Total Recall

John Goodman's 10 Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Kong: Skull Island star.

by | March 8, 2017 | Comments

Sitcom star, dependable character actor, occasional leading man — John Goodman has basked in the glow of a number of different spotlights over the last few decades, carving out a career enviable for its versatility and sheer success as well as entertaining to watch. Whether he’s making good use of his expert comic timing or lending dramatic gravitas to a scene, Goodman has become a reliable indicator of quality for whatever project he happens to be involved with — and this weekend, given that the project in question happens to be Kong: Skull Island, we figured now would be the perfect time to pay tribute to Mr. Goodman with a look back at his best-reviewed films. All hail King Ralph, it’s time for Total Recall!


10. The Big Easy (1986) 89%

An early and enduring critical favorite, The Big Easy was a concerted move to the mainstream for director Jim McBride, who cut his teeth on stuff like the X-rated apocalyptic fantasy Glen and Randa. It captured Dennis Quaid at his Hollywood heartthrob peak, chucking him and Goodman into the bayou with a never-sultrier Ellen Barkin for a sex-drenched neo-noir about police corruption (and, it must be noted, really good music). Easy wasn’t a huge hit — it grossed less than $18 million during its theatrical run — but its cult has grown over the years, affirming the words of critics like the Washington Post’s Hal Hinson, who enthused, “This is one movie that lives up to its billing; it’s easy all right. Like falling off a log.”


9. Raising Arizona (1987) 90%

Something of a palate cleanser for the Coen brothers after the rich darkness of their previous effort, Blood Simple, 1987’s cockeyed comedy Raising Arizona united a motley crew of character actors to tell the tale of a well-meaning ex-con (Nicolas Cage) who hatches a plan with his police officer wife (Holly Hunter) to cure their childless condition by kidnapping a baby from a furniture magnate (Trey Wilson) who publicly jokes that his five infants are more than he knows what to do with. The kidnapping coincides with the unfortunate reappearance of Cage’s criminal associates (Goodman and William Forsythe), who complicate the situation with plans of their own — and then there’s the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse (Randall “Tex” Cobb) to contend with. Perhaps less a movie than an artfully assembled compilation of quirks, Arizona quickly ascended to cult classic status; as Time Out’s Geoff Andrew enthused, “Starting from a point of delirious excess, the film leaps into dark and virtually uncharted territory to soar like a comet.”


8. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) 90%

Goodman’s cuddly frame and avuncular smile have made him a natural for a number of kindly characters, but he also has a unique intensity that makes him great for villains — dual gifts that were both put to effective use in 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. As Howard Stambler, a mysterious doomsday prepper who saves (or maybe kidnaps) our heroine (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) after a car accident, Goodman has to play a lot of character notes: is he a loony with outlandish end-of-days beliefs and nefarious plans for his guest/captive, or does he really represent safety in a world gone wrong? From scene to scene, the audience is never quite sure, and the end result is — as Jeannette Catsoulis put it for the New York Times — “A master class on narrative pacing and carefully managed jolts.”


7. Arachnophobia (1990) 93%

Frank Marshall (backed here by his longtime production partner Steven Spielberg) made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). “That sound you hear in the background is the ‘ugh!’ heard round the world,” chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, “luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter.”


6. Barton Fink (1991) 91%

Goodman has delivered more than his share of memorable supporting performances, but his work in Barton Fink is near the top of a distinguished list, helping anchor an early Coen brothers picture that uses the uneasy partnership between art and commerce as a backdrop for a surreal drama about sex, lies, and a shotgun-toting traveling salesman (played by Goodman, natch). Calling the end result “Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird,” Time’s Richard Schickel lauded it as “the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through.”


5. Matinee (1993) 92%

Goodman’s outsize personality was a perfect fit for 1993’s Matinee — not only because it lent itself well to the leading character, the William Castle-inspired film producer Lawrence Woolsey, but also because Goodman proved an excellent on-screen foil for director Joe Dante’s equally boisterous style. Sadly, Dante’s fond look back at the politics and culture of the early ‘60s — which framed Woolsey’s efforts to debut a half-man, half-ant horror movie called Mant against the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis — failed to resonate with audiences, who ignored it to the tune of a paltry $9.5 million domestic gross. But it hit a home run with critics like Jeffrey M. Anderson of the San Francisco Examiner, who called it “A riot, and Joe Dante’s most touchingly personal movie at the same time.”


4. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) 92%

Goodman’s work with the Coen brothers hasn’t always translated to a ton of screen time, but his association with the duo has given him the opportunity to play some truly memorable, scene-stealing characters. Case in point: Roland Turner, the unforgettably noxious jazz artist who shares a ride to Chicago with the titular protagonist during Inside Llewyn Davis. Turner’s passing presence in the film is just one of a handful of regrettable misadventures, but as he has so often in his career, Goodman adds an expert dash of seasoning with his performance — and rounds out what the Arizona Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz called “one of the strangest yet most satisfying movie experiences of the year” and “one of those films in which you can’t really appreciate what you’ve seen until it’s over.” Concluded Goodykoontz, “You just have to trust that the trip is worth the trouble. And it is.”


