Total Recall

Colin Farrell's 10 Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the newly announced True Detective star.

by | January 21, 2011 | Comments

Colin Farrell

Seemingly overnight at the turn of the century, Colin Farrell went from just another struggling actor to a major Hollywood star — only to retreat into semi-obscurity less than a decade later, after cluttering his filmography with a handful of big-budget turkeys. But while misguided efforts like Daredevil and Miami Vice obscured Farrell’s gifts, he remained capable of superlative work — and he’s proved it with a string of critically lauded appearances in recent films. The latest chapter in Farrell’s reinvention is set to arrive with the forthcoming season of HBO’s True Detective, in which Farrell has just been announced as one of the lead actors. With that in mind, we decided now would be the perfect time to take a look back at the critical highlights of an often underrated career. It’s time for Total Recall!


10. Phone Booth

Farrell reunited with his Tigerland director, Joel Schumacher, for this man-in-a-box action thriller about a publicist (Farrell) who finds himself trapped in a phone booth by an unseen sniper who doesn’t much care for the way he’s been living his life. Written by Larry Cohen, who had originally pitched a loose version of the concept to Alfred Hitchcock during the 1960s, Phone Booth gave Farrell the opportunity to carry most of a film’s weight on his shoulders — and he succeeded according to most critics, including Peter Howell of the Toronto Star, who wrote, “Anyone inclined to argue with the logic of the story — and there’s certainly much to argue about — is advised to just sit back and watch how Farrell’s Stu unravels before our eyes.”


9. Fright Night

If director Craig Gillespie had polled horror fans in 2011 and asked them if he really needed to remake 1985’s Fright Night, the answer probably would have been a resounding “no;” after all, the original was not only a surprise hit, it had matured into a solid favorite among scary movie lovers, and little seemed to be gained by updating the story of a horror-loving teen (William Ragsdale) who makes the awful discovery that his new neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is secretly a vampire. While it may not have been strictly necessary, the new Fright Night — starring Anton Yelchin as young Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell as the undead addition to the neighborhood — proved surprisingly potent, with Farrell’s charismatic performance matching Gillespie’s confident lens. As Adam Graham wrote for the Detroit News, “Farrell is all darting eyes, facial ticks and macho confidence. He never goes over the top, he’s not a showy actor, but he’s clearly relishing his role and eating it up with abandon. He makes this a Night to remember.”


8. Intermission

Director John Crowley made his feature film debut with this ensemble comedy about a group of young Dubliners (including Farrell, Cillian Murphy, and Colm Meaney) whose seemingly disparate struggles share a narrative thread, captured by a filmmaker (Tomas O’Suilleabhain) shadowing a police detective (Meaney) who’s determined to lock up a persistently troublesome petty crook (Farrell). While it wasn’t a big commercial hit, Intermission found favor with critics like Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who said it “bursts with the energy of a documentary filmed on the run with a stolen camera.”


7. The Way Back

A fact-based film about a group of people trudging their way out of a Soviet gulag might not sound like the most entertaining way of spending a couple of hours in a darkened theater, but there’s an exception to every rule, and according to most critics, Peter Weir’s The Way Back fits the bill. Led by Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, and Saoirse Ronan, this epic tribute to man’s unquenchable thirst for freedom may be pedestrian in terms of focus, but not in execution — and while it was never going to be anyone’s idea of a blockbuster hit, it found a comfortable home with critics like the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey, who wrote, “Whether it is truth, fiction or, most likely, a little of each, the story Weir tells is a powerful parable of man’s charge for freedom and his humbling by nature.”


6. Tigerland

Farrell — who earned his first noteworthy credit only the year before, with a small part in Tim Roth’s The War Zone — got his big break in this Joel Schumacher war drama, which focuses on the relationships between a group of Army recruits during the waning years of the Vietnam War. By the time Tigerland reached theaters, Hollywood had been producing Vietnam movies for decades, including some true classics of American film, and the familiarity of its subject matter certainly wasn’t lost on critics; on the other hand, it was an unexpected return to form for Schumacher after garish flops like Batman & Robin and 8MM, and Farrell’s performance earned raves from writers such as Matthew Turner of ViewLondon, who wrote, “The hype is justified — Farrell’s performance just screams star quality and has already drawn comparisons with Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.”


5. Saving Mr. Banks

A holiday season Walt Disney biopic starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson and directed by the guy who directed The Blind Side? If you didn’t know any better, you’d suspect Saving Mr. Banks of being a movie marshmallow, but even if the results are guilty of ladling on the Disney formula, hey — it wouldn’t be a formula if it didn’t work. Part of what makes Banks such an easygoing pleasure is the expertly assembled cast that director John Lee Hancock arranged around his stars, including Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and — as the alcoholic father whose dark legacy shadows Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Thompson) even as an adult — Colin Farrell. “Saving Mr. Banks wraps a seduction inside a seduction with enjoyable results,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern. “It’s a Disney film in every sense of the term.”


