(Photo by 20th Century Fox/ courtesy Everett Collection)

All Matt Damon Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

Before his breakout with Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon was already something of an actor to watch, showing versatility as a gaunt military medic in Courage Under Fire and as a determined law school grad in The Rainmaker. But looking to take creative control of his own career, he and partner-in-crime Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting, earning the two a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and an acting nom for Damon. After that, it was off to the races, working with the likes of Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan), Kevin Smith (Dogma, though he already had a previous cameo in Chasing Amy), Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley), and Martin Scorsese (The Departed).

Damon worked with Gus Van Sant a few more times (Finding Forrester, Gerry) before finding a truly kindred creative partner in Steven Soderbergh. Together, along with another regular cast of collaborators, he’s starred in three Ocean’s movies, Contagion, The Informant!, and Behind the Candelabra, with small cameos in Soderbergh’s Che Guevara biopics. Around the same time as Ocean’s Eleven, Damon came into the Bourne series, whose first trilogy (Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum) would rewrite the book on action cinema in the 21st century, with its intimate shaky-cam presentation and intricate plotting and character work.

The 2010s were a big decade for science-fiction and Damon got in on the action, with work representing some of his best movies, and certainly among the most well-known: The Adjustment Bureau, Elysium, The Zero Theorem, Interstellar, and The Martian.

After a rough 2017 where he starred in only Rotten movies (The Great Wall, Suburbicon, Downsizing), and remaining off-screen for 2018, he made a late 2019 appearance with Ford v Ferrari, the high-octane true story co-starring Christian Bale, and directed by James Mangold. Next, he’ll be in The Last Duel, directed by Ridley Scott. Now, we’re ranking all of Matt Damon’s movies ranked by Tomatometer!

#50

Suburbicon (2017)
28%

#50
Adjusted Score: 46527%
Critics Consensus: A disappointing misfire for director George Clooney, Suburbicon attempts to juggle social satire, racial commentary, and murder mystery -- and ends up making a mess of all three.
Synopsis: Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic, suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns -- the perfect place to raise a... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#49
#49
Adjusted Score: 40977%
Critics Consensus: Its intentions are noble and its cast is impressive, but neither can compensate for The Monuments Men's stiffly nostalgic tone and curiously slack narrative.
Synopsis: During World War II, the Nazis steal countless pieces of art and hide them away. Some over-the-hill art scholars, historians,... [More]
Directed By: George Clooney

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 34475%
Critics Consensus: This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel comes off as rather flat and uninvolving. Scenes feel rushed and done in shorthand, and the romance between Damon and Cruz has no sparks.
Synopsis: The year is 1949. A young Texan named John Grady finds himself without a home after his mother sells the... [More]
Directed By: Billy Bob Thornton

#47

The Great Wall (2016)
35%

#47
Adjusted Score: 52763%
Critics Consensus: For a Yimou Zhang film featuring Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe battling ancient monsters, The Great Wall is neither as exciting nor as entertainingly bonkers as one might hope.
Synopsis: When a mercenary warrior (Matt Damon) is imprisoned within the Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the... [More]
Directed By: Zhang Yimou

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 44179%
Critics Consensus: The Brothers Grimm is full of beautiful imagery, but the story is labored and less than enchanting.
Synopsis: The Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger), are dysfunctional schemers who go from town to town putting... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#45

The Majestic (2001)
42%

#45
Adjusted Score: 46415%
Critics Consensus: Ponderous and overlong, The Majestic drowns in forced sentimentality and resembles a mish-mash of other, better films.
Synopsis: Rising Hollywood screenwriter Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is blacklisted in the early 1950s Red Scare. Following a drunken car accident,... [More]
Directed By: Frank Darabont

#44
Adjusted Score: 47760%
Critics Consensus: Despite the talent involved in The Legend of Bagger Vance, performances are hindered by an inadequate screenplay full of flat characters and bad dialogue. Also, not much happens, and some critics are offended by how the film glosses over issues of racism.
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, Georgia socialite Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron) announces a publicity-garnering high-stakes match at her struggling family golf... [More]
Directed By: Robert Redford

