Total Recall: Gerard Butler's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Playing for Keeps star.

Gerard Butler

The rest of the heavy hitters Hollywood has planned for us in 2012 are being stored away until later in December, but Gerard Butler can't wait -- he's back in theaters this weekend with his latest rom-com, Playing for Keeps. Although its Tomatometer fate can probably be guessed by the fact that it isn't being screened for critics, don't feel too badly for Butler -- his filmography has plenty of critical highlights to fall back on, and this week's list offers proof. From period drama to family-friendly fantasy and bone-crunching action, he's stayed plenty busy over the last 15 years and change -- and now it's time to pay tribute, Total Recall style!


40%

10. Reign of Fire

The only film to combine the acting might of Gerard Butler, Matthew McConaughey, and Christian Bale with the special-effects majesty of fire-breathing dragons and the giddy thrill of witnessing a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, 2002's Reign of Fire had a lot going for it. After all, it isn't every day filmgoers get to watch British construction workers accidentally open an underground cave full of dragons, triggering 10 years of panic, death, and mayhem -- or watch an axe-wielding McConaughey leap into the mouth of one of the filthy beasts. Unfortunately, while Fire proved a medium-sized box office hit, most critics felt it squandered all the potential of its premise on a movie that sacrificed compelling story in favor of eye-popping visual effects. For Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, however, that was precisely the point -- as she argued in her review, "The season could do with more grinning, spinning, un-self-important, happy-to-be-B throwback movies like this one."


48%

9. Beowulf & Grendel

Two years before Angelina Jolie exerted a disconcerting level of mo-cap sexitude in 2007's more succinctly titled Beowulf, Gerard Butler played the titular warrior in director Sturla Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel, a beautifully filmed retelling of the ancient saga about the generations-spanning grudge that erupts after a Danish king (Stellan Skarsgård) slays a troublesome creature that's been pestering his lands, only to let its offspring go free. He lives to regret this decision after the orphan grows up to be Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson), who returns to terrorize the kingdom and can only be stopped by the fearless Beowulf (Butler). Despite its impressive scenery and unimpeachable source material, most critics were unmoved by Beowulf & Grendel, and after scoring with Canadian filmgoers, it sputtered out quickly in U.S. theaters. Their loss, according to William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who wrote, "Shot entirely in the outback of Iceland, it's a gallery of hauntingly beautiful locations, and director Sturla Gunnarsson skillfully uses its bleak otherworldliness to distance us from anything familiar and evoke a lost heroic age."


49%

8. Harrison's Flowers

While far from his biggest role, Butler's brief turn as Chris Kumac in the Elie Chouraqui-directed war drama Harrison's Flowers added to his early film résumé while giving him a chance to share space in the closing credits with a long list of solid actors, including Elias Koteas, Brendan Gleeson, and Adrien Brody -- not to mention David Strathairn, who played photojournalist Harrison Lloyd, and Andie MacDowell, who plays the wife that travels overseas to search for him after his presumed death in a building collapse. Clearly, Harrison's Flowers contained the seeds for a powerful drama; unfortunately, most critics felt that the movie zoomed past it and soared straight into soggy melodrama. But that wasn't enough to deter Robert W. Butler of the Kansas City Star, who argued, "Despite its melodramatic framework and thin characterizations, the movie does deliver an unforgettable sense of the desperate civil conflicts that seem to be a recurrent phenomenon of our troubled times."

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51%

7. Nim's Island

On paper, Nim's Island had a lot going for it: A solid cast, strong visuals, and bestselling, family-friendly source material in Wendy Orr's book about a young girl (Abigail Breslin) forced to seek help from an agoraphobic adventure author (Jodie Foster) after a shipwreck strands the girl's scientist father (Butler). Unfortunately, things didn't exactly work out the way they were supposed to when the movie kicked off its theatrical run in April 2008 -- while it easily recouped its $37 million budget with a $100 million worldwide gross, reviews and word of mouth were disappointingly lukewarm. That isn't to say the movie was without its defenders, however -- including USA Today's Claudia Puig, who wrote, "Nim's Island is a win-win proposition: an entertaining, diverting adventure saga that offers excitement and a relatable heroine for children, and also will remind their parents of favorite classics from their own youth."

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59%

6. RocknRolla

He's returned to Fresh territory with his Sherlock Holmes movies, but for awhile there, it looked like Guy Ritchie's post-Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels career was going to be a study in diminishing critical returns. Case in point: 2008's RocknRolla, a London-set action thriller about a group of scuzzy underworld types including a crimelord (Tom Wilkinson), unscrupulous accountant (Thandie Newton), rough-and-tumble thug (Butler), and punk musician (Toby Kebbell) who only stop shooting long enough to betray their supposed allies. Familiar territory for Ritchie, but most critics found RocknRolla a case of style at the expense of substance. For others, however, that was more than enough: As Michael O'Sullivan put it for the Washington Post, "Style is what RocknRolla is all about. And it has it in spades, from the cockney Pulp Fiction dialogue to the music-video editing of the rambling narrative."

