Total Recall: Richard Jenkins' Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the White House Down star.

Richard Jenkins

Audiences who turn out for White House Down this weekend will be paying for the privilege of watching director Roland Emmerich blow up an American landmark (and/or seeing Channing Tatum in a dirty tank top), but when they do, they'll be getting an added treat: An appearance by the one and only Richard Jenkins, who achieved ultimate "That Guy" status years before earning a richly deserved Best Actor Oscar nomination in 2008. Character actors don't come with much more character than Mr. Jenkins, so with all due respect to Emmerich's effects and Tatum's pecs, we knew this was the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to one of Hollywood's most distinguished supporting players. It's time for Total Recall!


75%

10. Intolerable Cruelty

Two years after popping up in The Man Who Wasn't There, Jenkins reunited with the Coen brothers for Intolerable Cruelty, a comedy that -- while taking as jaundiced a view of fate and human nature as anything else in their filmography -- offered a relatively frothy take on the old-fashioned Hollywood battle-of-the-sexes farce. Starring George Clooney as a well-known divorce lawyer and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the woman he lives to regret railroading out of a potentially huge settlement (during a segment in which he steamrolls her lawyer, played by Jenkins), Cruelty struck some critics as excessively mean-spirited in its enthusiastically nasty depiction of unscrupulous attorneys and money-grubbing divorcees -- but it struck just the right balance for Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune, who found it "Elegant, cheerfully cynical fun of the kind we used to get regularly from Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks and other masters of the classic Hollywood screwball comedy."

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75%

9. Killing Them Softly

Jenkins' world-weary face and soft-spoken demeanor can be used to convey warmth and kindness or coldly pragmatic cruelty, depending on the occasion, and in writer/director Andrew Dominik's Killing Me Softly, they were called upon for a bit of both. Here, Jenkins plays a Mafia go-between for a hitman (Brad Pitt) who's been contracted to kill a shady game room proprietor (Ray Liotta) in order to restore dignity to the local gambling operation; it seems like a straightforward enough job, but things get complicated, owing to the involvement of a pair of incompetent crooks (Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) as well as the unpredictable hitman Pitt's hired to rub them out (James Gandolfini). Although it wasn't one of Pitt's more commercially successful efforts, it earned praise from critics like Mick LaSalle, who wrote, "There is not one moment in the film that doesn't represent the director's carefully considered thought, whether we're talking about acting values, camera placement, sound or style of presentation."

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76%

8. Sea of Love

Jenkins' career has grown to the point where he's capable of landing central roles, but in his earlier years as a film actor, he developed a reputation as the kind of guy who could imbue even smaller parts with enough three-dimensional believability to make them seem larger than they really were. Case in point: 1989's Sea of Love, the slow-burning thriller about an alcoholic cop (Al Pacino) who becomes embroiled in a disturbing murder case while falling in love with the sultry femme fatale (Ellen Barkin) who may or may not be the serial killer he's looking for. As the fellow cop who ended up marrying Pacino's character's wife after she walked out on him, Jenkins is mostly relegated to the background, but he's one of several characters (as well as actors smartly chosen by director Harold Becker) who help ground the lurid and often ridiculous film with some semblance of normalcy. "Sea of Love has its Cinemax lapses in taste," admitted Bill Chambers of Film Freak Central, "but most films of the genre lack sophistication from which to lapse."

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77%

7. The Mudge Boy

A Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee, this little-seen indie starred Emile Hirsch as the painfully shy son of a widowed recluse (Richard Jenkins) who can't seem to figure out what to make of him -- which is understandable, seeing as how the kid sleeps with a chicken and likes to dress up in his late mother's clothes. Such personality quirks don't do Hirsch's character any favors in the small social circles he's forced to run at school, and from The Mudge Boy's earliest scenes, the viewer can sense that things aren't going to end well for him, but it's still hard to look away. Calling it "Unsettling and mildly shocking at times," Newsday's Jan Stuart wrote, "this is an adolescent tale of the sort one might expect from Flannery O'Connor or Paul Bowles if they were in the business of coming-of-age dramas."


