(Photo by Claudette Barius/©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)

All Matthew McConaughey Movies Ranked

“Alright alright alright!” Only one man in Hollywood could fully embody the laidback cool of that now-famous catchphrase: Matthew McConaughey. The actor broke into the scene with the landmark stoner comedy Dazed and Confused, and for a while there looked like he was good to just coast on his twangy bro-charm and ample shirtless scenes. Occasional dramas like Amistad and Frailty gave him acting cred, which some would say was squandered on a string of duds like Fool’s Gold, Failure to Launch, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – the mediocrity cresting with the 0% Surfer, Dude.

Then came the McConaissance.

It all started with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer: He entered one side a laughing stock, and came out the other a bona fide movie legend. The hits followed: Magic Mike, Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street, and an honest-to-God Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club. And there was that critically-lauded turn in HBO’s True Detective. Before 2011, McConaughey had notched six Certified Fresh films over 20 years; this past decade, he’s racked up nine. See where they all place, including his latest The Gentlemen, as we rank the best Matthew McConaughey movies (and the worst) by Tomatometer!

#45

Surfer, Dude (2008)
0%

#45
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Steve Addington (Matthew McConaughey) is a professional surfer and beach bum who lives to ride the waves. Content simply to... [More]
Directed By: S.R. Bindler

#44

Larger Than Life (1996)
11%

#44
Adjusted Score: 10360%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Jack Corcoran (Bill Murray) is a struggling motivational speaker who lives by the mantra "Get over it!" When he learns... [More]
Directed By: Howard Franklin

#43

Fool's Gold (2008)
11%

#43
Adjusted Score: 15591%
Critics Consensus: With little chemistry among the performers, humorless gags, and a predictable storyline, Fool's Gold fails on every level.
Synopsis: Treasure hunter Ben "Finn" Finnegan (Matthew McConaughey) has sunk his marriage to Tess (Kate Hudson) and his trusty boat in... [More]
Directed By: Andy Tennant

#42
Adjusted Score: 17930%
Critics Consensus: The Next Generation has the fortune of starring early-career Matthew McConaughey and Renée Zellweger, but it services neither headliner well in a convoluted and cheap-looking slasher that doesn't live up to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre legacy.
Synopsis: After leaving their prom early, innocent Jenny (Renée Zellweger) and three other teenagers crash their car in the backwoods of... [More]
Directed By: Ken Henkel, Kim Henkel

#41

The Dark Tower (2017)
16%

#41
Adjusted Score: 35749%
Critics Consensus: Go then, there are other Stephen King adaptations than these.
Synopsis: Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O'Dim (Matthew McConaughey), also known... [More]
Directed By: Nikolaj Arcel

#40

The Sea of Trees (2015)
17%

#40
Adjusted Score: 19458%
Critics Consensus: Dull, maudlin, and fundamentally empty, The Sea of Trees extinguishes the contributions of a talented cast and marks a depressing low point in director Gus Van Sant's career.
Synopsis: After traveling to Japan's Aokigahara Forest, a troubled teacher (Matthew McConaughey) meets a mysterious stranger (Ken Watanabe) who takes him... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 20710%
Critics Consensus: Instead of being light and charming, this romantic comedy is heavy-handed and contrived in its execution. Also, it's too unoriginal.
Synopsis: While celebrating her newest and most lucrative account -- the wedding of Internet tycoon Fran Donelly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) -- Mary... [More]
Directed By: Adam Shankman

#38

Tiptoes (2003)
20%

#38
Adjusted Score: 8268%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A man (Matthew McConaughey) is reluctant to tell his fiancee (Kate Beckinsale) that his parents, uncle and brother (Gary Oldman)... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Bright

#37

Serenity (2019)
21%

#37
Adjusted Score: 33067%
Critics Consensus: A high-concept mystery with a twist, Serenity isn't what it appears to be at first -- unfortunately, it's also not anywhere near as clever or entertaining as it thinks.
Synopsis: Baker Dill is a fishing boat captain who leads tours off of the tranquil enclave of Plymouth Island. His peaceful... [More]
Directed By: Steven Knight

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 24914%
Critics Consensus: Despite its sportsmanlike swagger, Two for the Money's aimless plot isn't worth betting on.
Synopsis: A former college athlete (Matthew McConaughey) joins forces with a sports consultant (Al Pacino) to handicap football games for high-rolling... [More]
Directed By: D.J. Caruso

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 29241%
Critics Consensus: The few comic gags sprinkled throughout the movie fail to spice up this formulaic rom-com.
Synopsis: A young man (Matthew McConaughey) continues to live at the home of parents who, in desperation to push him out... [More]
Directed By: Tom Dey

#34
Adjusted Score: 32554%
Critics Consensus: A retread of A Christmas Carol, featuring Matthew McConaughey in a retread of his Dazed and Confused role, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past lacks originality, humor, and any semblance of charm.
Synopsis: Celebrity photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) lives life in the fast lane, committed to bachelorhood and simultaneous relationships with multiple... [More]
Directed By: Mark Waters

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 33217%
Critics Consensus: A queasy mishmash of poignant drama and slapstick fantasy, Angels in the Outfield strikes out as worthy family entertainment.
Synopsis: Foster kid Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loves the Anaheim Angels, even though they're the worst team in the major leagues. His... [More]
Directed By: William Dear

#32

Sahara (2005)
38%

#32
Adjusted Score: 44000%
Critics Consensus: A mindless adventure flick with a preposterous plot.
Synopsis: Seasoned adventurer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) sets out for the African desert with his sarcastic companion (Steve Zahn) in search... [More]
Directed By: Breck Eisner

#31
Adjusted Score: 46890%
Critics Consensus: Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are charming together, but they can't overcome How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' silly premise and predictable script.
Synopsis: An advice columnist, Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson), tries pushing the boundaries of what she can write about in her new... [More]
Directed By: Donald Petrie

#30

Reign of Fire (2002)
42%

#30
Adjusted Score: 46560%
Critics Consensus: Reign of Fire gains some altitude with its pyrotechnic action and a smolderingly campy Matthew McConaughey, but the feature's wings are clipped by a derivative script and visual effects that fizzle out.
Synopsis: In present-day London, 12-year-old Quinn watches as his mother wakes an enormous fire-breathing beast from its centuries-long slumber. Twenty years... [More]
Directed By: Rob Bowman

#29

Gold (2016)
42%

#29
Adjusted Score: 54604%
Critics Consensus: Gold boasts an impressively committed performance from Matthew McConaughey, but it's just one glittering nugget in an otherwise uneven heap of cinematic silt.
Synopsis: Kenny Wells, a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist and sets off on... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Gaghan