3. Monsters, Inc. (2001) 96%

The saga of Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman), two employees of the titular kiddie-scaring company, Monsters, Inc. (and its belated prequel, Monsters University) vividly imagines a world in which children’s screams are the energy source that powers the secret city of Monstropolis — and one in which the monsters themselves are just 9-to-5 clock punchers with problems of their own. After meeting up in college and having some wacky academic adventures, Mike and Sulley go to work together — and ultimately discover that not only is inter-species harmony possible, but it may hold the key to their civilization’s looming energy crisis. “The analogy to our dependence on, say, oil is soon abandoned, the better to blur the distinction between abstract and concrete,” wrote Lisa Alspector of the Chicago Reader, pointing out that it’s “something older viewers of this 2001 animated adventure may appreciate more than younger ones.”


2. The Artist (2011) 95%

Given all the success he’s had with voicework, it might seem a tad ironic that one of John Goodman’s top-rated films is a silent movie. But aside from having an instantly recognizable voice, Goodman’s also been blessed with a marvelously expressive face, which made him a perfect choice for writer/director Michel Hazanavicius when casting The Artist, a Best Picture-winning romantic dramedy about a pair of silent film stars (played by Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo) whose careers — both managed by studio boss Al Zimmer (Goodman) — diverge sharply with the advent of the talkies. A somewhat unlikely box office hit, The Artist also earned nearly unanimous praise from critics; as Mark Rabinowitz enthused for CNN, “There is literally nothing wrong with it. I don’t have a single nit to pick, minor flaw to point out or little bit that annoyed me. It is pure magic from the first frame to the last.”


1. Argo (2012) 96%

The lion’s share of the attention for this Best Picture Oscar winner went to star and director Ben Affleck, and rightly so — but Argo also offered Goodman one of the many crucial supporting roles he’s enjoyed during his career: real-life Hollywood hero John Chambers, the award-winning makeup artist whose clandestine involvement was critical in assembling the phony science fiction movie whose “film crew” sneaked into Iran and rescued a crew of refugee diplomats during the 1979 hostage crisis. Offering some well-timed comic relief, Goodman and his partner Alan Arkin helped provide a safety valve for the often excruciatingly tense Iranian scenes. “The movieland satire is laid on thick, but it’s also deadly accurate,” observed Peter Rainer for the Christian Science Monitor. “Schlock has never seemed so patriotic, and Arkin and Goodman have rarely been so good.”

