Few actors have had the kind of strange, varied career that Ben Affleck has assembled over the past three decades. From his roots in small indie projects to his days playing Batman, few actors have experimented with what their star personas actually are more than Affleck.
Across that wild career, though, Affleck has assembled a number of great movies that are well worth watching. He’s done this as both an actor and a director, proving consistently that he’s not afraid to take risks. That’s what has made him a lasting star, and these are the movies that he’s likely to be remembered for.
It’s no insult to Affleck to say that Gone Girl is almost undoubtedly his best performance. Telling the story of a married couple in the wake of the wife’s disappearance, Gone Girl is the best high-brow trash you’re ever likely to watch on a screen. Affleck plays that married man, who slowly comes to realize that he’s the main suspect in his wife’s disappearance.
The movie’s twists and turns are far too good to spoil, but suffice it to say that Affleck’s smarmy persona makes him an ideal fit for a movie about a man who probably didn’t commit murder, but definitely seems like someone who could .
This is Affleck in full movie star mode, and he mostly pulls it off, in spite of how silly he evidently thought the movie was. Affleck is part of the core team of oil drillers who are recruited for a fairly ludicrous mission to explode an asteroid that’s headed straight for Earth. What makes Armageddon work, though, is every actor’s total commitment to the bit — and that includes Affleck.
Few actors have had a more tortured relationship with their own stardom than Affleck, but in Armageddon, he proved that he has the charisma it takes to lead a movie.
The movie that earned Affleck a Best Picture win as a producer, Argo is also one of the actor’s better star vehicles. Oh, and he also directed it. Affleck plays a CIA agent who is forced to work with a Hollywood studio to create a fake movie in order to help bring an end to the Iranian hostage crisis. It’s a pretty crazy true story, and Affleck is its solid center.
He leaves the flashier performances to the other actors in his ensemble, but as both an actor and director, Affleck proves that he has total control of tone. With Argo, he made the kind of tense thriller that will likely remain one of his best-remembered movies.
Affleck plays a small supporting role in Good Will Hunting, but it’s impossible to overstate how important the movie was for both his career and Matt Damon’s. The two co-wrote the screenplay together, and on top of that, they both took on roles in the movie.
Affleck plays Damon’s friend, the regular guy who wants nothing more than for his friend to get out of Dodge and start living the big life that he knows Will is meant for. Good Will Hunting is really Damon’s movie, but it wouldn’t work at all without Affleck’s signature speech near the movie’s conclusion.
Affleck can be great in almost any kind of role, but silly Affleck might be the very best. The Last Duel is a very dour movie about sexual assault in medieval France, but Affleck is its main source of levity in a supporting role. He plays a frivolous noble who finds himself more annoyed by all the drama happening in his fiefdom than anything else.
Affleck is genuinely hilarious in the role, even as we come to understand fairly quickly that he’s not on the right side of history. Few actors can take on this kind of supporting part and totally steal the movie, but that’s exactly what Affleck does.
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