Everyone remembers Peter Falk's indelible work on TV as Lt. Columbo; the 35 years he spent (off and on) playing the disheveled, dogged sleuth pretty much define his career. But fans of Falk, who died on June 23 at age 83, also remember he had a 50-year film career, one that included pioneering work with indie filmmaker John Cassavetes, such beloved roles as the storybook-reading grandfather in 'The Princess Bride,' and one of the funniest movies ever made, 1979's 'The In-Laws' (pictured above).
Falk's career started off with a bang, in the form of an Oscar nomination for playing a cold-blooded hitman in 1960's 'Murder, Inc.' The movie today is all but forgotten, but Falk's chilling performance made him a star.
Falk followed that up with another Oscar nod for playing another gangster, a wisecracking goon, in Frank Capra's 'Pocketful of Miracles.' The movie, Capra's last, hasn't aged well, though Falk is a bright spot in it. Those two poles -- streetwise guys who were either menacing or funny -- set the stage for the New York-bred actor's career for the next half-century. Yet he found enormous subtleties in the variations. His improvisational skills, put to the test in his work with Cassavetes, meant he always seemed to be especially alive and present in the moment, reacting to even the most absurd situations with his trademark cockeyed gaze (the result of having lost an eye to illness at age three) and unflappable aplomb.
Following is a list of Falk's 10 best movies, along with some clips that show his gifts, his range, and his attitude.