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) 80%

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) 84%

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

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