Peter Falk Movies

Peter Falk

Want to know the best Peter Falk movies?  How about the worst Peter Falk movies?  Curious about Peter Falk box office grosses or which Peter Falk movie picked up the most Oscar® nominations? Need to know which Peter Falk movie got the best reviews from critics and audiences and which got the worst reviews? Well you have come to the right place….because we have all of that information.

Peter Falk (1927-2011) a two-time Oscar® nominated American actor.  Falk was best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the long-running television series Columbo. This page will be looking at his underrated movie career.  His IMDb page shows 109 acting credits from 1957-2009. This page will rank 45 Peter Falk movies from Best to Worst in six different sortable columns of information. His many television appearances and movies not released in North American theaters  were not were not included in the rankings. This comes from a request made by Steve Lensman, Bob and Phil.

Peter Falk in 1987’s The Princess Bride

Peter Falk Movies Can Be Ranked 6 Ways In This Table

The really cool thing about this table is that it is “user-sortable”. Rank the movies anyway you want.

  • Sort Peter Falk movies by co-stars of his movies.
  • Sort Peter Falk movies by adjusted domestic box office grosses using current movie ticket cost (in millions)
  • Sort Peter Falk movies by yearly domestic box office rank
  • Sort Peter Falk movies how they were received by critics and audiences.  60% rating or higher should indicate a good movie.
  • Sort by how many Oscar® nominations each Peter Falk movie received and how many Oscar® wins each Peter Falk movie won.
  • Sort Peter Falk movies by Ultimate Movie Rankings (UMR) Score.  UMR Score puts box office, reviews and awards into a mathematical equation and gives each movie a score.

Stats and Possibly Interesting Things From The Above Peter Falk Table

  1. Seven Peter Falk movies crossed the magical $100 million domestic gross mark.  That is a percentage of 15.55% of his movies listed. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) was easily his biggest box office hit when looking at adjusted domestic box office gross.
  2. An average Peter Falk movie grosses $52.10 million in adjusted box office gross.
  3. Using RottenTomatoes.com’s 60% fresh meter.  22 Peter Falk movies are rated as good movies…or 48.88% of his movies. The Princess Bride (1987) is his highest rated movie while Corky Romano (2001) was his lowest rated movie.
  4. Eleven Peter Falk movies received at least one Oscar® nomination in any category…..or 24.44% of his movies.
  5. Two Peter Falk movies won at least one Oscar® in any category…..or 4.44% of his movies.
  6. An average Ultimate Movie Rankings (UMR) Score is 40.00. 14 Peter Falk movies scored higher than that average….or 31.11% of his movies.  It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) got the the highest UMR Score while The Secret of the Purple Reef (1960) got the lowest UMR Score.

Alan Arkin and Peter Falk in 1979’s The In-Laws

Possibly Interesting Facts About Peter Falk

1. Peter Michael Falk was born in New York City, New York in 1927.

2. Peter Falk’s right eye was surgically removed when he was three because of a retinoblastoma (form of cancer): he wore an artificial eye for most of his life

3. Peter Falk made his Broadway debut in Alexander Ostrovsky’s Diary of a Scoundrel in 1956.

4.  “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”…told to Peter Falk by studio boss, Harry Cohn, when Falk failed his screen test at Columbia.

5. Peter Falk was nominated for two Best Supporting Oscars®: 1960’s Murder, Inc. and 1961’s A Pocketful of Miracles.

6. Peter Falk was married two times and had two children.

7. Peter Falk and John Cassavetes made five movies together: 1969’s Machine Gun McCain, 1970’s Husbands, 1974’s A Woman Under the Influence 1976’s Mikey and Nicky, 1977’s Opening Night and 1986’s Big Trouble.  They also worked on one television movie: 1972’s Columbo: Étude in Black.

8.  Elaine May, the director of Falk’s Mickey and Nicky (1976), shot 1.4 million feet of film, almost three times as much as was shot for Gone with the Wind. By using three cameras that she sometimes left running for hours, May captured spontaneous interaction between Falk and John Cassavetes. At one point, Cassavetes and Falk had both left the set and the cameras remained rolling for several minutes. A new camera operator said “Cut!” only to be immediately rebuked by May for usurping what is traditionally a director’s command. He protested that the two actors had left the set. “Yes”, replied May, “but they might come back“.