#28

The Paperboy (2012)
45%

#28
Adjusted Score: 49537%
Critics Consensus: Trashy and melodramatic, The Paperboy is enlivened by a strong cast and a steamy, sordid plot, but it's uneven and often veers into camp.
Synopsis: In 1969 Florida, reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his hometown to write a story about death-row inmate Hillary... [More]
Directed By: Lee Daniels

#27

We Are Marshall (2006)
48%

#27
Adjusted Score: 53002%
Critics Consensus: Matthew McConaughey almost runs We Are Marshall to the end zone, but can't stop it from taking the easy, feel-good route in memorializing this historic event in American sports.
Synopsis: In 1970, Marshall University and the small town of Huntington, W.Va., reel when a plane crash claims the lives of... [More]
Directed By: McG

#26
#26
Adjusted Score: 58703%
Critics Consensus: Free State of Jones has the noblest of intentions, but they aren't enough to make up for its stilted treatment of a fascinating real-life story.
Synopsis: In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather... [More]
Directed By: Gary Ross

#25

The Beach Bum (2019)
57%

#25
Adjusted Score: 63207%
Critics Consensus: The role of a lifetime for Matthew McConaughey, The Beach Bum is set apart by Harmony Korine's distinctive style, but that isn't always enough to offset the unfocused story.
Synopsis: Moondog is a fun-loving, pot-smoking, beer-drinking writer who lives life on his own terms in Florida. If he can put... [More]
Directed By: Harmony Korine

#24

White Boy Rick (2018)
57%

#24
Adjusted Score: 66022%
Critics Consensus: Solid work from the cast - particularly a scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey - helps White Boy Rick make up for a number of missed opportunities in the script.
Synopsis: Rick Wershe is a single father who's struggling to raise two teenagers during the height of the crack epidemic in... [More]
Directed By: Yann Demange

#23

The Newton Boys (1998)
64%

#23
Adjusted Score: 65522%
Critics Consensus: The Newton Boys uses a sharp cast and absorbing period detail to help make up for the frustrations of a story puzzlingly short on dramatic tension.
Synopsis: Seeking an escape from poverty, sibling Texas farmers (Matthew McConaughey, Skeet Ulrich, Ethan Hawke) gain notoriety as daring 1920s bank... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#22

EDtv (1999)
64%

#22
Adjusted Score: 64417%
Critics Consensus: If it's not as ambitious as The Truman Show in satirizing the voyeuristic nature of television, EdTV is an amiable, witty comedy with fine performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
Synopsis: In a desperate attempt to boost ratings, a cable channel decides to document the life of someone on a daily... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#21

Contact (1997)
66%

#21
Adjusted Score: 70084%
Critics Consensus: Contact elucidates stirring scientific concepts and theological inquiry at the expense of satisfying storytelling, making for a brainy blockbuster that engages with its ideas, if not its characters.
Synopsis: In this Zemeckis-directed adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) races to interpret a possible message... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#20

U-571 (2000)
67%

#20
Adjusted Score: 71140%
Critics Consensus: Excellent cinematography and an interesting plot accompanied by a talented cast and crew make U-571 a tense thriller.
Synopsis: When a German U-571 submarine with a sophisticated encryption machine onboard is sunk during a World War II battle at... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Mostow

#19

A Time to Kill (1996)
68%

#19
Adjusted Score: 70005%
Critics Consensus: Overlong and superficial, A Time to Kill nonetheless succeeds on the strength of its skillful craftsmanship and top-notch performances.
Synopsis: Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) is a heartbroken black father who avenges his daughter's brutal rape by shooting the... [More]
Directed By: Joel Schumacher

#18

Sing (2016)
71%

#18
Adjusted Score: 82503%
Critics Consensus: Sing delivers colorfully animated, cheerfully undemanding entertainment with a solid voice cast and a warm-hearted -- albeit familiar -- storyline that lives up to its title.
Synopsis: Dapper Koala Buster Moon presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. An eternal optimist, and a... [More]
Directed By: Garth Jennings

#17

Interstellar (2014)
72%

#17
Adjusted Score: 88293%
Critics Consensus: Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.
Synopsis: In Earth's future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

#16

Boys on the Side (1995)
74%

#16
Adjusted Score: 75719%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After breaking up with her girlfriend, a nightclub singer, Jane (Whoopi Goldberg), answers a personal ad from Robin (Mary-Louise Parker),... [More]
Directed By: Herbert Ross

#15

Frailty (2002)
75%

#15
Adjusted Score: 78839%
Critics Consensus: Creepy and disturbing, Frailty is well-crafted, low-key horror.
Synopsis: Set in present day Texas, "Frailty" centers on the FBI's search for a serial killer who calls himself "God's Hands."... [More]
Directed By: Bill Paxton

#14

The Gentlemen (2020)
75%

#14
Adjusted Score: 93404%
Critics Consensus: It may not win writer-director Guy Ritchie many new converts, but for those already attuned to the filmmaker's brash wavelength, The Gentlemen stands tall.
Synopsis: Mickey Pearson is an American expatriate who became rich by building a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When word... [More]
Directed By: Guy Ritchie

#13

Amistad (1997)
77%

#13
Adjusted Score: 79861%
Critics Consensus: Heartfelt without resorting to preachiness, Amistad tells an important story with engaging sensitivity and absorbing skill.
Synopsis: In 1839, the slave ship Amistad set sail from Cuba to America. During the long trip, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) leads... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#12

Magic Mike (2012)
79%

#12
Adjusted Score: 87115%
Critics Consensus: Magic Mike's sensitive direction, smart screenplay, and strong performances allow audiences to have their beefcake and eat it too.
Synopsis: By day, Mike (Channing Tatum) makes ends meet any way he can -- handyman jobs, detailing cars or designing furniture.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 90851%
Critics Consensus: Funny, self-referential, and irreverent to a fault, The Wolf of Wall Street finds Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio at their most infectiously dynamic.
Synopsis: In 1987, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes an entry-level job at a Wall Street brokerage firm. By the early 1990s,... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#10

Killer Joe (2011)
80%

#10
Adjusted Score: 86092%
Critics Consensus: Violent, darkly comic, and full of strong performances, Killer Joe proves William Friedkin hasn't lost his touch, even if the plot may be too lurid for some.
Synopsis: A cop (Matthew McConaughey) who moonlights as a hit man agrees to kill the hated mother of a desperate drug... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#9