#43

Happy Feet Two (2011)
45%

#43
Adjusted Score: 49213%
Critics Consensus: The animation is as eye-popping as ever, but Happy Feet Two's narrative is too noisily incoherent to recapture the Oscar-winning charm of its predecessor.
Synopsis: Mumble (Elijah Wood) the penguin, now called the Master of Tap, has an unusual problem: Erik, his son, is reluctant... [More]
Directed By: George Miller

#42

Hereafter (2010)
47%

#42
Adjusted Score: 55018%
Critics Consensus: Despite a thought-provoking premise and Clint Eastwood's typical flair as director, Hereafter fails to generate much compelling drama, straddling the line between poignant sentimentality and hokey tedium.
Synopsis: Three people set out on a spiritual journey after death touches their lives in different ways. George (Matt Damon) is... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#41

Downsizing (2017)
47%

#41
Adjusted Score: 68672%
Critics Consensus: Downsizing assembles a talented cast in pursuit of some truly interesting ideas -- which may be enough for some audiences to forgive the final product's frustrating shortcomings.
Synopsis: Mild-mannered therapist Paul Safranek and his wife, Audrey, decide to undergo a process in which scientists shrink people down to... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Payne

#40
Adjusted Score: 48035%
Critics Consensus: Geronimo: An American Legend fails to stir the soul, though its sweeping visuals and historical ambitions mark an intelligent change of pace for director Walter Hill.
Synopsis: Following the expansion of the United States into the Southwest, the Apache Indians are forced onto a reservation to live... [More]
Directed By: Walter Hill

#39

The Zero Theorem (2013)
48%

#39
Adjusted Score: 53176%
Critics Consensus: Fans of director Terry Gilliam's trademark visual aesthetic will find everything they've bargained for, but for the unconverted, The Zero Theorem may prove too muddled to enjoy.
Synopsis: Hired to crack a theorem, reclusive computer genius Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) begins to make headway until his controlled world... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#38

Titan A.E. (2000)
50%

#38
Adjusted Score: 53564%
Critics Consensus: Great visuals, but the story feels like a cut-and-paste job of other sci-fi movies.
Synopsis: A science-fiction film that combines traditional animation with computer generated images, "Titan A.E." takes place in the distant future, after... [More]
Directed By: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman

#37

Promised Land (2012)
53%

#37
Adjusted Score: 57988%
Critics Consensus: The earnest and well-intentioned Promised Land sports a likable cast, but it also suffers from oversimplified characterizations and a frustrating final act.
Synopsis: Corporate sales partners Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) arrive in a small town to secure drilling... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

#36

Green Zone (2010)
53%

#36
Adjusted Score: 60065%
Critics Consensus: Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return to the propulsive action and visceral editing of the Bourne films -- but a cliched script and stock characters keep those methods from being as effective this time around.
Synopsis: Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his team of inspectors are on a mission in 2003 to find... [More]
Directed By: Paul Greengrass

#35

Ocean's Twelve (2004)
54%

#35
Adjusted Score: 60689%
Critics Consensus: While some have found the latest star-studded heist flick to be a fun, glossy star vehicle, others declare it's lazy, self-satisfied and illogical.
Synopsis: After successfully robbing five casinos in one night, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew of thieves have big problems.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#34

Jason Bourne (2016)
54%

#34
Adjusted Score: 73675%
Critics Consensus: Jason Bourne delivers fans of the franchise more of what they've come to expect -- which is this sequel's biggest selling point as well as its greatest flaw.
Synopsis: It's been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a... [More]
Directed By: Paul Greengrass

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 62196%
Critics Consensus: Though ambitious and confidently directed by Robert De Niro, The Good Shepherd is ultimately a tedious drama that holds few surprises and succumbs to self-seriousness.
Synopsis: Discreet, idealistic and intensely loyal, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) finds that service in the OSS and later as a founding... [More]
Directed By: Robert De Niro

#32

School Ties (1992)
60%

#32
Adjusted Score: 62876%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When David Greene (Brendan Fraser) receives a football scholarship to a prestigious prep school in the 1950s, he feels pressure... [More]
Directed By: Robert Mandel

#31

Gerry (2002)

#31
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Friends Gerry (Casey Affleck) and Gerry (Matt Damon) hike into Death Valley, but they stray so far from the trail... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