9. Peter Falk and Columbo trivia: (a) Falk played Columbo off and on for over 32 years.  (b) Columbo’s first name was never revealed on the show.  (c) The Columbo role was originally offered to Bing Crosby. (d) The very first episode “Murder by the Book” was directed by Steven Spielberg.  (e) Falk received 9 Golden Globe® nominations for playing Columbo…he won once.  (f) Falk received 10 Emmy® nominations for playing Columbo….he won 4 times.

10. Check out Peter Falk’s career compared to current and classic actors.  Most 100 Million Dollar Movies of All-Time

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29 thoughts on “Peter Falk Movies

  1. Cogerson

    Peter Falk’s movie career has largely eluded me. I have seen six of the listed movies. That should win me the booby prize. On the other hand, I have seen ALL 68 Columbos, and they are probably my favorite watch as I find myself returning to one or another of them every few weeks. Your Falk entry inspired me to re-watch the Columbo in which Ian Buchanan and Deidre Hall fake a murder and fool Columbo, but . . . Anyway, thanks for the info on one of my favorite stars. By the way, the Columbos come off to me as basically movies, even if made for TV. My guess is Falk might endure as a cultural icon longer than many who had far more outstanding theatrical release careers.

    1. Hey John. You might be right….only 6 Peter Falk movies might put you near the bottom of the tally rankings….but that is still 13% of his movies listed here. I am actually shocked that there are only 68 Columbo television episodes. I thought there were 100s of those episodes….like Murder She Wrote has 264 episodes. Columbo’s total is less than the original Star Trek’s episode count. Granted there are many tv movies that do not fall in the tv series episode count. I will have to check out a Columbo episode…I watched them when I was a kid….but do not really remember them at all. Good feedback.

      1. Cogerson
        Just a correction on my error. There were 69 Columbos, not 68. Prescription:Murder was a stand-alone made for TV movie in 1968. The Columbos started as a regular series in 1971 with 68 total episode to 2003. Apparently Lee J. Cobb and Bing Crosby were the first choices for Columbo in the 1968 movie. Cobb was busy, and Crosby passed. So itt fell to third choice Falk. The 1962 play starred Thomas Mitchell as Columbo, with Joseph Cotten (remember him) as the murderer.

        1. Hey John….thanks for the correction. You are correct in saying each episode was like a movie…I was looking at some of the running times….and most are about 80 minutes long. That explains why there are not so many episodes. Thanks for the clarification.

          1. Cogerson

            Your posts appear to indicate you haven’t seen many Columbos, but might look into them some day. I obviously would recommend that because I think they are very good. One bit of unsolicited advice. Try the early ones from the 1970’s first. They are better. Seemed to have generally better scripts and casts, and guest murderers. The best of all for me are the ones with Leonard Nimoy and Richard Kiley.

  2. Almost forgot about this page and I’m the one who first requested it. [snort]

    More films here than I expected. I’ve only seen 11 of the 45 listed. Not impressive at all.

    Which means I’m more familiar with Falk as Columbo than as a movie actor. Movies I’ve liked include – Anzio, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Great Race, Shark Tale, Murder By Death and The Princess Bride.

    I have not seen Wings of Desire or Woman Under the Influence.

    Enjoyed the trivia. Mad Mad World was a big hit and fun to watch but not laugh out loud funny IMO, just loud. Ditto The Great Race and other expensive overblown comedies of the 60s. Spielberg tried something similar with ‘1941’ and it was not a success.

    Top job as always Bruce. Vote Up.

    1. Hey Steve
      1. Glad you found your requested page.
      2. So you and Flora are tied at 11….but I sit on the top with 14.
      3. I guess Columbo was big in England…..that seems strange….as his detective seems like it might not play well outside of the USA.
      4. My favorite trivia was #8…..it seems Ms. May was out of control while making Mickey and Nicky.
      5. I have also not seen Wings of Desire or Woman Under the Influence…..and both got great reviews for sure.
      6. I agree loud does not make good comedy. With It’s A Mad World….it is more fun spotting the stars than actually really paying attention to the movie….I just did the same thing with The Greatest Story Ever Told….just looking for the stars versus watching that long long movie.
      Good stuff as always.

  3. As this page shows, Peter Falk has been in a number of interesting films, but there’s no doubt he will forever be known as Columbo. It was just one of those iconic TV roles that that makes people forget that there’s another person behind the role who’s name is not Columbo, in the same way as, for example, Leonard Nimoy was just Spock.

    The role made Peter Falk famous all over the world in the 1970s, and while it was only a TV show, by 1976, he was co-starring with the likes of movies stars such as Peter Sellers and David Niven in the hilarious detective spoof, Murder By Death, which was maybe the biggest box office hit where he had a major role. But despite this film, and the many others that would follow, Falk would not establish himself as a major movie star, never shaking off the Columbo image, and indeed he came back to do more Columbos in the 80s and in the early 90s.

