Top 10 Kirk Douglas Films Worth Watching

1:40 AM 5/31/2012

by Shannon Ma

From lacing on boxing gloves in "Champion" to sword wielding in "Spartacus," Douglas' movie career has spanned numerous genres that can't be missed.

Having starred in a wide variety of character-driven roles that have earned him three Oscar nominations and an honorary Academy Award during his career, Kirk Douglas has solidified himself as a big-screen legend.

Douglas boasts a long portfolio of blockbuster hits, but some are so significant they deserve a little extra recognition. Below, the actor's top 10 must-see films.

  • Champion (1949)

    Douglas received his first Oscar nomination for his role as a boxer in this black and white film noir drama. "I didn't think I was so tough until I did Champion, then I was a tough guy," Douglas told The Hollywood Reporter.

  • Ace in the Hole (1951)

    THR's initial review called this controversial film about a disgraced reporter "ruthless and cynical." The film went on to receive an Oscar nomination for best story and screenplay.

  • Young Man With a Horn (1950)

    The multifacted actor took off his boxing gloves and picked up a trumpet to portray jazz musician Rick Martin who makes it big but learns that fame and fortune don't always come easy.

  • Detective Story (1951)

    Douglas returned to the film noir genre starring as a detective who uncovers more than what he expects to find while working on the job.

  • The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

    This drama about the film industry holds the unusual record for most Oscars won that was not nominated for best picture. It also earned Douglas his second nomination for best actor. "You know, it’s tough to make a movie about movies… We’re all too close to it. But The Bad and the Beautiful was very good. And Lana Turner, I think, did her best job; she was very good. I was good, too!" Douglas told THR.

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

    Based on the Jules Verne book of the same name, Douglas stared as Captain Nemo in this aquatic adventure that received critical praise.

  • Lust for Life (1956)

    Douglas, who had become known for his tough guy roles changed his pace and stepped into the mind of a troubled artist to portray Vincent van Gogh in his biography. This film landed him his third Oscar nomination for once again, best actor. "Acting is make-believe. I never believe I’m the character; I want you to believe," said Douglas. "But with Lust for Life, I got so involved with van Gogh… it really was frightening, because I felt like the character was overtaking me… It was a very, very interesting experience. I have never felt that way on any other picture."

  • Paths of Glory (1957)

    Legendary film director Stanley Kubrick enlisted Douglas to star in this explosive anti-war film that was based on a book by Humphrey Cobb of the same name.

  • Spartacus (1960)

    If Douglas was not a household name already, his epic portrayal of a rebellious slave, Spartacus became a huge critical and box-office success. The film’s positive response also helped put an end to the Hollywood Ten, a group of film industry workers that were “blacklisted” from Hollywood for being suspected of having “communist tendencies.” "I was intrigued with the character of Spartacus, and I just had to make it. And, at the same time, we were going through a terrible period, the McCarthy era... I’m very proud that Spartacus broke the blacklist [by giving blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo screen credit], because that was very important. … It happened at the right time for me," said Douglas. "I was young enough to be foolish. … It’s nice to make a movie that people enjoy and that does something."

  • Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

    Douglas starred as cowboy Jack Burns in this classic western. Although the film wasn’t a blockbuster success, it still fared well in theaters and has developed more of a cult following among country western movie buffs. "I love that character and his relationship with his horse. And I always consider that my best movie," Douglas said.