Today is Matt Damon’s 50th birthday. In total, the Oscar winner’s flicks (and off-screen shenanigans) have grossed more than $3 billion worldwide. Here are our top ten favorite films of the Massachusetts-born actor in honor of his birthday.
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The following are our top picks (plus a few honorable mentions):
10. The Rainmaker (1997)
It was Francis Ford Coppola’s uncomplicated adaptation of John Grisham’s novel that managed to bookend Damon’s breakthrough year, even if the Cambridge native fumbled with his southern accent. Still a riveting legal thriller, with a young actor delivering a strong performance.
9. Contagion (2011)
A terrible virus spreads over the world, killing millions, and there is no treatment in sight in Steven Soderbergh’s pandemic thriller. As the virus threatens to upend their way of life, Damon portrays a depressed, newly-single dad who does everything in his power to keep his teenage daughter safe. Damon’s likability helps us get through the heartbreak of a pandemic in a great film that gets nearly everything right.
8. The Informant! (2009)
U.S. authorities decide to pursue an agricultural business giant with a price-fixing claim based on evidence provided by their star witness, Mark Whitacre, played by Matt Damon in this movie. In this funny satirical comedy, he reunites with Steven Soderbergh, and it’s a hoot thanks in large part to Damon’s outrageous performance.
7. The Martian (2015)
With Matt Damon as an astronaut stuck on Mars in Ridley Scott’s crowd-pleasing space adventure, you’ll get everything from this Hollywood production, including a witty script and Damon’s captivating performance. Mark Watney is a compelling character, and few performers can do Tom Hanks-style work like Matt Damon.
6. The Departed (2006)
In Martin Scorsese’s gripping and Oscar-winning version of “Infernal Affairs,” an undercover detective and a police mole strive to identify one other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston. If you haven’t seen it yet, we’re envious of your lack of knowledge. Fans of “School Ties” were already familiar with Damon’s ability to play a sleaze, but others were excited to see how far he could go with Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
5. The Bourne Identity (2002)
I can’t decide which of these assassin with amnesia seeks to get his memories back first: the first two films in the trilogy or the third? This is a tough one to narrow down to just one, but we’ll go with Doug Liman’s origin narrative in “Ultimatum,” which gave Damon yet another cherished franchise that would span 14 years.
4. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
With George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Damon played Linus Caldwell, an enthusiastic but novice pickpocket, in Steven Soderbergh’s Heist Trilogy, which remains our favorite. However, we’re all rooting for Linus as he tries to follow in the footsteps of his mentors Danny and Rusty.
3. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Due in large part to Matt Damon’s haunting performance as a sociopathic American transplant scamming his way through Italy, Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel will still give you the creeps Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Cate Blanchett all star in the film.
2. Rounders (1998)
Big stakes poker is back in the life of a rehabilitated gambler (Matt Damon), but he must balance his responsibilities to law school and his relationship with his fiancée. When Damon’s career began to take off and he could have featured in whatever idiotic Hollywood movie he wanted, he decided to make this noirish, inside baseball poker story instead. All three of these actors also appear in the film.
1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won an Oscar for their script, which was directed by Gus Van Sant. Is the story of a disturbed yet smart young guy from Boston who becomes the patient of an emotionally sad psychoanalyst (Robin Williams, who also won an Oscar). Despite all of Damon’s subsequent success, this film stands the test of time and remains the actor’s best effort, even after 23 years.