78%

6. Burn After Reading

Part of Jenkins' prolific breakthrough year in 2008 -- which also included The Visitor and Step Brothers -- the Coen brothers production Burn After Reading employed an eyebrow-raising cast of character actors (including John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and, of course, J.K. Simmons) to unravel a pitch-black comedy about a burnout CIA analyst (Malkovich) whose memoirs are stolen and end up in the hands of a pair of dunderheaded health club employees (McDormand and Brad Pitt) who misunderstand their meaning and try selling them to the Russians, all while a philandering U.S. Marshal (George Clooney) complicates matters by unwittingly carrying on affairs with all of the women involved. "None of it makes strict sense, which is why it's called screwball," admitted the Toronto Star's Peter Howell, "but in its own crazy way Burn After Reading nails the essential folly of humans pretending to be civilized."

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Comments

Ben Coleman

Ben Coleman

what an underrated actor. it's a shame he doesn't get larger roles.

Jun 26 - 05:07 PM

Mike Barbas

Mike Barbas

Good list. The visitor was a touch slow, but his performance was amazing and he should have won w/his Oscar nom. Awesome actor, and from my home state of Rhode Island. Trinity Rep <3

Jun 26 - 05:13 PM

Jim Earp

Jim Earp

Where's "North Country," one of his finest performances, and a wonderful movie to boot. No excuse for leaving that off the list in favor of other, infinitely less worthy films.

Jun 26 - 05:26 PM

Kevin Stein

Kevin Stein

I agree that North Country is a great movie. This list really isn't the best Richard Jenkins movies. It's the most highly reviewed Richard Jenkins movies (on Rotten Tomatoes of course). I think North Country is better than some on this list, but that's the standard they are using and North Country only got 68% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jun 27 - 11:56 AM

Joshua Sachs

Joshua Sachs

still can't believe step brothers didn't get a higher rating...shame on you rt

Jun 26 - 05:41 PM

Luck  Dragon

Luck Dragon

Forgot about that! He spanks Will Ferrell, something Will had coming to him ever since "Land of the Lost."

Jun 27 - 05:44 AM

Jacob Battyanyi

Jacob Battyanyi

Land of the Lost came out AFTER Step Brothers. Are you saying that the spanking was because they knew he would be in that shitty movie the following year?

Jun 28 - 01:00 PM

Sean Gall

Sean Gall

Step Brothers was a terrible movie.

Jun 28 - 02:42 PM

TJ S.

TJ Seher

Agreed.

Jun 30 - 06:49 PM

TJ S.

TJ Seher

It's not RT itself that gives the ratinsg, its an aggregate of critics' ratings. And most critics thought Step Brothers sucked, and justifiably so.

Jun 30 - 06:50 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

I actually really liked him as Timberlakes Dad in Friends With Benefits, huge bright spot in that movie. I forgot he was in Silverado, I must have scene a hundred times. "Don't do it Kelly, he'll kill ya!!!"

Jun 26 - 06:03 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I feel the same way about him and The Kingdom. His speach to the congressman about dealing with the inevitable is one of the most effective parts of that film.

Jun 26 - 06:42 PM

Luis Enrique Salas

Luis Enrique Salas

Let me in is 1000000 times Better than The cabin in the woods!! God!! Its a masterpeiece!!

Jun 26 - 06:08 PM

Brodie Sexton Clark

Brodie Sexton Clark

Have you seen the swedish film, not to be that guy but its much better

Jun 26 - 07:19 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Debatable. Both are great, but having seen Let Me In first I enjoyed that one more just because I felt the level of acting was significantly better.

Jun 26 - 10:15 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Let Me In" had more inconsistencies than "Let The Right One" and that has nothing to do with the acting! I mean, a crime scene happens nearby a multiplex building and none of the officers don't ask any of them whether or not anybody had seen anything- if that is not an example of altering proper police procedure then I don't know what is!