Tropic Thunder (2008)
82%

#9
Adjusted Score: 91388%
Critics Consensus: With biting satire, plenty of subversive humor, and an unforgettable turn by Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder is a triumphant late Summer comedy.
Synopsis: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), pampered action superstar, sets out for Southeast Asia to take part in the biggest, most-expensive war... [More]
Directed By: Ben Stiller

#8
Adjusted Score: 86360%
Critics Consensus: Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is an intelligent and poignant look at lives intersecting.
Synopsis: A man approaching middle age decides to change his life. A rising young attorney's plans are thrown into disarray as... [More]
Directed By: Jill Sprecher

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 89625%
Critics Consensus: It doesn't offer any twists on the predictable courtroom thriller formula, but with a charming Matthew McConaughey leading its solid cast, The Lincoln Lawyer offers briskly enjoyable entertainment.
Synopsis: Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a charismatic defense attorney who does business out of his Lincoln Continental sedan. Mick spends... [More]
Directed By: Brad Furman

#6

Bernie (2011)
88%

#6
Adjusted Score: 94857%
Critics Consensus: Richard Linklater's Bernie is a gently told and unexpectedly amusing true-crime comedy that benefits from an impressive performance by Jack Black.
Synopsis: Assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) is one of the most-beloved residents in the small Texas town of Carthage.... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 96009%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.
Synopsis: This coming-of-age film follows the mayhem of group of rowdy teenagers in Austin, Texas, celebrating the last day of high... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 103406%
Critics Consensus: Dallas Buyers Club rests squarely on Matthew McConaughey's scrawny shoulders, and he carries the burden gracefully with what might be a career-best performance.
Synopsis: In mid-1980s Texas, electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is stunned to learn that he has AIDS. Though told that he... [More]
Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallée

#3

Lone Star (1996)
94%

#3
Adjusted Score: 95436%
Critics Consensus: Smart and absorbing, Lone Star represents a career high point for writer-director John Sayles -- and '90s independent cinema in general.
Synopsis: In the Texas border town of Frontera, Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) digs up the past when he finds an... [More]
Directed By: John Sayles

#2

Mud (2013)
97%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103149%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by a strong performance from Matthew McConaughey in the title role, Mud offers an engaging Southern drama that manages to stay sweet and heartwarming without being sappy.
Synopsis: While exploring a Mississippi River island, Arkansas boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) encounter Mud (Matthew McConaughey),a fugitive... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Nichols

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 110022%
Critics Consensus: Kubo and the Two Strings matches its incredible animation with an absorbing -- and bravely melancholy -- story that has something to offer audiences of all ages.
Synopsis: Young Kubo's (Art Parkinson) peaceful existence comes crashing down when he accidentally summons a vengeful spirit from the past. Now... [More]
Directed By: Travis Knight

In the waning days of the winter season in March 2011, the Matthew McConaughey star vehicle The Lincoln Lawyer was released into theaters and opened with a credits sequence featuring a Lincoln Town Car traveling through the sun-drenched streets of Los Angeles. The end-of-winter release date and the bright LA streets kicked off a metaphorical heatwave for McConaughey’s career that led to blockbuster hits, R-rated gems, and a Best Actor Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards.

After stumbling a bit in the films Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Surfer Dude, McConaughey surprised viewers by fully inhabiting the role of Michael “Mickey” Haller, a Defense Attorney (who never gets car sick) whose office is a Lincoln Town Car driven by a former client named Earl (Laurence Mason). Adapted from the 2005 book by Michael Connelly, the R-rated film collected $80 million worldwide on a $40 million budget and was adored by critics and audiences who declared it guilty of being an excellent courtroom thriller. McConaughey is in nearly every second of the Brad Furman-directed film, and the fly-on-the-wall camerawork full of pans and zooms by cinematographer Lukas Ettlin follows him around the streets of LA as he works on a high-profile case involving a rich maniac named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe).

Later in 2011, the Richard Linklater-directed Bernie and William Freidkin-directed Killer Joe erased the bad taste of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and catapulted Failure to Launch out of people’s memories, ushering in the “McConaissance.” McConaughey followed these up with The Paperboy, Mud, Magic Mike, Dallas Buyers Club (which won him the aforementioned Oscar), The Wolf of Wall Street, True Detective, and the $700 million-grossing worldwide blockbuster Interstellar. In other words, McConaughey was doing “alright, alright, alright,” as everything he touched turned to gold (well, except for Gold, which, after Fool’s Gold and Sahara, proved he should avoid treasure hunting).

Here’s five reasons why The Lincoln Lawyer was the perfect film to put McConaughey on the expressway to the McConaissance.


1. McConaughey Is an Excellent Movie Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer

(Photo by ©Lionsgate courtesy Everett Collection)

While many consider McConaughey’s breakthrough performance in Dazed and Confused to be his launching pad, it was the 1996 film A Time to Kill that pushed his career into orbit. The John Grisham book adaptation featured McConaughey as a defense attorney for Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who murdered his daughter’s rapists and injured a cop in the process. The film killed it at the box office, bringing in $152 million worldwide, and McConaughey was awarded the “Most Promising Actor” distinction from the Chicago Film Critics Association. A year later, McConaughey starred in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, which was based on the true story and 1987 book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy. McConaughey once again played an attorney, this time defending a group of Africans who took control of the slave ship bound for the Americas that they were imprisoned on. Both films were Fresh successes, and proved he could excel in courtroom dramas.

After a decade of romantic comedies and Reign of Fire — which is awesome, by the way; McConaughey is swallowed whole by a dragon — The Lincoln Lawyer and Bernie saw his return to the courtroom and reminded everyone of his rakish charm and acting prowess. Mickey is in almost every frame of The Lincoln Lawyer, and you can tell McConaughey loves playing the character. Whether it’s his off-the-charts chemistry with Marisa Tomei or the way he sucks the life out of Ted Minton (Josh Lucas), the overmatched state’s attorney, McConaughey thrives in the slimy-yet-likable role. When Earl asks Mickey if he’ll still have a job after Mickey gets his license back (he lost it due to a DUI), Mickey says he’s already had it for three months; the two smile, say nothing, and continue on with their day. It’s at this exact moment you realize you actually kind of like Mickey, the divorced alcoholic attorney hated by so many because he’s so good. After 10 years, this scene still hits us every time.


