Iconic actor Montgomery Clift gave only a small number of onscreen performances before his untimely death in 1966 at the age of 45, yet several of those titles remain classics. Let’s take a look back at 12 of his greatest films, ranked worst to best.
A product of the Actor’s Studio, where he studied under Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan, Clift had a successful Broadway career before moving to Hollywood. Among his notable stage credits was the role of Henry in Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Like James Dean and Marlon Brando, he was one of the original method actors, calling upon past memories and experiences to inform his performances.
He came to the attention of movie audiences in 1948 with a pair of releases: Howard Hawks‘ western “Red River” and Fred Zinnemann‘s WWII drama “The Search.” The latter film brought him an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor. He would contend three more times at the Oscars (Best Actor for “A Place in the Sun” in 1951 and “From Here to Eternity” in 1953; Best Supporting Actor for “Judgment at Nuremberg” in 1961).
Clift’s career was irrevocably altered by a near-fatal car accident during the filming of “Raintree County” (1956). He apparently fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into a tree when leaving a dinner party held by his longtime friend and costar Elizabeth Taylor, who saved his life by digging a tooth out of his throat. Though plastic surgery partially reconstructed his face, he became increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol to work through his physical and emotional pain. As a result, his film roles became fewer and farther between.
Tour our photo gallery of Clift’s 12 greatest films, including a few performances that should’ve resulted in Oscar victories.
– Original text and gallery published in October 2018.