Jun 27 - 01:35 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Or they didn't feel the need to show police procedure on screen. Would it really have made Serpico or Dirty Harry a better movie to see them fill out their TPS reports?

Jun 27 - 04:18 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Maybe some people care more about acting than inconsistencies, Dave. I thought Let Me In was the best American made vampire film in years (and the only reason I say American is because I haven't seen the Swedish version).

Yes, it's surprising how easily they were able to sweep all the deaths under the rug (but then again who would suspect a 12 year old girl?) but nonetheless it's still a really touching story about a friendship between a human boy and a vampire girl, one that wasn't afraid to explore what that relationship really means (rather than taking the easy way out and making the vampire a vegetarian).

Jun 28 - 12:13 AM

Dave J

Dave J

@Bigbrother, I haven't quite seen "Serpico" yet even though I have that movie on DVD which was based on a real life event, and that filling out reports does not on anyway enhance any of the "Dirty Harry" movies and is deemed as unnecessary when it's assumed that he already did, the same with many other action films including "Lethal Weapon" and the "Die Hard" movies, I mean they could've shown some of them filling up reports and asking around for witnesses but that would bore the living hell out of the viewers since it doesn't keep viewers interested in any shape of form - it's like going to the bathroom! In this particular instance, obvious proper police procedure would have served it's purpose if the movie addressed that and obviously had been ignored or compromised to convenient the actions of it's characters, especially if it's as grisly as a killing that is nearby the complex!


"Maybe some people care more about acting than inconsistencies"

@King Simba, and yes I agree... that can be a fair analogy because "not" everybody judge movies on the same level, but to address the 12 year old girl (plot spoilers)as I recall, her supposedly assumed father had already been dead at this point therefore she was living alone all by herself which the only person who verbally spoke to her was the homicide detective who I thought was a total douche since the murder was so grisly, and at that point "chose" not to have backup was not a natural thing to do in that instance which dumbed the film down since 1) at this point her assumed father has already been dead with no other adult to look after her, and the police would've come to her dead father's place of residence just to inform her and 2) child services would've intervened and would brought police escort since he was linked to other murders and they would've got a warrant to search her duplex and would've found ID's and blood stains since it can be hard to get rid of!

The only thing "Let Me In" did well was explain the role of the father who was played by Richard Jenkins! And that you may be right, that the whole point of the movie was to showcase the relationship between it's two main characters than the consistencies of it's plot but again they're still part of a story that is being told!

Jun 28 - 01:23 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

I didn't watch the original, but as great as Let Me In was it had some major plot holes as well as inconsistencies.

Jun 27 - 08:54 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

HAH! "Flirting With Disaster"! Who can forget Jenkins' pantless epiphany? Also, I have to shout out his small early role in "Witches of Eastwick" where he has enough of Veronica Cartright's spewing. Great character actor, even with his League of Morons from "Burn After Reading".

Jun 26 - 06:19 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

HAH! HAH! HAH! Aren't you the guy who accuses OTHER people of having no friends and even stoop to the juvenile memishness of affixing hashtags :L the way you leap on every meaningless Rotten Tomartoes (tomateo? tomarto) gossip with insidious predictability & pompous, intelligent-I-did-stage-one-philosophy-and-probably English-andfilmstudieswith-some-well-respected-lecturer-at-a-not-completely-disreputable-college-sounding bites of flick factoids (facturds?) is just despicable...and the fact that you lace it all with the occasional pathetic homosexual overtones and flirting is earth-shudderingly abominable.

HAH!

Jun 28 - 12:52 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I suggest you get a dog who'll give a shit. Maybe it'll even continue to love you after you kick it.

Jun 28 - 01:56 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I feel the same way about him and The Kingdom. His speach to the congressman about dealing with the inevitable is one of the most effective parts of that film.