2. The Film Gave Him His Edge Back and Allowed Him to Reset

If you saw Dazed and Confused as a teenager, McConaughey’s character Wooderson may have come across like a mythical figure. In hindsight, though, it probably dawned on you that Wooderson is an older dude who kind of creeps on high school girls, and you probably wouldn’t want him hanging out with your children or their friends. That’s the magic of McConaughey: he can find the charm in people you’d probably want nothing to do with otherwise. While he certainly earned his share of fans in rom-coms like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Wedding Planner, many forget he got his start playing sleazy or mysterious figures in movies like Dazed and Confused, Lone Star, and Frailty.

McConaughey is at his best in films like Killer Joe, Magic Mike, and The Gentleman, when he can embody a square-jawed menace. His speech about the laws of the jungle in The Gentlemen and every second of his Killer Joe screentime are laced with unpredictable anger and a “don’t come at me” vibe that had been lost in movies like Surfer, Dude. In The Lincoln Lawyer, he’s a bad dad and a terrible husband, and he’s responsible for destroying an innocent man’s life (Michael Peña) after he refused to listen and fight for him. However, despite these glaring flaws, he’s still exceedingly likable, and he still possesses something of a moral compass. When Mickey visits Peña’s character to confirm a suspicion, you see in the course of just a couple minutes that McConaughey is nervous, shaken, and desperate as he tries to right a prior wrong.

Reviews for The Lincoln Lawyer use phrases like “very refreshing,” “never-better,” and “the only actor in Hollywood who can swagger while sitting down.” This performance hit the reset button for McConaughey, who admitted in an interview with Cigar Afficionado magazine (of course) that the so-called McConaissance was more a case of him saying “f*** the bucks” and taking roles that “scared” him after a decade of easy, lucrative rom-coms. While he enjoyed giving audiences “90-minute breezy romantic getaways,” he wanted to be an actor again, “going as deep as you can in a role,” and The Lincoln Lawyer marks the beginning of that journey.


3. McConaughey Soars in R-Rated Films

A Time to Kill

(Photo by Everett Collection)

It’s also fitting that The Lincoln Lawyer marked Matthew McConaughey’s comeback because the Tomatometer scores in his filmography reveal an interesting trend. His R-rated films boast a Fresh 60.2% average, whereas his PG-13 films sit at a Rotten 40.9% average. In other words, he has thrived in more adult-oriented fare, as 14 of his 15 best-reviewed films are rated R (Kubo and the Two Strings is the lone exception). McConaughey won his Oscar for the Dallas Buyers Club, and most recently, The Gentleman collected a 75% Tomatomometer and an 84% Audience Score en route to earning $115 million worldwide. Basically R = McC glory — with the exception of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, Tiptoes, and Surfer, Dude, but even those three have cult followings of their own.

Though it was a television program, the HBO crime drama True Detective sported a similar TV-MA rating, which is appropriate for a show that features brutal murder, copious profanity, and a sense of dread that weighs on you like a Lincoln Town Car. McConaughey’s performance in the first season of the series earned him Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for his turn as “Rust” Kohle, a Lone Star-swigging detective who goes through super dark times while hunting for a serial killer.

Now, his PG-13 films have made much more money at the box office — Interstellar (that crying scene…) and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days in particular were giant hits. But movies like Mud, Killer Joe (which actually received an NC-17 rating), and Magic Mike were low-budget marvels that found him hitting new gears and allowed him to work with people like Steven Soderbergh and Jeff Nichols. Yes, 2019’s famously panned Serenity is also rated R, but it’s insane, and we love that it exists — because it’s insane.

What’s wild is that between 2003 and 2011, McConaughey’s only Fresh film was Tropic Thunder, the R-rated comedy epic that saw him dueling with Tom Cruise and throwing TiVos in the air to stop deadly rockets. The role is a minor one, but Rick Peck, Hollywood Agent, is another cocky creation who is just as dedicated as Mickey Haller is to his clients.


4. He’s at His Best Playing Characters Whose Names Begin with M

Matthew McConaughey in The Gentlemen, Mud, and The Lincoln Lawyer

(Photo by ©STX Films, Jim Bridges/©Roadside Attractions, Saeed Adyani/©Lionsgate)

Bear with us here: Between Mud, The Gentlemen, The Beach Bum, The Wolf of Wall Street, Frailty, and The Lincoln Lawyer, R-rated movies in which McConaughey’s character’s first or last name begins with an “M” have a 76.5% Tomatometer average. This is well above the 60.2% average of his R-rated films in general. During the McConaissance, five of his best films have him named Mud, Mickey, Moondog, Michael, and Mark. Is this mere coincidence, or is there some other cosmic force at work?

Two of McConaughey’s most underrated performances are in The Beach Bum and Frailty (which isn’t part of the McConaissance, but it’s legit). In The Beach Bum, Harmony Korine’s follow-up to Spring Breakers, he returned to Florida and cast McConaughey as a pleasure-loving author who gets entangled in shenanigans that involve great white sharks, cannabis, and explosions. Moondog is a peculiar entity who feels like an alternate version of McConaughey himself from a different timeline. The film moves at a leisurely pace, and it’s kept together by a dedicated McConaughey who knows he’s in a singular role of a lifetime. In Frailty, the Bill Paxton-directed horror film, McConaughey plays a guilt-ridden man named Adam/Fenton Meiks who believes he is on a mission from God to eliminate demons that walk among the living. He also tells excellent stories about past murders and family trauma, which he would do again in True Detective.


5. The Film Boasts a Deep Bench of Supporting Characters

The Lincoln Lawyer

(Photo by Saeed Adyani/©Lionsgate courtesy Everett Collection)

While The Lincoln Lawyer may feature McConaughey in every scene, it helps that he’s surrounded by a supporting cast that’s deeper than the bench of the 2002-2003 San Antonio Spurs. It’s a treat watching John Leguizamo, Marissa Tomei, Josh Lucas, Laurence Mason, Michael Peña, William H. Macy, Shea Whigham, Frances Fisher, Ryan Phillipe, and Bryan Cranston act against McConaughey. It feels like their energy made him raise his game, and you can see it on the screen.

His chemistry with Tomei’s Maggie, Mickey’s ex-wife, is palpable, and Michael Peña gives him pure gold to work with as an innocent man doomed to decades in prison. It also helps that Ryan Phillipe oozes menace and gives viewers a villain who desperately needs to be found guilty. The ensemble is instrumental to the success of the film; he’s surrounded by an embarrassment of riches, which makes the film infinitely rewatchable.

