Few Hollywood actors have the versatility of Matthew McConaughey. He has played roles ranging from a romantic leading man, action hero, cowboy, lawyer, and fugitive. One outstanding performance earned him an Academy Award win for Best Actor.
Even though we appreciated him in all of those roles, his true talent shone through again with some excellent performances in hit movies like The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, and of course, Dallas Buyers Club.
This post will rank and review the best Matthew McConaughey movies that showcase his acting skills from all stages of his career. Grab some popcorn and read on.
It goes without saying: this post will include some spoiler talk, but we have done our best to provide you with a summary of the plot without going into too much detail.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club is about Ron Woodroof (played by McConaughey), an AIDS patient in 1985 Texas. When he was diagnosed with AIDS during the mid-80s, no medications could slow down or stop his inevitable death sentence.
This changed when Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) prescribed him non-approved pharmaceutical drugs that extended his life expectancy. Once he starts seeing results, Ron begins smuggling the unapproved drugs and distributing them to other AIDS patients by establishing the Dallas Buyers Club.
Matthew's Performance: The committed actor that he is, McConaughey lost a significant amount of weight for the role, and it paid off. He portrays Ron Woodroof as an unyielding, stubborn man who will do whatever it takes to survive—including smuggling drugs into the country illegally.
Awards and Recognition: The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won three. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won an Oscar and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Dallas Buyers Club has a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8/10 on IMDb.
Why We Love It: Dallas Buyers Club is one of our favorite Matthew McConaughey movies due to all-around outstanding performances from the entire cast. Matthew, in particular, is at his best here as a desperate man determined to survive AIDS during the mid-80s.
This movie is also based on a true story, making it even more captivating to watch. We love how much growth his character goes through during the movie, refusing to give up in the face of tremendous challenges. If you want to see one of Matthew McConaughey's finest performances in a film with a fantastic script and story, then we recommend pressing play on Dallas Buyers Club.
Interstellar features stunning visuals and a mind-bending story about a group of astronauts who must leave their families behind to find a habitable planet as Earth loses its capability to sustain life. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) leads the expedition as an experienced pilot and engineer. He must make difficult decisions that will impact his own life and the lives of those he loves back on Earth.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey gives a charged performance, and he brings a lot of depth to the character. He excels at portraying Cooper, a man with strong family values and skills essential to surviving this journey through space.
Awards and Recognition: Interstellar was nominated for five Academy Awards and one Golden Globe Award. It won one Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Interstellar has a rating of 72% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8.6/10 on IMDb.
Why We Love It: Interstellar is one of our favorite Matthew McConaughey movies because it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller with stunning visuals. The movie leaves a lasting impression and haunts questions about humanity's future.
Mud follows two gullible young boys who find a fugitive named ‘Mud' on an island near their home in Arkansas. Mud, played by McConaughey, claims to be waiting for his girlfriend Juniper (played by Reese Witherspoon).
As the boys get close to Mud, they work together to reunite him with his girlfriend and help him fix a boat to flee before dangerous people come looking for him.
Matthew's Performance: The role seems tailor-made for Matthew and his acting chops! We love how much depth this character has; each time we think we know this character, another layer comes through.
Awards and Recognition: Mud has a high rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.4/10 on IMDb. It received the Robert Altman Award at the 29th Independent Spirit Awards for its film director, casting director, and ensemble cast.
Why We Love It: Matthew McConaughey seems to be at his best when he's playing characters that are troubled yet endearing, just like Mud.
Mud features on our list of best Matthew McConaughey movies because it's a heartwarming story with excellent performances all around, especially from McConaughey himself. This movie will make you laugh, cry, and feel a range of emotions in between.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Based on a novel by Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer tells the story of a morally ambiguous defense attorney, Mickey Haller, who works out of his Lincoln town car. Usually, Mickey defends low-level criminals and gang members. Things get complicated when a high-profile murder case lands in Mickey's lap, and he must confront his past.
Matthew's Performance: Matthew is at his confident best as a smooth-talking lawyer who is not afraid to get his hands dirty to defend his clients. Matthew's performance shows emotional conflict as the character endures revelation after revelation.
Awards and Recognition: The Lincoln Lawyer has a rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.3/10 on IMDb.
