Few actors have undergone as radical of a career transformation as Matthew McConaughey, so much so that the term “McConaissance” joined the cultural lexicon in 2014. Starting out his career as the iconic Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, McConaughey followed a career trajectory that left him languishing in rom-com purgatory for years. However, a string of critically acclaimed performances in 2012 sent him on an upswing that shows no sign of slowing down. Here are the 10 Essential Matthew McConaughey movies:
Even though David Wooderson was only a bit part, the trademark McConaughey charisma made an impact on viewers as quickly as you can say “Alright, alright, alright.” Bros everywhere still repeat the mantra: “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
In one of his first starring roles, McConaughey holds his own against seasoned actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, and Donald Sutherland. McConaughey’s ferocity as young lawyer Jake Brigance in the racially charged drama put him on the Hollywood radar, inching him closer to the A-list.
Despite having a thoroughly modern feel as an actor, McConaughey acquits himself admirably to the 19th century in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. While this isn’t McConaughey’s movie to carry, his performance as Roger Sherman Baldwin, the abolitionist lawyer enlisted to represent two runaway slaves, is an early career high point.
In Frailty, McConaughey stars as Fenton Meiks, a man who can no longer stay silent about his tortured past. Bill Paxton’s directorial debut kept viewers on the edge of their seats until the brutal ending.
Matthew McConaughey was the go-to leading man for romantic comedies for the 2000s, and his most memorable outing was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Despite a ludicrous premise, the crackling chemistry between McConaughey and Kate Hudson made for pleasant viewing.
Lincoln Lawyer was the film that made people sit up and pay attention. After years of cultivating a chilled out stoner playboy persona, McConaughey brought an oily charm to an unscrupulous lawyer in this twisty thriller.
7. Mud (2012)
Matthew McConaughey turns in a stunning performance in the quietly devastating Mud as the titular character, a lonely fugitive looking for his lost love, Juniper, who befriends two boys. A film about loss and adulthood, Mud ushered in the “McConaissance”.
Moviegoers expected Magic Mike to be a mindless romp about male strippers – essentially a male Showgirls. However, they were given something much more: director Steven Soderberg instead delivered an expose of the underbelly of a hedonistic lifestyle. McConaughey provided this dark core as the magnetic, yet menacing, Dallas.
Matthew McConaughey underwent his greatest physical transformation yet for Dallas Buyers Club, dropping nearly 50 pounds to play AIDS patient Ron Woodruff. That transformation and a sensitive performance won McConaughey his first Oscar.
Interstellar best shows where Matthew McConaughey’s career has ended up. While there was a rocky bit in the middle of his career, McConaughey now has his pick of projects with the most venerable of directors. He can carry a big budget film, but seems unwilling to settle for the average popcorn flick. He’s put in the time and work, and is now reaping the rewards.