Every week through the remainder of 2014, Yahoo Movies is counting down Hollywood's 50 very best working actors and actresses. Come back to Yahoo Movies every Thursday to see who makes the cut.
Greatest Actor Alive (No. 45): Matthew McConaughey
Stating the Case: Come on, who doesn't love Matthew McConaughey? The Texas-born actor has been making a big impression from the very start of his career, stealing scenes and spewing quotes as the wise mentor(-ish) figure of Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" (1993) and glaring with Texas-sized conviction as a doomed lawman in John Sayles's "Lone Star" (1996). McConaughey hit the big time with studio projects like "A Time to Kill" (1996) and "Amistad" (1997) before falling into a temporary abyss of forgettable romantic comedies throughout most of the '00s.
However, he's re-emerged in the past few years as something of a "serious thespian" (a movement some, including your friends here at Yahoo Movies, have called The McConaissance), taking on and completely nailing a variety of interesting and complex roles, from a hellraising murderer-for-hire in "Killer Joe" (2011) to a shady adult entertainer in "Magic Mike" (2012) to a fugitive with a (broken) heart of gold in "Mud" (2013). McConaughey can currently be seen in theaters stealing at least one scene from Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street"... and as AIDS patient/activist Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club," the part that might very well win him an Oscar on Sunday.
Breakthrough Role: Who could forget McConaughey's amazing turn as Guy No. 2 in "My Boyfriend's Back" (1993)? Truly, a performance second only to the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman's as school bully Chuck Bronski. Seriously, though, if any role catapulted McConaughey to the big leagues that wasn't David Wooderson in "Dazed and Confused" (1993), it was hotshot lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance in "A Time to Kill" (1996). More on those two films below.
The Best of the Best:
5. "Dazed and Confused" (1993): McConaughey's first feature film role that wasn't Guy No. 2 in "My Boyfriend's Back" was David Wooderson, arguably the most quotable character (and that's saying something) in Richard Linklater's stoner valentine to '70s-era high school. Wooderson is an existential philosopher of sorts, musing on how he gets older as high school girls stay the same age and ultimately telling us that we've just got to keep livin', man. "L-I-V-I-N."
4. "Magic Mike" (2012): One of the most crowd-pleasing performances (both off-screen and on-) of 2012 was McConaughey's rowdy turn as Dallas in Steven Soderbergh's ode to Channing Tatum's scantily clothed pre-Hollywood career. An aging stripper and greed-driven club owner, Dallas is also an effortless charmer, delighting the ladies with his hot abs and sweet tunes.
3. "A Time to Kill" (1996): McConaughey sweated his way through director Joel Schumacher's rousing Southern melodrama based on John Grisham's 1989 novel, taking his first true starring role as Jake Tyler Brigance, a young Mississippi lawyer defending Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), a man accused of murdering the men who raped his 10-year-old daughter.
2. "Mud" (2013): McConaughey played the coolest unofficial uncle ever in the title role of Jeff Nichols' whimsical coming-of-age drama, a fugitive hiding out in a boat stuck up in a tree (truly) as he evades vigilantes and enlists the help of two young boys in reuniting with his ladyfriend (Reese Witherspoon).
1. "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013): McConaughey's most acclaimed performance to date has him in the role of Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient who takes on the system by smuggling and distributing experimental medication. His heartfelt and passionate portrayal has earned him his first Oscar nom.
The BIGGEST Hit: Believe it or not, it's currently "Magic Mike," (2012), with a total domestic gross of $113,721,571. Really close behind is "The Wolf of Wall Street," with a current take of $112,821,562 — and since that film is still in theaters (and may soon get an attendance boost thanks to Oscar buzz), it might end up making mo' money than "Mike" when all is said 'n' done.
With Honors: McConaughey currently has an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his work in "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013), a performance that has already garnered him Golden Globe, Critics' Choice, and SAG awards. He's also a two-time Film Independent Spirit Award winner, taking home Best Supporting Actor last year for "Magic Mike," and sharing the Robert Altman Award this year with his castmates and crew from "Mud." And let's not forget he won Favorite Male Action Star in 2006 at the People's Choice Awards (for "Sahara," we guess?).
Really Fun Fact: McConaughey attended Longview High School in Longview, Texas, where he was voted Most Handsome during his senior year. No surprise there.
Trademark: Texas charm with a Texas drawl.
Best Fan Tribute: Have we really managed to get this far without discussing his penchant for going shirtless?
Most Underappreciated Achievement: McConaughey actually has a few choice performances that have fallen off the radar over the years. We especially like his intense turn as bald dragon slayer Denton Van Zan in "Reign of Fire" (2002), a role that had him upstaging co-star Christian Bale and even a gaggle of CG dragons; the quiet, strong dignity he brought to his role as lawman Buddy Deeds in John Sayles's "Lone Star" (1996); and his creepy portrayal of alleged demon killer Fenton Meiks in director Bill Paxton's sorely underrated supernatural thriller, "Frailty" (2002). Ya gotta admit, he also did pretty well with dialogue that was originally written for Owen Wilson in "Tropic Thunder" (2008).
Catchphrase: Is there anything more McConaughey-ish than "All right, all right, all right"? He even quoted his own "Dazed and Confused" (and "Magic Mike") line when he accepted the Golden Globe for "Dallas Buyers Club" earlier this year.
Nobody's Perfect: McConaughey has indulged in more than his fair share of lame romantic comedies ("The Wedding Planner," "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Failure to Launch," "Fool's Gold," "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"...) and he's probably none too fond of his participation in the bewildering "Tiptoes" (that's the one with Gary Oldman as a dwarf), but the one film he probably keeps off his resume completely is "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" (1994), which sees him in the role of psycho hayseed Vilmer Slaughter. Humble beginnings for him and Renée Zellweger.
Moonlighting: McConaughey is currently playing the role of Det. Rust Cohle on HBO's acclaimed drama series "True Detective." He's also appeared as talent scout Roy McDaniel on HBO's "Eastbound & Down" and recently reprised his "Dazed and Confused" character David Wooderson in the music video for Butch Walker and the Black Widows' "Synthesizers."
And for His Next Acts: McConaughey will headline Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated yet still hush-hush sci-fi film "Interstellar," hitting theaters on Nov. 7. So yes, the McConaissance keeps rolling.
[The 50 Greatest Actors Alive: No. 50 Brad Pitt]
[The 50 Greatest Actors Alive: No. 49 Sigourney Weaver]
[The 50 Greatest Actors Alive: No. 48 Joaquin Phoenix]
[The 50 Greatest Actors Alive: No. 47 Paul Giamatti]
What qualifies actors for a slot on Yahoo Movies' running list of the 50 Greatest Actors Alive? First, we limited the pool to actors who are still currently working. Other factors taken into consideration: Pure skill in the craft; their ability to disappear underneath the skin of the characters they portray; versatility and the range of their roles; ratio of strong performances to weak ones; quality of films acted in; quality of recent work; awards and accolades from peers.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Matthew McConaughey
- Magic Mike
- Ron Woodroof
- Richard Linklater