Why We Love It: The Lincoln Lawyer is a great legal thriller with excellent performances, and the plot keeps viewers guessing until the end. The film is based on a series of books from Michael Connelly about the titular character. If you love the movie, read the books next.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Based on a true story, The Wolf of Wall Street tracks the meteoric rise and tremendous fall of a wall street stockbroker named Jordan Belfort, who lives the life every man dreams of. He's wealthy, successful, and has all the women he can handle, but hubris and pride eventually cause his downfall.
Matthew's Performance: While the movie is centered around Leonardo DiCaprio's character, McConaughey leaves a lasting impression even with his small role. He plays the role of Mark Hanna, a tremendously successful and partying-hard stockbroker who mentors and inspires Jordan Belfort to live the same life.
It could not have been easy, but Matthew plays the character to perfection; he is a genius and a drug-riddled maniac at the same time. It's an outstanding performance that will entertain and make you think about the meaning of success.
Awards and Recognition: The Wolf of Wall Street has a rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8.2/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, two Golden Globe awards, and eight MTV Movie Awards.
Why We Love It: The Wolf of Wall Street is an inside look into a world that most of us don't have access to. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie is fast-paced and portrays some truly unbelievable stories about Wall Street and Jordan Belfort's life.
We like that the director and cast did not hold back; this movie earned its R rating, but this story could not have been told without it. It's exciting, superbly acted all around, and highly entertaining. It's definitely one of our favorite movies of all time featuring two of the biggest names in Hollywood: Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Directed by famed director Richard Linklater, Dazed and Confused follows the lives of a group of high school students on their last day of school in 1976. It's a coming-of-age story that explores the different paths they could take in life, and it features an all-star cast, including Matthew McConaughey in his breakout role.
Matthew's Performance: This was one of McConaughey's earliest roles in the biggest movie of his nascent career so far. Matthew played David Wooderson, a stoner in his 20s who refuses to grow up and hangs out with high school students. The iconic role gave rise to many of Matthew's cult phrases, such as ‘alright, alright, alright' and ‘keep on livin'!
Awards and Recognition: Dazed and Confused has a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.6/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for two Golden Globes, including Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Matthew McConaughey) and Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television (Parker Posey).
Why We Love It: Dazed and Confused is an iconic film about high school life; it's entertaining, funny, smartly written, and has some great performances all around. If you've never seen this movie before, then we highly recommend that you watch it sometime soon, if only to see Matthew McConaughey as the cool guy who knows how to have fun on his last day at home!
Besides Matthew, Dazed and Confused is known for debuts from other great actors like Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Renee Zellweger.
Set in 1839, Amistad follows a group of African slaves on their way to America on board a slave ship named La Amistad. Amid horrendous conditions and being subjected to torture, a slave (played by Djimon Hounsou) leads a successful uprising. The ship eventually gets captured, and it's up to lawyer Roger Sherman Baldwin, played by Matthew McConaughey, to save the Africans from execution.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey delivers an understated, passionate performance here. It reminds us that an outstanding performance does not have to be over the top, even in an emotionally charged film such as Amistad. Matthew manages to carve his own space in a film filled with other talented actors like Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, and Morgan Freeman.
Awards and Recognition: Amistad has a rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.3/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Original Score (John Williams).
Why We Love It: We love period movies and TV shows. Amistad is a great historical drama that, as a bonus, tells an important story at a critical point in American history. The acting is top-notch, and we love the lessons it teaches about standing up for what's right, even when the odds seem insurmountable. It's also hard not to love any movie helmed by the great Steven Spielberg.
Contact is a science fiction movie about a scientist who makes contact with an alien race. The film is less about special effects and aliens than it is about possible human reactions and ramifications of alien contact.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey plays Palmer Joss, a Christian philosopher who helps Ellie (Jodie Foster) communicate with the aliens. Matthew brings a lot of depth to the role of a person who mistrusts technology and believes in a higher power.
Awards and Recognition: Contact has a rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.5/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for one Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
Why We Love It: This is one of our few favorite science fiction movies, and it's mainly because of the fantastic performances by both Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. The chemistry between the two characters is palpable. In the end, Contact is not another Independence Day. It's a film that will make you think and get involved in questions like the meaning of life and the existence of God.
