Total Recall: Michael Caine's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Harry Brown star.
A film and television fixture for decades, Michael Caine is one of Hollywood's best and brightest (he's earned an Oscar nomination at least once a decade since the '60s), with an incredible list of credits as a leading man and a supporting player (including his appearance in 2006's Children of Men, which we're excluding due to its brevity). His overall filmography is so strong that it retains a 64 percent Tomatometer rating in spite of Caine's much-derided willingness to take paycheck roles in notorious turkeys like The Swarm, Bullseye!, and Jaws: The Revenge. If that weren't impressive enough, Caine's also a published author, a chillout DJ, and a knight of the Order of the British Empire. And now, thanks to the debut of his latest film, Harry Brown, he can add "subject of a Rotten Tomatoes Total Recall" to his list of accomplishments. Let's take a look at Michael Caine's best-reviewed movies!
The first time Hollywood took a crack at adapting Graham Greene's bestselling novel, the result was a bowdlerized version that, much to his chagrin, stripped out the author's distaste with American involvement in Vietnam. More than 40 years later, director Phillip Noyce filmed a much more faithful adaptation, starring Brendan Fraser as an idealistic CIA operative in 1950s Vietnam, Michael Caine as the jaded British journalist who crosses his path, and Do Thi Hai Yen as the woman who comes between them. What Noyce's version lost in timeliness, it more than made up in script and cast -- most notably Caine, who earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his work and was singled out in reviews from critics such as Eleanor Ringel Gillespie of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Caine, who also starred in one other Greene adaptation, 1983's The Honorary Consul, is the essence of almost all the author's misfits, " wrote Gillespie, summing him up as "a practiced cynic masking an aching romantic."
9. Get Carter
A stark, unflinching portrait of the lingering stain that violence can leave on a person's life -- even after they're dead -- Get Carter repulsed many critics when it was released, but behind all that ugly violence lurks a film whose sharp script, strong performances, and surprisingly thoughtful themes are impossible to ignore. The critics eventually came around, too; over time, Carter has come to be regarded as one of the best gangster movies ever made -- and even one of Britain's best films overall. In another actor's hands, the role of the vengeful Jack Carter would have been a thuggish cartoon, but Caine infused his character's homicidal rampage with palpable pain and sorrow. (For an example of how it could have gone wrong, watch Sylvester Stallone's 2000 remake, which featured Caine in a supporting role. Or better yet, don't.) He'd earned praise for earlier roles, but Caine really started coming into his own here; as Roger Ebert noted in his review, "Caine has been mucking about in a series of potboilers, undermining his acting reputation along the way, but Get Carter shows him as sure, fine and vicious -- a good hero for an action movie."
Caine scored his first starring role in this Cy Endfield production, which told the story of the Battle of Rorke's Drift during the late 19th century Anglo-Zulu War. The culmination of a long and bitter border dispute, the war ultimately added another bloody chapter to British colonialism in the region, but not without months of the kind of struggle dramatized in Zulu -- and the efforts of soldiers like lieutenants John Chard (played by Stanley Baker, who also produced) and Gonville Bromhead (played by Caine), who threw together a makeshift fort to make a desperate stand against the opposition. Though barely a footnote in American history books, Rorke's Drift produced a number of decorated veterans for the British Army -- and an early critical triumph for its freshly minted star. "Caine was just splendid," applauded Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews. "It is still one of his finest hours in film."
Woody Allen lined up one of his strongest ensemble casts for the seven-time Academy Award nominee Hannah and Her Sisters, starring Caine as Elliot, the restless husband of Hannah (Mia Farrow) whose dissatisfaction with his marriage leads him into an entanglement with -- you guessed it -- Hannah's sister (Barbara Hershey). It's the kind of story Allen tells best, and Hannah is one of his strongest -- and most successful -- films, ultimately winning a Best Writing Oscar to go with its healthy $40 million gross. "No matter how passive a viewer you are, how much you attempt to dismiss it or judge its characters," wrote Steven Snyder for Zertinet Movies, "Woody Allen reaches past those sleepy, cynical, or questioning eyes and makes you think as much as any film I've seen."
Bruce Wayne might be an unimaginably wealthy businessman who lives a double life as the crime-purging vigilante Batman, but he wouldn't be able to get much done without the dependable service of his long-suffering butler, Alfred Pennyworth -- and since Christopher Nolan took over the franchise with 2005's Batman Begins, Caine has embodied the character with his unique ability to project an aura of good breeding, street smarts, and a quick, understated wit. Though not one of Caine's larger roles, Alfred is an integral part of the Batman mythos, and his part in the franchise has placed him alongside talented actors such as Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, and Heath Ledger -- whose bravura performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight was a crucial element in the positive reviews the movie earned from critics like Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, who wrote, "Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, The Dark Knight goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind."