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16 Best Matthew McConaughey Movies Ranked

Matthew McConaughey has come a long way since he began his career acting in commercials. He earned his big break with the 1993 comedy "Dazed and Confused," and his portrayal of the hilariously quotable character Wooderson set him down the path to stardom. McConaughey would go on to appear in more serious films like "Lone Star" and "Amistad," but he also popped up in romantic comedies like "Failure to Launch" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."

While McConaughey spent a few years primarily acting in rom-coms, he shifted his artistic direction after a two-year hiatus from acting. He worked on more dramatic films, earning praise for his starring roles in movies like "The Lincoln Lawyer." And in 2014, he won an Academy Award for his leading performance as Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club." Throughout his extensive, varied filmography, McConaughey has brought wildly different characters to life on screen. But out of all of McConaughey's work, the following films were critical favorites.

16. Interstellar

When "Interstellar" was released in 2014, it became a solid box office success, grossing $188 million in the US. It was the kind of film that people just couldn't stop talking about — everything from the musical score to the visual effects immersed audiences in a futuristic, dystopian world where human beings are desperately seeking a new home somewhere in the vast expanse of the cosmos. 

In "Interstellar," McConaughey plays Cooper, a widowed farmer who once worked as a NASA pilot. He lives with his father-in-law, his son Tom, and his daughter Murphy. Cooper's life is disrupted when Murphy notices strange patterns appearing on her bedroom floor, and Cooper reasons that they might be a binary code indicating a geographic location. His hypothesis leads to his appointment as the pilot of the Endurance spacecraft, which will take a group of astronauts through a wormhole in hopes of finding a planet that can serve as mankind's new home.

15. Frailty

"Frailty" may not be one of McConaughey's most famous films, but according to the critics, it is one of his best — and it demonstrates McConaughey's skills in a genre that most people wouldn't associate him with. "Frailty" is a chilling psychological horror movie about a father who believes that God is commanding him to kill demons who have disguised themselves as people. McConaughey portrays the adult Fenton Meiks, whose father told him and his brother, Adam, that he was tasked by God to commit several murders.

As a child, Fenton was horrified by his father's actions — but Adam says that he sees the same visions as their father, and he understands why it had to be done. What transpires next will leave viewers shocked. It's a film that truly disturbs audiences, and while it bears little in common with the rest of McConaughey's filmography, it's a stand-out role for him.

14. Boys on the Side

The 1995 comedy "Boys on the Side" stars Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore, and Mary-Louise Parker as three friends on a cross-country road trip. The three women find themselves thrown together under unexpected circumstances. After Jane (Goldberg) breaks up with her girlfriend, she decides to take a chance and answer a personal ad from Robin (Parker), a real estate agent who has AIDS. Robin needs a companion for a road trip, and Jane agrees to join. Along the way, they pick up Robin's friend, Holly (Barrymore), who is escaping from an abusive relationship.

In "Boys on the Side," McConaughey plays a supporting role as Abe, a police officer who Holly falls in love with while the women are staying in Tucson. But when Abe decides to take things a step further and propose to Holly, she reveals a secret that turns their relationship upside down. "Boys on the Side" is a unique take on the road trip genre, and the film has plenty of funny and heartwarming moments.

13. The Gentlemen

"The Gentlemen" is a crime drama with a comedic twist. Mickey Pearson, played by McConaughey, has made a fortune as a cannabis kingpin, but now he's looking to get out of the business. As an American expat, he built his business empire in England, and once the news breaks that he's backing out, every shady character who wants a slice of his profits comes out of the woodwork with a scheme of their own. Pearson is hoping to simply retire in peace with his wife, but clearly, that's not in the cards for him just yet.

While the plot feels lacking at points, the cast is what really makes this film. As critic Alex Bentley wrote in a review for Culture Map Dallas, "Each of the actors, from the big stars to the bit players, is a joy to watch, and they bring the story to life even when the plot mechanics threaten to drive it into a ditch."

12. Amistad

The 1997 historical drama "Amistad" is based on the events that took place aboard the slave ship La Amistad in 1839. After being abducted for the slave trade, the Mende tribesmen on board La Amistad took control of their captors' ship as they neared the coast of Cuba. When La Amistad is eventually captured by another ship, the Washington, an international legal battle to determine the fate of the men ensues.

McConaughey appears in "Amistad" as Roger Sherman Baldwin, a lawyer who is hired to defend the Africans. He has to prove that the men were kidnapped with intentions to sell them illegally, effectively making them free citizens of their home country rather than anyone's property. While some critics noted that Amistad did not paint an entirely accurate picture of the historical event it was based on, plenty of others did appreciate the film. It's a powerful film that tells the story of an unexpected uprising and introduces audiences to a moment in history that they won't soon forget.

