Total Recall: George Clooney's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Men Who Stare at Goats star.

George Clooney

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. We hear it all the time, but George Clooney is living proof that perseverance pays off: Despite the inauspicious beginnings of a career that threatened to pigeonhole him as a Ted McGinley-style supporting player on fading sitcoms, he's risen to the ranks of Hollywood's highest-paid actors, and has appeared in some of the last decade's most critically and commercially successful films. This fall, Clooney surfaces in three major releases: Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, and The Men Who Stare at Goats, opening this weekend. If that kind of star power doesn't deserve the Total Recall treatment, what does?


72%
Template Image
Fresh

10. Syriana

It's always fashionable to lament the lack of imagination and depth in mainstream Hollywood fare -- and, quite often, it's easy to understand why. But every so often, someone manages to slip something demanding into the release schedule. Case in point: 2007's Syriana, a twisty political thriller that takes an impossibly intricate script (written by Stephen Gaghan, also making his directorial debut), adds a top-notch ensemble cast, and wraps the whole thing up in 128 minutes of espionage and intrigue with equal parts visceral and intellectual appeal. As Robert Barnes, the CIA operative who becomes an unwilling expert in the painful side effects of shifting Middle Eastern alliances, Clooney was only one part of a cast that included Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, and William Hurt -- but as one of the film's executive producers, he was a crucial element of a movie that overcame its heady themes to earn almost $100 million worldwide. Lauding Syriana as "a film that treats its audience as adults," Channel 4 Film's James Mottram wrote, "this is an extremely rewarding work that handsomely pays off the concentration required to watch it."


75%
Template Image
Fresh

9. Intolerable Cruelty

What do you get when you cross the Coen brothers with the tired old romantic comedy genre? 2003's Intolerable Cruelty, in which the directing/screenwriting duo turns its deep black humor on the sexy screwball laffers of the '30s, putting Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the center of a story with enough twists, turns, and double-crosses for a hundred Kate Hudson movies. The plot, which pits a brilliant but bored divorce attorney (Clooney) in a battle of the sexes against one of his former clients' spouses (Zeta-Jones), isn't terribly original, but the script has plenty of zingers -- and the leads threw enough sparks to charm even many of the critics who came away from Cruelty disappointed with the Coens' surprisingly mainstream shift. In the words of the Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey, "If Intolerable Cruelty establishes one thing, it's that George Clooney is the closest thing that contemporary Hollywood has to an old-fashioned matinee idol."


78%
Template Image
Fresh

8. Burn After Reading

After tunneling deep into the dark underbelly of human nature with their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers decided to beat a lighthearted retreat for its follow-up, 2008's Burn After Reading -- and, in the process, reunite with one of their favorite leading men. For his third project with the Coens, Clooney took on the role of Harry Pfarrer, a Treasury agent whose romantic exploits are as unfortunate as they are prolific. Conducting an adulterous affair with Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton) while simultaneously fooling around with Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), Pfarrer is hilariously unaware that both women are involved in some way in the botched extortion scheme that's about to send his life spinning off its axis. Though Burn represented a substantial critical comedown for the Coens after the award-hogging No Country, it was a hit with most scribes, including Armond White of the New York Press, who wrote, "Lesser artists would have followed a critical smash like No Country with another noir, courting audience favor through familiarity. But Burn After Reading, though shocking, is simply the flipside of the Coens' existential dread."


77%
Template Image
Fresh

7. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In lesser hands, a broadly comic, Depression-era update on the Odyssey could have been the most embarrassing thing George Clooney would be associated with since Return of the Killer Tomatoes, but the Coen brothers made it work -- and how: Between its $71 million gross and a soundtrack so popular it spawned its own documentary, O Brother, Where Art Thou? was one of 2000's cinematic sensations (albeit one whose impact was more cultural than financial; ranking 60th on the annual box office results, it was just a shade less successful than Dude, Where's My Car?). Despite some South Park vocal cameos and his noteworthy late-series run on The Facts of Life, Clooney's comedic gift remained largely undiscovered until the Coens turned him loose to ham it up as Ulysses Everett McGill, the fast-talking escaped con whose quest for ill-gotten gains leads him to an accidental career as a member of an old-time music trio. Sound like a loopy plot? Well, toss in some Klansmen, a floating cow, and John Goodman in an eyepatch, and you can understand why Eugene Novikov of Film Blather said "O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the Being John Malkovich of the year 2000," adding, "The most remarkable thing about it is just how any sane studio executive agreed to back it."