4. In Bruges

By 2008, Farrell’s career had endured a string of high-profile duds, and plenty of people had written him off — but many of them were forced to think twice after watching In Bruges, Martin McDonagh’s pitch-black comedy about a pair of hit men (played by Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) whose latest assignment from their ill-tempered boss (Ralph Fiennes) doesn’t exactly turn out the way he intended. A Sundance favorite, Bruges earned Farrell a Golden Globe for his work, as well as critical appreciation from scribes like Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel, who wrote, “This dark comedy shifts effortlessly between silly and sobering, and it finally gives Colin Farrell the chance to be as funny as we’ve long suspected he could be.”


3. Seven Psychopaths

Farrell reunited with In Bruges director Martin McDonagh for 2012’s Seven Psychopaths, a similarly black, violent comedy about a struggling screenwriter named Marty (Farrell) whose efforts to complete his long-gestating script (titled, you guessed it, Seven Psychopaths), are complicated by the well-meaning but buffoonish exploits of his friends Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken), whose latest scheme has enraged a local gangster (Woody Harrelson) that gives Marty more to worry about than writer’s block. It’s crowded in terms of both plot and cast, but McDonagh weaves all of his threads surprisingly smoothly, and although it didn’t make much of an impact in theaters, it found plenty of friends on the critical circuit. “This,” applauded Richard Roeper, “is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in years.”


2. Minority Report

Between 2002 and 2003, Farrell appeared in eight films, and they were a rather uneven bunch; his output during this period included such critical misfires as S.W.A.T. and Daredevil. But it wasn’t all bad, and Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is a case in point. Starring Tom Cruise as a cop framed for a “future crime” he didn’t commit — and Farrell as the Department of Justice agent who doggedly pursues him — this visually distinctive adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story racked up over $350 million in worldwide box office receipts, provoked political discussion during a time when civil liberties were returning to the forefront of our national news, and impressed critics such as Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, who applauded, “This is the kind of pure entertainment that, in its fullness and generosity, feels almost classic.”


1. Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges earned some of the best reviews of his career for Crazy Heart — and so did Farrell, who popped up in an uncredited supporting role as Tommy Sweet, the successful former protege of Bridges’ struggling singer/songwriter character, Bad Blake. It wasn’t a big part, but it gave Farrell the chance to strip away some of the baggage that had accumulated around his talent, not to mention allowing him the chance to show off vocal chops no one knew he had. It all added up to an Oscar for Bridges, as well as some of the year’s freshest reviews; as Kyle Smith wrote for the New York Post, “It’s one of the year’s best, most deeply felt films.”

In case you were wondering, here are Farrell’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. In Bruges — 86%

2. Saving Mr. Banks — 85%

3. Minority Report — 80%

4. Crazy Heart — 76%

5. Intermission — 76%

6. The Way Back — 72%

7. Seven Psychopaths — 71%

8. Tigerland — 71%

9. Horrible Bosses — 70%

10. American Outlaws — 69%

Take a look through Farrell’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for The Way Back.


