Matt Damon and Claire Danes in The Rainmaker (1997)
Matt Damon, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 8, 1970, has achieved great things in Hollywood. Damon made his film debut in Mystic Pizza (1988), appearing in the role of Steamer, where his entire role consisted of one spoken line.
Here are seven movies that no Matt Damon fan should ever miss. Enjoy…
The Rainmaker (Paramount, 1997)
Frances Ford Coppola wrote and directed this legal thriller based on the 1995 bestseller by John Grisham. Matt Damon plays Rudy Baylor, with Danny DeVito (Deck Shiffler), Claire Danes (Kelly Riker), Jon Voight (Leo F. Drummond), Mary Kay Place (Dot Black), Dean Stockwell (Judge Harvey Hale), Teresa Wright (Miss Birdie), Virginia Madsen (Jackie Lemancyzk), Mickey Rourke (Bruiser Stone), Roy Scheider (Wilfred Keeley) and Danny Glover (Judge Tyrone Kipler) also on board.
Budgeted at $40 million, The Rainmaker was filmed in California, Ohio and Tennessee. During shooting Matt Damon put on most of the weight that he had previously shed for his role as the Army medic Ilario in Courage Under Fire (1996).
Damon winningly plays novice lawyer Rudy Baylor, who teams with fellow attorney Danny DeVito to take on the Great Benefit Life Insurance Company on behalf of the parents whose dying son was wrongly denied medical benefits. Damon, affecting a slight southern accent, is superb as the young crusading lawyer, memorably bumping heads with Great Benefit’s legal titan Jon Voight and offering solace and protection to an abused wife played by Claire Danes.
- Domestic box-office gross: $45.916 million (#45, 1997)
- Great line: “Sworn in by a fool and vouched for by a scoundrel. I’m a lawyer at last.” – Matt Damon
- On DVD: John Grisham’s The Rainmaker Special Collector’s Edition (Paramount, 2007)
Rounders (Miramax, 1998)
David Levien and Brian Koppelman wrote the screenplay and John Dahl directed. Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, with Edward Norton (Worm Murphy), John Turturro (Joey Knish), Gretchen Mol (Jo), Famke Janssen (Petra), John Malkovich (Teddy KGB), Martin Landau (Abe Petrovsky) and Michael Rispoli (Grama) also in the cast.
Budgeted at $12 million, Rounders was filmed in New York City and New Jersey. In preparation for his role, Matt Damon and others attended a kind of poker boot camp prior to filming.
Damon excels in “The Kid” role, portraying a law school student who’s penchant for poker and his association with a seedy ex-con buddy lands him in hot water with a loan shark. The big Texas Hold ‘Em showdown with John Malkovich is the highlight of the movie where Damon spots his opponent’s “tell” via how he eats an Oreo cookie.
- Domestic box-office gross: $22.912 million
- Great line: “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” – Matt Damon
- On DVD: Rounders Collector’s Edition (Miramax, 2004)
Good Will Hunting (Miramax, 1997)
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck penned the screenplay and Gus Van Sant directed. Matt Damon plays Will Hunting, with Robin Williams (Sean Maguire), Ben Affleck (Chuckie Sullivan), Stellan Skarsgard (Professor Gerald Lambeau), Minnie Driver (Skylar), Casey Affleck (Morgan O’Mally) and Cole Hauser (Billy McBride) also appearing.
Budgeted at $10 million, Good Will Hunting was filmed in Massachusetts (Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown) and Canada (Toronto). For this picture Matt Damon returned to his old stomping grounds. The actor was born in Boston and had enrolled at Harvard as an English major in the fall of 1988.
Damon convincingly portrays Will Hunting, a mathematical genius whose gift is discovered while he sweeps floors as a janitor at MIT. The film chemistry is all here in this one, with Robin Williams, Ben Affleck and Minnie Driver enhancing Damon’s excellent performance.
- Domestic box-office gross: $138.433 million
- Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Damon), Best Actress (Driver), Best Supporting Actor (Williams, won), Best Writing (Damon, Affleck, won), Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Music Score, Best Original Song
- Great line: “He used to just put a belt, a stick and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, ‘Choose.'” – Matt Damon on his alcoholic Good Will Hunting father
- On DVD: Good Will Hunting Collector’s Edition (Buena Vista, 1998)
Saving Private Ryan (Paramount, 1998)
Robert Rodat wrote the screenplay and Steven Spielberg directed. Matt Damon plays the title character Private James Francis Ryan, with Tom Hanks (Captain Miller), Tom Sizemore (Sgt. Horvath), Edward Burns (Pvt. Reiben), Barry Pepper (Pvt. Jackson), Adam Goldberg (Pvt. Mellish) and Vin Diesel (Pvt. Caparzo) along for the journey into D-Day hell.
Budgeted at $70 million, Saving Private Ryan was filmed in England, France and Ireland. Matt Damon was not the first choice for Private Ryan. Damon’s Rounders co-star, Edward Norton, had been offered the role but had turned it down.
