10 Best John Goodman Movies
No other A-lister has effectively captured Midwestern charm as well as John Goodman has for nearly four decades. The actor has spread himself far and wide across every visual medium and every genre imaginable, mastering each and every one with relative ease. He doesn’t consider himself “too good” for anything, acting in plenty of Oscar-winning films as well as children’s movies and even basic cable sitcoms. While Goodman certainly doesn’t limit himself to any certain type of film, he does seem to have a few filmmakers who know how to utilize his talents to the best of their capabilities — namely the Coen Brothers and the folks at Disney/Pixar. As time goes on and Goodman grows older, one thing remains absolutely certain: He and his best films will be remembered as some of the best cinema has to offer.
The Big Lebowski
This might be the most important John Goodman movie: It’s the one that remains the most quoted, the most recognizable, the most iconic performance of his. His character is a scene-stealer, demonstrating an over-the-topness that isn’t always typical of Goodman’s filmography. His character, Walter Sobchak, is not only his finest achievement but part of what makes The Big Lebowski so effortlessly memorable.
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Not only is Monsters, Inc. one of Goodman’s greatest, but it remains one of the best animated features to come out of the Disney/Pixar partnership. Voicing the character of Sully alongside Billy Crystal (who voices the character of Mike Wazowski), Goodman plays the straight man to Crystal’s comic relief. Ironically, Goodman’s Sully helps bring humanity to this unconventional monster movie.
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The Coens have used John Goodman in plenty of films throughout their decades-long run as Hollywood’s greatest sibling filmmakers, but perhaps none is as understated as their use of Goodman in their 1991 film Barton Fink. John Turturro — another Coen Brothers favorite — plays the titular 1940s novelist-turned-scriptwriter, but it’s Goodman as his eccentric and unpredictable neighbor Charlie Meadows who keeps things interesting.
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Inside Llewyn Davis
Taking place in Greenwich Village at the height of the folk scene in 1961, Inside Llewyn Davis follows a down-on-his-luck solo artist looking to make it on his own after losing the other half of his folk duo. Goodman comes in around the middle of the film as Roland Turner, a sarcastic and unfiltered musician with an addiction problem. It’s classic Coen Brothers, and it’s classic Goodman.
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David Byrne has only directed one film in his lifetime as the frontman of the New Wave/punk band Talking Heads, but sometimes one is enough. True Stories is a uniquely singular vision of Byrne’s, who starred, directed, wrote, narrated, and composed the film in 1986. Goodman also stars, and Byrne wastes no time making Goodman the standout character of the film. It’s a strange and delightful movie, and it would’ve lacked something inexplicable without Goodman there.
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10 Cloverfield Lane
The second film in the surprise-driven Cloverfield series, 10 Cloverfield Lane was about as unexpected as they come. Announced during the Super Bowl and released in theaters soon after, the strength of Goodman’s performance is almost as surprising as the film’s existence in the first place. He’s a cult leader of sorts, holding two other people captive in his underground bunker as the trio try to figure out whether or not humanity is actually in peril or not.
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The most charming silent film of the 21st century, 2011’s The Artist was a sweet surprise for audiences who might not have ever bothered to see a silent film. It’s gimmicky, to be sure, but it’s anchored by a set of great performances and great visuals. One such performance comes from none other than John Goodman, playing a character named Al Zimmer. The movie was an Oscar darling after its release, and while Goodman went home empty-handed, his performance is far from insignificant.
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Ben Affleck is one of the 21st century’s most confounding A-listers, but there’s no denying that his 2012 film Argo shows that he’s a lot more talented than he seems at times. The movie tells the true story of a CIA agent who created a fake science fiction film in an attempt to rescue six Americans during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran, 1979. Goodman serves as one of the fake film’s crew members, a make-up artist named John Chambers.
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The Emperor’s New Groove
Another animated Disney movie, The Emperor’s New Groove sees Goodman playing a kindhearted llama herder named Pacha — it’s a strange sentence (and frankly, it’s a strange movie), but Goodman manages to really flesh out the character in ways that probably would’ve been lost on someone less talented than him. Acting alongside David Spade, it’s clear to see that Goodman comes out on top here.
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Laika Studios’s Halloween classic ParaNorman is as clever and inventive as its title suggests. The movie follows a young boy as he takes on ghosts and zombies in order to save his town from an evil curse. It’s a visually stunning and surprisingly touching film, and Goodman’s a large part of that — he plays Norman’s great-uncle, the man who ultimately gifts Norman with the skills needed to save the day.
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