Skip to main content

The best George Clooney movies of all time

He started with a No. 1 TV show and is now one of America's best movie stars — these top films are must-sees

George Clooney in Michael Clayton.
Warner Bros.

George Clooney was born with a leg up. There’s no point in denying his good looks and charisma, which were more than enough to make him a TV star. What made him a matinee idol of the kind we rarely see anymore, though, was his ability to break out of the shell that his good looks could have boxed him into. George Clooney can be whatever he needs to be. He can be a sexy, sly criminal, a lawyer who’s dead inside, or a bumbling oaf trying to find his way home.

All of these roles work on Clooney, because he fits well in comedies and dramas. The peak of Clooney’s powers is likely behind us at this point, but as he proved in his more recent movies, he remains one of the most charismatic leading men that Hollywood has. These are the best George Clooney movies that showcase what he can do, and they’re just as varied as his whole career has been.

Michael Clayton (2007)

Michael Clayton
82%
7.2/10
119m
Genre
Drama, Thriller
Stars
George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton
Directed by
Tony Gilroy
Watch on Amazon
Perhaps the defining George Clooney role, Michael Clayton sees Clooney operating in one of his best modes as a man who is above all else, competent. He plays the title character, a fixer for a New York law firm who gets caught up in a conspiracy and is ultimately forced to flee from hitmen. The plot is winding and serpentine, but it works because Clooney is there to ground the entire affair. He’s playing an amoral man who only looks out for himself, but one whose humanity is always threatening to bubble over onto the surface.
Michael Clayton (2007) Official Trailer - George Clooney, Tilda Swinton Movie HD

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
69%
7.7/10
107m
Genre
Adventure, Comedy, Crime
Stars
George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
Directed by
Joel Coen
Watch on Amazon
The Coen brothers are among the most important collaborators of Clooney’s career, and his first movie with them was proof that he was the ideal vehicle for their stories. Clooney plays Ulysses Everett McGill, one of three convicts that have recently escaped from a chain gang. Clooney brings plenty of swagger and star power to the role, but the movie also makes it clear that Clooney is willing to do whatever is asked of him for the right director. In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Clooney is a modern Odysseus, and his work in the role is both hilarious and completely justifies that lofty mantle.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Trailer

Solaris (2002)

Solaris
65%
6.2/10
99m
Genre
Drama, Science Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Stars
George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
Watch on max
The Coen brothers are just one half of the story of Clooney’s success. The other half is his many collaborations with Steven Soderberg, who directed this widely reviled remake of Solaris. Although basically no one liked this movie at the time, its ruminations on memory and death are among the most moving in Clooney’s long career. Clooney can be very funny and deeply charming, but he is neither in this role. Solaris is undeniably serious and quiet, but it’s also a moving portrait of one man’s grief and his ultimate inability to escape from it.
SOLARIS (2002) Trailer | Lem 2021: I've Seen the Future

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Ocean's Eleven
74%
7.7/10
116m
Genre
Thriller, Crime
Stars
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
Watch on Amazon
Ocean’s Eleven is the movie that defined Clooney’s star persona, and rightfully so. It’s a breezy, beautiful heist movie, and Clooney is the star that makes the whole thing sing. Clooney plays Danny Ocean as unflappable, a man with millions of plans and plenty of friends and acquaintances to help him execute them. Ocean’s Eleven has a wonderful ensemble cast, but Clooney is rightly at the heart of the action here. He may turn out to be one of America’s last great movie stars, and Ocean’s Eleven is the movie that cemented that status.
Ocean's Eleven (2001) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Up in the Air (2009)

Up in the Air
83%
7.4/10
110m
Genre
Drama, Romance
Stars
George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Directed by
Jason Reitman
Watch on Amazon
Thanks in part to his status as one of the world’s great movie stars, Clooney can make the kind of movies that don’t seem all that compelling on paper. In Up in the Air, Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizer who travels around the country firing people. It’s a careful character study of a man who has consciously chosen to abandon everything that tied him down. Now, as he takes stock of his life, it becomes clear that he has less than he thought, and is forced to reconsider whether the life he’s been leading is actually the one he wants.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail, Caesar!
72%
6.3/10
106m
Genre
Comedy, Crime, Mystery
Stars
Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich
Directed by
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Watch on Amazon
Hail, Caesar! is one of the Coen brothers’ most farcical movies, and Clooney is more than willing to play along. Clooney plays Baird Whitlock, an idiotic movie star who is kidnapped by a group of communist screenwriters and held for ransom. Whitlock is eventually won over to their cause, but Clooney’s role in the movie is almost entirely comedic. He’s there to act foolish, and he’s remarkably good at it. Clooney can turn on the charm, but when he wants to, he can also be one of America’s great slapstick comedians.

