Gene Hackman is one of the most celebrated actors of his generation. Scratch that—of any generation. It’s why Keanu Reeves dramatically reduced his salary from him to act alongside him in The Replacements.
Hackman built an impressive net worth from acting, won two Academy Awards, and then retired to focus on other creative passions. However, all that came after an incredible on-screen career that lasted nearly 50 years that included starring roles in fan favorites and several movies that racked up impressive showings at the box office. These are Hackman’s eight top-grossing movies at the worldwide box office.
8. ‘The Mexican’ (2001)
- Total box office: $148 million
Hackman takes a back seat to Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts (and James Gandolfini) in this romantic comedy. Still, he is among the top-billed actors in this film, which went on to make $67 million in North America and more than twice that much at the worldwide box office.
7. ‘Crimson Tide’ (1995)
- Total box office: $157 million
Hackman and co-star Denzel Washington weren’t too far removed from Oscar wins when they squared off in Tony Scott’s action-packed submarine drama. It proved to be a winner at the box office, as it made back $19 million of its $53 million budget on opening weekend. And fans of the film were even bigger winners as we got to watch two powerhouse acting talents go at it for two hours. That’s a classic win-win.
6. ‘Unforgiven’ (1992)
- Total box office: $159 million
Hackman earned his second win at the Academy Awards as Little Bill Daggett, a frontier sheriff with a gunslinging past who enforces law and order with a heavy hand. The film climaxes with a barroom shootout between Daggett and Clint Eastwood’s William Munny. It wasn’t the first time Hackman played the villain, nor would it be the last, as we’ll see when we reach the top of our list.
5. “Antz” (1998)
- Total box office: $172 million
For an actor with such a distinctive voice, Hackman rarely slows his talents to voice-only performances. animated Antz was one of the only exceptions. He had one of the most prominent roles in an ensemble cast that included Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Dan Akroyd, and Danny Glover (whom Hackman later shared the screen with in The Royal Tenenbaums).
4. ‘The Birdcage’ (1996)
- Total box office: $185 million
Hackman plays a straight-laced politician in a comedy carried by Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, and Hank Azaria. While it’s not his most significant role for him, he deftly plays something of the straight man, which crucially offsets the over-the-top performances from Williams, Lane, and Azaria.
3. ‘Enemy of the State’ (1998)
- Total box office: $251 million
Hackman accepted more co-starring roles alongside younger actors later in his career. Will Smith takes the lead role in Enemy of the State, but Hackman shines as a loner and paranoid former NSA agent. Though unrelated, the character in some ways resembles Hackman’s turn of him as surveillance expert Harry Caul in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974).
2. ‘The Firm’ (1993)
- Total box office: $270 million
The first of John Grisham’s books that became movies might be the best, and Hackman features prominently as Avery Tolar, one of the partners of an ethically questionable law firm.
1. “Superman” (1978)
- Total box office: $300 million
Before Christian Bale’s Batman blew up the box office, before The Avengers assembled to defeat intergalactic baddies, Superman flew into theaters and became a blockbuster superhero movie.
Christopher Reeve starred as The Man of Steel, but Hackman shined as the devious villain Lex Luthor. Superman earned $7.5 million on opening weekend and $134 million at the North American box office, and more than doubled the latter total overseas.
Hackman reprized his role in Superman II (which made $108 million total) in 1980 and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987.
All box office figures courtesy of IMDbPro.
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