Total Recall

Kevin Bacon's Best-Reviewed Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we look back at the most acclaimed films of the star of The Darkness.

by | May 11, 2016 | Comments

From starring roles in flicks like Footloose to memorable cameos in films such as JFK, Kevin Bacon has been pretty much all over Hollywood during his 35-year professional acting career, working so prolifically that he eventually inspired his own game. With that in mind, when we noticed Bacon’s name in the cast list for this weekend’s The Darkness, we knew exactly what we had to do. Everything is better with Bacon, so let’s start the countdown!


A Few Good Men (1992) 83%

A-Few-Good-Men
Inspired by a real-life incident related to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin by his sister, a onetime member of the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, A Few Good Men united an attention-getting cast, a tightly written script, and some of Rob Reiner’s sharpest direction to produce one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of 1992 (TIME’s Richard Schickel called it “An extraordinarily well-made movie, which wastes no words or images in telling a conventional but compelling story”). Although Men is mostly remembered today for its climactic courtroom scene, featuring Jack Nicholson as an enraged colonel who snaps under questioning and accuses the young lawyer questioning him (Tom Cruise) of not being able to handle the truth, it’s actually a pretty solid dramatic thriller all the way around — and it added links to a few more stars in Bacon’s growing resume, thanks to his supporting role as opposing counsel Captain Jack Ross.

Watch Trailer


Tremors (1990) 86%

Tremors
A cheerfully amiable B-movie creature feature with modern-day trappings, 1990’s Tremors dropped Bacon in the middle of a wonderfully eclectic cast (including Reba McEntire and Big Trouble in Little China legend Victor “Egg Shen” Wong) to tell the story of a small town whose sleepy existence is disrupted by a rumbling passel of giant subterranean monsters. Although it wasn’t a major hit during its theatrical release, it went on to enjoy cult status, spawning a (lamentably Bacon-free) succession of sequels and a TV series. The secret of its enduring appeal, according to Rob Vaux of the Flipside Movie Emporium, lies in “The blueprint for how to do projects like this right: care about your material, but don’t lose your sense of humor.”

Watch Trailer


Mystic River (2003) 88%

Mystic-River
With Clint Eastwood behind the camera, Brian Helgeland writing the script from a Dennis Lehane book, and a cast packed with reliable names like Sean Penn, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Laurence Fishburne, you’re pretty much guaranteed a terrific movie — and that’s exactly what filmgoers got with 2003’s Mystic River, which not only earned over $150 million at the box office, but won a pair of Academy Awards and a stack of honors from other organizations. Fishburne played Whitey Powers, Massachusetts state police sergeant and partner of Sean Devine (played by Bacon); over the course of the film, the duo investigates the murder of a girl whose father, Jimmy Markum (Penn), is not only a local gangster, but one of Devine’s closest childhood friends. Complicating matters even further is the nagging suspicion that the crime may have been committed by Dave Boyle (Robbins), Jimmy’s brother-in-law — and another of Sean’s old friends. It sounds like the stuff of bullet-riddled melodrama, but few mainstream authors spin literary gold out of pulp as reliably as Lehane, and with Eastwood’s flinty direction providing a solid foundation for his stellar cast, River deserved the praise of critics such as Cole Smithey, who pronounced, “American drama doesn’t get any more meaty and muscular than this.”

Watch Trailer


X-Men: First Class (2011) 86%

X-Men-First-Class
While Bacon is certainly no stranger to effects-driven films — heck, he spent a substantial portion of 2000’s Hollow Man as an invisible man — he managed to avoid doing time in a comic book movie until 2011’s X-Men: First Class, which rebooted the moribund franchise by taking the characters back to their beginnings as a freshly assembled team of mutant superheroes. The reason for their coming together? The threat posed by Sebastian Shaw (Bacon), an energy-absorbing sociopath (and former Nazi to boot) who plans on taking over the world. A major box-office hit as well as a perfect opportunity for Bacon to chew some scenery, it also resonated with critics like the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern, who wrote, “Preaching mutant pride with endearing fervor, X-Men: First Class proves to be a mutant in its own right — a zestfully radical departure from the latter spawn of a sputtering franchise.”

Watch Trailer


The Woodsman (2004) 88%

The-Woodsman
Actors often sign up to play unappealing characters in order to highlight their diversity — and they don’t come much more unappealing than “ex-con child molester,” all of which is to say that it took a certain amount of guts for Bacon to step into the role of a tormented pedophile struggling to put his life back together in 2004’s The Woodsman. Picking up after his release from prison and focusing on his awkward efforts to build new relationships and move on from the dark secrets of his past, it can be undeniably difficult to watch; as far as most critics were concerned, however, that discomfort paid rich dividends. “To watch this picture is to feel,” pointed out the Globe and Mail’s Rick Groen, “and what you’re feeling is an intense swirl of conflicting emotions — disturbed, creeped-out, sorry, and, yes, even moved.”

