Total Recall

John Goodman's 10 Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Kong: Skull Island star.

by | March 8, 2017 | Comments

Sitcom star, dependable character actor, occasional leading man — John Goodman has basked in the glow of a number of different spotlights over the last few decades, carving out a career enviable for its versatility and sheer success as well as entertaining to watch. Whether he’s making good use of his expert comic timing or lending dramatic gravitas to a scene, Goodman has become a reliable indicator of quality for whatever project he happens to be involved with — and this weekend, given that the project in question happens to be Kong: Skull Island, we figured now would be the perfect time to pay tribute to Mr. Goodman with a look back at his best-reviewed films. All hail King Ralph, it’s time for Total Recall!


10. The Big Easy (1987) 89%

An early and enduring critical favorite, The Big Easy was a concerted move to the mainstream for director Jim McBride, who cut his teeth on stuff like the X-rated apocalyptic fantasy Glen and Randa. It captured Dennis Quaid at his Hollywood heartthrob peak, chucking him and Goodman into the bayou with a never-sultrier Ellen Barkin for a sex-drenched neo-noir about police corruption (and, it must be noted, really good music). Easy wasn’t a huge hit — it grossed less than $18 million during its theatrical run — but its cult has grown over the years, affirming the words of critics like the Washington Post’s Hal Hinson, who enthused, “This is one movie that lives up to its billing; it’s easy all right. Like falling off a log.”


9. Raising Arizona (1987) 91%

Something of a palate cleanser for the Coen brothers after the rich darkness of their previous effort, Blood Simple, 1987’s cockeyed comedy Raising Arizona united a motley crew of character actors to tell the tale of a well-meaning ex-con (Nicolas Cage) who hatches a plan with his police officer wife (Holly Hunter) to cure their childless condition by kidnapping a baby from a furniture magnate (Trey Wilson) who publicly jokes that his five infants are more than he knows what to do with. The kidnapping coincides with the unfortunate reappearance of Cage’s criminal associates (Goodman and William Forsythe), who complicate the situation with plans of their own — and then there’s the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse (Randall “Tex” Cobb) to contend with. Perhaps less a movie than an artfully assembled compilation of quirks, Arizona quickly ascended to cult classic status; as Time Out’s Geoff Andrew enthused, “Starting from a point of delirious excess, the film leaps into dark and virtually uncharted territory to soar like a comet.”


8. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) 90%

Goodman’s cuddly frame and avuncular smile have made him a natural for a number of kindly characters, but he also has a unique intensity that makes him great for villains — dual gifts that were both put to effective use in 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. As Howard Stambler, a mysterious doomsday prepper who saves (or maybe kidnaps) our heroine (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after a car accident, Goodman has to play a lot of character notes: is he a loony with outlandish end-of-days beliefs and nefarious plans for his guest/captive, or does he really represent safety in a world gone wrong? From scene to scene, the audience is never quite sure, and the end result is — as Jeannette Catsoulis put it for the New York Times — “A master class on narrative pacing and carefully managed jolts.”


7. Arachnophobia (1990) 93%

Frank Marshall (backed here by his longtime production partner Steven Spielberg) made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). “That sound you hear in the background is the ‘ugh!’ heard round the world,” chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, “luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter.”


6. Barton Fink (1991) 90%

Goodman has delivered more than his share of memorable supporting performances, but his work in Barton Fink is near the top of a distinguished list, helping anchor an early Coen brothers picture that uses the uneasy partnership between art and commerce as a backdrop for a surreal drama about sex, lies, and a shotgun-toting traveling salesman (played by Goodman, natch). Calling the end result “Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird,” Time’s Richard Schickel lauded it as “the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through.”


5. Matinee (1992) 92%

Goodman’s outsize personality was a perfect fit for 1993’s Matinee — not only because it lent itself well to the leading character, the William Castle-inspired film producer Lawrence Woolsey, but also because Goodman proved an excellent on-screen foil for director Joe Dante’s equally boisterous style. Sadly, Dante’s fond look back at the politics and culture of the early ‘60s — which framed Woolsey’s efforts to debut a half-man, half-ant horror movie called Mant against the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis — failed to resonate with audiences, who ignored it to the tune of a paltry $9.5 million domestic gross. But it hit a home run with critics like Jeffrey M. Anderson of the San Francisco Examiner, who called it “A riot, and Joe Dante’s most touchingly personal movie at the same time.”


4. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) 92%

Goodman’s work with the Coen brothers hasn’t always translated to a ton of screen time, but his association with the duo has given him the opportunity to play some truly memorable, scene-stealing characters. Case in point: Roland Turner, the unforgettably noxious jazz artist who shares a ride to Chicago with the titular protagonist during Inside Llewyn Davis. Turner’s passing presence in the film is just one of a handful of regrettable misadventures, but as he has so often in his career, Goodman adds an expert dash of seasoning with his performance — and rounds out what the Arizona Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz called “one of the strangest yet most satisfying movie experiences of the year” and “one of those films in which you can’t really appreciate what you’ve seen until it’s over.” Concluded Goodykoontz, “You just have to trust that the trip is worth the trouble. And it is.”


3. Monsters, Inc. (2001) 96%

The saga of Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman), two employees of the titular kiddie-scaring company, Monsters, Inc. (and its belated prequel, Monsters University) vividly imagines a world in which children’s screams are the energy source that powers the secret city of Monstropolis — and one in which the monsters themselves are just 9-to-5 clock punchers with problems of their own. After meeting up in college and having some wacky academic adventures, Mike and Sulley go to work together — and ultimately discover that not only is inter-species harmony possible, but it may hold the key to their civilization’s looming energy crisis. “The analogy to our dependence on, say, oil is soon abandoned, the better to blur the distinction between abstract and concrete,” wrote Lisa Alspector of the Chicago Reader, pointing out that it’s “something older viewers of this 2001 animated adventure may appreciate more than younger ones.”


2. The Artist (2011) 95%

Given all the success he’s had with voicework, it might seem a tad ironic that one of John Goodman’s top-rated films is a silent movie. But aside from having an instantly recognizable voice, Goodman’s also been blessed with a marvelously expressive face, which made him a perfect choice for writer/director Michel Hazanavicius when casting The Artist, a Best Picture-winning romantic dramedy about a pair of silent film stars (played by Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo) whose careers — both managed by studio boss Al Zimmer (Goodman) — diverge sharply with the advent of the talkies. A somewhat unlikely box office hit, The Artist also earned nearly unanimous praise from critics; as Mark Rabinowitz enthused for CNN, “There is literally nothing wrong with it. I don’t have a single nit to pick, minor flaw to point out or little bit that annoyed me. It is pure magic from the first frame to the last.”


1. Argo (2012) 96%

The lion’s share of the attention for this Best Picture Oscar winner went to star and director Ben Affleck, and rightly so — but Argo also offered Goodman one of the many crucial supporting roles he’s enjoyed during his career: real-life Hollywood hero John Chambers, the award-winning makeup artist whose clandestine involvement was critical in assembling the phony science fiction movie whose “film crew” sneaked into Iran and rescued a crew of refugee diplomats during the 1979 hostage crisis. Offering some well-timed comic relief, Goodman and his partner Alan Arkin helped provide a safety valve for the often excruciatingly tense Iranian scenes. “The movieland satire is laid on thick, but it’s also deadly accurate,” observed Peter Rainer for the Christian Science Monitor. “Schlock has never seemed so patriotic, and Arkin and Goodman have rarely been so good.”

