Matt Damon was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Good Will Hunting, and he and Ben Affleck shared a win for that film's screenplay. But that was 12 years ago. What has Mr. Damon done for us since then? Herewith, his top and bottom five films.
For my money, Damon has never been better than he was in this 1999 dramatic thriller, in which he played a secretive, possibly psychotic man who desperately craves affection. The character is extremely complex and multi-faceted, and Damon's performance is full of nuance and mystery.
2. The Departed
Damon's character in this Best Picture Oscar winner, Colin Sullivan, is a police officer whose real loyalties are with a Boston crime boss (played by Jack Nicholson). Sullivan easily maintains an unflinching two-facedness until the last act, when things get hairy and he starts to crack. Damon's portrayal of all this is one of the film's many strong points.
3. The Bourne trilogy
Why choose one? Damon established himself as an action hero in 2002's middling Bourne Identity, then parlayed that into major blockbuster status with The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
4. The Informant!
Once you see Damon's hilarious performance as a naive Midwestern corporate whistleblower, you will wonder if he can ever be an action hero again. Then you'll watch one of the Bourne movies and wonder how he could have done something this funny and bizarre.
Damon's pal Ben Affleck is a Kevin Smith regular, but they appeared together in this scathing and ribald satire of the Catholic Church. Matt and Ben play two fallen angels whose attempt to get back into God's good graces might end all existence. Damon and Affleck were a familiar duo thanks to their rags-to-riches Good Will Hunting story, and their camaraderie gave their work in Dogma a little extra pizzazz.
1. The Brothers Grimm
What a mess this thing was. Damon and Heath Ledger did the best they could with Terry Gilliam's weird comic fantasy, but it was beyond even their powers of charisma and talent.
Gus Van Sant directed this infamous clunker in which Damon and Casey Affleck wander through the desert for 103 minutes. And ... that's it. Thanks for watching! Good night!
3. The Rainmaker
Remember this John Grisham adaptation? Directed by Francis Ford Coppola? No? Doesn't ring a bell? Yeah.... It's not that Damon is bad in it (he plays an idealistic young lawyer taking on an insurance company), just that the movie is a by-the-numbers legal drama that's far beneath him and Coppola.
4. Titan A.E., Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Ponyo
Of these animated films, only Titan A.E. is really what you'd call "bad," but the three have something in common: Matt Damon doing boring voice-over work. Some actors have lively, captivating voices that are perfect for cartoons; Damon does not.
5. The Legend of Bagger Vance
Maybe "forgettable" would be a better way of describing this. Or, more to the point, "forgotten."