13. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
It was one of the most pleasant surprises of its year, with a unique story told with unexpected level of complexity, just right amount of dose of action, humour and drama and also had some really strong visuals to back it up. The voice acting was pretty good as well, including by McConaughey of course.
12. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
While not totally unique or original, “The Lincoln Lawyer” features tons of things you love about courtroom dramas. The pacing is great, the story is engaging, and McConaughey is simply terrific in the lead role, probably gives his character more depth than it was on the script and he just dominates the screen.
Ryan Phillippe is also good, and William H. Macy and Marisa Tomei – two amazingly talented performers, may not have much showy roles here but they’re always welcome on our screens. Even though it has a very solid cast, it’s McConaughey’s show. In the beginning of McConaissance, it was a solid start to remind audiences and critics alike that he’s capable of so much more than they think.
11. Bernie (2011)
McConaughey collaborating with Richard Linklater again was a great news to most movie fans and fortunately, they delivered. “Bernie” is amazingly well-made, incredibly amusing true crime story and one of Linklater’s highlights.
The focus was generally on Jack Black who portrays a Texan assistant mortician Bernie and is a beloved member of the community. But then Bernie becomes the only friend of the wealthy, recently widowed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) but things don’t end well. McConaughey steals the show as ruthless district attorney and shows that even though most of his career consisted of lead actor roles, he had a great character actor in himself.
10. Frailty (2001)
One of the most overlooked and probably most effective horror films of early 2000s, “Frailty” gives McConaughey a chance to shine in a supporting role that you’ll keep on wondering why people act like he never gave a great performance before “McConaissance”. Bill Paxton was an underrated actor and in “Frailty”, he doesn’t only show that he was a terrific actor but also that he was such a promising director.
It is moody and atmospheric, the lighting and the score adds so much to it and Paxton gives a terrific performance as does McConaughey, who shows his dark side long before than he did in “True Detective”. Not only it’s an original story, but a very daring one too. It has a twist that is much unexpected and genuinely surprising one. It’s also very dark and memorable, even though it may divide some audiences for its ending.
9. Killer Joe (2011)
“He’s wild, man.” That’s how Matthew describes William Friedkin and yep, he certainly is. People were not expecting Matthew to go THIS dark after all these romantic comedies but one had to remind them that Matthew is an actor with range.
Wiliam Friedkin’s “Bug” was not for everyone’s taste even though it was showing that he’s still a bold and daring filmmaker and here he does the same again with another Tracy Letts story. It’s dark, it’s violent and it has such twisted humour that it’s hard to look away. Matthew is once again brilliant as the titular character and because of him, you’ll probably never look at fried chicken the same way again.
8. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
You could imagine he was building up to this moment. He was already getting a lot of awards buzz for “Killer Joe”, “Mud”, “Magic Mike” and “Bernie” but you could see “Dallas Buyers Club” will be the one to do. McConaughey often got media attention for his body, even it was a subject to discuss in his “Inside the Actors Studio” interview. He was even often ridiculed for having a shirtless scene in most of his films.
So here he did what they didn’t expect him to do: he lost 47 pounds for his role, changed his physical appearance that almost shocked the audiences. But it was not only about the physical transformation, Matthew totally owned the character and won a well-deserved Oscar for portraying electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof who worked around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is diagnosed with the disease.
The film itself is good as well, not the masterpiece you’d expect as it has its flaws; it may be bit too straightforward and polished but thanks to wry humor and Jean Marc Vallee’s careful direction, you don’t mind it much. But it has to be said, it’s more like “The Accused” and “North Country” where the script is not very strong as it should be but important/interesting subject matter and terrific performances makes up for it.
7. Interstellar (2014)
There’s no need to talk about Chris Nolan. He’s one of those directors that each of his new film is an “event” now. Compared to first two “Dark Knight” films or “Inception”, “Memento”, and “Dunkirk”, Interstellar was slightly less acclaimed and bit more divisive than his usual stuff.
Some complained about the scientific inaccuracy or plot holes or some of the heavy-handed writing but then again, strangely, despite all of its flaws and being too ambitious for its own good, “Interstellar” is still one of the best recent science fictions films and large part of it is actually due to how much McConaughey is invested in his role.
Sure, there were some complaints about its sentimentality also but many more people didn’t mind it and it’s mainly because of McConaughey’s strong acting chops and how he just disappears in the role, makes his character’s feelings genuine.
Nolan haters can bring this down, or Nolan fanboys can overrate it as much as they want but probably general audience would agree that “Interstellar”, despite all of its flaws, is a visually stunning, strongly acted (at least by Matthew), one of the better sci-fis of the recent years that asks interesting questions.
6. A Time to Kill (1996)
Joel Schumacher has a strange reputation. He has made some cult films (Lost Boys, 8mm), gained acclaim for some of his other works which stood out for having unusual premises for mainstream films (Falling Down, Flatliners) and some overlooked great films as well (Tigerland) but then his Batman films, particularly “Batman & Robin” got ridiculed so much that it damaged his reputation. Schumacher is actually pretty versatile as a director and he also directed two successful John Grisham adaptations: “The Client” and “A Time To Kill”.
