Total Recall

Total Recall: Kevin Bacon's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the R.I.P.D. star.

by | July 18, 2013 | Comments

Kevin Bacon

From starring roles in flicks like Footloose to memorable cameos in films like JFK, Kevin Bacon has been pretty much all over Hollywood during his 35-year professional acting career, working so prolifically that he eventually inspired his own game. But until now, he’s never had his own Total Recall — so when we noticed Bacon’s name in the cast list for this weekend’s R.I.P.D., we knew exactly what we had to do. Everything is better with Bacon, so let’s start the countdown!


10. A Few Good Men

Inspired by a real-life incident related to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin by his sister, a onetime member of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, A Few Good Men united an attention-getting cast, a tightly written script, and some of Rob Reiner’s sharpest direction to produce one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of 1992 (TIME’s Richard Schickel called it “An extraordinarily well-made movie, which wastes no words or images in telling a conventional but compelling story”). Although Men is mostly remembered today for its climactic courtroom scene, featuring Jack Nicholson as an enraged colonel who snaps under questioning and accuses the young lawyer questioning him (Tom Cruise) of not being able to handle the truth, it’s actually a pretty solid dramatic thriller all the way around — and it added links to a few more stars in Bacon’s growing resume, thanks to his supporting role as opposing counsel Captain Jack Ross.


9. Mystic River

With Clint Eastwood behind the camera, Brian Helgeland writing the script from a Dennis Lehane book, and a cast packed with reliable names like Sean Penn, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Laurence Fishburne, you’re pretty much guaranteed a terrific movie — and that’s exactly what filmgoers got with 2003’s Mystic River, which not only earned over $150 million at the box office, but won a pair of Academy Awards and a stack of honors from other organizations. Fishburne played Whitey Powers, Massachusetts state police sergeant and partner of Sean Devine (played by Bacon); over the course of the film, the duo investigates the murder of a girl whose father, Jimmy Markum (Penn), is not only a local gangster, but one of Devine’s closest childhood friends. Complicating matters even further is the nagging suspicion that the crime may have been committed by Dave Boyle (Robbins), Jimmy’s brother-in-law — and another of Sean’s old friends. It sounds like the stuff of bullet-riddled melodrama, but few mainstream authors spin literary gold out of pulp as reliably as Lehane, and with Eastwood’s flinty direction providing a solid foundation for his stellar cast, River deserved the praise of critics such as Cole Smithey, who pronounced, “American drama doesn’t get any more meaty and muscular than this.”


8. Tremors

A cheerfully amiable B-movie creature feature with modern-day trappings, 1990’s Tremors dropped Bacon in the middle of a wonderfully eclectic cast (including Reba McEntire and Big Trouble in Little China legend Victor “Egg Shen” Wong) to tell the story of a small town whose sleepy existence is disrupted by a rumbling passel of giant subterranean monsters. Although it wasn’t a major hit during its theatrical release, it went on to enjoy cult status, spawning a (lamentably Bacon-free) succession of sequels and a TV series. The secret of its enduring appeal, according to Rob Vaux of the Flipside Movie Emporium, lies in “The blueprint for how to do projects like this right: care about your material, but don’t lose your sense of humor.”


7. The Woodsman

Actors often sign up to play unappealing characters in order to highlight their diversity — and they don’t come much more unappealing than “ex-con child molester,” all of which is to say that it took a certain amount of guts for Bacon to step into the role of a tormented pedophile struggling to put his life back together in 2004’s The Woodsman. Picking up after his release from prison and focusing on his awkward efforts to build new relationships and move on from the dark secrets of his past, it can be undeniably difficult to watch; as far as most critics were concerned, however, that discomfort paid rich dividends. “To watch this picture is to feel,” pointed out the Globe and Mail’s Rick Groen, “and what you’re feeling is an intense swirl of conflicting emotions — disturbed, creeped-out, sorry, and, yes, even moved.”


6. X-Men: First Class

While Kevin Bacon is certainly no stranger to effects-driven films — heck, he spent a substantial portion of 2000’s Hollow Man as an invisible man — he managed to avoid doing time in a comic book movie until 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which rebooted the moribund franchise by taking the characters back to their beginnings as a freshly assembled team of mutant superheroes. The reason for their coming together? The threat posed by Sebastian Shaw (Bacon), an energy-absorbing sociopath (and former Nazi to boot) who plans on taking over the world. A major box-office hit as well as a perfect opportunity for Bacon to chew some scenery, it also resonated with critics like the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern, who wrote, “Preaching mutant pride with endearing fervor, X-Men: First Class proves to be a mutant in its own right — a zestfully radical departure from the latter spawn of a sputtering franchise.”


