Total Recall

Jeff Goldblum's 10 Best-Reviewed Movies

We run down the Independence Day: Resurgence star's most acclaimed films.

by | June 22, 2016 | Comments

With this weekend’s Independence Day: Resurgence, director Roland Emmerich returns his landmark-zapping aliens to Earth — and brings quirky computer expert David Levinson, a.k.a. Jeff Goldblum, back to the big screen. In honor of Mr. Goldblum’s cinematic resurgence, we decided to take a fond look back at some of the many highlights from his decades of film and television work, and pass the fun along to you. It’s time for Total Recall!


The Big Chill (1983) 68%

The-Big-Chill

Every era gets the ensemble dramedy it deserves, and for the early ’80s, it was Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill. Suffused with the same aching ’60s nostalgia that permeated its bestselling soundtrack, it united a corps of talented actors — including Goldblum, Glenn Close, William Hurt, and Kevin Kline — to dramatize the bittersweet reunion of a group of friends after one of their own dies (Kevin Costner in an infamously excised early role). Of course, like any quintessential movie worth its film stock, Chill is really about more than its characters; in telling this story, Kasdan was really reflecting, for better and for worse, the hopes, dreams, and suburban Cold War ennui of an entire generation. “Even though it’s aware of their narcissism, The Big Chill still views its characters sympathetically,” observed Keith Phipps for the Dissolve. “Even when they do little to invite much sympathy themselves.”

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (1984) 69%

Buckaroo-Banzai
There isn’t enough space here to fully explore the vast weirdness of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, but even if you’ve never heard of director W. D. Richter’s cult sci-fi rom-com classic, just reading the title is enough to tip you off. As attested by its miniscule box-office returns, the audiences of 1984 just weren’t ready to watch Peter Weller as a physicist/neurosurgeon/test pilot/rock star on a quest to save the world from an interstellar threat, but Buckaroo has earned a sizeable cult following over the years — and it remains the only film in which you can see Goldblum play a keyboardist/neurosurgeon who goes by “New Jersey” and helps beat back the alien hordes. “There’s so much going on here and so much fun to be had,” admitted Combustible Celluloid’s Jeffrey M. Anderson, “I’ve never really been sure what the plot was.”

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Igby Goes Down (2002) 76%

Igby-Goes-Down

After the blockbuster roles stopped coming, Goldblum segued fairly smoothly into indie work, demonstrating the same willingness to take on unusual projects that led him to tape a voice role for an infamous Goosebumps CD-ROM in the mid-’90s. Among his most notable post-’90s arthouse efforts: 2002’s Igby Goes Down, in which he plays the godfather to a silver-spooned teen (Kieran Culkin) who ends up doing construction work in his employ for a summer after a series of rebellious antics get him kicked out of his mom’s house. The coming-of-age story has been told countless times, but writer-director Burr Steers gave Igby Goes Down a fresh enough spin — and a talented enough cast — to make it all seem new(ish) again. “In its own floundering way, it gets to you,” wrote Eleanor Ringel Gillespie for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Just like Igby.”

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 Deep Cover (1992) 86%

Deep-Cover

During the early years of his career, Goldblum was often called upon to play harmless dweebs, but as he demonstrated with his memorably bizarre performance in Death Wish, he makes a pretty mean bad guy — and he received a rare opportunity to prove it in 1992’s Deep Cover, a Bill Duke-directed crime thriller that pitted Laurence Fishburne’s undercover cop character against Goldblum as a sleazy, drug-dealing lawyer. It’s the kind of storyline setup that leads direct to video these days, but in the early ’90s, the genre still had a few fresh rounds to fire — and with Fishburne and Goldblum locking horns on the screen, and Dr. Dre (with a young Snoop Dogg in tow) making his solo debut on the soundtrack, this is a movie you want to reach for the next time you’re feeling tempted to watch a late-period Steven Seagal flick. As James Rocchi summed it up for Netflix, “Deep Cover was probably conceived as a quickie crime film, but thanks to Fishburne’s and Goldblum‘s performances, it became much more.”

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The Tall Guy (1990) 89%

The-Tall-Guy

Ex-pat adventure, story within a story, expertly acted romantic comedy — 1990’s The Tall Guy is all of these things, with Jeff Goldblum in the title role as an American actor with a starring gig in a long-running London comedy revue. Overtaken with a case of allergies, he falls for a nurse, loses his job, and ends up landing a musical adaptation of The Elephant Man — and that isn’t really even the half of the oddball shenanigans in this production, which marked the feature debut of screenwriter Richard Curtis (not to mention director Mel Smith). It was all probably a little too left-field for mainstream audiences, but it proved a consistent favorite with critics. “This movie is right about a great many things,” wrote Roger Ebert. “One of them being that there is a market for comedy among people who were not born yesterday.”