#30

Stuck on You (2003)
61%

#30
Adjusted Score: 65204%
Critics Consensus: An unusually sweet and charming comedy by the Farrelly brothers. Fans may miss the distinct lack of bodily fluids though.
Synopsis: In Martha's Vineyard, Mass., conjoined twins Walt (Greg Kinnear) and Bob Tenor (Matt Damon) make the best of their handicap... [More]

#29

Rounders (1998)
65%

#29
Adjusted Score: 69238%
Critics Consensus: Richly atmospheric and colorful performances contributed to the movie's entertainment value.
Synopsis: Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) loses his money in a poker game against Russian gangster Teddy "KGB" (John Malkovich). Under pressure... [More]
Directed By: John Dahl

#28

We Bought a Zoo (2011)
65%

#28
Adjusted Score: 70410%
Critics Consensus: We Bought a Zoo is a transparently cloying effort by director Cameron Crowe, but Matt Damon makes for a sympathetic central character.
Synopsis: Following his wife's untimely death, Los Angeles journalist Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) decides to make a fresh start by quitting... [More]
Directed By: Cameron Crowe

#27

Elysium (2013)
65%

#27
Adjusted Score: 74731%
Critics Consensus: After the heady sci-fi thrills of District 9, Elysium is a bit of a comedown for director Neill Blomkamp, but on its own terms, it delivers just often enough to satisfy.
Synopsis: In the year 2154, humanity is sharply divided between two classes of people: The ultrarich live aboard a luxurious space... [More]
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp

#26

Dogma (1999)
67%

#26
Adjusted Score: 72581%
Critics Consensus: Provocative and audacious, Dogma is an uneven but thoughtful religious satire that's both respectful and irreverent.
Synopsis: Two fallen angels who were ejected from paradise find themselves banned in Wisconsin. They are now headed for New Jersey... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Smith

#25
Adjusted Score: 72815%
Critics Consensus: A visually stunning film that may be too predictable and politically correct for adults, but should serve children well.
Synopsis: Follows the adventures of a wild and rambunctious mustang stallion as he journeys through the untamed American frontier. Encountering man... [More]
Directed By: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook

#24

Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
69%

#24
Adjusted Score: 77665%
Critics Consensus: Ocean's Thirteen reverts to the formula of the first installment, and the result is another slick and entertaining heist film.
Synopsis: Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his gang hatch an ambitious plot for revenge after ruthless casino owner Willy Bank (Al... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#23
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Just as he is on the brink of winning a Senate seat, politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets a ballerina... [More]
Directed By: George Nolfi

#22

Interstellar (2014)
72%

#22
Adjusted Score: 88274%
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

#21

Syriana (2005)
73%

#21
Adjusted Score: 79849%
Critics Consensus: Ambitious, complicated, intellectual, and demanding of its audience, Syriana is both a gripping geopolitical thriller and wake-up call to the complacent.
Synopsis: The Middle Eastern oil industry is the backdrop of this tense drama, which weaves together numerous story lines. Bennett Holiday... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Gaghan

#20

Margaret (2011)
74%

#20
Adjusted Score: 77351%
Critics Consensus: A surfeit of ideas contributes to Margaret's excessive run time, but Anna Paquin does a admirable job of guiding viewers through emotional hell.
Synopsis: New York high-school student Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) inadvertently causes an accident in which a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) runs... [More]
Directed By: Kenneth Lonergan

#19

Stillwater (2021)
74%

#19
Adjusted Score: 83092%
Critics Consensus: Stillwater isn't perfect, but its thoughtful approach to intelligent themes -- and strong performances from its leads -- give this timely drama a steadily building power.
Synopsis: Unemployed roughneck Bill Baker (Academy Award® winner Matt Damon) travels from Oklahoma to Marseille to visit his estranged daughter Allison... [More]
Directed By: Tom McCarthy

#18

Invictus (2009)
76%

#18
Adjusted Score: 85438%
Critics Consensus: Delivered with typically stately precision by director Clint Eastwood, Invictus may not be rousing enough for some viewers, but Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman inhabit their real-life characters with admirable conviction.
Synopsis: Following the fall of apartheid, newly elected President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) faces a South Africa that is racially and... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#17

