USA TODAY US Edition
Matthew is magic, sometimes
The filmography of Matthew McConaughey includes the good, the bad and the all right, all right, all right.
The 50-year-old Oscar winner (and new Instagrammer) has had a career that refuses to be pigeonholed: There are plenty of shirtless tanned dudes, for sure, but then McConaughey will whip out some dark art-house role that shows the depth of his soul. Those almost make up for his long string of ridiculous romantic comedies. (Almost.)
McConaughey’s latest takes him to the other side of the pond for an actionpacked crime comedy: In director Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen” (now in theaters), he stars as the American head of a vast English marijuana empire who brings out all manner of goon, crook and gangland upstarts when he tries to get out of his lucrative drug business.
It’s just one more interesting jaunt for a film career that’s been full of big swings (and quite a few whiffs). Here’s how “The Gentlemen” ranks among McConaughey’s best and worst films, starting with the bad:
15. ‘Gold’ (2017)
Even with a beer gut and thinning hair line, McConaughey’s charisma shines through the dullness of a drama that digs into a real 1990s gold scandal. McConaughey is the lovable-loser prospector in a narrative that manages to be both too serious and too goofy.
14. ‘Two for the Money’ (2005)
The all-star team of McConaughey (as an ex-football star so slick he makes Jerry Maguire look shlubby) and Al Pacino (as his cool mentor) totally fumbles the ball in this forgettable drama about sports gambling that mines every cliche it can about jocks and greed.
13. ‘White Boy Rick’ (2018)
McConaughey plays the troubled dad of a 1980s Detroit kid (Richie Merritt) who rises to be a drug kingpin and FBI informant by age 16 in the true-life tale. While well-acted, it doesn’t work as a father/son drama or a cautionary tale about the American judicial system.
12. ‘Reign of Fire’ (2002)
Looking like he just walked out of a “Mad Max” audition, McConaughey chews scenery and rocks a bald postapocalyptic swagger alongside tickedoff dragons that now rule the world. The fantastical B-movie has big stars (Christian Bale is here, too!) and cool effects but little else.
11. ‘The Sea of Trees’ (2016)
Gus Van Sant’s mystery/drama/ thriller/weep fest means well, with the earnest story of McConaughey and Ken Watanabe as two men who go on a selfreflective journey when they meet in Japan’s “Suicide Forest.” The visuals are interesting, the movie goes to some interesting spiritual places, yet the result is emotional banality.
10. ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ (2009)
Someone had the bright idea to take “A Christmas Carol” and turn it into a mediocre romantic comedy. McConaughey stars as the womanizing dude visited by three exes (including a permed-out Emma Stone) before he can get with his true love (Jennifer Garner).
9. ‘The Wedding Planner’ (2001)
McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez thankfully went onto bigger and better things but this clunker of a romantic comedy was a lowlight for both. McConaughey’s doctor dude saves Lopez’s character from a careening Dumpster, and also is the groom for the wedding she’s planning, though there’s more formulaic nonsense then actual chemistry.
8. ‘Sahara’ (2005)
McConaughey has never had a great action-adventure franchise to call his own, probably because this Indiana Jones retread failed so badly. As author Clive Cussler’s literary explorer Dirk Pitt, McConaughey went looking for lost gold and found a big-time flop.
7. ‘Serenity’ (2019)
If nothing else, the neo-noir mystery deserves some sort of kudos for having the most brain-twisting reveal in recent memory. McConaughey stars as an obsessive fishing-boat captain hired by his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) to kill her abusive husband, until one pretty bad film flips into a completely different (and still pretty bad) film.
6. ‘Failure to Launch’ (2006)
McConaughey is the grown-up manchild who won’t move out of his parents’ house, Sarah Jessica Parker is the woman hired to figure out what his deal is, and romantic-comedy high jinks ensue. It’s not that funny or romantic, though Terry Bradshaw ranks high on the list of cool movie dads.
5. ‘Fool’s Gold’ (2008)
The run of unfortunate McConaughey romantic comedies had to bottom out at some point, and it’s this one, where our dude is a wannabe treasure hunter and Kate Hudson is the ex-wife he recruits to go on a hunt for $500 million in lost gold and jewels. The movie isn’t a gem, at all, but respect to the exquisite tans of both stars.
4. ‘Larger Than Life’ (1996)
Being in an elephant-size misfire is probably worth it to act with Bill Murray. The comedy legend stars as a motivational speaker who inherits an elephant when his clown dad dies, and McConaughey is a jibber-jabbering Southernfried trucker who attacks Murray’s character with a tire iron after being tricked into hauling the pachyderm.
3. ‘Surfer, Dude’ (2008)
For the ultimate McConaughey beach-bum role, check out “The Beach Bum” and avoid the surf-flick equivalent of sand down your shorts. McConaughey is a longboarding legend who returns to Malibu looking for waves, but a drought sends him seeking sponsorship in reality TV and virtual-reality games. Not even Willie Nelson can make this cool, brah.
2. ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation’ (1995)
The slasher film marks the second time McConaughey and Renee Zellweger shared screen time in their early careers. While the horror film isn’t good in the least, it is sort of nuts to witness McConaughey as a psychopathic relative of that Texan madman Leatherface opposite Zellweger as a prom-night princess under duress.
