Deliverance (1972). Written by James Dickey from his novel. Directed by John Boorman. Four guys go into the water, one with a purdy mouth. Gritty and violent, the vacation from hell. If only he had kept making films like this one, except less sodomy.
White Lightning (1973). Written by William B. L. Norton. Directed by Joseph Sargent. An ex-con works a deal with the Feds to gather evidence on a corrupt sheriff and a moonshine operation. Car chases and down-home characters, but not your typical good old boy film. It’s too bad that Norton and Sargent didn’t team up with Burt more often. The film had a serious dramatic spine that moved the film forward but allowed exploration of the characters to result in easily one of Burt’s best film.
The Longest Yard (1974). Written by Albert S. Ruddy and Tracy Keenan Wynn.
Directed by Robert Aldrich. A former pro football star self-destructs and ends up in prison where he agrees to stage a prisoner football game against the guards. An outstanding supporting cast and effectively written film, all leading towards a dramatic conclusion. The original is better than the sequel although Burt has a supporting role in the sequel. If only Burt had stayed with great material and first-rate directors.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Written by Hal Needham, Robert L. Levy, James Lee Barrett, Charles Shyer and Alan Mandel. Directed by Hal Needham. A truckload of beer, a sheriff and the Bandit. You know the story. He should have hung up the cowboy hat with this film. Hal Heedham was a legendary stuntman. He and Burt were good friends and Burt was loyal to his friends. This was a surprise hit and was a role that Burt was instantly comfortable playing. It also introduced him to Sally Field. His further adventures with Hal Needham damaged Burt’s career when he was the biggest star in Hollywood.
Boogie Nights (1997). Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Burt Reynolds scored a Golden Globes Aw
ard and earned great reviews for his portrayal of a 1970s producer of pornographic films. While not the star of the film, he turned in solid performance and showed that he would emerge himself into a role very different from the Bandit.
Starting Over (1979). Written by James L. Brooks. Directed by Alan J. Pakula. A big change of direction for Burt. He shaved off the mustache and played a mild mannered guy who is dumped by his wife. A strong performance and he was willing to take a chance. He should have kept going.
apprentice. This film has a certain charm and offbeat tilt as it focuses on the characters. The film does not aim too high and was under appreciated, probably not offering its star enough payback or accolades to keep searching for similar roles.
The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973). Written by Eleanor Perry from a novel by Marilyn Durham. Directed by Richard C. Sarafian. Another of his very films from 1973, a stylish and effective Western. A great supporting cast and under appreciated film. The film production was shrouded in mystery as co-star Sara Miles’ lover was found dead on the film location.
The Crew (2000). Written by Barry Fanaro. Directed by Michael Dinner. The story of four aging wise guys living in Florida who stumble into one last crime to save their beloved retirement hotel. A delightful ensemble film.
Shamus (1974). Written by Barry Beckerson. Directored by Buzz Kulik. Burt plays a private eye. He sleeps on a pool table in a crummy apartment. A crime thriller that is better than it should have been. Great chemistry between Burt and Dyan Cannon. The first film that he carried by himself.
Honorable mention: Semi Tough (1977), Nickelodeon (1976), Mystery Alaska (1999), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Sam Whiskey (1969), Stick (1985), Hustle (1975), 100 Rifles (1969).