Total Recall

Danny Glover's 10 Best Movies

by | November 9, 2016 | Comments

A prolific veteran of the stage and screen, Danny Glover has been a familiar face for generations of moviegoers over the last several decades — and he’s still going strong, as evidenced by his supporting turn in this weekend’s Almost Christmas. In honor of his distinguished and still-growing filmography, we decided to devote this feature to a fond look back at some of its brighter critical highlights, devising a list that’s as eclectic as it is impressive … even without the inclusion of the Lethal Weapon franchise, which averaged out below the cut. Get ready for Total Recall!

10. Bopha! (1993) 82%

The story of apartheid, at least as told on the silver screen, is one of people on opposing sides of history, with its supporters’ dedication to racially based oppression putting them firmly on the losing end. It’s a worthy story, but one with familiar (albeit no less powerful) contours — which makes it all the more to Morgan Freeman‘s credit that for his 1993 directorial effort Bopha!, he framed the South African conflict through the eyes of a black police officer wholly dedicated to upholding the government. Loyal to the system he’s sworn to protect but understandably conflicted about its racist underpinnings, officer Micah Mangena (Glover) grapples with gnawing self-doubt as the clock runs out on apartheid, surrounded by citizens — and even family members — who view him as a traitor. It all adds up, as Leonard Klady wrote for Variety, to “a handsomely crafted, potently played drama that brings the issue of apartheid down to a visceral human dimension.”

9. Bat 21 (1988) 81%

It would be hard to persuasively argue that there aren’t enough war movies — and the Vietnam War was a subject of particularly intense fascination for filmmakers in the ’80s, especially after the outsize success enjoyed by Sylvester Stallone with the First Blood franchise. But Danny Glover and Gene Hackman are capable of enlivening even the most well-trod material, as they proved with 1988’s BAT*21, a fact-based account of a downed colonel’s (Hackman) attempts to get back to friendly territory with the assistance of a pilot (Glover) who risks disciplinary action through his dogged determination to save a fellow soldier. “BAT*21 is an exciting thriller about survival,” wrote Chris Hicks for the Deseret News. “And it also manages to say something about the victims of war, and how distance makes the difference to the soldier.”

8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2002) 81%

If you’ve got a movie in which you’ve hired Gene Hackman to play a misanthropic weirdo and you need to cast an actor to play his polar opposite, who do you turn to? Just ask Wes Anderson, whose Royal Tenenbaums cast of outlandish characters was balanced out by Danny Glover as Henry Sherman, the bow-tied accountant whose quiet dependability stands in stark contrast to the psyche-warping megalomania of Hackman’s titular family patriarch. “This comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family of eccentric geniuses is exactly the kind of movie America could use,” wrote Jack Matthews of the New York Daily News. “It’s funny, poignant, laced with irresistibly flawed characters and focuses on the power of love in a family.”

7. Grand Canyon (1991) 77%

The early ’90s saw Glover pulling action thriller duty with Predator 2 and the Lethal Weapon franchise, but he still managed to make room for the occasional drama — like Lawrence and Meg Kasdan‘s Grand Canyon, which blended a starry ensemble for a thoughtful look at race and class in Los Angeles at the dawn of the decade. Playing a tow truck driver whose well-timed arrival to pick up a client (Kevin Kline) sets the plot in motion, Glover shared screen time with a cast that also included Steve Martin, Alfre Woodard, and Mary-Louise Parker, and although the movie wasn’t a major box office hit, it touched on themes and narrative techniques that would resonate throughout the decade and beyond. “It maps these dark, desperate, fearful times with comic and terrifying veracity,” wrote Joe Brown for the Washington Post, “and holds out a glimmer of hope for the soul-searching survivors of the ’90s.”

6. Beyond the Lights (2014) 83%

It might seem like Danny Glover’s been on the big screen less often lately, but he’s really working more than ever, cranking out six or seven movies a year — and picking some pretty good scripts along the way, as evidenced by his NAACP Image Award-nominated work in 2014’s Beyond the Lights. Appearing in a supporting role, Glover played the police captain father of male lead Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker), a young police officer whose budding romance with a troubled pop star (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) prompts some stern paternal advice — and helps ground a picture that flirts with glitzy melodrama but ultimately sticks the landing. As Bilge Ebiri wrote for Vulture, “How bracing today to have a film that’s at once fun, patient, romantic, and real.”


5. The Rainmaker (1997) 82%

Glover was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for his work in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker, a critical and commercial hit whose success proved that in the right hands, even a bestseller from an author perceived as a lightweight can make for compelling cinema. Matt Damon toplined as Rudy Baylor, a young and (at least temporarily) naive law school grad who ends up filing a lawsuit against a shady insurance company, and Coppola put him in very good company, surrounded the young star with a supporting cast that included Glover (playing a judge who takes over the case), Danny DeVito, Jon Voight, Roy Scheider, Mickey Rourke, and Claire Danes. Critics might have gone in expecting something that would live down to Grisham’s lowbrow reputation, but they came away pleasantly surprised — as Madeleine Williams of Cinematter observed, “With numerous entertaining subplots, plenty of well thought-out characters, brought to life by talented actors, and an invigorating trial, what more do you want from a Grisham film?”