Tag Cloud

docuseries Polls and Games a nightmare on elm street Sony Pictures Cannes Reality Competition Paramount The Walking Dead Summer dragons thriller IFC Films science fiction BAFTA spanish ITV book Hulu ABC Family Cartoon Network Mary Tyler Moore transformers Elton John Spectrum Originals 2017 Pixar rom-coms Superheroes YouTube Red BBC One obituary foreign ghosts latino comic Warner Bros. witnail romantic comedy revenge Musical ABC 20th Century Fox Schedule Spring TV Holiday Hallmark Christmas movies green book parents OWN 24 frames Chernobyl zombies docudrama Musicals indiana jones ESPN 2015 Apple TV+ theme song fast and furious Action halloween halloween tv New York Comic Con justice league diversity Nominations Extras james bond Esquire cults 2016 canceled TV shows finale godzilla comedies PBS reboot Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Reality zombie Drama sequels TruTV Podcast technology ratings DC streaming service NYCC YouTube Universal travel vampires Anna Paquin FX crime thriller TIFF BET harry potter hollywood First Reviews ID Mary Poppins Returns Sundance Now American Society of Cinematographers facebook TCM telelvision cancelled TV shows Broadway superman A24 The Academy Countdown Country cinemax Disney+ Disney Plus Sundance TV jurassic park Marvel Studios Heroines Superheroe GoT BET Awards LGBTQ FOX Starz Classic Film true crime breaking bad scary movies festival kaiju Alien mutant Tomatazos YouTube Premium Hallmark Fox News child's play laika USA Network strong female leads king kong Brie Larson razzies HBO President cooking binge Ellie Kemper sequel series Pride Month sitcom fresh CBS All Access natural history movies kids Britbox The Walt Disney Company talk show Toys Baby Yoda Holidays The CW werewolf TBS Mystery Captain marvel Apple comics DC Comics First Look quibi universal monsters directors Crunchyroll all-time SDCC 2021 hidden camera TV One teaser rotten movies we love police drama period drama spain 72 Emmy Awards golden globes MCU CBS Nickelodeon Showtime Spike VOD italian disaster screen actors guild cops Film Festival Turner Comedy Ghostbusters Paramount Network streaming Thanksgiving Shondaland doctor who blaxploitation OneApp stoner 007 Funimation stand-up comedy 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Tubi Awards zero dark thirty rt archives richard e. Grant ABC Signature women Vudu rotten Star Wars concert classics TV renewals criterion superhero adaptation golden globe awards Turner Classic Movies composers RT21 comiccon APB football mission: impossible Exclusive Video Hear Us Out TV Kids & Family The Witch Cosplay Western AMC toy story Awards Tour pirates of the caribbean Dark Horse Comics VH1 australia Lifetime E! HBO Go 2020 screenings Trivia Christmas Marvel Television Arrowverse Rock mockumentary CNN Avengers Character Guide sag awards Acorn TV Premiere Dates Masterpiece black Fantasy spy thriller war El Rey YA movie Pirates MSNBC cartoon Pop Certified Fresh Super Bowl Amazon Lionsgate politics worst movies Emmys unscripted social media Lucasfilm Grammys LGBT franchise Red Carpet cars space french WGN Star Trek Disney Plus spider-man Logo independent prank Black History Month Crackle remakes Set visit Television Academy Netflix Peacock FXX TNT romance singing competition The Arrangement hispanic Adult Swim Video Games historical drama cats deadpool renewed TV shows Best and Worst Amazon Prime Video Emmy Nominations twilight serial killer Shudder spinoff chucky Music RT History Mudbound blockbusters what to watch biography Tumblr south america news children's TV cancelled comic books critics anime Valentine's Day Walt Disney Pictures Disney streaming service PaleyFest scorecard Legendary A&E boxing Black Mirror Animation Comics on TV Travel Channel PlayStation elevated horror DGA television casting documentary 4/20 Rom-Com TLC psycho Year in Review crossover Election Infographic Amazon Prime SundanceTV Freeform Disney Channel trailers christmas movies 21st Century Fox die hard Biopics cancelled TV series versus dc National Geographic Stephen King Mary poppins TCA 2017 toronto stop motion Winners dramedy best dark dogs cancelled television Fox Searchlight 71st Emmy Awards Pet Sematary reviews emmy awards blockbuster archives Song of Ice and Fire Trailer kong political drama TCA Awards hist name the review Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Pop TV robots Writers Guild of America dceu Marathons nature E3 WarnerMedia Food Network Amazon Studios HBO Max medical drama Quiz satire ViacomCBS FX on Hulu San Diego Comic-Con DC Universe Mindy Kaling Television Critics Association free movies Bravo Comic Book documentaries Epix Lifetime Christmas movies NBC asian-american monster movies batman GIFs Comedy Central Rocky Family Tarantino Marvel Photos Teen Creative Arts Emmys animated nbcuniversal Interview Syfy crime worst slashers Ovation video Academy Awards DirecTV VICE Box Office Women's History Month based on movie venice Winter TV tv talk 99% Sci-Fi BBC joker SXSW jamie lee curtis Sneak Peek miniseries films Opinion CMT psychological thriller Nat Geo TCA discovery aliens See It Skip It video on demand Trophy Talk festivals Fall TV canceled Watching Series Horror Netflix Christmas movies Binge Guide Sundance adventure Rocketman History CW Seed crime drama Calendar boxoffice Columbia Pictures Film 45 Martial Arts game show supernatural Disney spanish language award winner The Purge 2018 indie anthology Discovery Channel GLAAD nfl BBC America Oscars MTV popular Endgame sports IFC USA TV Land game of thrones japanese X-Men TCA Winter 2020 Apple TV Plus 2019 Paramount Plus