Total Recall

Total Recall: Kevin Bacon's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the R.I.P.D. star.

by | July 18, 2013 | Comments

Kevin Bacon

From starring roles in flicks like Footloose to memorable cameos in films like 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. But until now, he’s never had his own Total Recall — so when we noticed Bacon’s name in the cast list for this weekend’s R.I.P.D., we knew exactly what we had to do. Everything is better with Bacon, so let’s start the countdown!


10. 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.


9. 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.”


8. 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.”


7. 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.”


6. X-Men: First Class

While Kevin 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.”


5. National Lampoon’s 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.”


4. 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.”


3. 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.”


2. 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.”


1. 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.”

In case you were wondering, here are Bacon’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. National Lampoon’s Animal House — 88%

2. X-Men: First Class — 88%

3. Mystic River — 86%

4. Frost/Nixon — 86%

5. A Few Good Men — 83%

6. Sleepers — 81%

7. Apollo 13 — 78%

8. Murder in the First — 76%

9. Diner — 75%

10. Footloose — 73%

Take a look through Bacon’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for R.I.P.D..

Finally, here are the Bacon Brothers (featuring Kevin on vocals and guitar) jamming with Daryl Hall:

Tag Cloud

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