Jun 26 - 06:42 PM

Brodie Sexton Clark

Brodie Sexton Clark

Have you seen the swedish film, not to be that guy but its much better

Jun 26 - 07:19 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Debatable. Both are great, but having seen Let Me In first I enjoyed that one more just because I felt the level of acting was significantly better.

Jun 26 - 10:15 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Let Me In" had more inconsistencies than "Let The Right One" and that has nothing to do with the acting! I mean, a crime scene happens nearby a multiplex building and none of the officers don't ask any of them whether or not anybody had seen anything- if that is not an example of altering proper police procedure then I don't know what is!

Jun 27 - 01:35 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Or they didn't feel the need to show police procedure on screen. Would it really have made Serpico or Dirty Harry a better movie to see them fill out their TPS reports?

Jun 27 - 04:18 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Maybe some people care more about acting than inconsistencies, Dave. I thought Let Me In was the best American made vampire film in years (and the only reason I say American is because I haven't seen the Swedish version).

Yes, it's surprising how easily they were able to sweep all the deaths under the rug (but then again who would suspect a 12 year old girl?) but nonetheless it's still a really touching story about a friendship between a human boy and a vampire girl, one that wasn't afraid to explore what that relationship really means (rather than taking the easy way out and making the vampire a vegetarian).

Jun 28 - 12:13 AM

Dave J

Dave J

@Bigbrother, I haven't quite seen "Serpico" yet even though I have that movie on DVD which was based on a real life event, and that filling out reports does not on anyway enhance any of the "Dirty Harry" movies and is deemed as unnecessary when it's assumed that he already did, the same with many other action films including "Lethal Weapon" and the "Die Hard" movies, I mean they could've shown some of them filling up reports and asking around for witnesses but that would bore the living hell out of the viewers since it doesn't keep viewers interested in any shape of form - it's like going to the bathroom! In this particular instance, obvious proper police procedure would have served it's purpose if the movie addressed that and obviously had been ignored or compromised to convenient the actions of it's characters, especially if it's as grisly as a killing that is nearby the complex!


"Maybe some people care more about acting than inconsistencies"

@King Simba, and yes I agree... that can be a fair analogy because "not" everybody judge movies on the same level, but to address the 12 year old girl (plot spoilers)as I recall, her supposedly assumed father had already been dead at this point therefore she was living alone all by herself which the only person who verbally spoke to her was the homicide detective who I thought was a total douche since the murder was so grisly, and at that point "chose" not to have backup was not a natural thing to do in that instance which dumbed the film down since 1) at this point her assumed father has already been dead with no other adult to look after her, and the police would've come to her dead father's place of residence just to inform her and 2) child services would've intervened and would brought police escort since he was linked to other murders and they would've got a warrant to search her duplex and would've found ID's and blood stains since it can be hard to get rid of!

The only thing "Let Me In" did well was explain the role of the father who was played by Richard Jenkins! And that you may be right, that the whole point of the movie was to showcase the relationship between it's two main characters than the consistencies of it's plot but again they're still part of a story that is being told!

Jun 28 - 01:23 PM

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

I didn't watch the original, but as great as Let Me In was it had some major plot holes as well as inconsistencies.

Jun 27 - 08:54 PM

Stewart Hoffman

Stewart Hoffman

Looks like The Witches of Eastwick fell short of this list at 73%. Jenkins was excellent in that film.

Jun 26 - 09:40 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Debatable. Both are great, but having seen Let Me In first I enjoyed that one more just because I felt the level of acting was significantly better.

Jun 26 - 10:15 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Let Me In" had more inconsistencies than "Let The Right One" and that has nothing to do with the acting! I mean, a crime scene happens nearby a multiplex building and none of the officers don't ask any of them whether or not anybody had seen anything- if that is not an example of altering proper police procedure then I don't know what is!

Jun 27 - 01:35 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Or they didn't feel the need to show police procedure on screen. Would it really have made Serpico or Dirty Harry a better movie to see them fill out their TPS reports?

Jun 27 - 04:18 PM

King  S.

