Film Director Sidney Lumet Dies at 86: Three of His Greatest Scenes

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Director Sidney Lumet

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The acclaimed director was honored with numerous Academy Award nominations for his work on films like 12 Angry Men and Dog Day Afternoon. NewsFeed remembers the legendary filmmaker with a look back at some of his best movies.

The New York Times reports Lumet died Saturday after a battle with lymphoma. Lumet’s gritty films were always thought-provoking with an air of social justice while celebrating individual courage. His films gave a true-to-life view, as he preferred to shoot in the streets of New York rather than Hollywood backlots.

12 Angry Men, 1957


The film was based on a TV play, which was great for first-time film director Sidney Lumet, who had experience in television. This courtroom drama (now so famous that stage versions are put on by high schools across the U.S.) soars on the backs of its actors – Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb as the two main antagonists – and Lumet’s confident camerawork, which gets increasingly claustrophobic as the jury’s deliberation proceeds. Just watch these close-ups.

Network, 1976


Lumet’s strikingly prophetic film about a tanking news network is as poignant today as it was in the 70s, begging – or better yet, demanding – that we stand up for our rights. Peter Finch, starring as local news anchor Howard Beale, delivers an oft-quoted tirade on live television expressing his frustration. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” he exclaims, encouraging his viewers to run to their windows and let off some steam by doing the same.  We see Beale’s decline into madness, sure, but it’s one that leads to greater clarity.

Dog Day Afternoon, 1975


While Serpico is unarguably an iconic movie character, it was Al Pacino and Sidney Lumet’s second project together that produced one of American’s film’s most memorable lines. On one of those uniquely sweltering New York City summer days, Sonny (Pacino) decides to rob a bank to help fund his lover’s sex change operation. Of course, everything goes south, and Sonny and crew find themselves trapped inside, surrounded by cops. After Sonny briefly steps outside to survey the scene, he quickly (and temporarily) gets the crowd on his side by invoking the then-recent riot at an upstate New York prison. “Attica! Attica!” -Nick Carbone and Gilbert Cruz

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