That’s another reason why McConaughey has flourished in the decade since The Lincoln Lawyer’s release: Between Interstellar, The Wolf of Wall Street, Mud, Dallas Buyers Club (Jared Leto also won an Oscar for this film), Bernie, and Magic Mike, he’s been surrounded by A-listers doing A+ work. It’s part of the conscious decision he made back in 2011 to seek out challenging, rewarding material and work with talented individuals at the top of their game, and it reflects his newfound commitment to his craft. Would the McConaissance have still happened if he didn’t choose to star in The Lincoln Lawyer? Maybe, probably, but thanks to a number of factors — both obvious and esoteric — there couldn’t have been a more appropriate vehicle. Also, we like to imagine it led to this.


The Lincoln Lawyer was released in theaters on March 18, 2011.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming swings its way into theaters this weekend, giving filmgoers their first feature-length look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new version of the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler — and his long-suffering Aunt May, now played by the one and only Marisa Tomei. To celebrate Ms. Tomei’s return to the cineplex, we decided now would be the perfect time to take a fond look back at some of her brightest critical highlights, and give you the opportunity to rank your favorites in the bargain. You know what that means: it’s time for Total Recall!


Use the up and down arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!

Not so very long ago, Matthew McConaughey appeared doomed to join the Hollywood scrap heap of handsome guys who just don’t have a reliable knack for picking the right script, but these days, it seems like everything he touches turns to cinematic gold — and with a starring role in this weekend’s Gold, McConaughey hopes to continue that streak. With that in mind, we decided to devote this week’s list to a look back at his ever-more-impressive filmography, so settle in: all right, all right, all right, it’s time for Total Recall!


10. Frailty (2002) 75%


It’s a lot easier to shock viewers and/or gross them out than to truly scare them, which is one of the reasons why fans of smart, low-key horror movies don’t often have a lot to choose from at the cineplex — and why when exceptions to the rule arrive, like Bill Paxton’s deviously creepy Frailty, they aren’t afforded the level of marketing muscle that your average slasher might enjoy. Still, even if it’s something of a cult classic, this tale of a deranged religious fanatic (Paxton) indoctrinating his sons into his cult of “demon-slaying” — told through flashbacks relayed to an FBI agent (Powers Boothe) by a mysterious narrator (McConaughey) — it won the immediate admiration of a long list of critics that includes the Village Voice’s Michael Atkinson, who wrote, “If Frailty isn’t quite the devastation it could’ve been … it remains the most pungent American-Pentecostal mini-nightmare since 1996’s true-crime doc Paradise Lost.”

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9. Amistad (1997) 77%


A year after making his big breakthrough in Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill, McConaughey proved he had more than popcorn movies on his mind with his performance as attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin in Amistad, Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated account of the U.S. Supreme Court battle that erupted in 1841 after a slave ship was impounded by the American military following a successful revolt by its unwilling cargo. Compelling not just as a human rights drama, the story has enough real-life intrigue to fill up several films — including former President John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) coming out of retirement to help argue the slaves’ case, to the chagrin of pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne). As impeccably mounted and impressively cast as you’d expect of any Spielberg prestige production, Amistad picked up four Oscar nominations, and if a handful of critics felt its epic sweep was at odds with the true story’s historical facts, the majority were too busy applauding to nitpick. “As Spielberg vehicles go,” argued USA Today’s Susan Wloszczyna, “Amistad — part mystery, action thriller, courtroom drama, even culture-clash comedy — lands between the disturbing lyricism of Schindler’s List and the storybook artificiality of The Color Purple.”

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8. Killer Joe (2011) 80%


The third entry in McConaughey’s trifecta of critical hits in 2012, Killer Joe found Exorcist director William Friedkin snapping a long dry streak with a story the poster’s tagline described as “a totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story.” That’s a lot to live up to, but as far as most critics were concerned, Joe stuck the landing, rounding up a suitably killer cast — led by McConaughey as a cop-slash-contract killer hired by a drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) who schemes to off his own mother in order to get at her insurance money — in service of seedy, seamy NC-17 thrills. “Watching Killer Joe to the bitter end is like playing the Pick 6 lottery and getting three of the numbers right,” chuckled Joe Williams for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You don’t win anything, but you still think you’re smarter than all those other idiots.”

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7. Magic Mike (2012) 79%


Of all the critical smashes in Matthew McConaughey’s filmography, Magic Mike will probably always be the most unlikely; generally speaking, movies about strippers tend to inspire derision, not sequels. Here’s the happy exception to that rule, a dramedy about a humble dancer with big dreams (Channing Tatum) who teams up with a beefcake buddy (Alex Pettyfer) on his way to what he hopes will be a bright future as the owner of his own business — if he can just save enough money to be able to give notice to his boss (McConaughey) at the local strip joint. Smoothly directed by Steven Soderbergh and rounded out with a capable supporting cast that included Joe Manganiello and Olivia Munn, Magic Mike transcended its shallow-seeming premise to offer crowd-pleasing yet thought-provoking entertainment; as Owen Gleiberman wrote for Entertainment Weekly, the movie “has a conventional structure, yet a teasing question percolates beneath: If selling yourself is as much fun as this movie makes it look, what could be wrong with it?”

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6. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) 83%


Fifteen years after he caught an early career break by playing a lawyer in the John Grisham adaptation A Time to Kill, McConaughey returned to the courtroom for an altogether different kind of legal drama. Based on Michael Connelly’s novel of the same name, The Lincoln Lawyer follows a pivotal case for Mickey Haller, a small-time attorney who maintains his practice out of the back of a town car. If the end result didn’t really break any new ground for McConaughey or the courtroom film genre in general, it still represented a solid step back from the rom-com brink for its star, while giving him an opportunity to play just the sort of rakishly charming ne’er-do-well that’s so well-suited to his Newmanesque appeal. “The Lincoln Lawyer is not a feat of genre-breaking design,” admitted the Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy. “But it is a well-oiled machine.”

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5. Bernie (2011) 88%


Usually, a movie that depicts a district attorney doggedly pursuing a conviction against a man who killed a little old lady will present the lawyer as the hero and the killer as the villain. Not so Bernie, which found director Richard Linklater telling the exceedingly weird real-life tale of a Texas man (Jack Black) whose eccentric relationship with a wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine) ended in her death and his trial for murder — a trial that the local DA (McConaughey) had to petition the bench to move due to the accused’s widespread popularity in the town where the killing occurred. Stranger than fiction and darkly amusing, the movie wowed critics while upending expectations; as Tara Brady cautioned for the Irish Times, “It looks like a Southern Gothic and feels like a particularly hilarious farce, but Bernie is not at all what you think.”