King Simba

Maybe some people care more about acting than inconsistencies, Dave. I thought Let Me In was the best American made vampire film in years (and the only reason I say American is because I haven't seen the Swedish version).

Yes, it's surprising how easily they were able to sweep all the deaths under the rug (but then again who would suspect a 12 year old girl?) but nonetheless it's still a really touching story about a friendship between a human boy and a vampire girl, one that wasn't afraid to explore what that relationship really means (rather than taking the easy way out and making the vampire a vegetarian).

Jun 28 - 12:13 AM

Dave J

Dave J

@Bigbrother, I haven't quite seen "Serpico" yet even though I have that movie on DVD which was based on a real life event, and that filling out reports does not on anyway enhance any of the "Dirty Harry" movies and is deemed as unnecessary when it's assumed that he already did, the same with many other action films including "Lethal Weapon" and the "Die Hard" movies, I mean they could've shown some of them filling up reports and asking around for witnesses but that would bore the living hell out of the viewers since it doesn't keep viewers interested in any shape of form - it's like going to the bathroom! In this particular instance, obvious proper police procedure would have served it's purpose if the movie addressed that and obviously had been ignored or compromised to convenient the actions of it's characters, especially if it's as grisly as a killing that is nearby the complex!


"Maybe some people care more about acting than inconsistencies"

@King Simba, and yes I agree... that can be a fair analogy because "not" everybody judge movies on the same level, but to address the 12 year old girl (plot spoilers)as I recall, her supposedly assumed father had already been dead at this point therefore she was living alone all by herself which the only person who verbally spoke to her was the homicide detective who I thought was a total douche since the murder was so grisly, and at that point "chose" not to have backup was not a natural thing to do in that instance which dumbed the film down since 1) at this point her assumed father has already been dead with no other adult to look after her, and the police would've come to her dead father's place of residence just to inform her and 2) child services would've intervened and would brought police escort since he was linked to other murders and they would've got a warrant to search her duplex and would've found ID's and blood stains since it can be hard to get rid of!

The only thing "Let Me In" did well was explain the role of the father who was played by Richard Jenkins! And that you may be right, that the whole point of the movie was to showcase the relationship between it's two main characters than the consistencies of it's plot but again they're still part of a story that is being told!

Jun 28 - 01:23 PM

Gage Kent

Gage Kent

An underrated actor who plays in some very underrated movies. I thought The Man Who Wasn't There was extremely underrated. Loved it. Guess not a whole lot of people were on the same page.

Jun 26 - 11:34 PM

Alberto Balsalm

Alberto Balsalm

Strong lack of Step Brothers!

Jun 27 - 04:41 AM

Luck  Dragon

Luck Dragon

Forgot about that! He spanks Will Ferrell, something Will had coming to him ever since "Land of the Lost."

Jun 27 - 05:44 AM

Jacob Battyanyi

Jacob Battyanyi

Land of the Lost came out AFTER Step Brothers. Are you saying that the spanking was because they knew he would be in that shitty movie the following year?

Jun 28 - 01:00 PM

Ethan Sam

Ethan Sam

I understand how these lists are made, but I really wish the RT staff would just make a list based on opinion and personal preference. I mean I can look up Richard Jenkins' resume and see what his highest rated films are. Give me a personalized list that isn't based on the tomato-meter

Jun 27 - 07:21 AM

Kevin Stein

Kevin Stein

I agree that North Country is a great movie. This list really isn't the best Richard Jenkins movies. It's the most highly reviewed Richard Jenkins movies (on Rotten Tomatoes of course). I think North Country is better than some on this list, but that's the standard they are using and North Country only got 68% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jun 27 - 11:56 AM

Willem DaPerson

Willem DaPerson

I can't believe I haven't seen a single one of these...

Jun 27 - 01:00 PM

Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell

Dude's my neighbor.

Jun 27 - 01:25 PM

SecondBest

This Guy

Awesome actor, Like him in everything I see him in. Even in crap films he is usually the bright spot.

Jun 27 - 01:26 PM

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