As You Wish – My Favorite Peter Falk Movies

Sad news, legendary actor, Peter Falk, passed away at the age of 83. And while he is famous for his iconic turn as shambling police detective Columbo, for we children of the 80s, he’s probably most well-known as the grandpa from The Princess Bride. This comes as a heavy blow for those of us who grew up on 80s movies . . . even more painful than the trailer for the remake of Footloose . . . At least we’ve got all the great movies that Peter Falk has left behind, here’s a handful of my favorite.

10. Robin & the 7 Hoods (1964) – Dir. Gordon Douglas

In this Prohibition-era re-imagining of the legend of Robin Hood, Peter Falk plays the villainous Guy Gisborne; Robin Hood becomes Robbo (Frank Sinatra) and the rest of the Rat Pack play his merry men. It’s Guys & Dolls meets Robin Hood. Truth be told, between Guys & Dolls and Robin & the 7 Hoods, I prefer the latter . . . and not only because Peter Falk sings, but it helps.

9. Vibes (1988) – Dir. Ken Kwapis

Peter Falk hires two psychics, played by Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper, to help him find a lost city of gold . . . yes, please! Also, the screenplay was written by one of my favorite writing teams, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who also wrote City Slickers, Night Shift, Parenthood, A League of Their Own . . . the list goes on and on.

8. Murder by Death (1976) – Dir. Robert Moore

In Neil Simon’s send-up of classic country-house whodunit murder mysteries–a la Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Charlie Chan, Sam Spade–Peter Falk plays, Mike Diamond, the pitch-perfect stereotype of a hard-boiled detective. On top of Falk’s great performance, the film also stars Eileen Brennan, Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith, David Niven, and features a rare appearance by Truman Capote.

7. Murder, Inc. (1960) – Dir. Burt Balaban, Stuart Rosenberg

Making for a double-dose of murder, this 1960 film noir/gangster picture features Peter Falk’s Oscar-nominated break-out role as notorious mob hit-man, Abe Reles.

6. The Cheap Detective (1978) – Dir. Robert Moore

Another genre send-up from Neil Simon, this time focusing solely on the hard-boiled detective. Peter Falk plays Lou Peckinpaugh in a comedic mash-up of The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, To Have and to Have Not, and Chinatown. Again, Falk plays the pitch-perfect hard-boiled detective. And yet again, the rest of the cast is amazing: Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Sid Caesar, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing, Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret, and Scatman Crothers . . . to name a few. And if you like this, you should also check out Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.

5. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – Dir. John Cassavetes

One word most often used to describe this film is “devastating,” and I completely agree. It is devastating, and I mean that in the best possible way. A Woman Under the Influence offers a heart-rending look at a family torn apart by mental illness and its misconceptions, but what makes the movie so effective are the performances by the leads: Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands. As devastating as it is, writer/director John Cassavetes strikes an emotional chord that rings so true; you need to see this movie

4. Mikey & Nicky (1976) – Dir. Elaine May

I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that you haven’t heard of this movie . . . which is a shame, cause it’s so damn good. Sure, it feels like writer/director Elaine May was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets . . . but if it’s done well, is that a bad thing? When you’ve got Peter Falk and John Cassavetes playing two low-level hoods, I don’t think so. Basically, it plays like the final reel of Mean Streets, with long-suffering Mikey (Falk) desperately trying to keep erratic Nicky (Cassavetes) alive.

3. The In-Laws (1979) – Dir. Arthur Hiller

I love this movie. Peter Falk plays unconventional CIA agent Vince Ricardo. His son is set to marry the daughter of Dr. Sheldon “Shelly” Kornpett, played by Alan Arkin. On the eve of the nuptials, Vince gets Shelly embroiled in the middle of international espionage . . . hilarious hi-jinks ensue.

2. Wings of Desire (1987) – Dir. Wim Wenders

First off, you can’t hold it against this movie that it was remade as City of Angels. Wings of Desire is so much more than a romantic dramedy. Wim Wenders’ film is a beautiful reflection on what it is to be alive . . . not a drawn out “boy meets girl” story. It’s an ethereal examination of existence, and it’s glorious.

1. The Princess Bride (1967) – Dir. Rob Reiner

Of course, the movie that made Peter Falk seem like everyone’s grandpa. It’s got, “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.” What more do you need . . .

Ok . . . just one more thing . . .

Honorable Mentions:

Husbands (1970) – Dir. John Cassavetes

Another great Cassavetes movie. Husbands is about three friends who run away from their lives, wives, and families after a close friend passes away. But, what I really want to do is share this amazingly disturbing scene of Peter Falk in an English casino with Delores Delmar.

The Great Muppet Caper (1981) – Dir. Jim Henson

On a lighter note, hopefully keeping you from having nightmares about Delores Delmar, here’s Peter Falk in his uncredited role as “the tramp” in The Great Muppet Caper.

What’s your favorite Peter Falk movie? Discover anything new here that you want to check out?


4 responses to “As You Wish – My Favorite Peter Falk Movies

  1. I seen only 3 of these and one of those has muppets in it.

    I have some watching to do.

  2. Have you seen him in *The Sunshine Boys* with Woody Allen? It’s a TV film, but so broadly rewritten and modernized by Neil Simon that it’s almost a new play. Lots of fun.

  3. Wonderful list ! Your comments on Women Under the Influence and Wings of Desire are just spot on !

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