#5. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Lumet’s last film was also one of his best. Following a pair of troublesome brothers who plot to rob their parents’ jewelry store, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” refuses to flinch in the face of the humanity’s darkest inclinations. Lumet catalogued the basest of human urges with both uncompromising realism and inspiring empathy.
#4. The Verdict (1982)
How did Paul Newman not win an Oscar for this movie? If we try to answer that I suppose we’ll have to wonder why Sidney Lumet never won a Best Director Oscar for any of his films. David Mamet’s masterful script leads disgraced Boston lawyer Frank Galvin (Newman) on a stirring fight against the odds in his quest for justice and redemption.
#3. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
A bank heist goes horribly wrong when Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) bungle through through the ill-planned robbery. Billed as a gritty thriller, “Dog Day Afternoon” is also laugh out loud funny and socially ahead of its time. Al Pacino has never been better and John Cazale (Fredo in “The Godfather”) is tragically brilliant.
#2. 12 Angry Men (1957)
The quintessential American movie. Lumet shared his vision of an uneasy America, on the precipice of chaos, through sharp dialogue and the electrifying presence of star Henry Fonda. An intimate, low-budget triumph of reason and courage.
#1. Network (1976)
An prophetic marvel of a film that predicts the present day media circus with chilling precision. Lumet commands one of the greatest scripts ever written (Paddy Chayefsky) with virtuoso skill. Peter Finch won history’s first posthumous Best Actor Oscar and Ned Beatty’s hilarious and prescient monologue stands as one of the five greatest diatribes in all of cinema.