79%
Template Image
Fresh

6. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

It's one of Hollywood's most oft-repeated jokes that what actors really want to do is direct -- but when they do get their first shot behind the cameras, very few actors take the opportunity to create something as wonderfully strange as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Adapted by Charlie Kaufman from the Chuck Barris memoir that may or may not have included giant chunks of complete fiction, Confessions introduces the viewer to a world in which noted television producer Barris (played by Sam Rockwell) is recruited by a CIA agent (Clooney) to carry out secret political assassinations -- and it gets even weirder from there. Arriving in theaters years after Barris' TV heyday, Confessions never really had a prayer of catching on at the box office, but it -- and Clooney -- earned the admiration of critics like Glenn Lovell of the San Jose Mercury News, who wrote, "Clooney, who on the basis of this movie has a big career ahead of him behind the camera, demonstrates a real flair for visual comedy."

Comments

Angel Dust

Duncan Cole

If you had told me that the heart-throb from ER was going to become one of my favourite actors as well as a pretty good director I would have laughed at you. But George Clooney has become that and now I'm always interested in what he's working on.

Nov 3 - 06:08 PM

King Kubrick

Travis Earl

Syrania was godawful. I wouldn't be surprised if the director's cut has a sign that flashes conservatives are evil over every scene in neon red. It was more of a left wing political diatribe than an actual film.

Nov 3 - 06:10 PM

Plumas Fleiban

Lucás Leiva

completely right you are about syirana king kubrick.,.. hell i hate those movies... and be noticed that i voted democrat.... the Coen brothers sure like Clooney as an actor,, hysterical in Burn after Reading

Nov 3 - 08:03 PM

westofthesun

eoin mcguigan

how on earth was syrianna godawful? it was a pretty superbly put together film. a liberal diabtribe against conservatives? if by that you mean...they didn't hate arabs/muslims, then sure. or possibly the fact that, well, the writers got it RIGHT in regards to oil in the middle east, then again...sure.

but really either way we're forgetting the point: conservatives, more like than not are generally evil (if not evil then stupid) -- specifically social conservatives.

Nov 3 - 11:44 PM

inactive user

Jared King

George Clooney is a good actor. Not great. He always just plays the *Cool* guy.

Nov 3 - 06:19 PM

theinfamouspaw

Paul Coleman

ledawg--

Have you seen more than a few of the movies on this list? He certainly doesn't always play the "cool guy"

Nov 3 - 06:38 PM

cjmovieman

Conor Callagy

like when he plays a fat loser being exploited in Syriana??

Nov 4 - 10:27 AM

Olli K.

Olli Kivioja

I dont think you can say that he always just plays the cool guy. Yes he has been "cool" in some movies but he also has a lot of movies where is as opposite to cool as you can be. Take a look at for example Burn After Reading for proofs.

Nov 5 - 04:11 AM

Marlon E.

Marlon Elsbree

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of my favorite movies. George needs to work with the Coen Brothers more!

Nov 3 - 06:19 PM

theinfamouspaw

Paul Coleman

ledawg--

Have you seen more than a few of the movies on this list? He certainly doesn't always play the "cool guy"

Nov 3 - 06:38 PM

smi1ey

Matt Dunn

wow, that clip from the facts of life was hilarious!

Nov 3 - 06:58 PM

Laughing_bun

tad langehaug

I like george clooney but none of the movies on this list are particularly good.

Nov 3 - 07:18 PM

Johnny B.

