In "Network," TV executives exploit the ravings of an anchorman played by Peter Finch, who memorably shrieks, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
In 1973's "Serpico," Pacino plays an honest policeman who takes on the corruption of fellow New York cops. Pacino was back in 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon," about a man robbing a bank to pay for his male lover's sex-change operation.
Even some of Lumet's misfires were memorable. He directed "The Wiz" in 1978, adapting "The Wizard of Oz" with a black cast headed by Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, but the resulting clunky musical was jeered by film critics.
Grammy-winning composer Quincy Jones, who worked with Lumet on five films, including "The Wiz," said in a statement that Lumet's films "made an indelible mark on our popular culture with their stirring commentary on our society."
Lumet was unsentimental about his own films.
"I don't look at my old work. When it's done it's done," he said in a 2007 newspaper interview. "It's very nice when your movie has a kind of resonance, when it stays with a person enough so that they start relating it to other things you've done. But I don't."
Born on June 25, 1924, Lumet served as an Army radar technician in World War Two, then worked as a stage actor in New York before directing acclaimed live TV dramas during the 1950s. He was married four times.
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