This is my list of the top five best Matthew McConaughey movies. McConaughey has been a proven draw at the box office since the mid-90s and continues to be one of the few actors that has been able to transition from action hero to romantic lead and into heavy drama. Lately McConaughey has garnered Oscar buzz for his supporting turns in both Magic Mike and Killer Joe. While he has yet to headline a blockbuster or win an Academy Award McConaughey has complied a solid list of films. The one-time Sexiest Man Alive has recently taken on serious roles in an attempt to distance himself from his clean-cut image.
Box Office Gross: $77,122,415 Adjusted: $113,608,901
In this World War II action thriller, American reconnaissance agents learn that a German submarine is sinking. The doomed ship carries an Enigma Machine, a special coding device that allows high-level Axis forces to send messages that can’t be read without a similar encryption mechanism. Obtaining a working Enigma device would be invaluable for the Allied war effort, so a U.S. sub is sent out to rescue the machine. However, German forces have already picked up the sub’s distress signal and are en route to rescue their comrades. U-571 features a distinguished cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, and Jon Bon Jovi.
Box Office Gross: $68,671,925 Adjusted: $85,063,196
Matthew McConaughey stars as explorer and adventurer Dirk Pitt in this adaptation of the best-selling novel by Clive Cussler. Pitt thinks he may have found both a fortune and the answer to a long-standing mystery when he discovers a rare coin in the waters of a river in West Africa. During the Civil War, an ironclad battleship with a valuable cargo went missing, and Pitt’s theory is that the coin places the ship somewhere in the Sahara Desert. Pitt and his goofy sidekick, Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), set out to find it, but along the way they make the acquaintance of Dr. Eva Rojas (Penélope Cruz), a scientist and physician who is trying to determine the source of a strange and deadly disease sweeping the nation. As Eva joins Dirk and Al, they begin to wonder if the mysteries they’re trying to uncover might be somehow linked. Sahara was only the second of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventures to be adapted for the screen; both were publicly dismissed by the author. Unfortunately this was a colossal financial failure and resulted in one of the Top Ten Biggest Box Office Bombs in history.
Box Office Gross: $43,545,364 Adjusted: $52,786,289
A true story of tragedy, hope, and resilience comes to the screen in this sports drama. This rousing drama found a spot on our Top Ten Best Football Movies list. Huntington, WV, is home to Marshall University, a school where college football is a way of life. Huntington is also a town that learned to deal with tragedy in the fall of 1970 when Marshall’s “Thundering Herd” boarded an airliner to return home after a football game in North Carolina. The jet crashed into a hill due to bad weather, and 75 members of Marshall’s football squad and athletic staff died that night. The accident dealt a crippling blow to the city of Huntington, as well as Marshall’s faculty and student body, and university president Donald Dedmon (David Strathairn) considered abandoning the school’s football program. But instead Coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) was recruited from Ohio’s College of Wooster to rebuild Marshall’s football program. Lengyel was not naïve about the task ahead of him, and working beside Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), an assistant coach who narrowly missed the doomed flight and was one of the program’s only survivors, he came to understand his job was not just to put a team on the field, but help a college and a community heal their wounds from the tragic accident. Together Lengyel and Dawson turned a handful of rookies and second-string players into a competitive team who in 1971 showed the world what they could do in a legendary game against Marshall’s rivals, Xavier University. Produced with the cooperation of Marshall University and filmed in part on their campus, We Are Marshall also stars Ian McShane, Anthony Mackie, and January Jones.
Box Office Gross: $108,766,007 Adjusted: $195,385,089
Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) takes the law into his own hands after the legal system fails to adequately punish the men who brutally raped and beat his daughter, leaving her for dead. Normally, a distraught father could count on some judicial sympathy in those circumstances. Unfortunately, Carl and his daughter are black, and the assailants are white, and all the events take place in the South. Indeed, so inflammatory is the situation, that the local KKK (led by Kiefer Sutherland) becomes popular again. When Hailey chooses novice lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) to handle his defense, it begins to look like a certainty that Carl will hang, and Jake’s career (and perhaps his life) will come to a premature end. Despite the efforts of the NAACP and local black leaders to persuade Carl to choose some of their high-powered legal help, he remains loyal to Jake, who had helped his brother with a legal problem before the story begins. Jake eventually takes this case seriously enough to seek help from his old law-school professor (Donald Sutherland). When death threats force his family to leave town, Jake even accepts the help of pushy young know-it-all lawyer Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock).
Box Office Gross: $58,009,200 Adjusted: $58,082,352
The Lincoln Lawyer was my pick for best picture of 2011. Matthew McConaughey stars in this legal thriller, adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly, as a low-rent defense attorney named Mickey Haller. Most of the time, Mickey barely keeps his head above water, representing low-life clients and working out of the back of his car. He thinks he’s landed the case of a lifetime when he’s hired to defend a rich playboy (Ryan Phillippe) who stands accused of rape and attempted murder, and eagerly accepts his new client and the massive payoff that’s sure to come with him. But Mickey soon discovers that he’s become ensnared in a twisted plot where no fee in the world is high enough to pay for the deadly workload, and his only hope of survival may just lay in his own skills as a long-practiced double-crosser. Co-stars Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and Marisa Tomei. The film is directed with thought and verve by Brad Furman, with a screenplay written by John Romano.