Johnny Barrett

You obviously don't know anything about film if you think O Brother Where Art Thou, Michael Clayton, and Good Night, and Good luck aren't good films

Nov 5 - 05:14 AM

Julie T.

Julie Taylor

You can't be serious. Oh Brother Where Art Thou? was an absolute classic!

Nov 7 - 04:52 AM

MADDAZ

Darren Anderson

Great to see Three Kings grab the second spot. No love for From Dusk Till Dawn.

Nov 3 - 07:27 PM

John D.

John Debono

All I'll say is this, even when he killed my childhood hero and pissed all over him and his reputation. George Clooney is one talented mother lover.

Nov 3 - 07:30 PM

Fallenstarrs

John Carras

Clooney has starred in a few pretty good movies but nothing spectacular. All I can say is that Clooney is no Rockwell...or most other actors for that matter.

Nov 3 - 07:38 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

@Jake C.

"All I can say is that Clooney is no Rockwell...or most other actors for that matter."

Why Sam Rockwell? Rockwell is nothing what you would call "special" & yes, he has had some solid performances such as in "Moon", "Frost/Nixon", "The Green Mile" & a few others but he hasn't had much of an impact as an overall actor but time will tell. Clooney is making strides as an actor. But to be frank, you really can't compare the two as they are different kinds of actors. Rockwell is a character actor while Clooney is a role-playing actor. Also, to say most other actors are better then Clooney is an exceedingly immense & broad statement & ill-advise to say the least.

Nov 3 - 09:39 PM

Plumas Fleiban

Lucás Leiva

completely right you are about syirana king kubrick.,.. hell i hate those movies... and be noticed that i voted democrat.... the Coen brothers sure like Clooney as an actor,, hysterical in Burn after Reading

Nov 3 - 08:03 PM

Nine Oh Two

joe schmoe

Actually, as far as Syriana goes, it was written by former CIA agent Robert Baer, who was stationed in the middle east. I didn't find it particulary preachy but lets be honest, Clooney is drawn to those sort of projects.

I was more disappointed in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, there was a falling out between Clooney and Kaufman because Clooney changed the ending that Kaufman originally wrote for the script. I would have liked to seen what he had in store.

And I can't believe Clooneys 1987 masterpiece, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, did not make this list! RT has to change the name of their website now.

Nov 3 - 08:27 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

What? No love for Batman & Robin? The movie that's so delightfully campy that I can't even use the word delightful, it's derivatives, or synonyms with a straight face.

I love O' Brother and Ocean's 11. They're the only two movies of his that I own. Both have this great sense of humor.

I've seen a couple of the others. I didn't really care for Good Night.

Nov 3 - 08:51 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

*can't even use those words when describing it with a straight face.*

Nov 3 - 09:00 PM

RamALamADingDong

That Guy

*can't even use those words when describing it with a straight face.*

Nov 3 - 09:00 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

Oh George Clooney! Clooney represents that old school Hollywood & it's great to see that. George Clooney is Hollywood & represents it with class. Clooney is a damn good actor & doesn't get the respect he deserves as an actor. The man is also an exceedingly admirable director. "Good Night, and Good Luck" was a superb film to say the least. Clooney has solidified bunch of film under his belt with "Ocean's Eleven", "Out Of Sight", "Michael Clayton", "Three Kings" & so forth. He also has those upcoming films such as "Up In The Air" (which he will be nominated for an Academy Award for sure & has a great chance of winning it), "The Men Who Stare At Goats" & "Fantastic Mr. Fox".

Clooney is one of those rare kind of individuals who gets better & better with age. I love some of the people who say none of these films are anything special, god awful or not particularly good. Yea...okay! whatever you say. I could really go off on this matter especially on some particular films but I'm not going down that alley.

P.S. Hollywood could use more George Clooneys in today's Hollywood.

Nov 3 - 09:19 PM

Chubby Movie Goer

Chubby Movie Goer

George Clooney's agent, I presumed?

Nov 5 - 08:54 PM

will s.

will stamp

and my boi is FIIIIINE, TOO.