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Comments

Alberto Zeeky

Alberto Zeeky

Although not critically successful in terms of Butlers current film career, he's really been able to provided some very enjoyable screen presence in the films he has been in. Despite being pretty negatively viewed, I have to say Butlers best roles in acting (not voice work) have been in The Ugly Truth & Law Abiding Citizen. He fit the perfect womanizing role necessary for Ugly Truth which I found him very comparable to Will Smith's job in Hitch. As for Citizen, he flat out stole the show in that film from every actor sharing screen time with him. Fox was a good fit, but Gerard as a villain was far too enjoyable. Aside from the ending, it's probably the most enjoyable film I've watched of Butlers. I'd love for him to get more of the "villian you want to win" roles... RT users have the score in a much better perspective than the critics.

Dec 5 - 04:54 PM

King  S.

King Simba

At least the critics list doesn't have 300 as his best film. Granted, that film is enjoyable as a mindless flick (though even then it's still flawed, namely the Persians being less threatening than Elmer Fudd), but better than How to Train Your Dragon and Coriolanus? Not really.

Dec 6 - 05:43 AM

Jónas Haux

Jónas Haux

I would say Corionalus is his best performance.

Dec 6 - 12:44 PM

Deborah J.

Deborah Jean

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Dec 30 - 01:24 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

A poor man's Clive Owen. Butler should do a film with Sam Worthington and James McAvoy and call it "Publicists Are Underrated".

Dec 5 - 05:02 PM

Holden D.

Holden Drover

haha.. I do love McAvoy though..

Dec 9 - 05:22 PM

Cole Jaeger

Cole Jaeger

He's only been in 5 fresh movies.

Dec 5 - 05:03 PM

Not L.

Not Likely

You can count!

Dec 6 - 10:21 AM

Jaho Koo

Jaho Koo

ahahahaha

Dec 8 - 11:54 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Coriolanus was amazing. But Butler was definitely the weakest actor. I enjoyed 300, and he was decent in that. Gamer was another fun movie.

Dec 5 - 05:12 PM

Kenneth Amoateng

Kenneth Amoateng

he is outrageously incredible.

Dec 5 - 06:04 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

You know what's funny? I've seen PS I LOVE YOU but have never seen 300. And before anyone here slaps the gay label on me, truth is I'd rather see a half-naked Hilary Swank than AB-MEN: MASTERS OF SPARTA. He was okay as the Phantom, but the truth is I'm not a Butler fan from what I have seen of him. The only one on this list I even have a mild interest in is CORIOLANAS. Directed by Ralph Fiennes? That's bad-ass!

Dec 5 - 07:04 PM

Branden Mata

Branden Mata

His best that i have seen is in 300. Guy was just a straight up baddass in that movie. He shoulda just kept doing action roles, idk why he keeps doing crappy romantic comedies, I mean you can just tell straight from the trailer their gonna be bad. That's how bad they are.

Dec 5 - 07:22 PM

KingSigy

Numna Stingdoo

I haven't seen this top 5 movies, but I've never liked anything this man has been in. 300 was a colossal waste of time to me and I despised everything about it.

Dec 5 - 07:50 PM

Dani Fenn-Wells

Dani Fenn-Wells

How to Train Your Dragon is amazing.

Dec 5 - 07:54 PM

Zane B

Chum Chum

He's just...not that good

Dec 5 - 09:32 PM

This comment has been removed.

Zane B

Chum Chum

So, The Dude abides?

Dec 6 - 07:22 AM

King  S.

King Simba

At least the critics list doesn't have 300 as his best film. Granted, that film is enjoyable as a mindless flick (though even then it's still flawed, namely the Persians being less threatening than Elmer Fudd), but better than How to Train Your Dragon and Coriolanus? Not really.

Dec 6 - 05:43 AM

Scott Graham

Scott Graham

The first page of his best movies are rated rotten. Impressive.

Dec 6 - 06:15 AM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

When Reign of Fire is in your top 10 best reviewed its time to get a new agent.

Dec 6 - 09:10 AM

Zane B

Chum Chum

So, The Dude abides?

Dec 6 - 07:22 AM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

When Reign of Fire is in your top 10 best reviewed its time to get a new agent.

Dec 6 - 09:10 AM

nate2709

Nate 2709

You can count Butler's good movies on one finger.

Dec 6 - 09:21 AM

Not L.

Not Likely

You can count!

Dec 6 - 10:21 AM

Jaho Koo

Jaho Koo

ahahahaha

Dec 8 - 11:54 PM

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