Steve McQueen would’ve celebrated his 90th birthday on March 24, 2020. The Oscar-nominated performer helped define the meaning of “cool” in just a handful of movies before his untimely death in 1980 at the age of 50. But how many of those titles remain classics? In honor of his birthday, let’s take a look back at 15 of his greatest films, ranked worst to best.
Born in 1930, McQueen first came to the attentions of movie audiences with his leading role in the sci-fi B-movie classic “The Blob” (1958). He quickly made a name for himself as an action star thanks to a series of hits through the 1960s and early 1970s, including “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Great Escape” (1963), “Bullitt” (1968), “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968), “The Getaway” (1972), and “The Towering Inferno” (1974). Known as “The Kind of Cool,” his onscreen persona as a reluctant antihero made him a favorite of both men who wanted to be him and women who wanted to be with him.
His sole Oscar nomination as Best Actor came for the Robert Wise-directed World War II epic “The Sand Pebbles” (1966), in which he played a rebellious sailor aboard a U.S. gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River in China. The role also brought him a Golden Globe bid, and he additionally competed at that group for “Love with the Proper Stranger” (1963), “The Reivers” (1969), and “Papillon” (1973). He twice won their now-defunct prize as Favorite Film Star – Male (once in 1967, again in 1970).
Tour our photo gallery of McQueen’s 15 greatest films, including a few for which he should’ve received Oscar nominations.