Tag Cloud

french TCA 2017 FXX PBS films twilight PaleyFest emmy awards Stephen King Logo nfl technology dogs DC Universe Showtime 2019 ABC Family RT History Acorn TV Teen marvel cinematic universe Holidays action-comedy fast and furious Writers Guild of America TBS Oscar FOX mob Universal documentaries sopranos discovery Captain marvel a nightmare on elm street Disney Plus batman First Look zombie comic Mindy Kaling boxoffice ghosts television rom-coms 24 frames Netflix Christmas movies E3 zombies New York Comic Con king kong golden globe awards The Purge Hollywood Foreign Press Association TCM vampires reboot Dark Horse Comics Travel Channel TV latino comic book movies Pop boxing foreign Elton John Amazon Prime 2017 TV One christmas movies Apple TV+ zero dark thirty DC Comics 2016 target Kids & Family Cartoon Network book adaptation australia Baby Yoda Amazon Prime Video Disney Channel streamig Extras Mary poppins Year in Review The Walt Disney Company TCA remakes Reality game show Watching Series Awards Tour Superheroes comic book movie Rocky telelvision summer TV preview leaderboard Chernobyl SDCC RT21 finale rt labs Syfy Paramount Plus The Academy Musicals blockbuster Fox Searchlight TLC versus Red Carpet psychological thriller classics child's play anthology Esquire royal family Lifetime Christmas movies ID theme song Drama NYCC international green book supernatural 94th Oscars debate sequels trailers prank Cannes 21st Century Fox USA Network renewed TV shows serial killer Broadway CW Seed Trophy Talk Opinion Fox News BBC One Image Comics high school Polls and Games Marvel Television spanish romance MCU Crunchyroll Music The Witch Premiere Dates Turner Classic Movies 2015 NBC Apple period drama Box Office casting Toys biopic Summer crime thriller Comic-Con@Home 2021 73rd Emmy Awards sequel See It Skip It spain Quiz 1990s critic resources rt archives strong female leads stop motion Arrowverse ABC news adenture summer preview toronto Ellie Kemper streaming movies 2018 werewolf 71st Emmy Awards teaser Peacock hist Mudbound free movies WarnerMedia Comic Book spider-man blaxploitation Emmys AMC BBC America TIFF hispanic heritage month Cosplay witnail romantic comedy vs. wonder woman docuseries archives Brie Larson Best Picture laika Rock doctor who series Spectrum Originals halloween Spring TV MTV FX Disney streaming service A24 CNN Holiday cooking revenge comics die hard Best Actress crime drama TNT rotten gangster Song of Ice and Fire godzilla adventure cops Apple TV Plus HBO Go politics live event Sneak Peek 79th Golden Globes Awards Pride Month SXSW Neflix scary VICE dragons aapi Thanksgiving Countdown animated Reality Competition MGM CBS transformers mockumentary GLAAD cancelled television blockbusters TCA Awards Classic Film TCA Winter 2020 HBO Max Fantasy comiccon National Geographic TruTV facebook pirates of the caribbean Food Network BET Country Film Festival 99% The CW Western ITV indie Turner justice league Film ratings Ovation japanese El Rey comedies directors Wes Anderson scorecard PlayStation Infographic Election psycho Character Guide DirecTV Television Academy HBO Sundance Discovery Channel movie independent saw streaming FX on Hulu name the review critics Black Mirror mcc Mary Tyler Moore Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Mystery Lionsgate concert Endgame Sci-Fi Trailer Animation live action Tarantino reviews true crime LGBT Lucasfilm science fiction Tokyo Olympics dexter crime Biopics cats book criterion OneApp Women's History Month hispanic medical drama heist movie Trivia VH1 Spike based on movie asian-american screen actors guild Horror Musical VOD sports scary movies Christmas Winter TV miniseries Set visit 2020 YA travel AMC Plus composers Bravo cults Marvel Studios USA American Society of Cinematographers breaking bad nature Anna Paquin kids Nat Geo Calendar Best Actor BAFTA sitcom Ghostbusters Black History Month hollywood documentary italian cartoon Crackle lord of the rings Rom-Com YouTube NBA IFC Films TV renewals olympics Pixar deadpool women Action History natural history dc Sundance TV war Sundance Now Star Trek parents anime kaiju Television Critics Association 45 Martial Arts Adult Swim Freeform cancelled TV series canceled Paramount Network indiana jones black comedy Best and Worst The Arrangement Warner Bros. Comics on TV golden globes basketball CBS All Access Hear Us Out 4/20 festivals YouTube Premium Nickelodeon Heroines 007 San Diego Comic-Con richard e. Grant worst spinoff canceled TV shows Marathons docudrama GIFs Pacific Islander halloween tv 2021 Amazon biography kong festival Hulu Creative Arts Emmys binge Fargo obituary cars trophy Tags: Comedy historical drama police drama South by Southwest Film Festival Instagram Live japan ViacomCBS football Podcast Epix video Photos BET Awards diversity Pop TV DGA obi wan Emmy Nominations new zealand Family elevated horror superman Mary Poppins Returns Britbox disaster BBC LGBTQ Columbia Pictures Exclusive Video chucky monster movies worst movies YouTube Red aliens fresh stoner dreamworks Marvel Legendary Universal Pictures Tumblr Oscars HFPA Star Wars best dark CMT political drama screenings Paramount SundanceTV jamie lee curtis Walt Disney Pictures popular know your critic Hallmark Christmas movies universal monsters cancelled Amazon Studios Sony Pictures nbcuniversal 72 Emmy Awards king arthur young adult new star wars movies GoT Nominations Binge Guide posters Awards venice slasher talk show singing competition 20th Century Fox summer TV Prime Video Alien Netflix game of thrones superhero 93rd Oscars sag awards Lifetime Disney+ Disney Plus art house APB ABC Signature jurassic park Hallmark award winner Vudu thriller video on demand genre Certified Fresh spider-verse new york Video Games movies south america Starz black MSNBC 90s adaptation A&E First Reviews legend Shudder slashers Tomatazos Comedy children's TV Rocketman Pirates james bond E! Disney OWN Super Bowl 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards mutant joker rt labs critics edition Interview Tubi SXSW 2022 dramedy spy thriller Funimation WGN ESPN Masterpiece The Walking Dead X-Men satire robots franchise mission: impossible Pet Sematary rotten movies we love feel good crossover TV Land razzies marvel comics unscripted Superheroe spanish language Valentine's Day cinemax Best Director what to watch TV movies Fall TV cancelled TV shows harry potter all-time President IFC Winners comic books DC streaming service Grammys Schedule Comedy Central dceu stand-up comedy social media toy story Shondaland hidden camera Avengers Chilling Adventures of Sabrina suspense quibi scene in color IMDb TV tv talk space Academy Awards