Matthew McConaughey had some of the most fascinating career paths in recent Hollywood history probably. After his feature film debut with a highly memorable role in “Dazed and Confused”, he rose to stardom as a leading man with his dramatic turns in films like “A Time to Kill” and “Contact”.
In early 21st century, McConaughey became best known for his romantic comedy roles. He was a reliable romantic comedian, thanks to his comedic timing and charm but the films, while commercially successful, were mostly typical, formulaic Hollywood studio stuff which is why Matthew was not getting much respect. He was even, at times, ridiculed as someone who makes only forgettable commercial films and always takes his shirt off.
But now that he earned a lot of money, he could do more indies, take on more complex roles and his 2011-2015 run was so strong that several media outlets and critics started to call the era “The McConaissance”.
Now an Oscar winner for “Dallas Buyers Club” and Emmy nominee for “True Detective”, he is even a bigger star than he ever been who tries to balance commercial films with small independent films.
Thanks to his recent output, he now has a larger fan base than he ever did as well as critics’ love. He has worked with Spielberg, Scorsese, Nolan, Linklater and many more. So now let’s say “alright, alright, alright” and take a look at his very interesting filmography with full of surprise. Oh and… just keep living.
45. Surfer Dude (2008)
McConaughey had that wild, stoner, care-free guy image for a long time in media, maybe because of his “Dazed and Confused” role and “Surfer Dude” is basically about a character like that…. But not sure if “about” is the right word here as the film is not about an aimless character only but the film itself has no aim also. While watching it you’ll have one question in your head:
What the hell were they thinking? Harmony Korine seems to have cast him for that image again in his upcoming new film “The Beach Bum”. Let’s hope that one will actually be good.
44. My Boyfriend’s Back (1992)
Incredibly silly (and not in a good way), full of nonsensical plot twists and sitcom jokes that don’t work. If you’re not a fan of early 90s B-movie horror comedies, then you can just ignore this. McConaughey has a blink-and-miss kind of role.
43. Scorpion Spring (1996)
Obscure, poorly done thriller “Scorpion Spring” is a cheesy and even worst of it – a boring film. The cast is not so interesting, and even though the cinematography is alright, there’s no need to see it for that reason. McConaughey has a limited screen time and he doesn’t get much interesting to do, he doesn’t even have many lines. If you’re a die-hard fan, try to find his scenes online instead of watching the whole thing.
42. Tiptoes (2003)
Not a good movie but Peter Dinklage claims it actually had a “terrific script” but a lot of drama happened in post-production that it ended up like this. And he may have a point. Jeff Bridges also claims that it was a “beautiful, fantastic story” when he was attached to the project before Matthew.
While all of it is strange and downright weird, you can actually see that Matthew Bright – the man behind the cult classic “Freeway” (1996) – was actually going for. It’s not an excuse to praise the film though. It’s mostly an unpleasant experience with a cast that has been wasted.
41. Dark Tower (2017)
Probably the worst film Matthew has done since his “McConaissance” has started, this Stephen King adaptation not only disappointed the fans of the original novel series but also failed to be pass as even a decent summer blockbuster entertainment. It’s just way too cheesy. Awfully written dialogues, poor special effects and even Matthew seemed like he’s not much caring for his part. Idris Elba does the best he can but that was not enough to save this mess.
40. Glory Daze (1996)
One of those “Dazed and Confused” rip-offs and not a good one. It has a decent cast but basically nothing else. The screenplay is nothing special, full of stereotypes and clichés where the story doesn’t go anywhere interesting. McConaughey is amusing as an alcoholic rental truck representative though.
39. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
This one actually starts pretty interesting but after first 20 minutes or so, things get out of control. Maybe you’d enjoy it if you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise or you just enjoy making fun of bad movies, but this one is just… bad.
As a native Texan, McConaughey somewhat proud of the film though, it’s overall a part of Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. And his performance is actually kind of fun? It’s way over-the-top and it’s obvious that he hasn’t get use to camera yet but the result is still deliciously entertaining. Co-starring Renee Zellweger in a very early role.
38. Larger than Life (1996)
One of Bill Murray’s misfires “Larger than Life” is generally unfunny film where even Murray can’t save it. McConaughey has a small part as fast-talking, deeply paranoid trucker and he’s interesting to watch but something is lacking in his performance, maybe it’s because of the film is generally weak in general or he hasn’t found his “style” yet, who knows because there are signs of an actor who’s capable of giving a great performance but he just doesn’t. We can blame the director as well here though.
37. The Wedding Planner (2001)
Here comes the film that has everything you hate about mainstream studio romantic comedies which gave the genre a bad name. “The Wedding Planner” is about a very successful wedding planner Mary (Jennifer Lopez), whose life is saved by handsome doctor (McConaughey) whom she falls in love with but then he turns out to be the groom in the biggest wedding of her career! “My Best Friend’s Wedding” was not even that much of a great film to begin with and this one falls short in comparision.
Lopez and McConaughey are both charismatic performers and both have considerable charm but maybe because of the bland script or maybe poor direction choices, or maybe they just didn’t care much – their chemistry doesn’t come alive, it just doesn’t work. Both are out of their elements and since the film is full of annoying clichés that would make you roll your eyes all the time, then there’s nothing to see here.