5. National Lampoon’s Animal House

Nine times out of 10, scoring a role in a T&A-fueled college sex comedy isn’t a terribly auspicious beginning for a young actor, but in Kevin Bacon’s case, his appearance as the smug Chip Diller in 1978’s Animal House made for a memorable debut — as well as a hugely successful opportunity for a young actor to cut his cinematic teeth with a cast and crew that included such stellar talents as John Belushi, Donald Sutherland, Harold Ramis, and John Landis. Although it didn’t immediately lead to bigger film parts for Bacon, who’d end up in Friday the 13th and daytime serials over the next few years, it marked a solid opening chapter in what would turn into a distinguished career — and provided plenty of laughs for Roger Ebert, who wrote, “The movie is vulgar, raunchy, ribald, and occasionally scatological. It is also the funniest comedy since Mel Brooks made The Producers.”


4. Frost/Nixon

Ron Howard’s best-reviewed film in ages, 2009’s Frost/Nixon adapts the Peter Morgan play that dramatized British broadcaster David Frost’s (played by Michael Sheen) efforts to secure and sell a series of TV interviews with the politically exiled former president (portrayed by Frank Langella) — in spite of a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, not the least of which were the loud doubts expressed by Nixon’s chief of staff Jack Brennan (Bacon). Although plenty of pundits took umbrage at the way Morgan’s screenplay took liberties with the actual events that inspired the film, for the vast majority of critics, Frost/Nixon’s flaws seemed pretty minor when weighed against the script, direction, editing, completed picture, and Langella’s performance — all of which received Oscar nominations. For the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven Rea, it all added up to “A must-see for political junkies, history buffs, and folks still fascinated by the paranoia-fueled follies of the twitchy, sweaty, decidedly uncharismatic 37th president.”


3. The Big Picture

Before he developed into a full-fledged cult favorite with movies like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, Christopher Guest made his directorial debut with The Big Picture, a cameo-laden showbiz satire about a young, talented director (Bacon) who learns the hard way that studio politics often wreak havoc on everything from a film’s storyline to a filmmaker’s career. Fittingly, Picture saw its own release derailed when the studio president who greenlit it was fired, but even during its limited theatrical run, it found an enthusiastic audience with critics like Chris Hicks of the Deseret News, who wrote, “All in all this is a terrific comedy that punctures Hollywood’s pretentiousness but is never mean-spirited about it.”


2. Diner

It may seem a little hard to believe in today’s superhero-driven cinematic landscape, but once upon a time, major studios actually did release movies that were about nothing more than ordinary people doing relatively ordinary things. Case in point: Diner, the low-key 1982 character study that acted as the first installment of writer/director Barry Levinson’s series of Baltimore films. Focused on the lives and loves of a group of friends, the narrative begins in 1959, using a series of vignettes to illustrate the way their relationships change; it’s pretty straightforward stuff, but it’s expertly grounded by Levinson’s marvelous script and sensitive direction, not to mention stellar work from a terrific cast of up-and-comers that included Bacon, Ellen Barkin, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly, and Paul Reiser. Observed a prescient Janet Maslin for the New York Times, “Movies like Diner — fresh, well-acted and energetic American movies by new directors with the courage of their convictions — are an endangered species.”


1. Apollo 13

This dramatization of NASA’s aborted 1970 lunar mission combined one of star Tom Hanks’ biggest personal passions — space travel — with Hollywood’s favorite thing: a blockbuster prestige picture. With a cast that featured a number of similarly prolific actors (among them Bacon, Ed Harris, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise), Apollo 13 probably would have made decent money even if it had played fast and loose with the real-life details of the launch, but director Ron Howard and his crew strove for verisimilitude, going so far as to shoot portions of the film in actual zero gravity. The result was a summertime smash that restored some of space travel’s luster for a jaded generation — and made for an exceedingly good filmgoing experience according to most critics, including Roger Ebert, who called it “a powerful story, one of the year’s best films, told with great clarity and remarkable technical detail, and acted without pumped-up histrionics.”

In case you were wondering, here are Bacon’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. National Lampoon’s Animal House — 88%
2. X-Men: First Class — 88%
3. Mystic River — 86%
4. Frost/Nixon — 86%
5. A Few Good Men — 83%
6. Sleepers — 81%
7. Apollo 13 — 78%
8. Murder in the First — 76%
9. Diner — 75%
10. Footloose — 73%

Take a look through Bacon’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for R.I.P.D..

Finally, here are the Bacon Brothers (featuring Kevin on vocals and guitar) jamming with Daryl Hall:

Tag Cloud

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