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4. Lone Star (1996) 94%


Writer-director John Sayles earned an Oscar nomination for his work on Lone Star, which employs an outstanding ensemble cast — including Chris Cooper as a Texas sheriff investigating an old murder, Elizabeth Peña as his recently rekindled old flame, and McConaughey as Cooper’s father (in flashbacks, naturally) — to plumb the depths of small-town secrets, betrayal, and that ever-testy father-son dynamic. It’s built from fairly familiar stuff, in other words, but very skillfully; as Kim Newman wrote for Empire, “Like all the best Westerns, this is at once a morality play about individual responsibility and a challenging essay about American history. You’ll watch this for the third or fourth time and see fresh material. Outstanding.”

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3. Dazed and Confused (1993) 92%


Plenty of filmmakers have sought inspiration in the shiftless glory days of idle youth, and from a distance, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused may have seemed like just another one of those movies about kids entering, leaving, or wishing they’d never left high school when it bowed in theaters during the fall of 1993. As any member of its ever-expanding cult can attest, however, Linklater’s take on the suburban adolescent experience is sharper and more empathetic than the rest — and although it’s a finely detailed period piece set in the 1970s, its themes are timeless enough to resonate with anyone who’s ever experienced the thrill and unearned ennui of youth. It’s also remarkably well cast, and because this is his list, we’ll single out McConaughey’s memorable turn as the cheerfully scuzzy, catchphrase-spawning David Wooderson for particular praise — as did the Austin Chronicle’s Marjorie Baumgarten, saying, “He is a character we’re all too familiar with in the movies, but McConaughey nails this guy without a hint of condescension or whimsy, claiming this character for all time as his own.”

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2. Dallas Buyers Club (2013) 92%


Nothing screams “for your consideration” like an actor physically transforming himself for a role, to the point that it’s become something of a signal for filmgoers cynical enough to be suspicious of a star’s motivations when taking a part. But as often as not, that commitment pays off; just ask Matthew McConaughey, whose rather frightening pre-shooting regimen included dropping nearly 50 pounds to portray Ron Woodroof, the man whose gut-wrenching and inspiring real-life story forms the heart of Dallas Buyers Club. Academy voters heard those “for your consideration” screams, affording the movie six nominations — three of which it won, including Best Actor for McConaughey and Best Supporting Actor for his co-star Jared Leto. “Just about everything is right with Dallas Buyers Club,” wrote Steven Rea for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “beginning with Matthew McConaughey’s literally transformative portrayal.”

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1. Mud (2013) 97%


McConaughey has fired off an impressive string of critically lauded pictures since spending the early aughts frittering away his early buzz on stuff like Failure to Launch and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past — perhaps none more impressive than Mud, writer-director Jeff Nichols’ sparkling Southern Gothic about a mysterious man (McConaughey) whose discovery by a pair of kids on a Mississippi island presages a series of events that’s part thriller, part coming-of-age drama, and (according to most critics), all wonderful. TIME’s Mary Corliss summed up the poetic rapture felt by many of her colleagues, writing, “Glorious vision of youth and truth, love and loss, your name is Mud.”

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This week in streaming, we’ve got Peter Jackson’s latest trek to Middle-earth (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), along with a star-studded road movie (This Must Be the Place) and a Certified Fresh dramedy about the road to recovery (Smashed). Read on to find out what’s available to watch right now.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
64%

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) journeys with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a band of dwarves to the Lonely Mountain, where the dwarves’ ancestral homeland is being occupied by a fearsome dragon. Along the way, our heroes encounter all manner of orc, troll, wizard, and even giants made of stone, as well as the mischievous Gollum.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Smashed
83%

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars in this Certified Fresh dramedy about a young woman struggling with alcoholism.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


The Lincoln Lawyer
83%

Matthew McConaughey stars as a somewhat sketchy defense attorney who’s just landed the case of his career when he’s brought in to defend a millionaire bad boy (Ryan Phillippe). Soon, however, our hero discovers that not everything is as it seems.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


This Must Be the Place
67%

This Must Be The Place stars Sean Penn as a washed-up rock star who goes on a road trip to find a man who humiliated his late father.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Gun Hill Road
65%

Gun Hill Road is an indie drama about a man just released from prison who finds his family has gone through some dramatic changes.

Available now on: Netflix

The paranoia-fueled action thriller Limitless led a trio of new releases and opened at number one with a sturdy debut. The crime drama The Lincoln Lawyer and the road comedy Paul both attracted respectable business landing in the top five but the overall marketplace once again failed to match up to last year’s levels.

Relativity Media’s new distribution operation scored its first top spot bow with the Bradley Cooper drama Limitless which premiered on top with an estimated $19M finishing a few notches above industry expectations. The fast-paced thriller about a washed up writer who finds wealth and success after taking a top-secret drug that unleashes the full power of his brain averaged a solid $6,894 from 2,756 theaters and played well to adults of both genders. Produced for $30M, the PG-13 film marked the first hit for Cooper as a leading man after numerous wins at the box office in ensemble pics, most notably 2009’s sleeper smash The Hangover. Robert De Niro co-starred.

Audience research showed that cross-gender appeal was strong as females only slightly outnumbered males with 52% of the crowd. 60% was 25 and over while 57% was non-Caucasian. Despite heavy competition for adults right now, Limitless connected with its target audience thanks to an effective marketing push that included a high-profile TV spot during the Super Bowl over a month ago.

Holding steady in second place in its third weekend of play was Johnny Depp’s animated comedy Rango which slipped only 32% to an estimated $15.3M. After 17 days the Paramount release has tallied an impressive $92.6M and will break nine digits by the end of the week becoming the bankable actor’s sixth $100M+ hit over the last eight years.

Depp and Cooper will again face each other over Memorial Day weekend when The Hangover Part II opens against the second session of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The debut of Kung Fu Panda 2 over the sequel-filled holiday will put Paramount in the mix too with another toon.

With three new male-led films entering the marketplace, the military actioner Battle: Los Angeles took a huge hit tumbling 59% to an estimated $14.6M for third place. Produced for $70M, the Sony release has amassed an impressive $60.6M in its first ten days and looks headed for the $80-90M range.

Matthew McConaughey’s courtroom drama The Lincoln Lawyer opened to respectable results in fourth with an estimated $13.4M playing to an older adult audience. Lionsgate’s R-rated pic averaged $4,950 from 2,707 theaters and was well-liked by critics which helped its chances at the box office given its older skew. Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, and William H. Macy also were part of the cast. The distributor won some industry press with its promotion with discount finder Groupon which allowed users to buy tickets for only $6. For the sake of box office reporting, Lionsgate used full ticket values and not the actual discounted price paid by consumers.

