Total Recall: Gerard Butler's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Playing for Keeps star.
Arguably the most gloriously ab-riffic swords 'n' sandals action epic ever filmed, Zack Snyder's 300 blended newfangled bluescreen technology with time-tested bloody murder to produce a fictionalized adaptation of the Battle of Thermopylae. Working from Frank Miller's comic series of the same name, Snyder pulled out all the stops in pursuit of a faithful reproduction of his source material -- and the results worked so well that, combined with 2005's similarly striking, also Miller-inspired Sin City, they briefly seemed to usher in a new era of hyper-visual graphic novel adaptations. A $210 million box office hit, 300 was less of a sure thing with critics, but it carried enough firepower for Richard Roeper, who called it "Excessively, cheerfully violent -- and it is gorgeous to behold. It looks like the world's most sophisticated and expensive video game, and I mean that in a good way."
4. Dear Frankie
One of the reasons Butler's been such an alluring target for directors of romantic comedies is his ability to convey rough edges and soulful tenderness in equal measure -- and anyone who thought those qualities would save movies like The Bounty Hunter, and learned the hard way that they couldn't, would do well to check out 2004's Dear Frankie, starring Butler as an anonymous seaman who agrees to help a single mother (Emily Mortimer) preserve the long-running lie that her son's (Jack McElhone) father is a sailor on a ship that just happens to be docking in town. Sweet and mournful, Frankie failed to make much of a dent at the box office, but it definitely left an impression on critics like Film Journal International's Shirley Sealy, who called it "A quietly told film that--by casually tossing in a surprise here and a plot twist there--builds up to an ending that carries an intense emotional impact."
3. Mrs. Brown
Butler made his film debut with a relatively minor role in John Madden's Mrs. Brown, playing the younger brother of a Scottish servant (Billy Connolly) whose relationship with the widowed Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) throws the royal court into a tizzy. Originally intended to air as an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, it went on to accrue acclaim -- and a healthy $13 million at the box office during its arthouse run -- while bringing Dench her first Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Observed Janet Maslin of the New York Times, "Mrs. Brown' transcends its period setting not only with a keenly observed struggle between love and duty but also with the kind of controversy that envelops the Queen and her servant."
This critically lauded, Ralph Fiennes-directed period piece is an adaptation of the Shakespeare play that follows the adventures of the titular Roman general (Fiennes) who's manipulated by his domineering mother (Vanessa Redgrave) into angling for higher office -- and then finds himself exiled from the city. Who does he turn to when it comes time to hatch a plan for his return? Why, his burly archenemy Tullus Aufidius -- who's played to seething, bearded perfection by Butler, coming full circle by reprising the role for the cameras after scoring one of his earliest career breaks in a stage production of the play. Offering resounding proof that all Butler really needs is to step away from the regrettable rom-coms and pick a few solid scripts, Coriolanus earned the praise of critics like Slant's Chuck Bowen, who called it "a savage action movie that somehow manages to preserve the heart of the Bard's work while reducing his words to devastating shards."
If you're casting the voice of the head of an ancient Viking village -- and you don't happen to have an actual ancient Viking lying around -- you could do a heck of a lot worse than Gerard Butler, who stepped in to lend his beefy-sounding burr to the animated Stoick the Vast, patriarch of the dragon-infested island of Berk, in DreamWorks' massive 2010 hit How to Train Your Dragon. Though the movie's impressive 3D CGI visuals were undeniably the star of the show, Butler was part of a sharp voice cast that included Craig Ferguson, Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse -- and part of the reason the Houston Chronicle's Amy Biancolli said the movie "uses its whiz-bang technology to amplify feelings as well as dimension and scale. The big optical wow is only the half of it."
In case you were wondering, here are Butler's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. 300 -- 90%
2. How to Train Your Dragon -- 90%
3. Dear Frankie -- 89%
4. The Phantom of the Opera -- 86%
5. P.S. I Love You -- 82%
6. Law Abiding Citizen -- 77%
7. Chasing Mavericks -- 76%
8. Mrs. Brown -- 75%
9. Harrison's Flowers -- 74%
10. RocknRolla -- 71%
Finally, here's a younger Butler in a reasonably intense UK Polaroid commercial: