Gandolfini struck gold when he landed the role of mafia boss Tony Soprano on HBO’s critically beloved drama from David Chase. The actor scored six Emmy nominations, winning three awards -- in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Gandolfini reflected on the moment he became aware of the show’s significance in a 2012 Vanity Fair oral history: “I went to a boxing match with some of the guys, and it was like this crowd just went, ‘Roarrrr.’ So that was like, OK, it’s pretty big.” Tony Soprano is an iconic TV character, often landing on lists celebrating the small-screen’s best creations. According to Metacritic, which aggregates critics’ reviews, The Sopranos has a superb 96 rating.
True Romance (1993)
Directed by the late Tony Scott and penned by Quentin Tarantino, Gandolfini broke out as hitman Virgil in 1993’s critically lauded romantic crime film, True Romance, though it was not a commercial success. In the movie, Virgil has a run-in with hooker Alabama (Patricia Arquette). The film — with a 91 percent “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes — landed at No. 157 on Empire’s 500 Greatest Movies of All Time list in 2008.
Cinema Verite (2011)
Gandolfini returned to the HBO family with 2011’s Emmy-nominated TV movie that recounted the production of PBS docu-series, An American Family, which followed the Loud family. (The 1970s series was one of the earliest examples of reality television.) Gandolfini played An American Family creator Craig Gilbert in the telepic, which co-starred Emmy nominees Diane Lane (as Pat Loud) and Tim Robbins (as Bill Loud).
The Mexican (2001)
Gandolfini co-starred opposite Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in 2001’s action comedy The Mexican as the sensitive, gay killer Winston Baldry, who first saves Roberts’ Samantha from a gunman. He won the L.A. Outfest award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in 2001.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
The actor appeared in the Oscar-nominated 2012 film as the director of the CIA, who pitched the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound to President Barack Obama.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
After a career largely known for playing gangsters, Gandolfini delved into more family friendly territory with 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the beloved children’s book. The actor provided the voice for Carol, one of the more reckless of the Wild Things.
Not Fade Away (2012)
Gandolfini reteamed with The Sopranos creator David Chase in Chase's feature directorial debut, 2012’s Not Fade Away, about a group of friends in New Jersey who form a successful rock band. In the film, Gandolfini played Pat, a man who suffers from psoriasis and is tough on his teenage son Douglas (John Magaro).
The Juror (1996)
In the 1996 Demi Moore film, Gandolfini played Eddie, a mob hit man and friend to Alec Baldwin’s villainous character.
Director Joel Schumacher and Nicolas Cage teamed up for the 1999 film, which saw the actor star as a private investigator digging into the world of snuff films. Gandolfini sported a goatee and mutton chops to play the scummy talent manager Eddie Poole, who represented a maker of violent pornographic films.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Reteaming with Brad Pitt in 2012’s noir crime film Killing Them Softly based on the Cogan’s Trade novel, Gandolfini would play one of his many “hitman” roles in Mickey. His character is brought in to kill Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) due to his acquaintance with Jackie Cogan (Pitt).
The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
Gandolfini reteamed with director Tony Scott in the 2009 remake of 1974’s The Taking of Pelham 123, which co-starred Denzel Washington and John Travolta. In it, he played the mayor of New York City. The thriller saw his character agreeing to pay an armed man named Ryder (Travolta) in order to help save Pelham 123 subway riders, including MTA employee Walter Garber (Washington), from being held hostage.
Gandolfini played a police colleague of Detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington), who was tracking a demon who inhabited people and committed crimes. In a memorable scene, Gandolfini’s character (Lou) was taken over by the spirit and tormented Hobbes by singing a song favored by an infamous serial killer the detective had put away.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)
More recently, Gandolfini co-starred in the Steve Carell-Steve Buscemi magicians comedy as Las Vegas billionaire casino owner Doug Munny. To prepare for the part, Gandolfini traveled to Vegas in December 2011, the Las Vegas Review-Journal writes, meeting with magicians Criss Angel and Nathan Burton and The Mirage president Felix Rappaport.
Surviving Christmas (2004)
Gandolfini ventured into comedy territory in the 2004 film, in which he starred opposite Ben Affleck. The film saw Affleck play an advertising exec with family problems. He was advised to return to his childhood home to deal with his childhood issues, and discovered Gandolfini's character was the home’s current owner. Affleck’s character ended up paying Gandolfini's character's family to spend Christmas with them – and hijinks (predictably) ensued.
All the King's Men (2006)
Starring as Tim Duffy in Tony Scott's 2006 film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that centered on the life of a fictional Louisiana governor, Gandolfini was part of a star-studded cast led by Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins. The political drama earned less than $10 million at the U.S. box office.
Who better to judge the best movies of all time than the people who make them? Studio chiefs, Oscar winners and TV royalty all were surveyed as THR publishes its first definitive entertainment-industry ranking of cinema's most superlative. View gallery