The Informant! (2009)
79%

#17
Adjusted Score: 88604%
Critics Consensus: A charismatic turn by star Matt Damon and a consistently ironic tone boost this quietly funny satire about a corporate whistle-blower.
Synopsis: Though a rising star in the ranks of Archer Daniels Midland, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) suddenly exposes a price-fixing conspiracy... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#16
Adjusted Score: 84798%
Critics Consensus: Invigorated by its talented cast and Francis Ford Coppola's strong direction, The Rainmaker is a satisfying legal drama -- and arguably the best of Hollywood's many John Grisham adaptations.
Synopsis: Struggling new attorney Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) resorts to working for a shady lawyer (Mickey Rourke), where he meets paralegal... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 88144%
Critics Consensus: A well-made sequel that delivers the thrills.
Synopsis: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living in India when he is framed by Russian agent Kirill (Karl Urban) for the... [More]
Directed By: Paul Greengrass

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 88838%
Critics Consensus: With Matt Damon's unsettling performance offering a darkly twisted counterpoint to Anthony Minghella's glossy direction, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a suspense thriller that lingers.
Synopsis: To be young and carefree amid the blue waters and idyllic landscape of sun-drenched Italy in the late 1950s; that's... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Minghella

#13

Ocean's Eleven (2001)
83%

#13
Adjusted Score: 90209%
Critics Consensus: As fast-paced, witty, and entertaining as it is star-studded and coolly stylish, Ocean's Eleven offers a well-seasoned serving of popcorn entertainment.
Synopsis: Dapper Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a man of action. Less than 24 hours into his parole from a New... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 89317%
Critics Consensus: Expertly blending genre formula with bursts of unexpected wit, The Bourne Identity is an action thriller that delivers -- and then some.
Synopsis: The story of a man (Matt Damon), salvaged, near death, from the ocean by an Italian fishing boat. When he... [More]
Directed By: Doug Liman

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 87920%
Critics Consensus: An emotional and intriguing tale of a military officer who must review the merits of a fallen officer while confronting his own war demons. Effectively depicts the terrors of war as well as its heartbreaking aftermath.
Synopsis: During the 1991 Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally caused a friendly fire incident, a mistake that... [More]
Directed By: Edward Zwick

#10

Contagion (2011)

#10
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns to Minnesota from a Hong Kong business trip, she attributes the malaise she feels... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#9

The Departed (2006)
90%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102533%
Critics Consensus: Featuring outstanding work from an excellent cast, The Departed is a thoroughly engrossing gangster drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality we come to expect from Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: South Boston cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes under cover to infiltrate the organization of gangland chief Frank Costello (Jack... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#8

Ponyo (2008)

#8
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: During a forbidden excursion to see the surface world, a goldfish princess encounters a human boy named Sosuke, who gives... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#7

The Martian (2015)
91%

#7
Adjusted Score: 107214%
Critics Consensus: Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the bestselling book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#6
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) continues his international quest to uncover his true identity. From Russia to Europe to northern Africa... [More]
Directed By: Paul Greengrass

#5

Ford v Ferrari (2019)
92%

#5
Adjusted Score: 114307%
Critics Consensus: Ford v Ferrari delivers all the polished auto action audiences will expect -- and balances it with enough gripping human drama to satisfy non-racing enthusiasts.
Synopsis: American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

#4
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 97836%
Critics Consensus: Affectionate without sacrificing honesty, Behind the Candelabra couples award-worthy performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon with some typically sharp direction from Steven Soderbergh.
Synopsis: World-famous pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas) takes much-younger Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) as a lover, but the relationship deteriorates when Liberace... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#2

True Grit (2010)
95%

#2
Adjusted Score: 105673%
Critics Consensus: Girded by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and lifted by some of the Coens' most finely tuned, unaffected work, True Grit is a worthy companion to the Charles Portis book.
Synopsis: After an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders her father, feisty 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 101367%
Critics Consensus: It follows a predictable narrative arc, but Good Will Hunting adds enough quirks to the journey -- and is loaded with enough powerful performances -- that it remains an entertaining, emotionally rich drama.
Synopsis: Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level IQ but chooses to work as a janitor at MIT. When he solves... [More]
Directed By: Gus Van Sant