Watch Trailer


The Big Picture (1989) 87%

The-Big-Picture
Before he developed into a full-fledged cult favorite with movies like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, Christopher Guest made his directorial debut with The Big Picture, a cameo-laden showbiz satire about a young, talented director (Bacon) who learns the hard way that studio politics often wreak havoc on everything from a film’s storyline to a filmmaker’s career. Fittingly, Picture saw its own release derailed when the studio president who greenlit it was fired, but even during its limited theatrical run, it found an enthusiastic audience with critics like Chris Hicks of the Deseret News, who wrote, “All in all this is a terrific comedy that punctures Hollywood’s pretentiousness but is never mean-spirited about it.”

Watch Trailer


Diner (1982) 93%

Diner
It may seem a little hard to believe in today’s superhero-driven cinematic landscape, but once upon a time, major studios actually did release movies that were about nothing more than ordinary people doing relatively ordinary things. Case in point: Diner, the low-key 1982 character study that acted as the first installment of writer/director Barry Levinson’s series of Baltimore films. Focused on the lives and loves of a group of friends, the narrative begins in 1959, using a series of vignettes to illustrate the way their relationships change; it’s pretty straightforward stuff, but it’s expertly grounded by Levinson’s marvelous script and sensitive direction, not to mention stellar work from a terrific cast of up-and-comers that included Bacon, Ellen Barkin, Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly, and Paul Reiser. Observed a prescient Janet Maslin for the New York Times, “Movies like Diner — fresh, well-acted and energetic American movies by new directors with the courage of their convictions — are an endangered species.”

Watch Trailer


National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) 90%

Animal-House
Nine times out of 10, scoring a role in a T&A-fueled college sex comedy isn’t a terribly auspicious beginning for a young actor, but in Kevin Bacon’s case, his appearance as the smug Chip Diller in 1978’s Animal House made for a memorable debut — as well as a hugely successful opportunity for a young actor to cut his cinematic teeth with a cast and crew that included such stellar talents as John Belushi, Donald Sutherland, Harold Ramis, and John Landis. Although it didn’t immediately lead to bigger film parts for Bacon, who’d end up in Friday the 13th and daytime serials over the next few years, it marked a solid opening chapter in what would turn into a distinguished career — and provided plenty of laughs for Roger Ebert, who wrote, “The movie is vulgar, raunchy, ribald, and occasionally scatological. It is also the funniest comedy since Mel Brooks made The Producers.”

Watch Trailer


Frost/Nixon (2008) 93%

Frost-Nixon
Ron Howard’s best-reviewed film in ages, 2009’s Frost/Nixon adapts the Peter Morgan play that dramatized British broadcaster David Frost’s (played by Michael Sheen) efforts to secure and sell a series of TV interviews with the politically exiled former president (portrayed by Frank Langella) — in spite of a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, not the least of which were the loud doubts expressed by Nixon’s chief of staff Jack Brennan (Bacon). Although plenty of pundits took umbrage at the way Morgan’s screenplay took liberties with the actual events that inspired the film, for the vast majority of critics, Frost/Nixon‘s flaws seemed pretty minor when weighed against the script, direction, editing, completed picture, and Langella’s performance — all of which received Oscar nominations. For the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven Rea, it all added up to “A must-see for political junkies, history buffs, and folks still fascinated by the paranoia-fueled follies of the twitchy, sweaty, decidedly uncharismatic 37th president.”

Watch Trailer


Apollo 13 (1995) 96%

Apollo-13
This dramatization of NASA’s aborted 1970 lunar mission combined one of star Tom Hanks’ biggest personal passions — space travel — with Hollywood’s favorite thing: a blockbuster prestige picture. With a cast that featured a number of similarly prolific actors (among them Bacon, Ed Harris, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise), Apollo 13 probably would have made decent money even if it had played fast and loose with the real-life details of the launch, but director Ron Howard and his crew strove for verisimilitude, going so far as to shoot portions of the film in actual zero gravity. The result was a summertime smash that restored some of space travel’s luster for a jaded generation — and made for an exceedingly good filmgoing experience according to most critics, including Roger Ebert, who called it “a powerful story, one of the year’s best films, told with great clarity and remarkable technical detail, and acted without pumped-up histrionics.”

Watch Trailer

  • Douglas Dea

    JFK rated an 85 and should be on this list. Granted Bacon is in a minor role, a memorable one though.

    Flatliners only got 48 but I enjoyed it. I can see why most don’t though, it’s not an easy film and I can never remember the title.

  • Douglas Dea

    Glad to see some love for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

    Notting Hill… I dunno. I like it but that moment in the last quarter of the film really sours it for me, what her character says is borderline unforgivable to me.

    Surprised Erin Brokovich only gets an 84, I thought that was one of the best films of the year and best lawyer dramas I’ve seen. Maybe I just love seeing corporations getting kicked in the teeth.

    I’ve missed a few of these though and have some catching up to do.

  • obicera

    I really like the movie Taking Chance.

  • kozy21

    Apparently I liked The River Wild a lot more than other people cause it’s only 55% on here.

  • Osiris3657

    I’m surprised the 1996 film “Sleepers” didn’t make the list. Love that movie.

Tag Cloud

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