Marlon Brando is widely considered one of the greatest actors of all time. He had an enormous impact on acting and left behind an unforgettable body of work. But why exactly do people love Marlon Brando so much? Here’s an in-depth look at the reasons behind his enduring popularity and legacy.
His Raw, Naturalistic Acting Style Was Revolutionary
One of the biggest reasons Brando is so revered is that he fundamentally changed what it meant to be an actor. Prior to Brando, acting was much more presentational and theatrical, with a focus on hitting your marks and delivering your lines.
Brando pioneered a much more naturalistic, subtle style of acting. He embodied his characters fully, bringing nuanced emotions and improvised flourishes to his roles. Brando’s performances felt startlingly raw and real, even in melodramatic material.
He infused his roles with complexity and psychological depth. Audiences were compelled by the humanity and vulnerability Brando brought to larger-than-life characters like Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire and Vito Corleone in The Godfather. His acting did not feel performative or stagy, but organic and alive.
Brando’s naturalism single-handedly changed the craft of film acting. His influence can be felt in every contemporary performance that aims for authenticity over artifice. Brando proved acting could be just as riveting when small and intimate as when big and theatrical.
He Had an Intense, Brooding Magnetism on Screen
When Marlon Brando appeared on screen, all eyes were instantly on him. He had an undeniable screen presence and charisma that leaped off the screen.
There was a dangerous, brooding intensity to Brando, fueled by his mercurial emotionality and brute physicality. Even in repose, there was a coiled power and volatility to Brando that kept audiences watching with bated breath, unsure what he might do next.
Yet Brando also evoked empathy and vulnerability, letting audiences see the damaged soul beneath his character’s violent or arrogant exteriors. His Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront is the classic example, as he movingly reveals the abused conscience beneath the streetwise brute.
Brando’s volatile magnetism lent him an air of mystery and excitement. In roles like The Wild One and Last Tango in Paris, he embodied a thrilling, animalistic sexuality that no actor had portrayed before on screen. Audiences were drawn to the raw sensuality and energy Brando radiated.
He Disappeared Into a Wide Range of Iconic Roles
Chameleonic performance versatility was central to Brando’s greatness. Though best known for playing brutes and tough guys, he vanished into all manner of roles throughout his career.
Disappearing into characters was Brando’s trademark. Be it the elegant Don Corleone, the rage-filled Kowalski, the idealistic Emiliano Zapata, or the charismatic elder Fletcher Christian, Brando embodied each role fully with mannerisms, voice, and physicality.
Brando famously declined playing roles that felt too similar to those he played before. This forced him to keep pushing himself in new directions, taking on richer personae from film to film. Even in less acclaimed films, Brando disappeared so wholly that we see only the character, not him.
His commitment to fully inhabiting diverse characters made each Brando performance feel like a revelation and expansion of his talents. This is why audiences so eagerly anticipated each new Brando character – he never repeated himself.
He Had a Massive Influence on Pop Culture
Beyond acting, Brando’s personas, style, and attitudes influenced wider pop culture tremendously. He represented a new type of male movie star and rebellious hero.
As Stanley Kowalski and Johnny Strabler in The Wild One, Brando embodied a visceral, animalistic, working-class masculinity that resonated with postwar audiences. His T-shirts, leather jackets, and brooding glares became iconic symbols of youthful rebellion.
Lines like “I coulda been a contender” and gestures like stroking a cat became ubiquitously copied bits of pop culture. Don Vito Corleone became the archetype of the wise patriarch. Brando also paved the way for the rebel antiheroes of 1970s cinema.
Furthermore, Brando’s staunch support of Native American rights, civil rights, and other social justice issues made him greatly admired by youth counterculture. To many young fans, he modeled integrity and speaking truth to power.
In these ways and more, Marlon Brando shaped not just film acting, but wider pop culture. His characters and sensibility tapped powerfully into the zeitgeist of several generations.
He Had an Epic Career Playing Unforgettable Roles
Of course, central to Marlon Brando’s appeal was that he gave so many all-time great performances in classic American films.
Nearly every Brando performance became iconic, from his shattering early work like A Streetcar Named Desire to timeless turns in On the Waterfront, Guys and Dolls, Apocalypse Now, and The Godfather.
The sheer volume of legendary roles Brando played is staggering. Think of him as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, a miraculous performance he gave at just age 23. Or as Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata!, for which he won his first Best Actor Oscar.
Even smaller Brando roles like The Men, The Chase, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and Burn! contain phenomenal acting that lodged into film history. Whenever Brando appeared on screen, something special was guaranteed.
Very few actors can boast having five, maybe ten iconic roles on their resume. Marlon Brando probably has at least twenty. The fact that he gifted cinema so many immortal performances is central to why people so adore him.
He Maintained an Air of Mystery and Eccentricity
Boasting phenomenal acting skill was not enough for Brando. He also maintained an intriguing aura of mystery and eccentricity that made him even more fascinating.
Brando gave notoriously abstract, philosophical interviews that offered little real insight into his process or him as a person. He pursued passions for social causes, Tahitian culture, chess, amateur ham radio operation, and other esoteric interests.
He gained a reputation for being temperamental and disdaining fame, refusing awards andGoing into self-imposed exile on his Tahitian island. Even his later career choices, like The Island of Doctor Moreau, seemed deliberately odd and whimsical.
These eccentricities added to the sense that Brando was not just an actor, but a singular personality the world had never quite seen before. Much as with Elvis or Muhammad Ali, his charisma and unusual public persona became key parts of his legend.
Conclusion: A Unique Talent Who Transformed Cinema
Marlon Brando represents a pivot point of cinema. His raw, intense, chameleonic acting style redefined screen performance forever and opened the craft up to new levels of realism and vulnerability.
Beyond acting, Brando’s magnetic persona resonated with postwar and youth audiences in a way no previous star had, earning him the awe and adoration of multiple generations. His string of legendary roles constitutes perhaps the greatest acting career in film history.
Brando’s naturalism, vulnerability, intensity, danger, mystery, and endless reinvention come together to explain his lasting stature as a pop culture icon. He was far more than just an actor – Marlon Brando was a phenomenon who transformed his art form and culture at large. That is why, despite his much-publicized eccentricities, people will always love Marlon Brando.
FAQs about Marlon Brando’s Enduring Popularity
Why is Brando considered the greatest actor of all time?
Brando is considered the greatest due to his revolutionary naturalistic acting that changed screen performance forever. He embodied characters fully and made acting feel astonishingly real and vulnerable. Brando set the template for realistic, psychologically deep film acting still followed today.
What was Brando’s most famous role?
Brando’s most famous role was Vito Corleone in 1972’s The Godfather, for which he won an Oscar. His brooding, rasping portrayal of the mob boss is considered one of cinema’s greatest performances and was hugely influential on gangster films.
How many Oscars did Brando win?
Brando won two Academy Awards for Best Actor – for 1954’s On the Waterfront and 1972’s The Godfather. He was nominated for seven Oscars total, underscoring his esteemed acting abilities.
Why did Brando turn down awards later in his career?
In protest of Hollywood’s negative portrayals of Native Americans, Brando began refusing awards like his 1973 Oscar. He sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to make a political statement about diversity and representation.
What was Brando’s impact on popular culture?
With raw sexuality and rebellion oozing from roles like The Wild One, Brando became a mold-breaking, youth counterculture icon. His leather jacket and angsty persona defined 1950s rebel style and attitude. His singular personality and eccentricities, like his Tahitian exile, only added to his mystique.