Nov 3 - 09:31 PM

NTROST

Anthony W.

@Jake C.

"All I can say is that Clooney is no Rockwell...or most other actors for that matter."

Why Sam Rockwell? Rockwell is nothing what you would call "special" & yes, he has had some solid performances such as in "Moon", "Frost/Nixon", "The Green Mile" & a few others but he hasn't had much of an impact as an overall actor but time will tell. Clooney is making strides as an actor. But to be frank, you really can't compare the two as they are different kinds of actors. Rockwell is a character actor while Clooney is a role-playing actor. Also, to say most other actors are better then Clooney is an exceedingly immense & broad statement & ill-advise to say the least.

Nov 3 - 09:39 PM

B D.

B Doty

Syriana was great, easily the best movie of 2007 and most others, and I'm the rootinist tootinist conservativist not vacationing at Arlington nat'l Cem. this year. If Dumas wrote screenplays he'd write Syriana but the dialogue wouldn't be as sharp. Oceans and O Brother were amazing fun; Confessions is a Rockwell masterpiece and way better than good in every aspect. The rest on this list is a collection of mediocrity (cruelty/kings/clayton/sight) and overrated and self-important tripe (burn/good night). Sometimes I feel like I'm in bizarro world. I mean, Syriana 10, Out of Sight 3? If I'm insane just tell me; I can take it and maybe there's a drug out there that can fix me.

Nov 3 - 09:42 PM

gamejediben

Ben Behzadpour

A hardcore Clooney hater here.

Clooney is the worst actor in Hollywood in my opinion. The guy just plain sucks and his movies are even worse. If any actor needs to be kicked out of hollywood, its him. He simply does not know how to act and every freakin role is the same.

Clooney is teh suxxorz and there are few worse than him.

Nov 3 - 09:46 PM

Floor Man

Floor Man

@gamejediben:

FAIL!

:)

Nov 3 - 10:30 PM

crystalwhiteeyes

Tommy Savor

I agree! His movies are awful and I've never considered him great. He bobbles his head side to side way too freakin much, and there's no change in his pitch from the dialogue. It's all the same. His acting and his films are terrible!

Nov 4 - 07:25 AM

NTROST

Anthony W.

@crystalwhiteeyes

Your reasons are pretty shoddy, foolhardy & sophistic for hating is his films & him.

Nov 4 - 12:32 PM

crystalwhiteeyes

Tommy Savor

I don't hate him for those reasons. I just don't think he is as great as people think he is. Sometimes, those small things annoy people. I'm one of them! I just can't stand it!

It's like saying Paris Hilton is a great actress! Obviously people are going to instantly talk about her stature and how she carries herself, much like Clooney. Both are different, but extremely annoying!

Nov 4 - 03:59 PM

felbert

Robert Felmeister

Clooney is a phenomenal actor. Just go back to Michael Clayton and watch the scene with the horses. He doesn't speak a word, but says it all with his face. It's amazing to watch. A truly great actor can say more with facial expression than with words. He does it with the best of them.

Every role is the same? You just haven't been watching. I don't like all of the films he's made, but I certainly can't complain about his acting.

Nov 7 - 06:47 PM

TheCriticAlex

Stanley Beans

I don't watch many of his movies ,but I think he is a good actor out of sight and ocean's eleven were good the rest i've heard of ,but never seen. I saw the trailer of Fantastic fox his new movie sort of reminds of ocean's eleven in stop motion which is cool. I read the book when I was little and liked it. I always thought he was good in peacemaker ,but everyone here probably hates that movie. I didn't it was bad though.

Nov 3 - 10:18 PM

TheCriticAlex

Stanley Beans

Made a little mistake that last sentence should say: I didn't think it was bad though.

Nov 3 - 10:56 PM

What's Hot On RT

Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater

What are his Five Favorite Films?

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games

New Mockingjay teaser trailer

Emmys
Emmys

Full 2014 nominations list

Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes

Watch interviews with the cast

Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile