Five Essential… Scenes Where Al Pacino Turns Up the Volume

Jackson Ball looks at five essential scenes where Al Pacino turns up the volume…

Subtlety: it’s an asset you will find in many of history’s finest actors. Sometimes a performance requires a little bit of restraint, and knowing when to dial it back a notch is what can separate the cream of the Hollywood crop. On the other hand, some of the most memorable scenes from the best performances feature a real lack of subtlety, opting instead for all-out explosiveness.

There can be few doubts that the king of cranking up the volume is Mr. Al Pacino. For decades now, ‘Shouty Al’ has been raising the decibels to create some of his most famous scenes. Here’s some our favourites.…

5. “Run at thunder, girl! Thunder can’t hurt! Harmless noise, Bullsh*t!” – from The Godfather Part III (dir. Francis Coppola, 1990)

Michael Corleone begins to crumble before our very eyes as Pacino rants and raves like a psychopath. Taking place in a rather humdrum kitchen in Manhattan, Corleone’s frustrations finally reach a boiling point in this uncomfortably tense scene.

4. “You can ball my wife if she wants you to. You can lounge around here on her sofa, in her ex-husband’s dead-tech, post-modernistic bullsh*t house if you want to. But you do not get to watch my f*cking television set!” – from Heat (dir. Michael Mann, 1995)

Compared to his counterparts on this list, Detective Vincent Hanna is quite an upstanding guy. His only major flaw is that he’s maybe a little too committed to his job, and it is for that reason that the rest of his life seemingly deteriorates around him. In this scene, Hanna discovers that his neglected and bitter wife has taken a new lover, which promptly leads to this furious outburst. It’s possibly one of the finest examples of an actor really going for seething rage. The real clincher? Pacino’s perfectly-timed slamming of the aforementioned TV.

3. “What you’re hired for is to help us. Does that seem clear to you? To help us! Not f*ck-us-up! To help those who are going out there to try to earn a living. You fairy. You company man.” – from Glengarry Glen Ross (dir. James Foley, 1992)

With cock-sure real estate agent Ricky Roma, Pacino was able to get to grips with a loud, in-your-face attitude, minus all the menace and violence of some of his other characters. In one of many, many heated confrontations between Roma and office manager John Williamson (played by Kevin Spacey), here he is quite upset due the fact that Williamson’s incompetence has just cost him a $6,000 and a new Cadillac… which is understandable really.

2. “We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know, when we add all those inches, that’s gonna make the f*cking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!” – from Any Given Sunday (dir. Oliver Stone, 1999)

This scene is irrefutable proof that if you give Al Pacino an extended amount of time in front of camera, he has the gravitas to grab the audience’s attention by the throat. The undisputed champion of the sports-movie team talk, this motivational masterpiece clocks out and no less than 5 minutes long. That’s 5 minutes of uninterrupted, unrestrained Pacino… and it’s still a real treat to behold.


1. “You wanna f*ck with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!” – from Scarface (dir. Brian De Palma, 1983)

Let’s be honest here, there are very few scenes in Scarface where Tony Montana is not shouting. It’s difficult to recall every scene in which Pacino shifts things up a gear, without losing count. Even with that in mind though, there was only ever going to be one scene that made this list. Montana’s spectacular demise at the film’s climax is not only one of the most iconic death scenes in cinematic history, but it has also got to be one of the most memorable from Al Pacino’s distinguished career. In the cocaine baron’s final scene Montana becomes more monster than man, cradling his “little friend” before firing a grenade. The resulting explosion may be the only thing in the film louder than Pacino’s dialogue.

Agree? Disagree? As always we’d love to hear your comments…

Jackson Ball – follow me on Twitter.

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