Aside from the very rare exception, Matthew McConaughey spent the first twenty years of his career proving to us that he looked nice without a shirt. Talent shmalent. Then suddenly, the king of the romantic comedy finally gave up his throne and began acting, and here’s the nutty thing: he’s damn good. Need proof? Read on, as we list the evidence.
10. Frailty (2001)
Spooky, languid, eerily observant, McConaughey’s performance in this underseen horror gem sets a great tone for the surprises in store.
9. The Paperboy (2012)
In a film this over-the-top, McConaughey anchors the insanity with an understated turn as a conflicted, good man.
8. Bernie (2011)
Jack Black is the reason to see this incredible film, but McConaughey’s turn as the baffled lawman and the film’s voice of reason is a winner as well.
7. Lone Star (1996)
Not yet Hollywood’s go-to for rom-com, McConaughey impressed everyone as Buddy Deeds, the legendary lawman-in-flashback in John Sayles’s Texan mystery.
6. Tropic Thunder (2008)
Here was our first reminder in more than a decade that McConaughey could act, not to mention poke fun at himself. With that insane hair and a little lip gloss, his Hollywood agent was the stuff of dreams. “Tivo!”
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
No matter how much you hated Matthew McConaughey by, say, 2005, you had to admit that you loved him in his early-career turnin Dazed and Confused. That performance as Wooderson, the sleazy older dude still hitting on high school girls, was just about perfect.
4. Mud (2012)
By the time Mud came out, we’d grown used to the new and improved McConaughey, a flexible talent who still managed to put his own stamp on every new and fascinating role. Here he blends childlike wildness with wily survival instincts for a piece of beautiful storytelling.
3. Magic Mike (2012)
Yes, this movie blows, but it is so worth watching because of McConaughey’s positively unhinged and magnificent performance as the aging stripper-turned-entrepreneur.
2. Killer Joe (2011)
Holy shit. This movie – a kick-ass comeback for director William Friedkin – is so nuts, so dark, so Texan, that no one could possible shoulder the title role but McConaughey. Huge props to the entire balance of the cast, but just try to take your eyes off McConaughey.
1. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
McConaughey may finally get the Oscar nomination he deserved at least twice in the last two years for his turn as the hard living Texan who finds himself victim of HIV and the medical industrial complex. A searingly human portrait, the performance is the best of what is becoming – at long last – a monster career.