6. Daniel Day-Lewis
There’s two reasons Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t in bad movies. Firstly, it’s because he only latches on to projects ever so often, wisely picking his spots. Secondly, he’s such a talent, he usually gets the pick of the litter.
He hasn’t had a role in quite some time. But he had the actor’s version of a mic-drop with his Best Actor win in Lincoln, and could ride into the sunset as a legend if he so pleased. But he also has an Oscar-winning performance just four years and a few projects before with There Will Be Blood.
Ever since he showed up in Sunday Bloody Sunday, Daniel Day-Lewis has been appearing in highly-regarded films and molding into each one. As odd as some may find his method acting, it often does a film wonders.
My Left Foot, The Last of the Mohicans, The Boxer, the list goes on and on. It’s hard to find a movie from the first 25 years of his career (regular roles started in 1982) that wasn’t acceptable. Nine is really the only one that gives no reason to argue for. Sure, Lincoln, The Crucible, even Mohicans has its detractors, but they all have tremendous support behind them.
Even The Ballad of Jack and Rose, which was directed and written by his wife Rebecca Miller, had its moments. Not all of his performances are as legendary as Daniel Plainview or Bill The Butcher (Gangs of New York), and not all his movies are up to par with his acting in them. But if Daniel Day-Lewis is on-screen, you’re bound to be satisfied with the experience.
7. Tilda Swinton
With one of the more adaptable filmographies of her time, Swinton has been involved in several projects worthy of her Oscar-winning talents.
She’s been in blockbuster franchises Doctor Strange and Narnia and off-beat films (with even stranger characters) like Snowpiercer and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Small art-house films, she continues to do them and well. She did a more conventional crime thriller in Michael Clayton, and rightfully received an Oscar for it.
Swinton has done it all and her career trajectory and the projects she takes on are similar next to no one. Burn After Reading is one of the more underrated movies of the last decade, and that was one of four critically praised movies she had that year alone.
It’s comical to think some of her worst movies are ones starring the biggest movie stars of their time. There was Leonardo DiCaprio (The Beach), Tom Cruise (Vanilla Sky), and Keanu Reeves (Constantine) movies that didn’t go over so well.
Besides some real cherry-picking, you could say her first bad film came 15 years after she started. She had only one hit-or-miss stretch at the beginning of the century and has been a near lock ever since.
Moonrise Kingdom, Broken Flowers, Adaptation, We Need to Talk About Kevin, they’re all unique films one way or another. And she lends herself to them all in a way very few others could.
8. John C. Reilly
The most unassuming name on the list, Reilly has a pair of Golden Globe nominations.
And Chicago and Walk Hard don’t have many similarities besides being set around the entertainment industry. And it’s rare to see someone like Reilly, who has played second or third-fiddle in so many movies, yet been placed in so many good ones.
In the last decade, he’s inserted himself in a big-name franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy, and made a name for himself in animated ventures (Wreck-it-Ralph, When Marnie Was There, Sing). That’s added on to highly-quotable comedies (Walk Hard, Step Brothers) and an amazingly odd indie (The Lobster).
The Aviator, Chicago, and Gangs of New York all reaped award season praise within 3 years, which all involved Reilly. Before that it was Magnolia and The Thin Red Line (1999). Before that it was Boogie Nights (1997).
Whether critics find him entertaining and talented or just plain lucky, he’s been in a lot of winners. He had a few scuffs on his filmography in between some of those Oscar nominees, but he’s been in the clear of letdowns since 2009’s Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.
He’s not without his Perfect Storm’s, movies that bring an array of different opinions. But for every time he walked into a Boys, a Days of Thunder, or a Nightwatch, he came back with three times as many solid movies to more than make up for them. From What’s Eating Gilbert Grape all the way to The Lobster, he’s shifted to different genres and succeeded immensely because of it.
9. Francis McDormand
McDormand and her husband Joel Coen have risen through the ranks together ever since 1984’s Blood Simple (acting and directing respectively). The combo would later collaborate on several other projects, as Coen and his brother Ethan won four Oscars, and McDormand had one of the most memorable roles of the 90’s.
Aside from winning her Oscar for Best Actress in 1996’s Fargo, she also was a part of Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, and other successful Coen films. Almost Famous, Mississippi Burning, and North Country all resounded well with critics as well, earning her Oscar nominations for each one.
After The Butcher’s Wife and Passed Away gave her two of the three worst flicks of her career in ’91 and ’92 respectively, it would take all way until 2005 for her to have another critical bomb. That was Aeon Flux, the video game adaptation disaster, a film choice completely out of place for McDormand.
And by the time Burnt After Reading has officially taken the sour taste from her mouth, she ran into another big-budget train wreck, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. But it’d be the final poorly reviewed outing she’d have up until now, with such films as Moonrise Kingdom and Hail, Caeser! having come since. She even recently ventured into animated movies.
With Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs coming up next year, there’s good reason to believe she’ll only add to such a strong record of fine films. A record that’s given her no more than a half-dozen terrible movies in a career spanning over 30 years.
10. Tom Hanks
It may seem like this guy is an obvious choice. But most of Hanks’s early work whether wasn’t that good, or it wasn’t appreciated as much as it should’ve been.
His early days of Splash, Big, and Turner and Hooch were surrounded by quite a few forgettable films. But once the 1990’s rolled around, he went on an unprecedented streak. And besides maybe 2016, in which Ithaca and Inferno’s disastrous results matched Sully and A Hologram for the King’s achievements, he hasn’t had a shaky year since the 80’s.
Hollywood’s everyman was the actor of the 90’s, and that’s despite the accomplishments of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and many others. The only argument is whether the front half or the back half of the decade was better for him.
A League of Their Own (1992) led into Sleepless in Seattle, which moved to Philadelphia, which eventually got us to Forrest Gump before Apollo 13 and Toy Story in 1995. That may be greatest spurt of roles in movie history. But then he turned around and directed/starred in That Thing You Do! before Saving Private Ryan, Toy Story 2, The Green Mile, and Castaway came in a three-year span.
Much of the 2000’s would give him a lot of average or slightly sub-par films. After Road to Perdition and Catch Me If You Can, the momentum stalled. Even with such talented directors as the Coen brothers (The Ladykillers), Steven Spielberg (The Terminal), Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express), and Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code), none of those great creators gave him a full-blown winner with their films.
Larry Crowne and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are other recent movies to disappoint. But Hanks soon helped give Disney another great Toy Story movie and Saving Mr. Banks, with Captain Phillips and Bridge of Spies offering up two solid bio drama (three if you count Banks) roles right in his wheelhouse.
He may’ve had a hit-or-miss 2016, but given such a track record, don’t expect that to continue in The Circle come April.