The alien comedy Paul debuted close behind in fifth with an estimated $13.2M from 2,802 sites for a decent $4,695 average. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of Shaun of the Dead fame, the R-rated road picture also featured Seth Rogen voicing the title character. Studio research showed that the audience was 56% male and 58% 25 and older. Reviews were generally positive. Universal began the global release a month ago with its United Kingdom bow and has grossed $28.1M overseas so far.

Only $245,000 separated the estimates for Lincoln and Paul so the film could swap positions when final grosses are reported on Monday. The distributors estimated similar Saturday-to-Sunday declines with Lincoln at 35% and Paul at 32%.

The fairy tale remake Red Riding Hood fell 48% to an estimated $7.3M in its second weekend giving Warner Bros. $26M in ten days. A final total of around $40M seems likely. Matt Damon’s The Adjustment Bureau followed with an estimated $5.9M, off 49%, putting Universal at $48.8M to date.

After a weak opening, the 3D toon Mars Needs Moms enjoyed a good sophomore hold slipping only 23% to an estimated $5.3M thanks to no new competition. But the Disney film stands at just $15.4M after ten days and looks set to end its run with only $30M.

Off only 35% in ninth was the teen drama Beastly with an estimated $3.3M followed by the raunchy flick Hall Pass with an estimated $2.6M dropping 48%. Totals are $22.2M for the CBS Films pic and $39.6M for the Warner Bros. comedy.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight debuted the critically acclaimed Paul Giamatti comedy Win Win in just five theaters and grossed an estimated $154,000 for a strong $30,723 average. Focus expanded its period drama Jane Eyre from four to 26 locations and delivered an estimated $478,000 for a sturdy $18,385 average. The total stands at $731,000.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $99.8M which was down 10% from last year when Alice in Wonderland stayed in the top spot for a third time with $34.2M; but up 7% from 2009 when Knowing debuted at number one with $24.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

twitter.com/giteshpandya

This week at the movies, we’ve got a close encounter (Paul, starring Simon Pegg and Seth Rogen); some rough justice (The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey and Marisa Tomei), and an experimental drug (Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro). What do the critics have to say?



Paul

70%

Simon Pegg’s filmography is littered with expert genre parodies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), and director Greg Mottola is known for mixing big laughs with poignancy and intelligence. And although their new effort, Paul, may not live up to their previous work, critics say it’s an amiable, sweet road comedy that smartly sends up sci-fi references. Pegg stars as a fanboy who’s on a tour of America’s UFO landmarks along with his mate Nick Frost when he meets Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan), a crass, smart-mouthed little green man. With the Feds in hot pursuit, it’s up to our heroes to transport their alien pal to his intergalactic craft. The pundits say Paul isn’t the most disciplined comedy on the block, but it’s witty, warm, and smarter than your average road-trip romp.



The Lincoln Lawyer

83%

Matthew McConaughey’s big break as a leading man came with the 1996 adaptation of John Grisham’s A Time To Kill (not to mention Amistad the following year). So it’s nice to see him back in the courtroom, and critics say The Lincoln Lawyer is a good old-fashioned legal thriller with some interesting twists and an excellent performance from its star. McConaughey stars as a somewhat sketchy defense attorney who’s just landed the case of his career when he’s brought in to defend a millionaire bad boy (Ryan Phillippe). Soon, however, our protagonist discovers that not everything is as it seems. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Lincoln Lawyer won’t set the world on fire, but it’s skillfully made and entertaining, and it greatly benefits from a stellar cast. (Take a look at Phillippe’s Five Favorite Films.)



Limitless

69%

Limitless takes the concept of the Faustian bargain and gives it a contemporary spin: what if a revolutionary pharmaceutical could help you reach your full potential? It’s an interesting idea, but critics say the movie only partially fulfills it — it’s smart and slick, but also occasionally haphazard and frustrating. Bradley Cooper stars as a struggling writer who’s encouraged by a friend to try an untested miracle drug; soon, his brain is running on all cylinders and making big bucks on Wall Street. However, the drug has some serious side effects, and sinister forces want to get their hands on Cooper’s stash. The pundits say Limitless is stylishly directed and well performed, but in raising so many intriguing questions without answering them, the film can feel like a missed opportunity. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down Limitless star Robert De Niro’s Best Movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Nostalgia for the Light, a documentary about a research team in Chile’s investigations into big questions, is at 100 percent.
  • Bill Cunningham New York, a doc about the legendary New York Times fashion photographer, is at 91 percent.
  • Win Win, starring Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan in a comedy about a wrestling coach who ends up caring for a runaway, is at 89 percent.
  • Winter in Wartime, a drama about a youngster aiding the Resistance in Nazi-occupied Holland, is at 85 percent.
  • The Music Never Stopped, a drama about a father who attempts to treat his son’s brain ailment with music, is at 72 percent.
  • The Butcher, The Chef And The Swordsman, an action comedy about a butcher knife forged from the remains of legendary swords, is at 60 percent.
  • Desert Flower, the tale of a Somali woman who escaped an arranged marriage to become a model, is at 44 percent.
  • Cracks, starring Eva Green in a drama about jealousy and obsession at a remote all-girls boarding school, is at 39 percent.

Finally, want to win a Rotten Tomatoes shirt? First, watch a movie opening this week. Then, on Sunday, tweet your review and tag it #fresh or #rotten. We’ll choose 10 winners! Check us out on Twitter!

From being “discovered” while getting a haircut to landing his first major role in a Ridley Scott film, Ryan Phillippe has enjoyed the kind of good fortune that many only dream of. But his success didn’t come without hard work; the young actor has remained busy since his fist stint on the ABC soap One Life to Live almost nineteen years ago, moving from popular teen fare like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions to critical darlings like Gosford Park and Oscar winner Crash. This week, Phillippe takes on a nuanced dramatic role as Louis Roulet, a successful LA realtor accused of a mysterious murder, in the film adaptation of Michael Connelly’s novel The Lincoln Lawyer. RT was fortunate enough to chat with Phillippe about his Five Favorite Films, as well as his fortuitous introduction to the film industry and what it was like to work with legendary directors like Clint Eastwood and Robert Altman.