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Le Week-End (2014) 89%

Le-Week-End

A little Jeff Goldblum can do a lot to improve even an already-entertaining movie: witness 2014’s Le Week-End, starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a couple who decide to spend their 30th anniversary revisiting the sights of their Parisian honeymoon. Needless to say, things don’t go quite as planned — but an inarguable highlight is the appearance of a fellow former student (Goldblum) whose invitation to a dinner party signals a major shift in the trip as well as their lives together. “This film doesn’t feel obliged to pick a winner or lob easy answers,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Walter Addiego. “It aims to observe, with humor and humanity, with penetration and without oversimplifying.”

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The Fly (1986) 92%

The-Fly

The original version of The Fly, released in 1958, was a Vincent Price classic that didn’t really need to be remade, but that didn’t stop producer Stuart Cornfield (working with an uncredited Mel Brooks) from getting the ball rolling on a new version. After several years in development, plenty of studio struggle, and some turnover at the screenwriter and director positions, Cornfield had his movie: David Cronenberg’s gorier, more suspenseful take on The Fly, which went back to George Langelaan’s 1957 short story and emerged with one of the more delightfully suspenseful horror/sci-fi movies of the ‘80s. Cronenberg’s Fly — starring Goldblum as the ill-fated scientist whose experiments leave his DNA accidentally intertwined with the titular pest, and Geena Davis as the woman who loves him — updated the original with ickier special effects and anchored the story with soulful work from its well-matched stars, attracting a wave of critical acclaim and making more than $60 million in the bargain. “Only Cronenberg,” wrote Alan Jones for Radio Times, “can get away with working out his raw phobias on screen while being poignantly witty and repulsively entertaining at the same time.”

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) 91%

Grand-Budapest-Hotel

Goldblum‘s profile seemed to drop rather precipitously in the late ’90s, but he stayed busy — which is to say that, while his face may have come as a pleasant surprise when he walked onscreen as Deputy Vilmos Kovacs in The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’d actually acted steadily over the years. In fact, Hotel marked Goldblum‘s second time out with writer-director Wes Anderson: a decade earlier, he’d appeared as Allistair Hennessey in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Here, he served as one quickly spinning cog in a madcap confection about a hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) desperately trying to prove his innocence after being framed for murder, and the result was an Oscar-nominated, critically lauded hit. “Grand isn’t good enough a word for this Budapest Hotel,” wrote Time’s Richard Corliss. “Great is more like it.”

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Jurassic Park (1993) 91%

Jurassic-Park

After a decade and change of playing quirky characters, Goldblum finally got his shot at action hero status with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park — only to be overshadowed by a slew of thrillingly realistic CGI dinosaurs. Adapted from Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel, Park offered sublime spectacle without forgetting the cardinal rule of filmmaking: You have to tell a story audiences are going to care about. To that end, Park assembled a cast of savvy character actors (including Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Richard Attenborough) to lend heart and believability to a sci-fi-infused tale about a goofy millionaire (Attenborough) who bankrolls a vacation destination filled with real live dinosaurs. It would be disingenuous to suggest that David Koepp and Michael Crichton’s script spent much time on human characterizations; it was far too busy zipping around from one dino-peril to the next. But that was just fine with audiences, who made Jurassic Park the year’s top-grossing film by a wide margin — and with most critics, including Movieline’s Stephen Farber, who admitted, “True, the dialogue and performances are feeble, but the thing is basically no more — and no less — than a nifty monster movie that delivers crackerjack thrills.”

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 93%

Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers

The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was an acknowledged classic by 1978, when director Philip Kaufman took the reins of a fairly gutsy remake that, by all rights, should have been overshadowed by its predecessor. There’s an exception to every rule, however, and Kaufman’s Snatchers surprised filmgoers by not only boasting improved special effects, but a terrific W.D. Richter script that whose taut, ensemble-driven story was well served by an impressive cast that included Donald Sutherland, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum (not to mention Jerry Garcia as “Banjo Player”). Calling it a “dazzling remake of one of the cleverest of horror classics,” Janet Maslin of the New York Times applauded, “There’s a little something extra in virtually every frame.”

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