11. The Wolf of Wall Street

The 2013 film "The Wolf of Wall Street" stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, the Wall Street stockbroker who ended up behind bars after the authorities discovered that his firm, Stratton Oakmont, was defrauding shareholders. The film tracks the story of Belfort's rise and fall, depicting his excessive, luxurious lifestyle and the corruption in the world of Wall Street.

McConaughey plays a small supporting role in "The Wolf of Wall Street" as Mark Hanna, the man who hires Belfort to work on Wall Street. Belfort is young and somewhat naive, but Hanna introduces him to a culture of greed and recklessness at the firm. He openly encourages unethical behavior and drives home the point that Belfort's only goal should be making as much money for himself as possible. 

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is three hours of debauchery leading to Belfort's downfall. It was a controversial film, but it still earned plenty of praise from critics, ultimately being nominated for Best Picture.

10. Magic Mike

Sure, "Magic Mike" wasn't intended to be a particularly deep film — after all, plenty of people went to see it solely to watch Channing Tatum dance — but it's genuinely entertaining movie. Among McConaughey's filmography, it's ranked as one of his better films.

Magic Mike is loosely based on Tatum's real life experiences working in strip clubs in Tampa, Florida before he became a model and actor. Tatum portrays Mike, who's just trying to make ends meet by doing odd jobs. By day, he picks up whatever work he can get, but by night, he's one of the stars at a male strip club. He has bigger dreams, but he needs to save money to start his own business.

McConaughey plays Dallas, who used to be a stripper himself but now owns the club Xquisite, where Mike dances. Dallas wants to create a club "empire," but as he encourages bad habits among his dancers, Mike begins to realize that it's time for him to get out of the industry.

9. Killer Joe

Based on the 1993 play of the same name, "Killer Joe" is a Southern gothic crime movie with plenty of black comedy — but the dark humor does little to lighten the mood in this intense, violent film. McConaughey plays Joe Cooper, a police detective who happens to be a contract killer on the side. He ends up getting entangled in a nasty family conflict after he's hired to kill his client's mother.

"Killer Joe" was so graphic and violent that it initially received an NC-17 rating, which was eventually dropped in favor of an R rating. However, even with some of the most disturbing scenes edited, this film still isn't for the faint of heart. Despite this, critics were impressed by McConaughey's performance. "Matthew McConaughey is dangerously good," Kiko Martinez wrote in a review for San Antonio Current. "As the head of this diamondback-rattlesnake-of-a-film, he strikes within a sadistic realm very few actors would dare to tread."

8. Tropic Thunder

In "Tropic Thunder," a group of actors set out into the jungle to make a film about the Vietnam War. But when their director gets frustrated with their expensive antics, he decides to try a different tactic — he leaves them to fend for themselves in the jungle, intending to make the movie "guerilla style." Things quickly go awry when the entire film crew ends up in the territory of a notorious gang, and after the director is killed, the actors are forced to rely on themselves to survive in this hostile environment. But with their entitled attitudes and lack of any real survival skills, hilarity ensues.

McConaughey plays a small role in "Tropic Thunder" as Rick Peck, the agent who represents former action hero Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller). Throughout Speedman's misadventures in the jungle, Rick gets into an argument with the executive producer of the film, Les Grossman, after going over his client's contract and realizing that Speedman is entitled to a TiVo. Clearly, "Tropic Thunder" is very much a product of the early 2000s, but the jokes still hold up today.

7. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

"Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" follows five people whose lives intersect in unexpected ways. They are all searching for happiness, but they're not quite sure how to find what they're truly looking for in life.

McConaughey is at the center of the film as Troy, a district attorney who is hyper-focused on his career. Despite his ambitious goals for the future, he is burdened by guilt: he was responsible for a hit-and-run accident, injuring a cleaning woman named Beatrice (Clea DuVall). Beatrice was always an optimist, but now that her life has been disrupted by the accident, she finds herself becoming a cynic like her coworker Dorrie. Meanwhile, Gene (Alan Arkin) struggles with regret after firing one of his employees without cause after lashing out, and Walker (John Turturro), a college physics professor in the midst of a midlife crisis, begins cheating on his wife. It's the kind of film that will leave you wondering which random encounters have affected your life, and how you might make an impact on others without knowing it.

