Total Recall: Kevin Bacon's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the R.I.P.D. star.
From starring roles in flicks like Footloose to memorable cameos in films like JFK, Kevin Bacon has been pretty much all over Hollywood during his 35-year professional acting career, working so prolifically that he eventually inspired his own game. But until now, he's never had his own Total Recall -- so when we noticed Bacon's name in the cast list for this weekend's R.I.P.D., we knew exactly what we had to do. Everything is better with Bacon, so let's start the countdown!
10. A Few Good Men
Inspired by a real-life incident related to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin by his sister, a onetime member of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, A Few Good Men united an attention-getting cast, a tightly written script, and some of Rob Reiner's sharpest direction to produce one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of 1992 (TIME's Richard Schickel called it "An extraordinarily well-made movie, which wastes no words or images in telling a conventional but compelling story"). Although Men is mostly remembered today for its climactic courtroom scene, featuring Jack Nicholson as an enraged colonel who snaps under questioning and accuses the young lawyer questioning him (Tom Cruise) of not being able to handle the truth, it's actually a pretty solid dramatic thriller all the way around -- and it added links to a few more stars in Bacon's growing resume, thanks to his supporting role as opposing counsel Captain Jack Ross.
9. Mystic River
With Clint Eastwood behind the camera, Brian Helgeland writing the script from a Dennis Lehane book, and a cast packed with reliable names like Sean Penn, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Laurence Fishburne, you're pretty much guaranteed a terrific movie -- and that's exactly what filmgoers got with 2003's Mystic River, which not only earned over $150 million at the box office, but won a pair of Academy Awards and a stack of honors from other organizations. Fishburne played Whitey Powers, Massachusetts state police sergeant and partner of Sean Devine (played by Bacon); over the course of the film, the duo investigates the murder of a girl whose father, Jimmy Markum (Penn), is not only a local gangster, but one of Devine's closest childhood friends. Complicating matters even further is the nagging suspicion that the crime may have been committed by Dave Boyle (Robbins), Jimmy's brother-in-law -- and another of Sean's old friends. It sounds like the stuff of bullet-riddled melodrama, but few mainstream authors spin literary gold out of pulp as reliably as Lehane, and with Eastwood's flinty direction providing a solid foundation for his stellar cast, River deserved the praise of critics such as Cole Smithey, who pronounced, "American drama doesn't get any more meaty and muscular than this."
A cheerfully amiable B-movie creature feature with modern-day trappings, 1990's Tremors dropped Bacon in the middle of a wonderfully eclectic cast (including Reba McEntire and Big Trouble in Little China legend Victor "Egg Shen" Wong) to tell the story of a small town whose sleepy existence is disrupted by a rumbling passel of giant subterranean monsters. Although it wasn't a major hit during its theatrical release, it went on to enjoy cult status, spawning a (lamentably Bacon-free) succession of sequels and a TV series. The secret of its enduring appeal, according to Rob Vaux of the Flipside Movie Emporium, lies in "The blueprint for how to do projects like this right: care about your material, but don't lose your sense of humor."
7. The Woodsman
Actors often sign up to play unappealing characters in order to highlight their diversity -- and they don't come much more unappealing than "ex-con child molester," all of which is to say that it took a certain amount of guts for Bacon to step into the role of a tormented pedophile struggling to put his life back together in 2004's The Woodsman. Picking up after his release from prison and focusing on his awkward efforts to build new relationships and move on from the dark secrets of his past, it can be undeniably difficult to watch; as far as most critics were concerned, however, that discomfort paid rich dividends. "To watch this picture is to feel," pointed out the Globe and Mail's Rick Groen, "and what you're feeling is an intense swirl of conflicting emotions -- disturbed, creeped-out, sorry, and, yes, even moved."
While Kevin Bacon is certainly no stranger to effects-driven films -- heck, he spent a substantial portion of 2000's Hollow Man as an invisible man -- he managed to avoid doing time in a comic book movie until 2011's X-Men: First Class, which rebooted the moribund franchise by taking the characters back to their beginnings as a freshly assembled team of mutant superheroes. The reason for their coming together? The threat posed by Sebastian Shaw (Bacon), an energy-absorbing sociopath (and former Nazi to boot) who plans on taking over the world. A major box-office hit as well as a perfect opportunity for Bacon to chew some scenery, it also resonated with critics like the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, who wrote, "Preaching mutant pride with endearing fervor, X-Men: First Class proves to be a mutant in its own right -- a zestfully radical departure from the latter spawn of a sputtering franchise."