Sidney Poitier’s Greatest Performances

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Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier—a man who revolutionized Hollywood and the world with his towering performances turns 89 today. In honor of his incredible career, DoYouRemember presents our top Sidney Poitier performances:

“The Defiant Ones (1958)” – This groundbreaking drama stars Poitier and Tony Curtis as two escaped convicts who are shackled together and must cooperate with one another if they are to achieve their freedom. Both actors were nominated for Oscars for their portrayals of two men who overcome their mutual hatred and work toward their greater good.

“A Raisin in the Sun (1961)” – In his re-creation of the role he originated on Broadway, Poitier plays Walter Lee Younger, an opportunist man who shares a cramped apartment with his wife, son, mother and sister, while struggling with his place in the world.

“Lilies of the Field (1963)” – In a performance that won him the Academy Award for Best Actor (the first time an African-American male received a competitive Oscar), the star plays unemployed construction worker Homer Smith, who happens upon a farm in the desert while heading out west and is hired by three German nuns to build a church for them.

“In the Heat of the Night (1967)” – In one of his strongest performances, Poitier portrays Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs, who, after being mistaken for a criminal in a small, prejudiced Mississippi town, is recruited by the racist police chief (Rod Steiger) to help solve a murder

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)” – In Stanley Kramer’s groundbreaking comedy of identity politics and race relations, Poitier stars alongside Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as Dr. John Prentice, the fiancé of a young, liberal white woman who brings him home to San Francisco to meet her unsuspecting parents. The wry script makes many fine observations while skewering the supposedly “open” mentality of the 1960s.

“To Sir, With Love (1967)” – In this British drama, Poitier portrays an engineer who must instruct a group of uncivilized teenagers in an inner-city school. Although he initially struggles to gain control of the situation, he soon imposes his will on the students, teaching them to respect each other and himself in the process.

“Uptown Saturday Night (1974)” – In a comedy he directed, Poitier and Bill Cosby decide to escape from their dull, blue-collar lives with a trip to a local gambling spot. Unfortunately for them, armed robbers visit the place on the same night and make off with all of their money, along with what is later discovered to be a winning lottery ticket. The men do whatever it takes to get it back.

“Let’s Do It Again (1975)” – Fraternal brothers Clyde Williams (Poitier) and Billy Forster (Bill Cosby) are trying to raise money to save their Atlanta church from being evicted. They devise a scheme to travel to New Orleans and rig a boxing match using hypnosis. Everything goes according to plan until two rival gangsters who have both been cheated by the men come after them looking for payback, with interest.

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