From Will Hunting to Jason Bourne and beyond
HBO/20th Century Fox/20th Century Studios
Almost from the onset, Matt Damon announced himself as a performer to watch, if not in his supporting turn in 1992’s “School Ties,” then certainly in his scene-stealing work opposite Denzel Washington in 1996’s “Courage Under Fire.” For nearly 30 years, Damon has proven himself adept at disappearing into a role no matter the circumstance. He commits as deeply to being the butt of the joke in “Ocean’s Twelve” as he does to carrying the drama of something like “The Good Shepherd.” Even when he comes in for just one scene, as in “No Sudden Move,” he makes a mark. So with “The Last Duel” now in theaters, what better time to look back on Damon’s best performances onscreen so far?
“Good Will Hunting” (1997)
The film that put Damon on the map in a huge way (and won him an Oscar for screenwriting) remains one of his best performances – made all the more impressive by the fact that he popped opposite an all-timer Robin Williams performance.
“The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Quite possibly the best performance of Damon’s career is as the sociopath Tom Ripley in Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Darkly funny, tragic and terrifying all at once.
“The Bourne Identity” (2002)
By Damon’s own admission, his career was in a funk when “The Bourne Identity” came along. But director Doug Liman’s spy thriller not only revitalized Damon but also proved to the world he was a kick-ass action star. And thus an iconic franchise was born.
“The Informant!” (2009)
This sorely underrated Steven Soderbergh comedy finds Damon playing real-life whistleblower Mark Whitacre, who is completely in over his head and has absolutely no clue. The film features some of the best voiceover narration in film history.
“Behind the Candelabra” (2013)
While Michael Douglas deservedly held the spotlight in Steven Soderbergh’s biopic of Liberace, Damon delivers a subtly heartbreaking performance as Liberace’s longtime boyfriend Scott Thorson. This film showcases Damon’s ability to deftly pivot from comedy to drama on a dime without ever throwing off the tone of the whole piece.
“The Martian” (2015)
Damon’s first collaboration with Sir Ridley Scott saw him managing the bulk of the movie’s runtime solo. That’s no easy task, but the fact that Damon is able to come off as charming and funny throughout makes it all the more impressive.
“The Last Duel” (2021)
With a jangly medieval mullet and gnarly facial scar, Damon is unrecognizable and unbelievable in Ridley Scott’s latest period epic, the masterful and almost immediately overlooked “The Last Duel.” What’s even more impressive is that Damon pulls double-duty, coauthoring (along with Ben Affleck and Nicole Nicole Holofcener) this screenplay, based on a true story, about a woman’s rape and the men who fight to the death over its believability.
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