Tag Cloud

australia christmas movies USA Network summer TV preview theme song Stephen King DC Comics mockumentary scary reviews Geeked Week hispanic heritage month comic book movies remakes serial killer slasher green book SXSW 2022 nature Action Broadway Warner Bros. Summer Crunchyroll TV SXSW Hallmark Teen IFC Disney Channel 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Fall TV children's TV ABC Signature FXX fresh news Anna Paquin Tags: Comedy sopranos Holiday ITV Christmas Cannes YA police drama BBC America NYCC HBO Go Rocky anthology Women's History Month Vudu Infographic ESPN Exclusive Video TCA Best Actor 73rd Emmy Awards universal monsters fast and furious stand-up comedy Paramount Plus screen actors guild Mudbound dogs MCU french strong female leads summer TV Endgame indiana jones spider-man wonder woman Logo San Diego Comic-Con zero dark thirty sports war live action PlayStation Masterpiece Chernobyl nfl sitcom RT21 YouTube Premium Set visit Sundance Now Epix twilight Arrowverse discovery Winners Pop TV Apple Trailer robots Rocketman Freeform rt archives Indigenous a nightmare on elm street Music Universal Pictures Paramount Tokyo Olympics basketball dexter football South by Southwest Film Festival GoT Reality book adaptation A&E halloween 2017 Elton John Discovery Channel stop motion rom-coms Holidays Starz composers cops worst movies Mary Poppins Returns independent OneApp Writers Guild of America cooking social media Emmys MSNBC cartoon tv talk YouTube Tumblr obituary LGBTQ halloween tv Food Network Mindy Kaling cats transformers Netflix Television Critics Association cancelled TV series Amazon Studios unscripted lord of the rings period drama japan debate interviews witnail Amazon Prime Video TLC superman comic book movie canceled true crime binge screenings foreign blaxploitation scorecard chucky 24 frames Film mission: impossible concert kaiju SundanceTV monster movies Ellie Kemper Paramount Pictures Amazon Grammys TV movies Sundance TV boxing 4/20 DGA OWN Adult Swim Awards golden globe awards PBS Columbia Pictures GLAAD name the review Photos 71st Emmy Awards 2019 Oscars TV renewals critics Fox News ABC Family DC Universe Turner Classic Movies Legendary festivals spinoff comics Superheroes Star Trek Sneak Peek toronto Academy Awards broadcast rt labs critics edition new star wars movies Interview Chilling Adventures of Sabrina First Reviews 2015 festival versus 1990s cancelled television dark Premiere Dates miniseries stoner canceled TV shows scene in color sequel classics Disney streaming service Extras Spring TV films spy thriller Pet Sematary Black Mirror Comic-Con@Home 2021 LGBT Watching Series romantic comedy crime thriller docuseries Black History Month cinemax Nominations Lucasfilm National Geographic E3 Animation cults Fantasy Paramount Network MGM mob Travel Channel Marvel Studios Martial Arts ratings rt labs high school Comic Book Native Walt Disney Pictures mutant 94th Oscars young adult comedies Hear Us Out Brie Larson The Arrangement target Instagram Live Mary poppins Podcast archives movies Amazon Prime CBS ID adenture heist movie Opinion Oscar teaser Turner documentaries BBC Best and Worst indie GIFs criterion zombies king kong comiccon Western FX Best Picture Binge Guide Ghostbusters Super Bowl First Look romance Disney Crackle BET nbcuniversal franchise trophy hist Mary Tyler Moore Rock target scene in color golden globes TV One leaderboard parents saw revenge kids dreamworks The Purge justice league diversity olympics Apple TV Plus Year in Review adventure Kids & Family superhero pirates of the caribbean Showtime AMC Plus docudrama NBA PaleyFest talk show razzies series NBC DirecTV jamie lee curtis 2020 suspense Polls and Games BET Awards harry potter Best Actress Drama Mystery CW Seed Thanksgiving Ovation summer preview werewolf Tomatazos Best Director Star Wars Celebration rotten movies we love Pirates Awards Tour game show FX on Hulu telelvision HFPA TIFF Television Academy comic action-comedy IMDb TV supernatural blockbuster best women Dark Horse Comics sequels medical drama travel The Walking Dead Sundance art house Biopics vampires all-time renewed TV shows Neflix Country Bravo CNN Fargo Film Festival Avengers RT History genre President obi wan based on movie WarnerMedia biopic VICE Spike what to watch animated 007 HBO Max Alien HBO rotten 45 kong TCA 2017 Acorn TV psycho aapi TCM 2016 critic resources VOD CMT cancelled joker psychological thriller 2018 spider-verse Sci-Fi History child's play popular anime Pacific Islander Netflix Christmas movies italian Peacock TCA Awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt VH1 BAFTA 2021 Sony hidden camera space Lionsgate deadpool breaking bad Musicals politics Reality Competition X-Men slashers Hallmark Christmas movies TruTV new york Hollywood Foreign Press Association Cartoon Network E! game of thrones biography Syfy 72 Emmy Awards See It Skip It king arthur latino ViacomCBS Winter TV free movies Comics on TV venice Election streaming movies james bond Prime Video award winner video on demand natural history MTV SDCC hollywood 79th Golden Globes Awards live event Shondaland black Esquire crime drama BBC One spanish language Spectrum Originals Pop prank Rom-Com Horror Certified Fresh The Walt Disney Company Tubi reboot Box Office marvel comics satire directors adaptation elevated horror die hard marvel cinematic universe Baby Yoda political drama vs. Lifetime Sony Pictures Cosplay Red Carpet crossover Song of Ice and Fire El Rey Trivia Creative Arts Emmys Toys Nickelodeon American Society of Cinematographers Britbox 21st Century Fox zombie book Comedy Central scary movies facebook posters Lifetime Christmas movies Calendar quibi spain dceu mcc Marvel Television Valentine's Day black comedy Disney Plus The Witch Schedule Heroines laika television Tarantino Family blockbusters Video Games TV Land Emmy Nominations comic books Classic Film boxoffice cars batman 93rd Oscars Superheroe thriller Musical jurassic park dc Focus Features south america Pride Month movie TNT toy story APB trailers Image Comics Marathons FOX TBS The CW Character Guide international feel good Universal video documentary scene in color film series Wes Anderson science fiction new zealand 99% Trophy Talk YouTube Red cancelled TV shows Nat Geo Fox Searchlight crime casting Quiz spanish disaster finale A24 WGN aliens 20th Century Fox richard e. Grant Disney+ Disney Plus The Academy historical drama gangster singing competition Countdown royal family DC streaming service emmy awards Apple TV+ asian-american know your critic doctor who Marvel IFC Films streaming ghosts Hulu 90s Shudder hispanic dragons USA CBS All Access Funimation Captain marvel Pixar dramedy godzilla sag awards legend AMC ABC Comedy scene in color series worst japanese Star Wars New York Comic Con technology TCA Winter 2020 streamig