4. To Sleep With Anger (1990) 88%

One of the less discovered entries in Danny Glover’s filmography, To Sleep with Anger is also one of the more distinctively enjoyable — and a rare showcase for Glover’s gifts in a leading role. He stars here as Harry Mention, a traveler whose past with married couple Gideon (Paul Butler) and Suzie (Mary Alice), earns him lodging in their Los Angeles home when he passes into town on his way to San Francisco. Their good deed doesn’t go unpunished, as Harry’s arrival immediately begins wreaking potentially supernatural havoc on the lives of everyone around them — all stemming from Harry’s seemingly innocuous yet ultimately malevolent presence. Glover won an Independent Spirit Award for his portrayal of the interloper, along with praise from critics like the Washington Post’s Rita Kempley, who called the movie “A universal look at familial dynamics, articulated from a uniquely black, warmly poetic perspective.”

3. The Color Purple (1985) 81%

Glover’s mid-’80s hot streak reached its arguable zenith with a major role in 1985’s The Color Purple, a prestige project from blockbuster savant Steven Spielberg that united an incredible cast in service of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-winning novel about an African-American woman’s experiences in the rural South during the early years of the 20th century. Defying pundits who suspected Spielberg lacked the gravitas to tell a serious story — or who took issue with a white director telling a story pulled from the pages of black American history — Purple reaped nearly universal critical acclaim, made more than $140 million at the U.S. box office, and racked up 11 Oscar nominations. “It is a great, warm, hard, unforgiving, triumphant movie,” wrote Roger Ebert, “and there is not a scene that does not shine with the love of the people who made it.”

2. Witness (1985) 93%

Glover hasn’t played a lot of really bad guys in his career, but with 1985’s Witness, he took on a doozy — a crooked cop who’s not only out to put the hurt on Harrison Ford for ratting him out to a superior, but willing to kill a young Amish boy who happened to witness (get it?) his murder of an undercover officer. Ford’s character, wounded after being attacked by Glover, recuperates in the care of the boy’s community, setting up a tense thriller that unfolds against a fish-out-of-water tale and a love story with Kelly McGillis — as well as one of the year’s bigger critical and commercial hits. The end result, as Filmcritic’s Pete Croatto argued, “takes a high concept idea and turns it into a character study more suspenseful and more rewarding than the anticipated norm.”

1. Places in the Heart (1984) 89%

Glover scored his first substantial role in a major picture with Places in the Heart, playing a handyman who latches on with a widow (Sally Field, who won a Best Actress Oscar) struggling to keep her Texas farm afloat during the Great Depression. The kind of film whose plot doesn’t seem to cover a lot of ground, but which deals with some unmistakably weighty themes (in this case racism, adultery, and family commitment), Places in the Heart wasn’t necessarily one of the most exciting pictures of the year, but it was an Academy favorite — Field’s Best Actress win prompted her oft-lampooned “you like me” speech — and a source of admiration for critics like Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who wrote, “Out of the memories of his boyhood in Waxahachie, Tex., during the Great Depression, and within the unlikely tradition of the old-fashioned ‘mortgage’ melodrama, Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American.”