36. The Paperboy (2012)
Matthew’s turn out as closeted, idealistic reporter is strong even if his part is not necessarily memorable as much as Kidman or Cusack, he’s still very good. But the rest of the movie is pure trash. And here I don’t mean “trashy fun” or something like that.
It had elements to be “so bad it’s fun” but instead, it ended up “so bad that it’s just… bad”. There are many films you don’t mind the campy tone and just enjoy the ride but The Paperboy has such an uneven script and often annoying tone that it becomes impossible to enjoy it.
35. Angels in the Outfield (1994)
Now that is basically everything you hate about Disney films. Simplistic tone, simplistic lines (or maybe they just can’t hire fine writers), full of clichés, and cheesy moments. That said, it’s still decently acted (McConaughey is a supporting role and doesn’t get much of chance to show his acting strengths) which makes it bit serviceable.
34. We Are Marshall (2006)
When Matthew was stuck in rom-com misery, it was an opportunity to show his dramatic chops but he needed a better director and not only for to have a more nuanced performance. “We Are Marshall”, a film about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, is undeniably shallow and overly sentimental, simplistic film which is no surprise as it comes from a filmmaker like McG.
One would wonder how and why they agreed to give this story to him. Matthew is fine and as the film is not great, he can be considered even as one of the highlights of the film but his performance often comes off as a caricature and is unconvincing. It could pass as an entertaining performance if it was some B-action or comedy but in a film that deals with such serious subject, it gets irritating.
33. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009)
Tarantino may have found “True Detective” pilot episode too boring enough to not watch the rest but he sure loved McConaughey’s “Ghost of Girlfriends Past”. Not as much as he loves “Dazed and Confused”, but the famous director acknowledged that he even cried during the film. But that was bit more for personal reasons as he connected to the flashback scene where Jennifer Garner character bought Matthew his first camera. But one thing for sure, it’s not something that would cry most people or laugh.
It’s a tired premise of “Christmas Carol” which can work out at the right hands but here it just bores you to death with their uncreative jokes and some more of awful writing. McConaughey honestly deserves more respect than he got for those roles though, because he was actually managed to elevate the material as much as possible.
32. Fool’s Gold (2008)
Matthew and Kate Hudson had a great chemistry in box office smash “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days”, so it made sense for Hollywood to bring them back together. Not only them, his “A Time to Kill” co-star, legendary Donald Sutherland is also here and he seems to have fun with his part also but unlike in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, Kate-Matthew chemistry here doesn’t work as it did in their previous collaboration and its clichéd storyline with unfunny jokes also doesn’t help.
31. Two for the Money (2005)
You can see Matthew was trying to get better scripts and do something different from the fact that he made this movie and then “We Are Marshall” but unfortunately, he didn’t quite succeed.
Written by Dan Gilroy, who’ll later find a success as director-writer of “Nightcrawler”, had some original ideas in his mind but it didn’t come to the screen as effective as it could. Instead we got a boring film. Al Pacino shines though and McConaughey – while good – is overshadowed by him.
30. Reign of Fire (2002)
Fire-breathing dragons emerges from the earth and you can guess what happens next. “Reign of Fire” is a shamelessly campy B-movie if you don’t expect anything more than just being entertained.
The film doesn’t take itself seriously and even if it does, there’s no way it can pass as a “serious” one which is okay and one of the reasons of why it’s so fun, it’s because of McConaughey. Matthew lets his wild side to take over the role, It’s not necessarily a “good” performance but it’s an entertaining one. Being boring is the ultimate unforgivable sin for an actor and Matthew never is.
29. Free State of Jones (2016)
Gary Ross is one of those directors who has no distinctive style or anything, so no wonder when the script isn’t that strong – his films turn out to be dull as hell. This one is no exception. McConaughey is fully committed though.
28. Sahara (2005)
One of the notable flops of 21st century, “Sahara” is actually an OK-ish kind of an action/adventure film where McConaughey’s charisma and charm carries the film along with some decent action, mesmerizing desert landscapes.
It has so many elements of the typical formula: handsome lead (Matthew), sexy heroine (Penelope Cruz), amusing sidekick (Steve Zahn), villains with no depth who are just there for being a villain and action sequences which are not that great but are enough to make you entertained on a Saturday afternoon. “Sahara” is not “Indiana Jones”, not even “National Treasure” but still far from being an embarrassment from McConaughey’s 2001-2009 period.
27. Sing (2016)
Compared to other animation where we got to hear Matthew’s voice, “Sing” falls short but if you don’t mind the typical formula some of such animations do have, it’s still generally a well-made, entertaining film. But nothing to write home about.
26. Failure to Launch (2006)
Hollywood studios had interesting ideas for their romantic comedies at times but instead of working at them, researching them better and try to take some risks, they just used it to deliver your usual formulaic entertainment that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. McConaughey plays a 35-year-old man, who is still living with his parents. So his parents decides hire an “expert” to get their son to move out – which is Sarah Jessica Parker and surprise! They fall in love.
McConaughey brings his charm here again but Sarah Jessica is actually dull, which is bit surprising if you watch it after something like “L.A. Story” and/or “Honeymoon in Vegas” where she’s just more in her element. Since the chemistry is not there, it gets hard to like the film but if you love Zooey Deschanel’s deadpan humour, it’s one of those films (like “The Good Girl”) where she successfully steals the show from its leads.