Damon expertly plays the baby-faced 101st Airborne paratrooper James Ryan, whose three military brothers have all been recently killed in action. Sent to fetch the surviving brother James are Captain Miller and his small band of U.S. Army Rangers. Damon’s interaction with Tom Hanks at a burned-out French village while awaiting a German attack provides an interesting sidelight between the horrific combat scenes.
- Domestic box-office gross: $216.540 million (#1, 1998)
- Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Spielberg, won), Best Actor (Hanks), Best Writing, Best Film Editing (won), Best Cinematography (won), Best Sound Effects Editing (won), Best Sound (won), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Original Dramatic Music Score, Best Makeup
- Great line: “You can tell her that when you found me, I was with the only brothers I had left. And that there was no way I was deserting them. I think she’d understand that.” – Matt Damon to Tom Hanks on his decision to stay with his unit
- On DVD: Saving Private Ryan Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition (Dreamworks, 2004)
The Bourne Identity (Universal, 2002)
Tony Gilroy and W. Blake Herron wrote the screenplay based on the 1980 bestseller by Robert Ludlum while Doug Liman directed. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne, with Franka Potente (Marie), Chris Cooper (Conklin), Clive Owen (The Professor), Brian Cox (Ward Abbott), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Wombosi) and Gabriel Mann (Zorn) in support.
Budgeted at $60 million, The Bourne Identity was an international shoot, filmed in France, Italy, Greece, Spain and the Czech Republic. Matt Damon had not been producers’ original choice, as Brad Pitt had been offered the role of Bourne but turned it down in order to star in Spy Game.
Damon appears as an amnesiac government assassin who soon becomes the hunted as he tries to piece together his former life. Aiding him in his quest is his new acquaintance and romantic interest, Marie Helena Kreutz. Damon and Franka Potente excel in their roles in this Byzantine thriller punctuated by exotic European locales.
- Domestic box-office gross: $121.661 million (#21, 2002)
- Great line: “Everything I found out, I want to forget.” – Matt Damon
- On DVD: The Bourne Identity Full Screen Collector’s Edition (Universal, 2003)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Paramount, 1999)
Anthony Minghella directed and wrote the screenplay based on the 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith. Matt Damon plays Tom Ripley, with Gwyneth Paltrow (Marge Sherwood), Jude Law (Dickie Greenleaf), Cate Blanchett (Meredith Logue), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Freddie Miles), Jake Davenport (Peter Smith-Kingsley) and James Rebhorn (Herbert Greenleaf) also in the cast.
Budgeted at $40 million, The Talented Mr. Ripley was filmed on location in Italy. For his role as Ripley, Matt Damon was required to learn how to play the piano. That’s his fingers at work on the ivories, but the actual music is rendered by Sally Heath and Gabriel Yared.
Set in the 1950s, Damon portrays a men’s bathroom attendant and struggling piano player who wins the confidence of a father who desires that his son return home from Italy. Damon journeys to Europe where he ingratiates himself with the son and his fiancee. The Talented Mr. Ripley offers Damon a meaty role as the conniving opportunist who assumes the identity of his wealthy, privileged quarry, with Jude Law greatly enhancing Damon’s performance.
- Domestic box-office gross: $81.298 million (#27, 1999)
- Academy Award nominations: Best Writing, Best Supporting Actor (Law), Best Original Music Score, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design
- Great line: “I always thought it would be better, to be a fake somebody…than a real nobody.” – Matt Damon
- On DVD: The Talented Mr. Ripley (Paramount, 2000)
The Good Shepherd (Universal, 2006)
Eric Roth wrote the screenplay and Robert De Niro directed. Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, with Angelina Jolie (Margaret Russell), Alec Baldwin (Sam Murach), Tammy Blanchard (Laura), Billy Crudup (Arch Cummings), Robert De Niro (Bill Sullivan), Keir Dullea (Senator John Russell Sr.), William Hurt (Philip Allen), Timothy Hutton (Thomas Wilson) and Joe Pesci (Joseph Palmi) also appearing.
Budgeted at $85 million, The Good Shepherd was filmed in New York City, Washington, D.C., London, the Dominican Republic and Connecticut. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally slated for the Matt Damon role.
Matt Damon portrays a veteran CIA agent whose career dates back to the spy agency’s WW II forerunner the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Damon’s character, who heads covert operations for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, reflects back on his early, formative years as an idealistic agent who eventually abandons his principals during the paranoia of the Cold War. Damon’s low-key portrayal of a spook caught up in spycraft and agency machinations is one of his most memorable.
- Domestic box-office gross: $59.952 million (#50, 2006)
- Academy Award nomination: Best Achievement in Art Direction
- Great line: “If we continue down this road, there will be a third world war. I don’t think either of us wants a real war.” – Matt Damon to Soviet counterpart Ulysses
- On DVD: The Good Shepherd Widescreen Edition (Universal, 2007)
More Matt Damon Movie Favorites
- School Ties (1982)
- Dogma (1999)
- All the Pretty Horses (2000)
- Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
- Stuck on You (2003)
- Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
- Syriana (2005)
- The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
- The Informant! (2009)
- Green Zone (2010)