A Time To Kill (1996)
A Time to Kill is a taut crime drama about racial tension in Mississippi. It follows the story of Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), an attorney who risks his life to defend a black man, Carl Lee Hailey, accused of murdering two men that raped his daughter.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey's performance as Jake Brigance is one for the ages. He portrays a range of emotions with aplomb, showing us empathy, shock, fear, and finally anger in his fight for justice against a dangerous enemy.
Awards and Recognition: A Time to Kill has a rating of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.5/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for one Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actor (Samuel L. Jackson). McConaughey won an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
Why We Love It: This movie is gritty, intense, and powerful. It's the kind of film that makes you think long after you've finished watching it. The acting is phenomenal, and we love how it tackles a complex topic in a thought-provoking way.
How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days is the story of Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey), a smooth-talking ladies man who believes he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days. Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) is an advice columnist writing about her foolproof way of getting a guy to break up with any woman in 10 days. The only problem? She ends up dating Benjamin as her research subject.
Matthew's Performance: Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson have great chemistry together, and we loved watching his character grow from a trust fund jerk to realizing what real love means and how good Andie makes him feel. The role of a charming, humorous man seems to come naturally to Matthew.
Awards and Recognition: How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days has a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6.4/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for one Golden Globe Award, for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Kate Hudson).
Why We Love It: Yes, this has typical romantic comedy cliches, and critics did not love it. Matthew's role is that of a good-looking, fit bro, and there is no one better to do that. At the same time, this movie is funny, romantic, and relatable. If you are looking for a light-hearted, feel-good movie with characters you can fall in love with, then give it a try.
Lone Star (1996)
Lone Star is a crime drama set in a small Texas town. It follows the story of John Sayles (Chris Cooper), a county sheriff who is following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Sheriff Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey). The discovery of a skeleton thrusts John into a mystery that brings forward secrets and exposes his father's legacy.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey does a fantastic job playing beloved Sheriff Buddy Deeds. As the movie progresses, his character's many shades slowly reveal themselves. He starts as someone who wants to do the right thing but quickly realizes that the law isn't always black and white. Matthew goes through an incredible range of emotions throughout the movie, and we love how his character's legacy looms large over the entire town.
Awards and Recognition: Lone Star has a rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.4/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper).
Why We Love It: Lone Star will keep viewers guessing until the very end. Matthew's character is not only complex but also incredibly fascinating to watch, and we love how this movie challenges us to question what's right. The acting is superb, particularly McConaughey's nuanced and genuinely unforgettable performance.
Bernie is a comedy-drama based on the real-life of Bernie Tiede (played by Jack Black), who was convicted for murdering an elderly wealthy widow, Marjorie Nugent. The story follows Bernie as he tries to adjust to his new surroundings in prison and deal with some unsavory characters.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey delivers one of the best performances we've seen from him as Texas District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson, who was in charge of prosecuting Bernie Tiede. You can feel the frustration and disgust as he goes up against an entire town to prosecute the well-loved Bernie for the heinous murder. His performance is subtle but incredibly powerful.
Awards and Recognition: Bernie has a rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6.8/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Shirley MacLaine) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (McConaughey).
Why We Love It: This is one movie you can watch over and over again! McConaughey delivers the best performance in this comedic drama that is heartwarming and hilarious. It's a great feel-good movie that will leave you with a smile on your face, and we love that it shows how different people can perceive two very different realities of the same person based on their individual perceptions and interactions.
The Gentlemen (2019)
The Gentlemen is a riveting gangster crime thriller directed by Guy Ritchie with his typical quirks. Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), an American ex-pat in England, wants to cash out of his highly profitable marijuana empire. Word spreads, and so do the schemes to take over his business.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey is a revelation in this movie. He effortlessly switches from a character you almost start to feel sorry for to someone who is intimidating and dangerous.
Awards and Recognition: The Gentlemen has a rating of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.8 on IMDb. The film received mostly positive reviews from audiences, especially from fans of Ritchie's previous work.
Why We Love It: Matthew gives such a compelling performance in this gritty crime thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. His character is fascinating to watch, and we love how he manages to switch gears so effortlessly throughout the movie. It's one of his best performances yet!
Apart from him, the casting is fabulous, with Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, and Michelle Dockery among the star-studded cast. This movie is a wild ride with many twists and turns. We are big fans of Guy Ritchie's style of film-making, with films like Sherlock Holmes counting amongst our favorites.
