When Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away two years ago to the day — February 2, 2014 — Indiewire Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn took some time to reflect on the chameleon-like skills of the Oscar-winning performer. “He chose movies that fit his casual, frumpy demeanor, and he dominated them,” Kohn wrote. “Never blending in, Hoffman transcended the boundaries of every scene, sometimes with a soft, off-putting degree of restraint, and elsewhere blowing his top. He was his own special effect, a termite artist who could burrow into any material and softly coerce it into his terms.”
On the anniversary of Hoffman’s passing, Indiewire offers up some of the performances now streaming on Netflix and HBO NOW that speak directly to Kohn’s points above. The actor may have not been front and center in all of the titles below, but he inarguably made each a richer and more engaging cinematic experience.
Honor the late actor by giving one of these titles a stream tonight.
After working together for 25 years, members of a famous string quartet are faced with tragedy when their leader receives a grim medical diagnosis. As Robert, the group’s second violinist, Hoffman brings an emphatic passion that charts his character’s desire to move into the first chair, and the lost pain that comes when he is rejected. The film also features Christopher Walken, Imogen Poots and Hoffman’s “Capote” co-star, Catharine Keener. Streaming on Netflix
Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling chronicle of intertwining lost souls in Los Angeles stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a rare savior in an ensemble full of seedy, despicable and arrogant egos all starving for redemption. Playing the nurse Phil Pharma, Hoffman is a delicate force of nature, filling every patient aside with a profound sense of gratitude. It’s a fragile and angelic side the actor rarely exposed. Streaming on HBO NOW.
“Punch Drunk Love” (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
Barry (Adam Sandler), prone to spasms of rage, tries to escape constant harassment. He finds his life refreshed when he meets Lena (Emily Watson), who falls in love with him. Along the way, Barry encounters mattress store owner and phone sex line supervisor Dean Trumbell, a character that lets Hoffman deliver one of the most impressive F-bomb tirades in movie history. Streaming on Netflix
A heavy-drinking loner finds some semblance of a family when he stumbles onto the ship of Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic leader of a new “religion.” Joaquin Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams each earned Oscar and BAFTA nominations for their work. Streaming on Netflix
When Erin is dumped, her mother places personal ads on her behalf. She goes out with a string of men, but keeps crossing paths with a lonely plumber. Playing the ex-boyfriend of Hope Davis’ main character, Hoffman takes a ridiculous character — he walks out on her in order to help a Native American tribe fight off land developers — and gives him a hilarious and relatable edge. Streaming on Netflix
Contempt has rarely been as poisonous than in Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, and that’s all thanks to Hoffman’s seductively cruel Freddie Miles. Filling every inch of the character with squeamish evil, Miles becomes the kind of unpredictable terror you hardly want to double cross.
Paul Newman stars as Donald, a loner who walked out on his family years ago and now lives in a small town in New York, spending his days working for a contractor named Carl and flirting with Carl’s wife. Hoffman takes the reigns of a police office who remains steadfast in his persecution of the main character. Streaming on Netflix
“Along Came Polly” is the type of movie that proved just how gifted Philip Seymour Hoffman really was. Playing the wacky comedic best friend in a moderately funny, largely forgettable mainstream romantic comedy, Hoffman brings unexpected gravitas to a role that requires less than half the commitment he gives it. All of the belly laughs in this movie arrive courtesy of Hoffman (his basketball playing, chief among them), and it’s mainly because he plays his character with the same level of intensity as Lancaster Dodd. Streaming on Netflix
This drama follows a wounded Civil War solider making the long journey home, while his faraway love fights for survival on her deceased father’s farm. The film co-stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. Playing a priest who befriends Law’s struggling solider, Hoffman proves again he can make the most from the smallest amount of screen time. Streaming on HBO NOW.