation work as a catchphrase. Later, he revealed in Actors Studio that he adopted it from an Army officer who taught him how to handle the gun he used in the 1992 film. Director Martin Brest’s Scent of a Woman earned Pacino his only Oscar (for Best Actor).

Don't Tell Me You're Innocent, Because It Hurts My Intelligence (Godfather)

Towards the end of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Pacino’s Michael Corleone confronts his brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) to make the latter confess that he set up Emilio Barzini (Richard Conte) to get his brother Sonny (James Caan) killed. Michael asks Carlo to admit what he did, but the latter refutes it by swearing on his children’s lives before the former delivers this line as a warning to him. From the way Pacino delivered it, he made it clear that his character meant business.

Brother, You’re Going Down (Heat)

A crucial scene in Michael Mann’s Heat takes place in the middle of the film, at a diner. Pacino’s Lieutenant Vincent Hanna recognises the thief, Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley, he has long been chasing, as he grabs a cup of coffee. However, Hanna chooses a quiet talk over a dramatic confrontation that furthers the dynamics of his relationship with thief McCauley while exploring the thin line between criminals and cops. He acknowledges their opposing roles in society, while warning the thief that he would take him down even as he does not relish it. While it seems a threat on paper, Pacino delivers it like how it should be: An acknowledgement of the inevitable.

You broke my heart, Fredo! (Godfather Part II)

Few scenes exemplify Pacino's capability to convey an array of emotions without much dialogue than this one from the sequel to The Godfather. It comes when Pacino’s Michael Corleone confronts his brother Fredo as he learns that the latter betrayed the family. Pacino's restrained delivery of the line has a greater impact than any outburst as it perfectly conveys Michael's resolve and zero-tolerance approach to betrayal. While Pacino’s voice hints at the sense of disappointment Corleone feels, his face shows the rage of the mob boss in him.

Say hello to my little friend! (Scarface)

This is arguably the most quintessential scene in Al Pacino’s filmography. The film stars Pacino as Tony Montana, an American refugee from Cuba who rises to the top of the Miami drug trade. In the climactic scene, as enemies swarm into his building and corner him, Montana delivers the line as someone opens the door and he unleashes sheer mayhem with a machine gun. The actor’s unhinged delivery and energy perfectly capture his character’s madness.