Best Matthew McConaughey Movies, Ranked

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Matthew McConaughey was born in Uvalde, Texas to parents who would end up marrying each other three times. He without question had an interesting and adventurous childhood. After a brief stint in Australia for a foreign exchange program, McConaughey decided to pursue a law degree, but, per Insider, ended up dropping out to attend film school. While making films, McConaughey’s love for acting grew, and during a chance encounter at a bar, he met a producer who invited him to audition for a film entitled Dazed and Confused. From there, it’s history.

McConaughey’s career has definitely had some ups and downs. After starring opposite Sandra Bullock in A Time To Kill, McConaughey became the next big thing and worked with some big directors including Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. His career took a turn, and he became the go-to guy for romantic comedies. During this period, he made some questionable acting choices that hurt his reputation in Hollywood. Through it all, he stayed true to himself and his love for life and acting.

Eventually, he would go on to play Ron Woodroof, the HIV-positive rodeo cowboy in Dallas Buyers Club for which he took home the Oscar for Best Actor. He showed in this performance that not only does he have charisma, but he also has the acting chops to prove that he is one of the greats. Now, after a long and adventurous career, McConaughey is one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood.

In the wake of the recent Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, McConaughey has been in the news speaking out about gun reform. Fans across the U.S. want McConaughey to run for President. But back to the big screen — let’s dive into his top movies, ranked.

Updated May 25, 2023: If you are a fan of Matthew McConaughey and think he’s a top-notch actor, you’ll be glad to know that this article has been updated with additional content by Yosra Ben Lagha.



15 EDtv (1999)

McConaughey in EdTV.
Universal Pictures

EDtv was one of McConaughey’s earlier films directed by Hollywood legend, Ron Howard. The film is a satirical comedy about a reality show that decides to follow the daily life of the laid-back video store clerk, Ed (McConaughey). Although it was a box office flop, the film was an interesting take on reality television and McConaughey gave a charming performance. At the same time, it introduced the world to the chemistry between McConaughey and Woody Harrelson who would later be reunited in HBO’s True Detective.

14 White Boy Rick (2018)

Richie Merritt and Matthew McConaughey in White Boy Rick (2018)
Sony Pictures Releasing

The 2018 crime drama White Boy Rick tells the true story of Rick Wershe (Richie Merritt) who became the youngest police informant in history and later a drug kingpin in 1980s Detroit during the crack epidemic. McConaughey plays his tough-as-nails father struggling to look after his family while being emotionally conflicted by his son’s choices. McConaughey gives a stellar and gritty performance in his scene-stealing role.

Related: Matthew McConaughey’s Most Famous Characters, Ranked

13 U-571 (2000)

Matthew McConaughey in U-571 (2000)
Universal Pictures

This World War II submarine action film tells the story of a German submarine taken over by American submariners on a mission to capture the Enigma cipher machine. U-571 is an action-packed World War II story that was well-received by critics and audiences alike. McConaughey plays the lead role of Lieutenant Andrew Tyler alongside an ensemble cast including Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, and Jon Bon Jovi.

12 A Time To Kill (1996)

Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock in A Time To Kill (1996)
Warner Bros.

McConaughey has stated in his acclaimed memoir, Greenlights, that this film resulted in people recognizing his face on the streets. Originally, McConaughey was auditioning for a smaller part in A Time to Kill, but he convinced director Joel Schumacher to let him read for the bigger role of Jake Brigance. This riveting court drama, also starring Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson, was a box office success and kick-started McConaughey’s career.

11 Amistad (1997)

Matthew McConaughey and Djimon Hounsou in Amistad (1997)
DreamWorks Distribution

McConaughey is always looking to work with great directors. In 1997, he got the chance to work with Steven Spielberg in his slavery drama Amistad. McConaughey plays United States attorney Roger Sherman Baldwin, who must learn to communicate with a group of slaves to prove their freedom in court. The heart-wrenching film can be hard to watch at some points, but Spielberg delivered an excellent film depicting this true story.

10 Sing (2016)

Buster Moon in Sing (2016)
Universal Pictures

Following the release of The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination presented Sing for that year’s holiday season. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, and Tori Kelly provide exceptional voice work for this acclaimed musical comedy about finding the shining star that lives inside all of us.

Related: The 5 Best Musical Numbers in Illumination’s Sing

Set in a world like ours, but entirely inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, Sing follows Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper Koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. McConaughey is pitch-perfect voicing the fun-loving character, and it was a hoot seeing everyone return for the equally entertaining sequel, Sing 2.

9 Bernie (2011)

Matthew McConaughey as the prosecuting attorney in Bernie (2011).
Castle Rock Entertainment

Bernie takes place in the small town of Carthage, Texas, where assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) was one of the town’s most beloved residents. Everyone loved and appreciated Bernie, so it came as no surprise when he befriended Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), an affluent widow known for her sour attitude. Marjorie quickly became fully dependent on Bernie and his generosity, and Bernie struggled to meet her increasing demands.

Before too long, the locals had gone months without seeing Marjorie. They were then shocked to find out that Marjorie Nugent had been dead for some time, and that Bernie was charged with the murder. McConaughey plays the prosecuting attorney in Richard Linklater’s black comedy that’s based on an incredible true story. His courtroom scenes with Black are as funny as they are authentic.

8 Magic Mike (2012)

Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike (2012).
Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2012, Steven Soderbergh directed a comedy-drama starring Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and McConaughey in a scene-stealing performance as the head of a male stripper troupe. Magic Mike grossed over $160 million at the box office and produced a sequel, Magic Mike XXL, which was released in 2015.