1. ‘The Dark Tower’ (2017)
The long-awaited fantasy Western adaptation is guilty of many sins, chief among them turning a beloved Stephen
King book into a boring mess.
Maybe worse in some circles: A charmless McConaughey stars as the villainous Man in Black, an over-thetop devilish figure who’s arguably the actor’s worst character ever. And now, the good stuff:
15. ‘Magic Mike’ (2012)
Steven Soderbergh’s comedy-drama is based loosely on star Channing Tatum’s pre-Hollywood life as a male stripper. It’s McConaughey, though, who’s often the bare-chested, scenestealing wonder as the ambitious stripclub owner still showing the young bucks a thing or two.
14. ‘The Gentlemen’ (2020)
In Ritchie’s throwback to his early crime fare (“Snatch,” “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”), McConaughey plays an American expat/weed kingpin with a penchant for spouting four-letter words, a violent temper, no patience for greedy fools, and a loyal streak when it comes to protecting his wife (Michelle Dockery).
13. ‘A Time to Kill’ (1996)
McConaughey has spent some time in movie courtrooms and this solid John Grisham adaptation early in his career gave him some top-notch co-stars: McConaughey and Sandra Bullock star as attorneys who defend a black Mississippi man (Samuel L. Jackson) accused of killing the white men who raped and beat his 10-year-old daughter.
12. ‘Amistad’ (1997)
The legal stuff went historical for Steven Spielberg’s multilayered 19th-century drama, which featured McConaughey as a lawyer hired by abolitionists to defend a crew of African slaves (including Djimon Hounsou) who ended up on American shores after they took over a Cuban ship via mutiny.
11. ‘Lone Star’ (1996)
In John Sayles’ moody mystery, a young McConaughey showcased a more enigmatic side for the first time as a beloved sheriff who cleaned up a corrupt Texas town but whose reputation is reconsidered decades later with when his son (Chris Cooper) gets the badge and unearths a mysterious buried skeleton.
10. ‘Mud’ (2013)
In the coming-of-age tale with a modern Mark Twain vibe, McConaughey gives one of his strongest Southerntinged performances as Mud, a loner literally living on an island who befriends a couple of curious Arkansas boys (Tye
Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) and protects them as they learn the truth about why he’s isolated himself.
9. ‘We Are Marshall’ (2006)
This great football flick gets you right in the feels chronicling the rebuilding of the Marshall University football team after a 1970 plane crash killed most of its players. Inspiring speeches and groovy threads are par for the course with McConaughey playing the colorful coach who pulls the community together.
8. ‘Tropic Thunder’ (2008)
McConaughey doesn’t have a huge role in the hilarious skewering of Hollywood and war films, but he does get some choice scenes as a high-profile talent agent who’s extremely loyal and devoted to getting his washed-up client and best friend (Ben Stiller) a TiVo, even when the actor is kidnapped by an Asian heroin-manufacturing gang.
7. ‘Contact’ (1997)
A spiritual predecessor to “Arrival,” this sci-fi movie stars Jodie Foster as a scientist who gets the chance to communicate with aliens. McConaughey is her love interest, a Christian theologian who initially foils her chance to make contact, and a thoughtful romance blossoms from their intellectual attraction.
6. ‘Frailty’ (2002)
McConaughey doesn’t do a lot of horror, but he makes the most of his turn in the unnerving psychological thriller. The late Bill Paxton directs and stars as a dad who claims to his two sons that he’s been tasked by God to kill demons disguised as humans, and McConaughey is one of the grown-up kids who believes his brother is responsible for a bunch of serial killings.
5. ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ (2016)
The gorgeous, Asian-influenced stop-motion animated film casts McConaughey as the voice of Beetle, a macho warrior who alongside wise Monkey (Charlize Theron) helps a young Japanese boy (Art Parkinson) find his late father’s suit of armor and trains him to fend off the return of the kid’s evil grandfather.
4. ‘Interstellar’ (2014)
McConaughey and director Christopher Nolan go to space for the sprawling, mind-bending and somewhat socially conscious sci-fi epic. Surrounded by dazzling, Oscar-winning visual effects, McConaughey is the heart and soul of the piece as a former NASA pilot called back into duty to save mankind but leave his children behind in the process.
3. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)
Even though he’s barely in Martin Scorsese’s Wall Street dramedy, McConaughey still leaves a major chestthumping mark: In a key lunch scene, he plays a high-profile stockbroker whose morally questionable career advice sends up-and-comer Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) on his way to financial crimes and one crazy sex-andd-rugs-fueled lifestyle.
2. ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013)
McConaughey won a best actor Oscar for his wowing, transformative performance as Ron Woodroof, a cowboy electrician whose life is torn asunder when he’s diagnosed with AIDS and given a month to live.
He begins a scheme to smuggle in unapproved drugs and distribute them to fellow patients, first being all about the money but then growing to care for others.
1. ‘Dazed and Confused’ (1993)
Most actors don’t get to be in a generational movie in their breakout role, and McConaughey not only got his trademark line out of “Dazed” (“all right, all right, all right”) but also a signature character who helped make this Richard Linklater comedy a coming-of-age classic. Surrounded by a stellar cast of future stars (Zellweger, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich), McConaughey’s Texas 20something slacker Wooderson is a leering dude when it comes to teen girls yet he gave cinema a laidback stoner icon.