Peter O’Toole, who died yesterday at 81, lived more years as a legend than not. That what comes of delivering your career-defining performance at age 29, when he stepped into David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (Lean’s third choice, after Marlon Brando and Albert Finney) and proceeded to set the bar for a couple of generations of filmmakers.

He did more than Lawrence, though – much more. If that film is #1 on everybody’s O’Toole list, here are numbers 2 through 6 on mine:

My Favorite Year (1982) – Richard Benjamin’s film looked back with sweet nostalgia to the days of 1950s live-TV variety shows and gave its star (above, with Mark Linn-Baker) a chance to look back on his own swashbuckling career.
The Stunt Man (1980) – As a megalomanical movie director, O’Toole brought a savage ruthlessness to a role that could easily have fallen into cliché.
The Ruling Class (1972) – Brilliantly satiric class warfare and a definitive comedic performance from O’Toole as an unhinged British royal.
Ratatouille (2007) – The actor, in the voice role of feared Parisian restaurant critic Anton Ego, brought gravitas to an already terrific film – as well as a monologue on the nature of criticism that everyone who’s ever written a review should commit to memory.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) – The movie itself was so-so (a musical remake of the far superior 1939 version) but O’Toole clicked in his performance as a Latin teacher whose life and career evolve over 40 years.

What is there to say about a man who set a record for earning the most Oscar nominations without a win? Who became as famous for his carousing as for his acting? Who always, always, always was the smartest thing about any film in which he appeared? Just this: rest in peace, sir. You've earned it.

Peter O’Toole, who died yesterday at 81, lived more years as a legend than not. That what comes of delivering your career-defining performance at age 29, when he stepped into David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (Lean’s third choice, after Marlon Brando and Albert Finney) and proceeded to set the bar for a couple of generations of filmmakers. He did more than Lawrence, though – much more. If that film is #1 on everybody’s O’Toole list, here are numbers 2 through 6 on mine: My Favorite Year (1982) – Richard Benjamin’s film looked back with sweet nostalgia to the days of 1950s live-TV variety shows and gave its star (above, with Mark Linn-Baker) a chance to look back on his own swashbuckling career. The Stunt Man (1980) – As a megalomanical movie director, O’Toole brought a savage ruthlessness to a role that could easily have fallen into cliché. The Ruling Class (1972) – Brilliantly satiric class warfare and a definitive comedic performance from O’Toole as an unhinged British royal. Ratatouille (2007) – The actor, in the voice role of feared Parisian restaurant critic Anton Ego, brought gravitas to an already terrific film – as well as a monologue on the nature of criticism that everyone who’s ever written a review should commit to memory. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) – The movie itself was so-so (a musical remake of the far superior 1939 version) but O’Toole clicked in his performance as a Latin teacher whose life and career evolve over 40 years. What is there to say about a man who set a record for earning the most Oscar nominations without a win? Who became as famous for his carousing as for his acting? Who always, always, always was the smartest thing about any film in which he appeared? Just this: rest in peace, sir. You've earned it.