Tatum recently revealed that the series’ final film Magic Mike’s Last Dance would be all about dancing. The first film’s screenplay was partially inspired by his past as a stripper in Florida at a young age. McConaughey’s gym scenes with a newly joined stripper-in-training show off the Texas native’s true acting chops — particularly his intensity that often steals the show.

7 The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Matthew McConaughey and Bryan Cranston in The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

This underrated legal thriller tells the story of Mick Haller (McConaughey), a defense lawyer who works out of the back of his Lincoln. Haller is sought upon by the wealthy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) to defend him in an assault case and Haller soon finds out that there is much more to the story. The Lincoln Lawyer is a riveting crime drama and McConaughey shines as the charismatic underdog Mick Haller.

6 Dazed And Confused (1993)

Dazed and Confused Matthew McConaughey Alphaville 1993
Gramercy Pictures

McConaughey debuted his signature line of “Alright, alright, alright” in Richard Linklater’s classic film about 1970s high school, Dazed and Confused. McConaughey’s debut role was that of Wooderson, an older man who can’t stop living like a high school student. McConaughey proved his capabilities as an actor and certainly showcased his destiny to become a star. McConaughey was originally supposed to have a much smaller role, but Linklater saw his potential and gave McConaughey more scenes where he improvised many of his classic lines.

5 Mud (2012)

Matthew McConaughey in Mud (2012)

Jeff Nichols’s 2012 film, Mud, may be responsible for the resurrection of McConaughey’s career. The critically acclaimed film shined a light on McConaughey’s capabilities as a dramatic actor, and it was loved by audiences and critics alike. The coming-of-age story follows two boys who help an outlaw named Mud (McConaughey) reconnect with his lover while trying to flee the country. It’s a story with action, heart, and a stellar ensemble cast including Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, and Sam Shepard.

4 Interstellar (2014)

McConaughey comforts fellow astronaut Hathaway in Interstellas
Warner Bros. Pictures

Christopher Nolan’s science fiction masterpiece tells the story of a group of astronauts on a quest to find a new world after Earth’s resources have been nearly depleted. McConaughey plays the cowboy-like pilot, Cooper, who takes the lead to save humanity. Interstellar was a visually stunning adventure into the cosmos bound together by the haunting score of Hans Zimmer. McConaughey shines in every scene as a man torn between saving the world and keeping a promise to return to his daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain).

3 Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Focus Features

Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club gave us McConaughey’s finest performance to date. The film follows rodeo cowboy Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) who discovers that he is HIV-positive, sending him on a quest to find new drugs to save his life. Woodruff forms a club with transgender AIDS patient Rayon, brilliantly played by Jared Leto, to sell the medications to others. It is a story about friendship, determination, and fighting against the bureaucracy of our healthcare system. Both McConaughey and Leto deservingly took home Oscars for their brilliant performances.

2 Lone Star (1996)

Mtthew McConaughey as Buddy Deeds in Lone Star.
Sony Pictures Classics

If you loved Matthew McConaughey’s performance in True Detective, chances are you will absolutely enjoy this modern Western drama, directed by John Sayles. Lone Star is a suspense-ridden murder mystery that has all the typical elements of a detective story: a body, a suspect, and a relentless detective.

Related: Best Matthew McConaughey Comedy Movies, Ranked

The skull of Sheriff Charlie Wade was found buried 40 years after his mysterious disappearance. The skull was found by another Sheriff called Sam Deeds. He takes on the investigation and starts digging into past events and uncovering old grudges. To his surprise, all the clues point to his father, Deputy Buddy Deeds, played by McConaughey. This does not, however, deter the young Sheriff from pursuing the investigation. It even gives him a cathartic outlet to express his frustration over his relationship with his father.

The movie is a delightful watch because it builds a whole case over only one suspect but manages to delve into the psyche of all the other characters as well. The viewer gets to uncover the truth step by step with Sam Deeds who, near the end of the movie, is surprised to find that not everything is as it seems.

1 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Matthew McConaughey as Senior Stockbroker Mark.
Paramount Pictures

This biographical dark-comedy proves, yet again, that life is not only stranger than fiction but also way more exciting. Director Martin Scorsese makes one of his signature movies, The Wolf of Wall Street, which is inspired by the controversial life story of the most well-known stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, played by the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio.

It might cross one’s mind that Matthew McConaughey with his small role as the weird senior stockbroker (Mark) who appears mainly in one major scene, could be outshone by DiCaprio’s outstanding performance. To that, all we can say is wait until you watch the movie. McConaughey’s appearance in that one scene where he’s giving advice and directions to the newly hired broker Jordan has an effect that extends until the end of the movie. In fact, this advice is what builds the character of Jordan and propels his transformation, both positive and negative. Basically, what was advised is that in order to manage the stress of the job, Jordan was supposed to have “a ton of sex,” as Jennifer Lawrence puts it, and to start using cocaine.

What was most memorable about McConaughey’s scene is, however, the part where he starts tapping on his chest and humming. This part of the scene was not scripted; it was, in fact, a ritual that the brilliant actor uses every time he’s about to shoot a major scene in order to calm his nerves and tap into the right creative space in himself. When DiCaprio saw his fellow actor doing that rhythmical ritual, he suggested it would be a great contribution. We think it’s safe to agree that he was definitely right!