6. The Lincoln Lawyer

Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly, "The Lincoln Lawyer" tells the story of lawyer Mickey Haller (McConaughey), who works out of a chauffeur-driven Lincoln town car rather than an office. Haller is hired to work on an assault case involving the son of a successful businesswoman from Los Angeles. As he prepares his defense for her son, he realizes that this case bears some uncanny similarities to a case he had worked on in the past. Over time, the coincidences continue adding up, and Haller has to figure out exactly how these crimes are connected.

"The Lincoln Lawyer" was a critical and commercial success, with critics giving effusive praise for McConaughey's performance. "Matthew McConaughey is the only actor in Hollywood who can swagger while sitting down," Roger Moore wrote in a review for Roger's Movie Nation. He continued, "'The Lincoln Lawyer' gives this charming devil his due, a role that plays right into his wheelhouse — a slick, smarmy, hustling lawyer whose clientele is the rough trade."

5. Bernie

Jack Black stars as Bernie Tiede in the black comedy "Bernie." The film is based on a true story detailed in an article in Texas Monthly magazine, and it's not strictly a documentary or feature film — instead, director Richard Linklater incorporated elements of both forms. Despite the fact that the film involved actors playing roles in addition to contributions from local residents, it was still praised for its accuracy in portraying the events.

Tiede, an upstanding member of the community in Carthage, Texas, strikes up a friendship with the widow Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). After Nugent's unexpected disappearance, the residents start questioning Tiede about what happened, and eventually, the police get involved. McConaughey plays district attorney Danny Buck Davidson, who has to handle the case. He is one of the few professional actors who appears in the film, so his presence definitely stands out. It's a unique movie, and if you're interested in learning about the actual events, you'll get a fairly comprehensive picture of what happened by watching it.

4. Dazed and Confused

"Dazed and Confused" is the movie that put McConaughey on the map. He had landed some small roles before appearing in "Dazed and Confused," but this was his big break. In this coming-of-age comedy following teenagers on their last day of school, McConaughey plays David Wooderson, a man in his early 20s who still hangs out with high school students. He was one of the most memorable characters in the film, and he definitely had some of the most quotable lines.

Even before the film was released, his costars realized that McConaughey was going to make it big. "I called my agent right away and told him he had to sign him. He was going to be a huge star," Parker Posey wrote in her book "You're on an Airplane." "But he didn't listen." Today, Posey's agent just might regret that decision. "Dazed and Confused" wasn't exactly a box office hit, but today, it's a cult film that's highly regarded by both critics and audiences.

3. Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey starred as Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club," a biographical drama sharing the true story of Woodroof's experiences during the AIDS epidemic. Woodroof was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s, and at the time, it was difficult for AIDS patients to get access to effective treatments due to the stigma and a lack of research on the disease. Woodroof decided to take matters into his own hands. He began smuggling drugs into Texas to treat his own symptoms, even though the medications hadn't been approved yet, and eventually began getting them to other AIDS patients too.

"Dallas Buyers Club" was the movie that finally earned McConaughey an Academy Award for Best Actor, and critics agreed that it was well deserved. "Sometimes a character punches through the screen, beyond the film containing him," critic Kate Muir wrote in a review for The Times. "Matthew McConaughey's performance as an HIV-positive cowboy in Dallas Buyers Club is one of those moments."

2. Lone Star

McConaughey worked on "Lone Star" relatively early in his career, and while audiences had already gotten familiar with him because of "Dazed and Confused," this film truly demonstrated his acting chops. "Lone Star" is a suspenseful Western mystery film that follows Sheriff Sam Deeds as he tries to investigate the murky truth behind the murder of his predecessor, Charlie Wade.

McConaughey appears as Buddy Deeds, the late father of Sam Deeds. Buddy was beloved by his community in Frontera, Texas and is remembered fondly after his death. But as Sam begins investigating Wade's death, he uncovers some unsavory truths about law enforcement in Frontera and wonders if his father's reputation as a fair and upstanding man was truly deserved. "Lone Star" may not be a traditional Western, but fans of the genre will appreciate it — watching Sam Deeds unravel the mysteries of his family and his community is enthralling.

1. Mud

"Mud" tops the list of McConaughey's best films. Reminiscent of classic stories like "Huckleberry Finn," this Southern drama earned rave reviews from critics. McConaughey plays the titular character, Mud, a man on the run after killing another man in Texas. Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), two boys from Arkansas, head out to explore a Mississippi island when they stumble across Mud, who is trying to avoid the bounty hunters that are after him. He's on a journey to reunite with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), and the boys decide to help him along the way.

It's an engrossing film that draws you into the world of the rural South, telling a moving coming-of-age story with a bit of an edge. McConaughey's acclaimed performance is a highlight of the movie. "McConaughey brings to the film a heartfelt and beautifully realized angst," Calvin Wilson wrote in a review for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.