A Gen Z Guide to Dustin Hoffman Movies!

Dustin Hoffman has been seen everywhere, from heartbreaking dramas and thrillers to easy-going comedies. To date, he is one of the most recognizable actors thanks to an impressive filmography spanning seven decades!

Career Breakthroughs in the ‘60s and ‘70s

Hoffman got his start in acting with small parts on television shows and movies in the mid-late 1960s. It was only until 1967’s The Graduate that Hoffman finally broke out on the big screen, becoming a key actor in Hollywood. Hoffman’s role as the charming, but imperfect Benjamin Braddock earned him his first Oscar nomination for “Best Actor in a Leading Role,” while The Graduate became one of the finest films ever made.


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Hoffman took his newfound success and joined forces with Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy, in 1969. Midnight Cowboy, which tells the story of an unlikely pair who strengthen their brotherly bond over time, took home three awards at the 42nd Academy Awards and is the only X-rated film to win “Best Picture” to this very day. The film was a departure from Hoffman’s clean-cut nature in The Graduate, but helped prepare him for the upcoming crime drama Straw Dogs and the epic prison movie, Papillon. Hoffman later earned a “Best Actor” nomination as comic Lenny Bruce in Lenny (1974), before escaping the government in Marathon Man and investigating the Watergate scandal alongside Robert Redford in All the President’s Men.

Hoffman capped off the 1970s with one of his all-time best performances, in 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer. This movie saw Hoffman as Ted Kramer, a recently-divorced dad who has to start truly caring for his young son, Billy, while also learning about himself in the midst of a custody battle with Joanna (Meryl Streep). Hoffman scored his first career Oscar win through Kramer vs. Kramer, and even captured “Best Actor in a Motion Picture” at the 37th Golden Globe Awards.

Outstanding ‘80s Dramas

Hoffman’s next role after Kramer vs. Kramer came in 1982, when he played Michael Dorsey, aka Dorothy Michaels, an unemployed actor looking to find work, in Tootsie. Tootsie garnered national attention during the awards season and owns a terrific score of 88 on Metacritic. Hoffman then starred in the adventure-comedy Ishtar, which has received mixed reviews, in 1987. The leading man rebounded as an autistic savant named Raymond in Rain Man, which received a leading eight nominations at the 61st Academy Awards and became the highest-grossing film of 1988, with over $170 million gained.

Career-Defining Roles in the ‘90s and 2000s

Hoffman opened up the 1990s with two commercial successes — Dick Tracy and Hook. The former, based on the comic strip of the same name, saw Hoffman step into villain territory as Mumbles, an unintelligible henchman and mob member. Hoffman took the antagonist role a step further in the fantasy cult classic, Hook, when he played Captain Hook, Peter Pan’s arch nemesis.

Throughout the rest of the ‘90s, Hoffman served as a petty criminal in Hero (1992), a doctor struggling to fight a virus in Outbreak (1995), a lawyer in the star-studded box office hit, Sleepers (1996), and a Hollywood producer in Wag the Dog (1997), for which he secured a “Best Actor” nomination.

Gen Z-ers might be most familiar with Hoffman’s mid-2000s work, where he starred as Bernie Focker, Ben Stiller’s laid back father in Meet the Fockers (and its 2010 sequel), the eccentric Edward Magorium in the children’s comedy Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and Po’s teacher, Master Shifu, in the Kung Fu Panda franchise.

Introduction to Directing and Continued Success Since the 2010s

Hoffman continued his strong pace going into the 2010s, where he lent his voice to the three Kung Fu Panda sequels, including 2024’s Kung Fu Panda 4, which has an average audience score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hoffman also made his directorial debut with 2012’s Quartet, which earned nearly $60 million at the worldwide box office on an $11 million budget. The Meyerowitz Stories saw Hoffman and Stiller reunite in a bittersweet family comedy, now “Certified Fresh” with a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most recently, Hoffman starred in 2022’s As They Made Us and Sam & Kate (along with his son, Jake), and doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as Megalopolis, an upcoming epic from the mind of Francis Ford Coppola will have its world premiere soon, and Riff Raff, a crime flick with Bill Murray and Pete Davidson, has yet to be released. Needless to say, we are super excited for what’s on deck next for Hoffman!

About the Author

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Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes is a Junior at Iona University, majoring in media and strategic communications, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. In his free time, Robert loves to spend hours practicing the bass guitar and hunting for his favorite artists at vinyl record shops.