Out of Sight (1998)

Out of Sight
85%
7/10
123m
Genre
Romance, Comedy, Crime
Stars
George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames
Directed by
Steven Soderbergh
Watch on Amazon
Clooney, an attractive man, has been sexy in many movies over the course of his career, but he has never been sexier than he is in Out of Sight. Playing a criminal who spars with Jennifer Lopez’s young police officer, the movie is all about the relationship between the two of them, and the sparks fly beautifully throughout. Perhaps the movie’s most memorable scene comes early, when they are trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of panicking, all they can do is flirt. Out of Sight is an explosion of onscreen chemistry, and it served as definitive proof that Clooney and Lopez are hot, hot stars.
Out of Sight Official Trailer #2 - Ving Rhames Movie (1998) HD

The Descendants (2011)

The Descendants
84%
7.3/10
115m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
Stars
George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller
Directed by
Alexander Payne
Watch on Amazon
When The Descendants first hit theaters, it seemed like it might be the movie to bag Clooney his second Oscar. While that wasn’t ultimately what happened, Clooney deserved all the attention he received for his work in the film, in which he plays a Hawaii attorney who is forced to deal with the twin discoveries of his wife’s death and the fact that she was cheating on him. The movie is complicated and emotional, and the story it tells is one of a man who reaches toward generosity even as he reckons with the shortcomings that led his wife to stray.
THE DESCENDANTS - Official HD Trailer

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

Intolerable Cruelty
71%
6.3/10
100m
Genre
Crime, Comedy, Romance
Stars
George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Edward Herrmann
Directed by
Joel Coen
Watch on Amazon
Coen brothers movies can seem complicated, but most of them are really just about elaborate plans that go horribly awry. In Intolerable Cruelty, though, the elaborate plans are constantly being done in by bigger, more elaborate plans. The movie follows Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a divorce attorney and a serial divorcee who come head to head, and find that they’re well matched as opponents and lovers. The movie is ridiculous, but part of its charm is the way in which these two schemers seem to fall head over heels for one another, even as they repeatedly screw each other over.
Intolerable Cruelty Trailer

Three Kings (1999)

Three Kings
82%
7.1/10
114m
Genre
Action, Comedy, War
Stars
George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube
Directed by
David O. Russell
Watch on Amazon
Clooney has been very public about how little he enjoyed making Three Kings, but the movie itself, which tells the story of four Gulf War soldiers who decide to steal some of Saddam Hussein’s gold, is excellent. When one of the soldiers is captured by a band of rebels, the other three agree to help the rebels fight Saddam’s forces in exchange for his return. Three Kings is a damning indictment of America’s presence on foreign soil, and it’s also some of Clooney’s best work. His Major is cynical and unfeeling, but only because he’s had to shut those parts of himself off.
Three Kings - Original Theatrical Trailer

Gravity (2013)

Gravity
91m
Genre
Science Fiction, Thriller, Drama
Stars
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Directed by
Alfonso Cuarón
Watch on Amazon
This sci-fi thriller film focuses on survival in space. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first space mission and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are on a routine mission to service the Hubble Telescope. Disaster strikes during a spacewalk when a cloud of debris from a destroyed satellite collides with their space shuttle, leaving them stranded with no communication and limited resources. With fear and desperation mounting, Stone and Kowalski must use their ingenuity and courage to navigate the perilous environment of space and find a way to get back to Earth. Gravity won seven Oscar awards.
Movie images and data from:
Joe Allen
Contributor
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
Watch these dark comedy shows for a twisted laugh
Give these shows a try if you want to laugh at misery and morbidity
Succession scene

 

TV is often used as an escape from the morbid reality of the real world we have to wake up to each day. Mass shootings, political upheaval, and financial inequality are just some of the issues on the collective mind of the populace, and entertainment can both reflect and deflect these topics in brilliant ways for us. Happy-go-lucky shows like Friends or Ted Lasso are simple and funny; these programs are pure distraction from the world. Sometimes, we want something with a little more realism and intrigue, though, a show with commentary on life's troubles, but without the burden of getting bogged down in a depressive state.

Read more
Shōgun leads all nominated shows at the 2024 Emmys with 25 nominations
Hiroyuki Sanada in Shogun

 

The 2024 Emmy nominations have been revealed, and they gave us a few pretty definitive winners. The FX series Shōgun led all nominated shows with 25 nominations, including nominations for lead actors Hiroyuki Sanada and Anna Sawai. Shōgun was met with widespread acclaim when it debuted earlier this year, and while it debuted as a limited series, it was quickly announced that the show would be coming back for a second season.

Read more
Deadpool’s variant in new ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ trailer is on all fours
Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool & Wolverine.

The entire summer movie season feels like it has been building toward a single event. Deadpool & Wolverine is headed to theaters on July 26, and promises to be a hilarious Deadpool movie and also a potential game-changer for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has now acquired 20th Century Fox's catalog of characters.

The promotion for the movie is ramping up in the days leading up to the event, and a new trailer gives us another look at what the movie has up its sleeve. The promotional materials have leaned heavily into teasing Deadpool's variants, as Deadpool and Wolverine are expected to spend some time traveling the multiverse in the new film. While there's a female variant we likely won't get to see until the movie itself, this latest trailer has revealed that one of Deadpool's variants will be a little doggy that he carries around. The new trailer also features a sneak peak at Cowboy Deadpool, although once again we don't get to see who will be playing him.

Read more