This week on home video, we’ve got a new action thriller from Luc Besson, a mediocre Conjuring spinoff, and Laika’s latest stop-motion feature film. Then we also have a number of notable smaller films, like a Certified Fresh crime drama starring Tom Hardy and an acclaimed documentary about an internet activist. Read on for details:



Lucy

67%

French writer-director Luc Besson has been the brains behind some of the most gleefully brainless thrillers in recent memory, like the Taken franchise, and though he doesn’t get behind the camera as often as he once did, we still get something like Lucy every once in a while. Scarlett Johansson stars as an American ex-pat living in Taiwan who is forced to become a drug mule by a Korean mob boss. When the experimental drug begins seeping into her system, she begins to experience heightened physical and mental abilities, which she utilizes to seek revenge. Besson has a thing for powerful leading ladies, and Lucy seems to be aware of its own silliness, so critics were relatively kind to the film, ludicrous logic and all. It may dumbfound you and confound you, but if you’re looking for a cheesy actioner, this may do the trick.



Annabelle

29%

The very beginning of 2013’s horror hit The Conjuring introduced audiences to the paranormal team of Ed and Lorraine Warren via the story of a mysterious doll named Annabelle. While we wait for the sequel to that film, the producers thought, “Eh, why not throw’em a bone in the meantime?” Hence, last year’s Annabelle, a Conjuring spinoff that includes the same introductory scene from the earlier film and builds off that to explain the origins of the creepy possessed doll that makes things go bump in the night. Unfortunately, critics weren’t too impressed with the story, which, like a lot of horror films these days, simply borrows elements from better predecessors and attempts to jump-scare you into submission. At just 29 percent on the Tomatometer, Annabelle is kind of a poor appetizer for The Conjuring 2, but if you just want to spend more time in that universe, it’ll do.



The Boxtrolls

The stop-motion animation studio Laika had great success with their first two features, 2009’s Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman, so there was some anticipation for their third, The Boxtrolls. Isaac Hempstead-Wright leads an all-star voice cast as Eggs, a human boy raised by the titular Boxtrolls in an underground home beneath the city of Cheesebridge. The Boxtrolls are misunderstood, however, and when an exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) vows to wipe them out, Eggs teams up with this first human friend, Winnie (Elle Fanning), to save his family. If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, you know that its visuals are both typically spectacular and a little off-kilter, which is also indicative of its sense of humor. Though it’s not Laika’s best effort to date, it’s still an entertaining family film that’s fascinating to watch.

Also available this week:

  • The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (93 percent), a Certified Fresh documentary about the programming wiz (and Reddit co-founder) whose tireless efforts in information activism resulted in legal troubles and, ultimately, suicide at the age of 26.
  • The Drop (89 percent), starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in a Certified Fresh crime thriller about a bartender who gets targeted by the Chechen mob when a robbery goes awry.
  • The Mule (85 percent), a dark comedy about a drug mule who decides withhold evidence by not… performing his bodily functions.
  • The Green Prince (77 percent), a documentary about Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who operated as an Israeli spy.
  • William H. Macy’s Rudderless (63 percent), starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin in the story of a grieving father who discovers his son’s demo tapes and decides to form a band to play the music.
  • Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (52 percent), starring Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon in a sci-fi drama about a computer genius tasked with discovering the meaning of life.
  • White Bird in a Blizzard (49 percent), starring Shailene Woodley in a coming-of-age drama about a young woman whose mother goes missing and who slowly comes to grips with the truth about the disappearance.
  • A Little Game, starring Janeane Garofalo and F. Murray Abraham in a family drama about a young girl who doesn’t get along with her peers but becomes unlikely friends with a local chess master.

Director Terry Gilliam speaks to Mark Seman about The Zero Theorem.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a mysterious labyrinth (The Maze Runner, starring Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario), a tense family reunion (This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman and Tina Fey), a grizzled private investigator (A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens), and a walrus-obsessed killer (Tusk, starring Justin Long and Michael Parks). What do the critics have to say?



