William Friedkin is a movie director that’s worked on countless films and television series. His most well known film was the horror classic “The Exorcist” which was nominated for the Academy Award For Best Picture, winning for the best sound mixing and best adapted screenplay. He’s recently made a comeback working on the movie “Killer Joe” that was released in 2011. With all of the success that he’s had, it’s hard to pinpoint which films were his best work. Here are our picks for five of the best movies that William Friedkin has directed in his career.
1. The French Connection
William Friedkin was hanging around with Howard Hawks, one of his old girlfriend’s father, one day when he was told that he should make a movie better than anyone’s ever made. That’s when Will took one of Robin Moore’s books and made it into one of the best cop movies known to man. It starts out with an exciting car chase that has you on the edge of your seat, and was one of the most iconic scenes back in that time period. The two main characters, Popeye Doyle and Cloudy Russo, are narcotic detectives that are in New York trying to stop a French heroin ring. The realness of the documentary was shot with handheld cameras and brought to live by Will’s accute attention with fine details. The main actors, Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, knew how to play their roles as protagonists very well. They never let their characters fall into any stereotypes and knew exactly what to do to make the film good.
2. The Exorcist
While people in the newer generation might not know about any of William Friedkin’s movies or who he is, they definitely have heard of or watched “The Exorcist“. It’s hard to imagine a movie being so graphic and vulgar being a popular hit but the film is on the list of top 10 biggest income earners in history. “The Version You’ve Never Seen” was a remake made in 2000 but wasn’t as good as the original. The movie starts with Father Merrin in Iraq talking to Chris MacNeil about her daughter. The daughter who’s name is Regan tells the two fathers and doctors around her that she’s actually the devil named Pazazu. The exorcists then do everything in their power to tame the demon and bring back the twelve year old daughter from it’s clutch. What makes this film great is how real the acting and reactions were from the cast members Burstyn, Von Sydow, and Jazon Miller. William Friedkin actually shot a gun into the air during a filming session to capture the actors reaction of being scared. It was this and some other of his methods that brought this movie to where it is today.
After conquering the cop and horror genres with his two amazing hits, William Friedkin tried his hand at remaking one of his favorite thrillers “The Wages Of Fear” by Henri-Georges Clouzo. The Sorcerer movie had a budget of 22 million dollars and had a production schedule that basically toured the world. They went to four continents and five countries in just the span of two years. It took awhile for it to get it’s recognition since the release of the Star Wars movie overshadowed it. Roy Scheider plays the main character and leads four nomads to stop a fire at an oil well. They take the lucrative job and face the dangers of driving their trucks full of explosive and unstable nitroglycerin through the mountains. Will takes this chance at remaking the movie to give the protagonists backstories, making the film more honed and languid. William Friedkin and Roy Scheider never really got along together on set because Will wanted to cast Steve McQueen but got him instead. They’ve gotten into legal problems since then and will release a new version when it’s over.
This movie was made in 1980 and is full of what made “Killer Joe” what it was, sleazy with a little bit of gore and cynicality. Critics claimed that William Friedkin had taken on more than he could handle and was dipping his feet into culture that he knew nothing about. Al Pacino plays an undercover cop that hangs with gay people in New York to try and find a serial killer that kills gay men. Will portrayed gays as people who were sex deprived and driven to do sick and unspeakable sexual activities. Critics from around the globe dubbed Will’s film as hateful and homophobic. While a lot of people hated the movie, some actually liked it and stand by it’s name. The dark vibes that you get from the scenes in the movie have a sense of dread and seediness that looms over you. None of the problems that the movie had would be here if the movie was just a regular serial killer film.
5. To Live And Die In L.A.
William Friedkin made another iconic crime thriller that is filled with 80’s nostalgia. William Peterson plays a character named Richard Chance who’s cocky and portrayed as a sex symbol. Richard is a US Secret Service agent who works with the Treasury Department with his ten year partner Michael Greene. Michael goes to investigate a group of counterfeiters three days before his retirement and dies a horrible death. Consumed by hate and the feeling of revenge, Richard takes his new partner John Pankow to stop the boss who runs the counterfeiting ring. The two run into Ruth Lanier in the streets and made her one of their inside informants. The third act of the film is what makes this movie different than other crime thrillers. It changes perspective as it switches from a story of personal revenge into a questioning of the fine line between criminals and cops. The way the story plays out makes this movie is one of William Friedkin’s greatests last works.