 


Cool Hand Luke (1967, 100% Tomatometer)

 

The film that sort of made me want to be an actor was Cool Hand Luke. I watched it one Sunday when I skipped church, and I was home sick, and it was on TBS, and I was about 12 or 13 years old. I had never seen a man cry like that. [SPOILER AHEAD] When Paul Newman finds out his mother’s died and he sits on the bed and plays “Plastic Jesus” on the banjo [END SPOILER], I was so fascinated by this masculine tough guy getting emotional, and that sort of started my interest in acting. Figuring out how one gets to that place, and why. And both he and Steve McQueen were the two people I first connected to or looked up to as actors.

The Sand Pebbles (1966, 88% Tomatometer)

 

The Sand Pebbles with McQueen is one of those films that shows more of his sensitivity. People tend to think of him as just the badass, and I love the fact that that film lets you see another side of him. And I also think it’s beautifully shot. So that’s another one on my list.

The Graduate (1967, 89% Tomatometer)

 

The remaining three are films that I just feel are nearly perfect. The Graduate, from top to bottom, visually, sonically, performance-wise, the energy, and the time when it came out, and what it represented – that whole Holden Caufield sort of aspect to it. I think the music, obviously; there are very few films where the music has been so married to the actual film itself, and I love that about The Graduate. It seems like that’s the way it always should have been. It’s just amazing to me how perfectly it complements the film.

Fargo (1996, 94% Tomatometer)

 

I have to go with a Coen brothers movie, because they are my inspiration as producers, filmmakers — I want to direct soon. Again, I think that Fargo is a nearly perfect film. Visually, comedically; it manages to be tense, and it’s smart. I love the fact that it’s based on somewhat of a true story — I think that’s kind of where my interests lie, the idea of doing a true crime story that’s darkly comedic; that’s something that really appeals to me. I could name several of their films, but Fargo is the one that just… I always think about that shot in the parking lot in the snow, when he’s just trying to scrape the window off and he just loses his mind. [laughs]

Raging Bull (1980, 98% Tomatometer)

 

And then one of the most inspirational films for an actor would, in my opinion, have to be Raging Bull. Just to see what De Niro went through physically, the span of time he takes that character through, the insecurity and the bravado and the anger. I think it’s still a performance that’s relatively unmatched in film history.

 


Next, Phillippe talks about how he got into acting, and what it was like working with some of cinema’s greatest modern directors.

RT: You mentioned when you saw Cool Hand Luke that you were pretty young, and you said it was the first movie that really inspired you. Were you then confident that you would become an actor someday?

Ryan Phillippe: No, definitely not. I didn’t grow up with any means or access to the business in any way, so it was what my mother would have referred to as a “pipe dream” at that time. [laughs] Also, the schools I went to had no drama programs; it was nothing I had any experience with. When I was younger, I used to make home movies on the video camera with my sisters, and I would really direct them, and I would have plots, and I would write the story. But I had no experience in acting, in any formal sense, when I saw that movie.


So when was it that you finally took that first step towards becoming an actor?

It was about two or three years after that, and I didn’t even really take the step. Someone saw me getting a haircut, oddly enough, and recommended us to an agency in Philadelphia. It’s one of those; that’s how it happened. So I started going to Philadelphia for essentially what would have been commercials or modeling jobs, and met people through that.


Let’s talk about The Lincoln Lawyer

Dude, it’s really good. [Matthew McConaughey] is going to win back a bunch of people with this. It’s his best performance ever. It’s better than A Time to Kill. It’s legit, man.

[rtimage]siteImageId=10241512[/rtimage]

It’s funny that you mention A Time to Kill, because that’s inevitably sort of the first movie that comes to mind with The Lincoln Lawyer. You’ve got McConaughey as sort of a hotshot attorney, and you’ve got themes dealing with the nature of a suspect’s culpability…

The difference is, this character of his is so flawed in Lincoln Lawyer. You know, he’s got a drinking problem, he’s divorced, he’s got a kid, he’s kind of an ambulance chaser; it’s a very textured part for him.


Your role in the film is textured as well. It’s one of those roles where the audience is left guessing, “Is he guilty, or is he not?” When you’re playing a part like that, is there any sort of extra preparation needed to pull off that sort of subtlety?

It definitely has initially that sort of Primal Fear dynamic, and you’re trying to figure out who this guy is. What’s a benefit always is the source material, having a full novel to read. You can glean even more and add to your design of the character through things written by the author of the novel that the audience doesn’t even know about. That allows you to add layers and subtext that fit into an adaptation of a novel. There’s so much more, obviously, in the book. So it’s fun, as an actor, to have those little secrets, and hopefully people go and read the book — it’s really enjoyable — but yeah, that was the primary preparation for me. It was kind of getting into all the details that lie within the book, and finding a way to fit that in the moments in the movie, even though it’s truncated or compressed.


Were there any other films or performances you drew upon to flesh out your character?

No, and I rarely do that. I play a Beverly Hills real estate agent in this movie, and I did spend a day or two shadowing this guy who essentially does the same thing my character does in LA. But I never watch other performances in regards to what I’m going to do. A lot of it is instinct, and a lot of it is trying to make the part or the person that you’re playing as complex and interesting as you can, and I think that needs to be original to some extent.

[rtimage]siteImageId=10241513[/rtimage]

You mentioned that you’d like to take up directing at some point in the future, and you’ve worked with some heavy hitters yourself, from Clint Eastwood to Robert Altman to Ridley Scott. What did you take away from working with those filmmakers that you think you’ll apply to your own directorial efforts?

Well, you know, I feel like I’ve gone to the best film school in the world. Ridley Scott, Kim Peirce, the ones you mentioned, and I took time from an early age… My first real role was in a Ridley Scott movie, and I knew who he was as a filmmaker, I’d seen all of his films, and so from that first job, I really paid attention to every aspect of it. I spent time talking to the DPs on those films, and I got to sit in dailies next to Altman; he actually kind of forced me to. [laughs] During lunch, he shows his dailies, and he’d be like, “I want you to sit here,” and I’d get to hear what it was he did or didn’t like about each and every individual take, and why. It was amazing. And then, working with someone like Eastwood, who’s so efficient and so confident in what he’s doing that there’s no stress, there’s no fuss. I plan on incorporating elements of each of those directors I’ve worked with when I make a film. I feel really fortunate. It’s also why I feel ready to do it; I’ve made 25 films, I’ve been doing this for 19 years, pretty much, 18 years. So I feel ready.


Wow, has it really been that long?

Well, my first movie, I was 19. I’m 36 now, so… And I was on a soap at 17. That’s the thing, you know. As an actor, you can have almost two decades in the profession and still be relatively young. It’s a funny thing.


The Lincoln Lawyer opens this weekend in the US.

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