The Maze Runner

65%

Another week, another dystopian young adult novel adaptation. Fortunately, critics say The Maze Runner is better than most, thanks to strong performances and a creepy, mysterious atmosphere. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up with no memory of his past, and finds himself within the confines of the Glade, a vast maze populated by other teenagers. Using clues within the Glade, he begins to piece together the enigma of his existence — and how to escape. The pundits say The Maze Runner‘s setup is more satisfying than its payoff, but overall, it’s smart, well-acted, and visually striking.



This Is Where I Leave You

44%

This is Where I Leave You is a dramedy about a dysfunctional family starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, and many more recognizable faces. Sounds like a winner, right? Well, critics say that despite the best efforts of the cast, the movie only generates occasional laughs. When the Altman family patriarch dies, his wife and children gather to mourn; fairly quickly, deeply-held insecurities, resentments, and family secrets bubble to the surface. The pundits say that while it’s fun to see this many good actors together onscreen, This is Where I Leave You plays everything a bit too safe, with rote characterizations and clichéd conflicts that don’t cut very deep. (Watch our video interview with the cast and crew here.)



A Walk Among the Tombstones

68%

Liam Neeson’s recent transformation into a world-weary vengeance seeker has yielded uneven — though occasionally startling — dividends. Critics say his latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, falls right in the middle — it’s an old-fashioned, meat-and-potatoes noir with better-than-average characters to offset its shopworn plot. Neeson stars as a private investigator who’s tasked with finding those responsible for the murder of a drug trafficker’s wife. He soon learns that the killers are likely to strike again, and vows to hunt them down and stop them before they do. The pundits say that A Walk Among the Tombstones is a relatively routine detective thriller, but it’s skillfully made and benefits from the gravitas Neeson brings to the proceedings. (Check out Neeson’s best-reviewed movies here, and be sure to watch our video interview here.)



Tusk

45%

Best known for his amiable, observational comedies, Kevin Smith has recently taken a detour into horror with Red State (2011) and now Tusk. And while critics say his latest is inventive and gleefully perverse, its gruesome set pieces coexist uneasily with its macabre sense of humor. Justin Long stars as Wallace, the host of a podcast that spotlights the bizarre and grotesque. He travels to Canada to interview a mysterious loner, who eventually reveals that he intends to turn Wallace into a walrus. The pundits say Tusk certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, but it too often feels strange for its own sake.

Also opening this week in limited release:

Finally, props to Andrew LaPlant for coming the closest to guessing No Good Deed‘s 11 percent Tomatometer.

Loving the alien: Scarlett Johansson in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, one of the hits at Venice.

With this year’s diverse Toronto International Film Festival underway, and both the New York and London fests soon to follow, summer blockbuster malaise has given way — for critics, anyway — to the beginning of that months-long circus known as awards season. To get things rolling, here’s a look at 15 of the most buzzed-about titles to look out for from the just-wrapped Venice film festival — with the critics weighing in on new stuff from the likes of Miyazaki, Glazer, Gilliam, Cuarón and (yes, yet another) Coppola.

1. Gravity

Though it screened out of competition, Alfonso Cuarón’s long-overdue return was met with arguably the loudest critical applause, and with the raves now extending to Toronto, the buzz on the Children of Men director’s tense space thriller Gravity is nearing fever pitch. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as astronauts cut adrift in the void after their shuttle is destroyed, with Cuarón delivering an experience that has thus far left critics breathless. When no less than James Cameron declares it “the best space film ever done,” you can consider the stakes effectively raised.

2. The Wind Rises

It goes without saying that a new Miyazaki will be at the top of any must-see list, but this time it’s all the more compelling — and terribly bittersweet — given the director’s shock announcement at Venice that The Wind Rises will be his final film. And this time he really, really means it. Miyazaki’s first feature since 2009’s Ponyo is a more personal, mature affair, continuing the director’s obsession with flight in its story of the designer of Japan’s WWII fighter planes. It’s already been an enormous hit in Miyazaki’s home nation, and reviews so far are strong. One can only hope he changes his mind about retiring. Again.

3. Night Moves

With Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff, Kelly Reichardt has been on a major roll — and it looks as though the director’s latest, the eco-action thriller Night Moves, is set to continue her critical winning streak. Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Saarsgard play environmentalists en route to demolish a dam, a premise that, by most accounts, has been elevated by the filmmaker’s trademark touch. Reichardt “takes this volatile story,” writes Xan Brooks in The Guardian, “and handles it with care and precision, as if transporting unstable nitroglycerin.”