Schumacher is known for casting young actors that would help them to become bigger stars (if there were no “Tigerland” or “Phone Booth”, maybe we wouldn’t have Colin Farrell). McConaughey was actually supposed to play Kiefer Sutherland’s character but he managed to convince Schumacher to give him the lead part, a white idealist lawyer defending a black man accused of murdering two men who raped his ten-year-old daughter after learning that they’ll probably get no punishment for their actions.
While the film is longer than two hours, it’s almost never boring and despite having a very strong, all-star cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, Ashley Judd, Chris Cooper, Oliver Platt, Brenda Fricker) who all were more trained actors with more experiences than McConaughey, Matthew still managed to give a strong performance and carried the whole film on his shoulders. His ending monologue is still one of the finest acting moments of his career.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
“Alright, alright, alright”. Finally the film where that legendary catchphrase was born. One of the greatest teen films for sure, Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” introduced McConaughey to film audiences.
The film got much praise for its filming style and improvisational, realistic dialogues while Matthew’s role was limited, almost all of his scenes ended up being iconic, as did his lines. McConaughey also reprised his role as Wooderson in the Butch Walker and The Black Widows music video “Synthesizers”, how cool is that?
4. Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
You can often hear from the critics of DiCaprio that he doesn’t take risks enough, which is an understandable criticism when you think of it as he only works with top directors but never does any indie with a less known director like, let’s say, Sean Baker or someone like him but one shouldn’t go far with saying he doesn’t take risks at all.
Making this movie was a risk where the word “fuck” and its numerous conjugations are said between 506 and 569 times, and went with a totally different type of narrative with Jordan Belfort’s story. But it paid off.
Leo gives one of his best performances, probably his best comedic work, which has the elements from the eccentricity he shows in “The Aviator” and his usual charm that can be manipulative as we seen in “Catch Me If You Can”. And Scorsese’s direction is also terrific.
McConaughey’s performance is limited but he steals the show, with his humming, with his amusing line deliveries and his deadpan humour. Even some fans of the film wanted to get him a Best Supporting Actor award nomination and who can blame them? He does so much in such short time. He later collaborated with Scorsese for a “Dolce and Gabbana” commercial but here’s hoping they’ll collaborate again for an actual movie.
3. Lone Star (1996)
Terrific film all around and probably one of the most underrated films of 90s, “Lone Star” was applauded by critics back in time for its strong direction, psychological aspects of the script and terrific editing. Industry also took notice of it and the Academy gave it an Oscar nomination for its screenplay.
The film deals with a sheriff’s investigation into the murder of one of his predecessors and McConaughey appears in flashbacks as sheriff’s late father and he’s not particularly the standout of the cast but the whole cast is great and the film is brilliant in general. It also helped Matthew reaching to the stardom as he had “A Time to Kill” in the same year.
2. Mud (2012)
Great performances and another strong, uniquely American effort from Jeff Nichols. As a director, he’s not interested in expanding his range much, he keeps giving us the stories from Rural America and we should let him do it as he’s excellent at it.
“Mud” is not particularly a deep film with unpredictable narrative or something but it has such a poetic tone which emotionally grabs you and the performances also help; Matthew is so amazing as the title character and so is Tye Sheridan.
The film explores the themes of family, loyalty, friendship, the sense of adventure kids have in themselves, how men see women in a more primal context, messy and chaotic nature of romantic love (especially young love) among others. Nichols carefully explores them; everything feels so natural and it gives McConaughey a chance to show why he’s so great.
1. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2002)
It’s not Matthew’s fault that people skipped some of his great films before McConaissance happened. And we admit with cheating a bit to put it on a number one, it’s hard to pick his best film as he has a lot of good ones but “Thirteen Conversations About One Thing” is not only beautiful, affecting work but it’s also very underrated one and certainly deserves more recognition. Sets in New York City, the film is divided into 13 vignettes, each prefaced by an aphorism and focuses on five characters.
It is about what everyone wants to find in their life: Happiness. All kinds of happiness. What is happiness, how do we define it, how we lose it, how much we want to find it, do we feel guilty about it when we find it and many more – it’s a bit of a philosophical film but never pretentious and/or preachy. It’s unfortunate that director Jill Sprecher is not prolific as much as we would like her to be. She creates such naturalistic atmosphere and her brilliant cast – including Alan Arkin, John Turturro, Clea DuVall and of course, Matthew – all give such subtle, yet affecting work here.
Each character is so well-written that you wish she’d turn it all into a TV series where we would get to know even more about them. It’s also one of the most underrated films Matthew has ever done, but that’s not only the reason why we rank this movie so high. It’s ranked high because simply it’s just a terrific work of art.