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Robert Redford's 20 essential movies

With his latest release, Redford is retiring from acting, leaving behind an impressive body of work.

Robert Redford was Oscar-nominated for his role in

Robert Redford was Oscar-nominated for his role in 1973's "The Sting." Photo Credit: AP

“Upbeat and positive” is how Robert Redford has described his next and final film, “The Old Man and the Gun.” It features Redford as Forest Tucker, a real-life career criminal who continued to rob banks even into his late 70s. Redford, who turned 82 in August, revealed two years ago that “The Old Man and The Gun,” which hits theaters on Friday, Sept. 28, will mark his retirement from acting.

It’s hard to imagine the silver screen without Redford — after all, he’s been on it for nearly 60 years. Though blessed with matinee idol looks and a dazzling smile, Redford spent his career playing a wide range of roles, from Wild West figures to contemporary journalists. In the 1980s he turned to directing and found success there as well, earning an Oscar for his emotionally wrenching debut, "Ordinary People."

For older generations, Redford is one of the last true Hollywood stars, though younger generations may know him better as the patron saint of independent filmmakers thanks to his Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival. On of the eve of Redford's final role, here are 20 films that shaped and defined his remarkable career — as both actor and director.

Barefoot in the Park (1967) This Neil Simon adaptation brought Redford over from the Broadway production as Paul, an uptight attorney who has just married the free-spirited Corie (Jane Fonda). It’s pretty cutesy-wutesy, but the young stars have an irresistible chemistry.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) As the roguish outlaws in the title, Paul Newman and Redford set a standard for buddy-banter and bromantic chemistry. Gibson-Glover, Clooney-Pitt and many other cinematic duos would follow their leads. This is also the film that inspired the name of Redford’s famous film institute, Sundance.

The Candidate (1972) The poster shows Redford as a glib politician blowing a chewing-gum bubble — but this is no comedy. Written by Eugene McCarthy’s former speechwriter, “The Candidate” is a riveting drama about high ideals and hard reality. Worth re-watching every four years.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) In one of his earliest collaborations with director Sydney Pollack, Redford plays the legendary mountain-man of the 1800s. The movie was a major hit, and helped establish the rugged, outdoorsy image that Redford would return to often over his career.

The Sting (1973) The Newman-Redford team returns as con men in 1936. The film was a smash hit — the 20th highest-grossing of all time, adjusted for inflation — and won seven Oscars.

The Way We Were (1973) Barbra Streisand plays a Jewish activist who falls for Redford’s carefree WASP in this heart-tugging romance. The schmaltzy title song suggests a melodrama, but this is actually an intelligent, grown-up movie about grown-up problems. A high point for both stars.

The Great Gatsby (1974) Jack Clayton’s overhyped version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel turned out to be a critical and commercial dud, but it’s a fairly sensitive reading that looks much better today. Redford leads a fine cast (Bruce Dern, Mia Farrow) as the charmed-yet-cursed Gatsby.

Three Days of the Condor (1975) A bookish CIA researcher (Redford) is drawn into a murderous plot within the agency and, out of desperation, turns to a stranger (Faye Dunaway) for help. Pollack’s crisp direction and Redford’s earnest performance make “Condor” one of the quintessential paranoid thrillers.

All the President’s Men (1976) Two Washington Post staffers, Bob Woodward (a cool, confident Redford) and Carl Bernstein (a dyspeptic Dustin Hoffman), bring down President Richard Nixon. Not even an Oscar nod for Redford, but this remains the definitive Watergate movie and a classic of ‘70s cinema.

The Electric Horseman (1979) Another Redford-Fonda collaboration, with a slightly goofy premise: Redford plays a former rodeo champ and breakfast-cereal spokesman who absconds with the company’s horse. Critics shrugged, but moviegoers turned it into a $61 million hit.

Brubaker (1980) At an Arkansas prison, the new warden (Redford) goes undercover as a convict to find evidence of abuse, corruption and murder. Based on a true story, “Brubaker” marked a gritty and violent departure for its flaxen-haired star.

Ordinary People (1980) For his directorial debut, Redford chose a story about a family struggling with death and suicide. Riveting performances from Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton and an unexpected Mary Tyler Moore made this movie shorthand for “heavy drama,” and Redford won the directing Oscar — his only competitive Academy Award.

The Natural (1984) Redford plays the fictional baseball prodigy Roy Hobbs in this gushing ode to America’s national pastime adapted from Bernard Malamud's novel. It’s a polarizer: You’ll either swoon or snicker at the film’s tone of Arthurian grandeur (Hobbs plays for the New York Knights) and golden-hued cinematography.

Out of Africa (1985) Another collaboration with director Pollack, and another of Redford’s biggest hits. It’s a sweeping romance about the woman who would become known as Isak Dinesen (Meryl Streep) and a free-spirited rancher (Redford). The movie won seven Oscars, including best picture.

A River Runs Through It (1992) In the early years of the 20th century, two brothers bond over their shared love of fly-fishing. Redford’s outdoorsy drama (he directed) helped make a star out of Brad Pitt in the role of Paul Maclean.

Quiz Show (1994) Redford directed this gripping drama about a real-life rigged television game show is terrific entertainment, with an excellent Ralph Fiennes as a conflicted contestant. It was a near-miss at the Oscars — four nods, no wins — but it holds a tiptop 96 percent rating at RottenTomatoes.

The Horse Whisperer (1998) Redford’s story about a Montana horse trainer whose skills extend to women is so Redfordian (he directs himself in the title role) that it borders on parody. Still, it became a major hit, and the term “whisperer” is a meme still in use today.

All is Lost (2013) After a low-profile decade or so, Redford returned to screens in this one-man drama about a sailor adrift on a wrecked boat. His near-silent performance made “All is Lost” a critical darling and earned Redford the best actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Redford in a Marvel movie? And playing the villain? As World Security Council member Alexander Pierce, Redford classes up the comic-book material with a lifetime of Hollywood polish. Not a major role, but an unexpectedly fun turn from a legend.

Truth (2015) Dan Rather’s career hit the skids after his botched “60 Minutes” story about George W. Bush’s history with the Texas Air National Guard. On the upside, he was immortalized in film by none other than Redford. James Vanderbilt’s drama may not reach the heights of “All the President’s Men,” but it’s an excellent addition to the journalism-movie canon.

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