4. Under the Skin

In what surely comprises some of the more inspired casting of late, Scarlett Johansson plays an alien in human form, wandering through Scotland in search of men to prey upon. If the pitch sounds like B-grade sci-fi, then director Jonathan Glazer — who hasn’t made a feature since 2004’s Birth — has by many accounts crafted a distinct original, with Film.com’s William Goss calling it a “surreal study of an outsider examining our world with a clinical fascination, driven by a cryptic purpose, more akin to David Bowie’s visitor in The Man Who Fell to Earth.” Under the Skin has proved otherwise divisive with Venice critics, however, which only makes it more exciting to see.

5. Tom at the Farm

Still just 24 and with four feature films to his name, French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan will be hearing the label “precocious” for some time to come — and with good reason. Last year’s epic, hyperstylized melodrama Laurence Anyways upped the director’s ambition and creative ante, and Tom at the Farm seems to have pared back the indulgence but not the talent. “A kinky queer noir detailing the dangers awaiting a gay Montreal hipster as he journeys to the homophobic heartland for his lover’s funeral,” writes Guy Lodge at Variety, “it’s an improbably exciting match of knife-edge storytelling and a florid vintage aesthetic.” Let’s hope the film gets a wider theatrical release in the US than Dolan’s last.

6. Joe

Since his “return to form” with this year’s well-reviewed Prince Avalanche, David Gordon Green has found himself back in critics’ favor — and anticipation has been piqued for his latest effort, Joe. Nicolas Cage is apparently back on serious acting form as an ex-con who forms an unlikely friendship with a 15-year-old (Tye Sheridan, who won the young acting prize at Venice), and Green has made a dark, rural companion piece to to the more comedic Avalanche. Time‘s Richard Corliss says Cage’s performance “recalls why, before his megastardom, he was considered one of cinema’s most powerful and subtle actors.” It must be the beard.

7. Locke

For anyone who wanted to spend 90 minutes alone on a road trip with Bane, this is your movie. Eastern Promises writer Stephen Knight’s Locke is just that — a minimalist piece consisting of Tom Hardy traversing the English motorways while talking on his phone — and it is, at the very least, a feat of vocal prowess. “If you are asking an audience to listen to one man talking for an hour and a half,” offers Robbie Collin at The Telegraph, “you had better make sure he is worth listening to, and minute-by-minute, Hardy has you spellbound.” It’s comforting to know that Hardy’s voice will be comprehensible this time.

8. The Zero Theorem

A Terry Gilliam movie actually finding its way to the screen is such a rare event these days that even when the results seem mixed — and The Zero Theorem is reportedly in that category — they’re worth some curiosity. The veteran filmmaker’s first effort since the flawed-but-fascinating Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Theorem stars Christoph Waltz as a computer architect on the verge of solving the riddle of existence — or losing his mind. Gilliam has likened it to his 21st-century Brazil, which has been a problem for some: “At best,” claims Variety‘s Leslie Felperin, it “momentarily recalls the dystopian whimsy of the director’s best-loved effort.” Still, who knows when we’ll see his next movie?

9. Palo Alto

Not only does the Coppola family make fine wine, it just keeps cranking out the filmmakers — the latest being Gia Coppola, Francis’s granddaughter and Sofia’s niece. And if those aren’t industry connections enough, Coppola’s debut, Palo Alto, is based on a series of stories by James Franco, concerning the wayward lives of bored, affluent California teens. The usual charges of nepotism aside, plenty of encouraging notices have been forthcoming: writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy suggests it’s “the best feature film directed by someone named Coppola in a number of years.” It’ll be interesting to see how it measures against her aunt’s sublime teen-portrait debut, The Virgin Suicides.

10. Child of God

James Franco — yes, him again — takes a break from brokering world peace and wearing phallic noses to direct his 34th (okay, third) feature this year, and the word from Venice is positive. Having last tackled Faulkner, Franco adapts Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, a Tennessee-set story about a grieving young man descending into society’s murky moral fringe. At The Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek likens Scott Haze’s Lester to “Denis Lavant’s sewer-dwelling troglodyte in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, only with about half the charisma.” Which, frankly, is still plenty more than most.