    As Columbo, Falk became a master of playing fool, while always staying ahead of the murderer and the audience, creating a unique characterization that is undoubtedly his best work. Yet, when one pays closer attention to his many movie roles, the breadth of Falk’s talent and depth of personality becomes even more evident. In his first important role, as a mafia gunman in 1960’s Murder Inc., Falk gave such an impressive performance that he was nominated for best supporting actor, and his psychotic intensity perhaps provided a few cues to Joe Pesci in Goodfellows. Other films I have seen where I found Falk particularly stood out include A Pocketful of Miracles, The Great Race, Husbands, the aforementioned Murder By Death, The Princess Bride, and perhaps his most unusual, in Wings of Desire….where we find out Falk was actually an angel who gave up his wings and returned to earth!

    1. Hey Phil.
      1. Thanks for the return visit…and thanks again for the Murder by Death comment.
      2. I agree he will forever be Columbo to us older people….but I imagine a lot of younger people will know him as the granddad in The Princess Bride. I bet my 29 year old does not even know Columbo existed.
      3. Good points about his movie career. I think the mid 1970s to early 1980s was his peak movie period. The In-Laws, The Cheap Detective, Murder By Death and The Brink’s Job could all be called Peter Falk movies….other than that time period…he was a good to supporting character for sure.
      4. He actually got back to back Oscar nominations for Murder Inc. and A Pocketful of Miracles…..and then not another nomination for the rest of his life.
      5. I have always wanted to see Wings of Desire…but have not been able to track that one down to watch.
      6. Interesting point about his performance in Murder Inc having some influence on Pesci. I have no doubt film historian Martin Scorsese had seen Murder Inc and Falk’s performance.
      Good stuff!

      1. Hey Bruce,
        Good point about younger generations. Some of my only slightly younger co-workers do not know who John Wayne or Gary Cooper were 😉 But there were some Columbos made up to the early 1990s, so who knows?
        I haven’t seen the In-Laws, but I see it’s one of the few films Falk starred in that did really well, so will have to watch out for it. By the way, it seems Falk had his earliest starring role in 1963 next to Shelley Winter in The Balcony. Your adjusted gross for that film is only $6.5M. However, Wikipedia quotes from Variety box office rentals of $1.2M, which would make it closer to about $30M in adjusted gross? Could there be a mistake somewhere?

        1. Hey Phil…..mmmmm. I will have to go back and check out The Balcony. I researched that movie a couple of years ago when I did our Winters page….but I have not even looked at that in the database since then. But if Variety has it at 1.2 million then it is indeed wrong. And I will fix it here and on Shelley’s page.

          I know I always down grade television movies….but not thinking his television movies of the 1990s brought in huge amounts of new fans….. lol obviously the ratings were good but I would guess it was the same people that loved the show in the 1970s.

          Reminds of a talk I had with a couple of students just last year. We were talking about great actors….and all of the ones I mentioned got no response….Newman, Willis, Crowe and others…so I asked who they thought were great actors…..their response?…..Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson…the times are a changing….lol.

        2. Hey Phil….you were correct….there was The Balcony sitting down at the bottom of the Variety 1963 Top Grosser list. I have fixed it here and at my Shelley Winters page. Good catch. Your Sherlock Holmes skill of brilliant observation is truly appreciated. Being a mom and pop operation….I know we make a fair amount of mistakes…so when people point out our errors…we kick ourselves…but then gladly fix the error. I am beginning to think it is going to take a village to reconstruct box office grosses of yesteryear….lol.

          1. Thanks Bruce…always glad to help 😉 I haven’t actually seen The Balcony, but it sounds like a really uncommercial subject for the time with an uncommercial cast, so I actually thought your initial box office figure made sense, but I guess it was a little bit more successful than we thought!

          2. Hey Phil….WoC has been after me for years to put all the Variety rentals numbers in the database. I have always resisted that….mainly because I have fun…searching those lists when doing a new UMR page. Yes it would be easier….but the hunt for the treasure is part of the fun of this site. Still when I realize I used a far inferior source for a box office number….versus one of my go to sources…I realize for accuracy WoC is right….we should put them all in the database…..I guess I am just old and stubborn…lol. Thanks again for the catch.

          3. Hey Bruce, sorry to come back late on your last comment. Just to say, I certainly support WoC’s idea! Although yo may not want to give away all this valuable information so easily!

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