Tag Cloud

spain Martial Arts Pacific Islander rotten Sony Pictures 21st Century Fox Shudder lord of the rings cops video on demand Baby Yoda richard e. Grant TCA transformers revenge 72 Emmy Awards TCA Awards FOX criterion Rom-Com WGN RT21 thriller james bond Amazon Prime Video cooking Music Schedule 20th Century Fox Star Trek Certified Fresh Disney+ Disney Plus italian Holidays Writers Guild of America concert superhero talk show The Purge directors Summer Disney Sundance Netflix Christmas movies 2016 Vudu Crunchyroll Awards Tour 99% rotten movies we love 93rd Oscars Tubi Star Wars basketball Logo Amazon Studios unscripted based on movie rt archives Warner Bros. CMT Lucasfilm king kong blaxploitation Britbox PaleyFest true crime parents social media breaking bad cancelled TV shows Spectrum Originals cults 2019 versus Fox Searchlight cats Chilling Adventures of Sabrina know your critic comic book Awards cancelled television festivals Infographic LGBT OWN werewolf Legendary Television Academy spanish Freeform The Walt Disney Company historical drama nbcuniversal Paramount Plus Acorn TV Marvel Television Peacock YA Fantasy Year in Review El Rey Musicals Elton John FX reboot Captain marvel Podcast E3 justice league politics blockbusters History CNN ABC Family indie discovery hollywood Turner prank NBA witnail supernatural remakes dragons Cannes universal monsters Musical TLC Comedy San Diego Comic-Con composers japanese VICE Travel Channel franchise Netflix Creative Arts Emmys Sci-Fi AMC Alien toy story blockbuster olympics golden globes Box Office Pixar australia rom-coms toronto E! PBS RT History Emmy Nominations Disney Plus CW Seed Film new star wars movies Holiday kong TV robots christmas movies 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Ellie Kemper Superheroe halloween tv Black History Month dramedy 007 police drama worst scary movies monster movies Mary poppins DC streaming service BAFTA classics SDCC TBS new zealand sequel TruTV Syfy Mary Poppins Returns Apple Drama Ghostbusters popular CBS All Access BBC America award winner Sundance TV wonder woman miniseries TNT Exclusive Video TV movies FX on Hulu Winners name the review YouTube Adult Swim BET Awards IFC PlayStation travel batman hist children's TV Marvel Studios American Society of Cinematographers Wes Anderson Tumblr Action Western MTV ESPN Ovation Winter TV Red Carpet pirates of the caribbean First Look south america singing competition Tarantino Spring TV movie biography Election spinoff stoner nature VH1 Interview TCA Winter 2020 Christmas japan cinemax WarnerMedia Masterpiece comic books Mindy Kaling jurassic park Lifetime finale Comic Book Nominations Countdown Extras political drama king arthur YouTube Red critics television cancelled TV series movies APB Crackle HBO IFC Films Starz Marvel theme song technology Marathons adventure Video Games comedies foreign MCU The Arrangement legend nfl GIFs Amazon Prime Avengers die hard Rock doctor who telelvision animated ID tv talk Cosplay Spike renewed TV shows heist movie Thanksgiving diversity Dark Horse Comics canceled TV shows dark SundanceTV serial killer Nat Geo facebook Image Comics Fall TV Endgame Calendar docudrama 71st Emmy Awards Lifetime Christmas movies Opinion all-time 24 frames Tomatazos Nickelodeon natural history Song of Ice and Fire documentary jamie lee curtis saw psychological thriller Super Bowl zombie twilight Comic-Con@Home 2021 sports stop motion Classic Film See It Skip It Disney streaming service Mudbound USA Network child's play Brie Larson 2021 obituary stand-up comedy 2015 psycho cartoon asian-american archives scorecard free movies crime thriller Horror HBO Max Pop TV Pet Sematary ratings fresh Amazon The Walking Dead Character Guide BBC Premiere Dates Heroines crossover quibi target The Academy Sneak Peek romantic comedy streaming Polls and Games suspense video SXSW new york Trivia 1990s FXX A&E Discovery Channel disaster dc TIFF TV renewals Biopics high school indiana jones BBC One harry potter series Pop war The Witch Mary Tyler Moore Set visit Kids & Family Walt Disney Pictures football Lionsgate Showtime Comedy Central mission: impossible First Reviews Fox News sequels reviews Arrowverse documentaries Black Mirror Apple TV+ Animation cancelled Paramount french anthology godzilla aapi binge golden globe awards Photos BET Paramount Network period drama comiccon boxoffice emmy awards superman CBS GLAAD Cartoon Network docuseries Women's History Month MSNBC Food Network 2017 book adaptation Tokyo Olympics scene in color Trophy Talk women HBO Go news Broadway 90s mockumentary 2018 ABC Signature Superheroes adaptation Epix trailers X-Men black aliens Mystery festival Best and Worst game of thrones deadpool ViacomCBS best Grammys Reality game show films NYCC YouTube Premium zero dark thirty worst movies Teen international hispanic Chernobyl Toys NBC Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt The CW Rocky comics Stephen King Universal DC Comics laika Emmys President live action Comics on TV ABC latino DGA teaser chucky TV Land joker DirecTV Trailer Pride Month hidden camera zombies Disney Channel USA independent A24 spider-man vampires OneApp TCA 2017 ghosts spy thriller romance green book halloween Pirates crime drama a nightmare on elm street New York Comic Con Hallmark Film Festival casting Bravo LGBTQ dceu elevated horror Sundance Now Columbia Pictures crime Country GoT 45 Funimation TV One VOD screenings marvel cinematic universe streaming movies ITV adenture slashers Apple TV Plus Oscars boxing National Geographic kids satire 4/20 Quiz what to watch science fiction Hulu DC Universe Watching Series 2020 sitcom kaiju razzies TCM cars dogs anime Academy Awards Hear Us Out space strong female leads Reality Competition sag awards fast and furious spanish language Esquire Shondaland Turner Classic Movies Television Critics Association Rocketman venice canceled medical drama Hallmark Christmas movies screen actors guild Family mutant Valentine's Day Anna Paquin Binge Guide