Seeing that documentary about Brando the other day made me wish I could have been a consultant on it. My own take on him is that he revolutionized movie acting with a trilogy of flicks that changed what it meant to be "real" in a film forever:
THE WILD ONES
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
ON THE WATERFRONT
Then the Hollywood machine, the bosses, the money men, the scared slaves to the system decided that since Brando was being called the greatest actor ever and had become the most inspiring and original movie actor ever they should dredge up the oldest most tired movie star leading man roles and force Brando to fit his unique take on contemporary characters—an outlaw biker, a New Orleans WWII vet working man, an ex-boxer mob enforcer—into the roles of Napolean, Mark Antony, and an upper-class British officer from the a famous mutiny over a century before...
His attempts were noble efforts but misplaced, and by the end of the 1960s he was thought of as a has been, a once was, a shoulda been...and then they made him take a screen test to play a 20th century character, a Mafia don decades older than Brando was at the time and he shoved some cotton or Kleenex into his mouth to make himself jowly and created a way of speaking that a man who'd been punched in the throat might sound like and began another trilogy that proved he was the greatest screen actor once again:
LAST TANGO IN PARIS
The latter was Brando's favorite and is definitely one of mine, another historical role but this time to serve a higher purpose in what to my mind is the best fictional take on colonialism in any movie ever...if you want to know why the great actors of Brando's lifetime from James Dean to Al Pacino considered Brando the best ever, watch those six movies...
(For four more movies—where Brando proves his skill—to round out the list to ten I'd add: