Matt Damon turns 51: From The Talented Mr Ripley to The Martian, looking at the actor’s must-watch films
 
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Matt Damon turns 51: From The Talented Mr Ripley to The Martian, looking at the actor’s must-watch films
Pratishruti Ganguly
Oct 08, 2021
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Matt Damon was all of 18 when he made his debut in 1988 with Mystic Pizza. The romantic comedy featured the actor in a supporting role beside the likes of Annabeth Gish, Julia Roberts and Lili Taylor. It was around nine years later that Damon’s acting abilities were identified, with the release of Good Will Hunting. He proceeded to appear in multiple critically acclaimed films during the latter half of the 90s, like Saving Private Ryan (1998), Dogma (1999) and The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). In a career spanning over three decades, the actor has featured in a staggering four dozen films spread across genres, from indies like Gerry (2002), tentpoles like Ford vs Ferrari (2019) to ensemble films like the Oceans series.

Possibly one of the most well-known and loved action franchises, the Bourne franchise, had Damon play the titular Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin with dissociative amnesia. This franchise squarely established Damon as an action hero who could throw punches, race cars and beat goons to a pulp with no more than his fists and sometimes, a magazine.

On the actor’s 51st birthday, here is looking at a few of Matt Damon’s movies that beg to be rewatched.

1
The Martian
8.2OTTplay Rating
Matt Damon earned his third Oscar nomination for his role in Ridley Scott’s space drama, The Martian, where the actor essays the role of an astronaut who has to fend for himself on Mars after being stranded on the red planet. Also starring Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Michael Peña, among others, The Martian went on to become Scott’s highest-grossing film ever. The Martian is regarded as one of the best space movies because of its realistic portrayal of the possible struggles of living on an alien planet. There are no man-made threats like monsters and extraterrestrial creatures. Damon’s natural charm also worked wonders for the Martian hero, who is as resourceful as he is smart and funny. It is practically a one-man-show from start to finish, and Damon ensured the audience was invested in his character and struggles throughout the film.
2
The Talented Mr. Ripley
7.7OTTplay Rating
The Talented Mr Ripley is widely considered as one of Matt Damon’s best performances to date. In the film, Damon plays Tom Ripley, a con artist who desires to lead a comfortable life. Dickey Greenleaf leads (Jude Law) the kind of life Ripley could only imagine having. Soon, Ripley is tasked by Dickey’s father to summon his wayward son back to the US from Italy. Ripley takes this golden ticket opportunity to usurp Dickey’s life. The film, adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1955 psychological thriller novel, was both a critical and commercial success. Critics hailed Damon’s unsettling performance as congruent with the novel’s con-man killer, and also praised the film’s attention to building suspense. Jude Law was equally appreciated for his turn as the unlikeable philanderer Dickey. The Talented Mr Ripley scored five Oscar nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.
3
Contagion
6.8OTTplay Rating
To say Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion feels prescient would almost feel like an understatement. The chilling accuracy with which Sodenbergh’s captured how the pandemic effectively changed what we know as normal feels disarmingly disturbing. It is, of course, one of the defining movies of the pandemic era. Matt Damon plays an individual who is one of the first Americans to first-hand witness the effects of the supervirus, after the sudden death of his wife and stepson. Soderbergh described Damon’s character as an everyman who does not have the expertise or the knowledge to navigate a pandemic. He mirrors the sense of loss and desperation that regular people go through when faced with a disaster of such a great magnitude. The film also starred Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Ehle.
4
We Bought a Zoo
6.9OTTplay Rating
Since the holiday season is fast approaching, Matt Damon’s comedy We Bought A Zoo seems to be the choicest addition to the list. Based on Benjamin Mee’s 2008 memoir, We Bought A Zoo is about a single father, played by Damon, who repurposes a ramshackle zoo in order to again open it to the public. The film, about finding one’s own footing after dealing with loss, saw the immensely likeable Damon effortlessly slip into the role of Mee. There are umpteen feel-good moments in the film, from a father reconnecting with his children after the death of his wife, to being one with nature and wildlife. It is the kind of sentimental fare that you would not mind binging while wolfing down tubs of ice cream.
5
Good Will Hunting
8.4OTTplay Rating
Matt Damon’s breakout performance in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting is proof enough that the actor is one of the most versatile Hollywood stars today. The film, also co-written by Damon along with Ben Affleck, tells the story of a gifted man who happens to work as a janitor at MIT. His ability to crack difficult math problems with ease catches the attention of a professor, who attempts to guide him through his journey to realise his true potential. But when he is arrested for assaulting a policeman, he goes to a therapist to confront his deep-seated issues. The film went on to earn as many as nine Oscar nominations, out of which they won two. While Robin Williams took the trophy home for Best Supporting Actor, Damon and Affleck were awarded the Best Original Screenplay prizes. Film enthusiasts praised Williams’ and Damon’s easy on-screen chemistry and the film’s nimbleness despite dealing with grave subject matters.

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