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The best Matthew McConaughey movies, ranked

Matthew McConaughey has some awesome films to watch — here are our top picks

McConaughey in Wolf of Wall Street
Paramount Pictures

Matthew McConaughey has had quite an interesting career, to say the least. His filmography really is a story in three parts. When he first started out in the 1990s, McConaughey often played supporting roles in thoughtful dramas, bringing out the best in his co-stars. As he aged into the 2000s, Hollywood pinned him as a rom-com lead, and we can’t ignore why. The man is pure swag and sex appeal, with a Texas accent that melts hearts and makes you want to go to the theater more than one time.

His third act was at the beginning of the 2010s when he became a true blockbuster, Academy Award-worthy star. Accolades for prestige biopics, fascinating sci-fi films, and more were very deserving and shined a light on a diverse and well-earned career. Now, McConaughey has taken a step back from acting for the most part, instead putting his focus on politics and other issues. Here are the 10 best Matthew McConaughey movies so far.

11. A Time to Kill (1996)

11. A Time to Kill
149m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by
Joel Schumacher
Watch on Amazon
This 90s film is a racially charged story about revenge and justice in the Deep South when a 10-year-old Tonya Hailey, a Black girl, is abducted, raped, and left for dead by two white men. Tonya’s father, Carl Lee Hailey (played by Samuel L. Jackson), distraught and fearing a biased justice system, takes matters into his own hands. He shoots and kills the men at the courthouse before their trial. Carl Lee seeks help from Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), a young white lawyer. Jake reluctantly takes the case, aware of the immense racial tension and the difficulty of getting Carl Lee acquitted. The trial becomes a powder keg, with the Ku Klux Klan threatening violence and the Black community yearning for justice. Jake, with the help of his law student partner Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock), builds a case that appeals to the jury’s humanity, focusing on Carl Lee’s emotional state and his motive to protect his daughter.

10. Bernie (2012)

10. Bernie
99m
Genre
Comedy, Crime, Drama
Stars
Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey
Directed by
Richard Linklater
Watch on Hulu
Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey try a different type of role than what they usually appear in: black comedy. Bernie Tiede is a small-town resident who is immensely popular with his neighbors, therefore when he murders one of the most hated women in the area, it’s almost impossible for McConaughey’s character to have the ability to convict Bernie.

9. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

9. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
116m
Genre
Comedy, Romance
Stars
Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Kathryn Hahn
Directed by
Donald Petrie
Watch on Amazon
McConaughey’s best rom-com of the 2000s pairs him with Kate Hudson. His character is an arrogant business executive who tries his hardest to sell himself to Hudson’s character, a woman confident in her ability to lose a man. This dichotomy leads to some sappy chemistry and funny scenes as the couple learns more about each other.

8. Contact (1997)

8. Contact
150m
Genre
Drama, Science Fiction, Mystery
Stars
Jena Malone, David Morse, Jodie Foster
Directed by
Robert Zemeckis
Watch on Amazon
Considering how much religion and science contrast one another in many cases, you would think there would be more movies on this subject matter. In Robert Zemeckis’s adaptation of the novel Contact, Jodie Foster plays an astronomer who has to come to grips with the consequences of discovering alien communications and signals on Earth. One of her main opponents is Christianity and its followers, a religion that highly opposes the prospect of extraterrestrial life. Matthew McConaughey plays a devout believer who also tries to understand Foster’s character’s struggles and revelations in the scientific community.

7. Tropic Thunder (2008)

7. Tropic Thunder
107m
Genre
Action, Comedy, Adventure, War
Stars
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by
Ben Stiller
Watch on Amazon
There weren’t many movies in the late 2000s with more star power than Tropic Thunder. This spoof of the war film genre and the actors who often take up the roles in these films were highly racist at times (Robert Downey Jr. wearing blackface for his character might not have gone over too well with fans today, but it was definitely a riot nonetheless). Matthew McConaughey played Rick Peck, the friend of Tugg Speedman (played by Ben Stiller).

6. Dazed and Confused (1993)

6. Dazed and Confused
102m
Genre
Comedy
Stars
Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Matthew McConaughey
Directed by
Richard Linklater
Watch on Amazon
McConaughey’s first big role as a stoner in Dazed and Confused gave birth to his famous improvised line “alright, alright, alright,” but the movie is more than just this iconic wording. If you enjoy getting a little bit of insight into the 1970s and the general carefree attitudes of the era, Dazed and Confused gives a fun and nostalgic look at the decade of hippies and disco music.

5. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

5. The Lincoln Lawyer
119m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe
Directed by
Brad Furman
Watch on Amazon
Now a Netflix series of the same name, The Lincoln Lawyer is about the ingenuity and struggles of a man who runs a law office out of the back of his Lincoln. McConaughey’s charm and wit make for a perfect fit playing an attorney, making this one of the more unique legal dramas of the time period. This movie also definitely helped tie McConaughey to the vehicle brand in the title, as he’s been making commercials riding inside of Lincolns ever since.

4. Mud (2013)

4. Mud
130m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan
Directed by
Jeff Nichols
Watch on Amazon
Mud, despite critical acclaim, is one of McConaughey’s more underrated movies. He plays the titular man hiding from the authorities who receives help from two curious teenage boys. As the film plays out and the details of the characters come to light, Mud’s motivations are revealed to be romantic. This puts McConaughey in a very familiar position, considering his days playing starring characters in rom-coms.

3. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

3. Dallas Buyers Club
117m
Genre
Drama, History
Stars
Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Directed by
Jean-Marc Vallée
Watch on Amazon
The movie that got McConaughey his first and only Academy Award, Dallas Buyers Club is a very relevant and moving film about the journey of a man who uses his last years living with HIV/AIDS to help others buy illicit drugs to help with their own diagnoses. The movie helps have a discussion around the homophobia and bigotry surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, and the power of one man to help make a difference and change the world’s perspective on a major issue.

2. Interstellar (2014)

2. Interstellar
169m
Genre
Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction
Stars
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Directed by
Christopher Nolan
Watch on Amazon
Christopher Nolan’s space epic follows an astronaut who gives one last attempt to save humanity by exploring the farthest reaches of space by Saturn. Matthew McConaughey gives a stellar performance in a genre he’s usually unfamiliar with, and the special effects and Nolan’s insistence on making the film as accurate as humanly possible made this one of the biggest sci-fi films of the 2010s. The movie also has some excellent commentary on the threat of humans destroying their own ecosystems, forcing filmgoers to think about the ways they can be more helpful in protecting the environment.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

1. The Wolf of Wall Street
180m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Comedy
Stars
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Directed by
Martin Scorsese
Watch on Amazon
Director Martin Scorsese has started to have more limited success in his career’s twilight, but The Wolf of Wall Street remains on the Mt. Rushmore of his films. Leonardo DiCaprio is the protagonist Jordan Belfort, a real-life stockbroker who lived a life of excess and immorality that led to his downfall and prison sentence. Matthew McConaughey plays Mark Hanna, one of the other brokers who worked with Belfort at the beginning of his career. This film is highly stylized and a good contrast from Scorsese’s usual mobster movies. Margot Robbie also appears in one of the first big roles of her career.
Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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