Free State of Jones (2016)
Free State of Jones tells the true story of Newton Knight, an American soldier, and medic. He became disillusioned with the Confederacy after firsthand witnessing some horrific acts by Confederate soldiers against the local population. He then started fighting for those in need, helping runaway slaves escape to freedom and protecting women from being raped.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey plays Newton Knight, whose character arc goes through many highs and lows throughout this movie. Matthew gives such a powerful performance you won't be able to take your eyes off him! We love how complex his character becomes over time, particularly when dealing with race relations during that era.
Awards and Recognition: Free State of Jones has a rating of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6.9/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (McConaughey) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Gary Ross).
Why We Love It: While this movie didn't receive as much attention as Matthew's other movies, we still believe that he gives one of his best performances yet! His character is very complex to watch because he can be tough and heartwarming in equal measure.
The story itself will keep you intrigued throughout the movie and leave you wondering what could happen next. This is one film to check out if you're looking for an entertaining historical drama.
We Are Marshall (2006)
We Are Marshall is a biographical sports drama about the Marshall University football team and how they could rebuild their program after it was destroyed by a plane crash that killed most of the players and coaching staff.
Matthew's Performance: McConaughey plays Chris Kyle, head coach of the Marshall University football team, determined to help his players recover from the tragedy and eventually rebuild the program. He delivers an excellent performance that will inspire you with its message of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.
Awards and Recognition: We Are Marshall has a rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.1/10 on IMDb. It was nominated for one Golden Globe Award: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) (McConaughey).
Why We Love It: Matthew gives his all as coach Chris Kyle, who manages to inspire everyone around him through the movie with his character's resilience and determination. It has compelling messages that will stay with you long after watching this film.
If you're looking for a feel-good sports drama, look no further.
Magic Mike (2006)
Of course, Magic Mike has an obvious draw: a group of incredibly handsome men doing dancing in their underwear. While Steven Soderbergh absolutely shoots those scenes with the sensuality and energy they deserve, he also mixes it with a melancholy tale of economic anxiety and a fear of aging, making for a far more rounded picture than some may assume.
Matthew's Performance: Magic Mike features an all-time iconic McConaughey’s line reading: “All right, all right, all right.” As a veteran dancer, McConaughey’s Dallas knows how to turn his syrupy drawl into dripping sensuality, drowning the audience in his pure sexuality. But as the owner of a struggling club, McConaughey turns that easy affability into sadness.
Awards and Recognition: Magic Mike has a rating of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 6.1/10 on IMDb. McConaughey picked up several Best Supporting Actor noms from regional critics groups, including wins from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle.
Why We Love It: Magic Mike isn’t for everyone. It isn’t a good time with amazing-looking men (see the equally fantastic [but McConaughey-less] sequel Magic Mike XXL for that). But the performances from McConaughey and lead Channing Tatum add depth to the characters, making them full human beings and not just hot hunks of meat — without ever forgetting that they are, in fact, hot hunks of meat.
Some people were shocked to see McConaughey’s turn as wild-eyed investigator Rust Cohle in the HBO series True Detective. But those people obviously weren’t familiar with Frailty (let alone his early turn in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation). Directed by the late, great Bill Paxton, Frailty tells a dark southern Gothic tale about a widower Dad Meiks (Paxton) whose religious devotion drives him to murder innocent people he considers “demons.” As Meiks’s grown son, McConaughey reveals the tale to investigators and the audience, leading to a deliciously disturbing twist.
Matthew's Performance: Given its bleak subject matter, Frailty seems like an odd choice for a list of movies to make you love its star. But it’s exactly McConaughey’s innate likability that makes the movie work. The wide-eyed stare that his younger Meiks gives to investigators borders on sincerity and insanity, forcing audiences to truly consider what attracts them to McConaughey.
Awards and Recognition: Despite a strong critical reaction, Frailty won no awards, and was only a modest success at the box office. Since its initial release, Frailty has become a cult favorite and has a 75% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.2/10 on IMDB.
Why We Love It: With his seductive Southern drawl, McConaughey makes for an excellent lead for gothic tales, especially those as bleak as Frailty. Paxton proves to be a solid director of suspense, making for a moody and exciting story. Even if the ending lingers with you longer than you’d like, Frailty is a remarkable showcase for McConaughey’s abilities.