11. Philomena

Steve Coogan shared the Best Screenplay award at Venice for his work on Philomena, which critics are mostly calling The Queen director Stephen Frears’s best work in some time. Comic Coogan plays it straight as a BBC journalist slumming on a human interest story about Judi Dench’s Philomena, a working class Londoner whose child was taken from her long ago. While it’s potentially middlebrow melodrama, plenty of critics have come away impressed with a film geared to please crowds. “It’s a terrifically moving film,” says Dave Calhoun at London’s Time Out, and “offers a healthy dose of cheekiness to counter the gloom.”

12. Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Fans of Japanese genre filmmaker Sion Sono — director of 2010’s cult fave Cold Fish — will no doubt be clamoring for Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, in which, as the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin handily summarizes, “two rival groups of gangsters agree to slaughter one another on camera for the benefit of a group of wannabe filmmakers, over a decade-long feud partly rooted in a toothpaste advert.” Such a typically demented premise will be enough to hook the faithful, though not all reviews have been enamored with the schlock and violence.

13. Moebius

Then again, Sono’s genre splatter may well be family-friendly relative to the infamy of Ki-duk Kim’s worlds of twisted perversity. The South Korean auteur won the Golden Lion at Venice last year with Pieta, a cheery incest drama, and Moebius appears to be a variation on the theme. Still, audiences won’t be at a loss for provocation: “A gloriously off-the-charts study in perversity,” enthuses Variety‘s Leslie Felperin, “Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius is right inside the Korean king-of-wackitude’s wheelhouse of outrageous cinema.”

14. Stray Dogs

Graced with Venice’s Grand Jury prize, the latest from the acclaimed filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang will be high on the must-see list of every cinephile — or anyone, really, who wants to see an epic long-take of a man eating a cabbage his daughter had used for her doll’s makeshift head. “It takes no less than three shots and maybe two edits before you know — for absolute certain — that you’re in the close company of a master filmmaker,” raves David Jenkins at Little White Lies, while the Financial Times‘ Nigel Andrews says Stray Dogs “poetry goes straight to the heart and solar plexus.”

15. Sorcerer

Finally, a film that deserves special mention: William Friedkin’s 1977 thriller Sorcerer, which was screened, at long last in its director’s restored version, in honor of the New Hollywood veteran’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Friedkin’s too-oft overlooked remake of The Wages of Fear has been tangled up in release issues for years, but will finally see the light again in theaters, and on Blu-ray, in the near future. According to the filmmaker, it’s the “best print ever of Sorcerer.” It’s also a masterpiece, and should not be missed.


Sacro GRA‘s director Gianfranco Rosi.

VENICE: While much of the critical buzz surrounded the likes of Alfonso Cuarón’s out-of-competition Gravity, the Golden Lion at the 70th Venice Film Festival has quietly gone to Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA, an Italian documentary in which the filmmaker spent two years touring Rome’s enormous ring road — the “GRA” — and chronicling the disparate lives around it.

The festival jury, lead by veteran filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and including the eclectic likes of Carrie Fisher, Pablo Larraín and Ryuichi Sakamoto, awarded the Silver Lion for Best Director to Alexandros Avranas for Miss Violence, while the newly-created Grand Jury Prize went to Ming-Liang Tsai’s critically-favored Stray Dogs.

The sole US competition winner was Tye Sheridan, who took home the Best Young Actor award for his performance alongside Nicolas Cage in David Gordon Green’s Joe. Earlier, director William Friedkin was presented with the festival’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, where he held a screening of his personally restored, soon-to-be-released 1977 masterpiece Sorcerer.

Other winners included Themis Panou (Best Actor, Miss Violence), Elena Cotta (Best Actress, A Street in Palermo), Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Best Screenplay, for Stephen Frears’ Philomena), and The Police Officer’s Wife (Winner of the Special Jury Prize).

Check back for a critical round up of the most talked-about features from the festival, including the latest from Jonathan Glazer, Hayao Miyazaki, Terry Gilliam and Xavier Dolan. In the meantime, here’s the trailer for Sacro GRA. It’s in Italian, but you can get a sense of the film.

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