Most – if not all – of us can agree that Matt Damon is a guy you just love to like. Say what you will about his choice in roles you can’t deny the genuine nature in which he approaches them. More times than not he has the ability to make a mediocre film memorable. An average film acclaimed. But when you put him in a fantastic film; well that is when the magic happens. Below are not only my fave roles of Damon but the films I have watched more than any others; of any actor or genre.
Although these are older films I still like to mention the fact that there are going to be spoiler alerts, though minimal, in case you want to check them out for the first time.
4. Ocean’s 11 (2001) – Granted this is an ensemble film and Matt’s character Linus is one of, well, 11. But even when put in the mix of heavy hitters like Clooney and Pitt he still has the ability to make his character stand out. Like many roles he comes in as the shy, reserved kid. He knows he has the skills and is anxious to prove himself. At the same time he is naive and green about a lot.
Fave Damon scene: The scene in the Casino with Linus and Frank Catton (Bernie Mac). Linus is pretending to be a Casino rep sent to bust Frank when in reality it is a set up for Linus to pick pocket some codes. Frank and Linus have a verbal sparring match that is one of the funniest parts of the film.
Memorable Damon quote: “Apparently, he’s got a record longer than my… well, it’s long.”
3. The Rainmaker (1997) – Since I first saw this film it has been in my top of all time. The legal story based on the John Grisham novel is as emotional and powerful as any sports film. Damon plays Rudy, a newly graduated law student, yet to even pass the bar who goes up against Great Benefits Insurance Company and their brilliant law firm led by the arrogant and pompous Leo Drummond (Jon Voight). The film on its own is incredible but only Damon could bring that innocent yet determined demeanor that makes you root for Rudy Baylor from start to finish.
Fave Damon scene: Damon carries this film and to try and pinpoint one particular scene is tough. There are so many. Rudy’s has strong relationships with Deck (Danny DeVito), Kelly (Claire Danes), and Leo. If I had to choose one scene it might be during the jury voir dire when they pull one over on Leo. Rudy looks at him and mimes the phone call. We see Rudy having fun and breaking out of the underdog realm. We also see a crack in the Leo powerhouse.
Memorable Damon quote (s): “There’s gotta be a hundred years of law experience sitting at this very table. My staff has flunked the bar exam six times.” “Sworn in by a fool and vouched for by a scoundrel. I’m a lawyer at last.”
2. Rounders (1998) – For decades this was my fave Damon flick and if I am honest with myself, it still is. Unlike Rudy in The Rainmaker we see Matt as Mike McDermott, a young poker player struggling with balancing his ability to play the game against earning a conventional living. Funny enough his character is also in law school but unlike Rudy Mike knows that is not his path. But like Rudy he does live by a code of ethics. Many of which may seem unethical to us but in the world of Rounding (players who make their living or a significant amount of their income from playing poker) it is as ethical as any written law. Unlike his best friend Worm (Edward Norton) he knows his limits and plays the game straight up.
Fave Damon scene: Again this is a film with so many powerful scenes. We see Mike at the top and rock bottom. Obviously the final showdown with Teddy (John Malkovich) is iconic. For me it is the soft, subtle scene when Mike is delivering a package to one of the local law professors during their Judges game. He walks in during one of the poker hands and reads their cards blind. They are blown away and for the first time we get an idea of how incredibly talented Mike is. Plus like Mike we know for certain which path he will take.
Memorable Damon quote: “Are you satisfied now, Teddy? Because I can keep busting you up all night if you like.”
1. The Martian (2015) – The character of Mark Watney is a culmination of some of the earlier ones I enjoy. Certainly one of the smartest roles of my list but Matt again delivers it with an organic realness. He is comfortable in Mark’s skin and you believe he is going to make it out alive. Even when he doubts. He is tenacious but funny. He finds the humor in the most dire of circumstances. I think that attitude is a lot of what keeps his character going and Matt digs deep to deliver every range of emotion.
Fave Damon scene: There is a scene near the end when he finally thinks he may have a shot getting off of Mars and he breaks down emotionally and weeps. It is as if he has been on edge, wondering, fearful, stressed, coming to terms with death, but now there is a chance, a hope. And it is overwhelming to watch.
Memorable Damon quote: “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option, I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”