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10 Matthew McConaughey Movies That Are Alright, Alright, Alright!

From romantic comedies to serious dramas, McConaughey does it all!

Who would have thought a kid from Uvalde, Texas could coin a phrase that has become a legendary expression in our collective pop culture? Matthew McConaughey uttered “Alright, Alright, Alright” 30 thirty years ago while starring in 1993’s Dazed and Confused, where his character — a 20 something charmer — still hangs around the high school crowd.  Well, as far as Matthew McConaughey best movies are concerned, that was only the beginning. McConaughey has continued to charm audiences ever since with more than 70 acting credits, some of which have made this list of Matthew McConaughey best movies.

With his laid back, southern demeanor, the 54-year-old actor has proven himself capable of giving great performances in rom-coms, adventure stories, serious dramas and comedies. 

Following his appearance in the coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused, a number of supporting roles came his way. His first success as a leading man was in the legal drama A Time To Kill (1996), based on John Grisham’s courtroom crime novel. A year later, his career kicked up a notch with a lead role in the sci-fi film Contact and the historical drama Amistad (both 1997), followed by the war drama U-571 in 2000. 

Matthew McConaughey in 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days'
Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) Obst Productions

The 2000s saw a different side of the leading actor emerge, with romantic comedies arriving in quick succession, placing him into the sex symbol category: The Wedding Planner (2001), How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Failure to Launch (2006), Fool’s Gold (2008) and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009).

With such a hectic schedule, McConaughey took two years off from acting, but in 2011, started to tackle more dramatic roles, beginning with The Lincoln Lawyer. Then he thrilled audiences — and expanded his fan base — in 2012 when he starred as a stripper in Magic Mike, and a fugitive in Mud.

The next year proved to be a big one for McConaughey as well with his portrayal of Ron Woodroff, a cowboy diagnosed with AIDS, in the biopic Dallas Buyers Club. The role garnered widespread praise and an Oscar for McConaughey, simultaneously earning the film a great spot on this list of Matthew McConaughey best movies.

Magic Mike: Matthew McConaughey Best Movies
Matthew McConaughey in 2012’s Magic Mike©WBDiscovery/courtesy

Life wasn’t always sunshine and happiness, though. Born November 4, 1969 in Uvalde, Texas, he longed for a change from small town Texas scenery, and, having no interest in his father’s oil business, McConaughey moved to Australia in 1988, where he spent a year washing dishes and shoveling chicken manure.

Returning to Texas, he attended the University of Texas in Austin with ambitions of becoming a lawyer. However, he soon discovered the inspirational The Greatest Salesman in the World book and did an about face – he changed his major from law to film, getting started in student productions and commercials in Texas.

McConaughey has come far from his small town Texas roots and regional commercials, and what follows is a look at some of Matthew McConaughey best movies and his outstanding performances in a variety of film genres.

10 best Matthew McConaughey movies, ranked

10. Ed TV (1999)

Matthew McConaughey in ‘Ed TV’
Matthew McConaughey and Jenna Elfman in Ed TV (1999) Entertainment

Director Ron Howard takes on this quirky film that is reminiscent of today’s reality TV (and feels like a forerunner to the Big Brother series). A video clerk, McConaughey’s Ed Pekumy agrees to have his life filmed by a camera crew for a new television show focused on an Average Joe or Jane that will be broadcast 24/7.

Ed, it seems, is easy on the eyes and, at 31, has no ambition beyond his dead-end job, so he’s a perfect subject. Ed’s a hit, but begins to realize he might not want his daily life — warts and all — shown to the public in the pursuit of higher ratings. 

9. The Newton Boys (1998)

The cast of ‘The Newton Boys,' Matthew McConaughey best movies
Ethan Hawke, Matthew McConaughey, Vincent D’Onofrio and Skeet Ulrich in The Newton Boys (1998) Century Fox

Visiting his roots in this film, the movie is based on the true story of the Newton Gang, a family of bank and train robbers from Uvalde, Texas. The four Newton brothers are a poor farmer family in the 1920s, though the oldest boy comes to realize that there’s no future in the dirty fields and offers his brothers a chance to become bank robbers. The family soon agrees and they gain infamy in their newly chosen profession. In reality, the Newtons are noted for pulling off the greatest train robbery in American history. 

8. Amistad (1997)

Matthew McConaughey in Amistad (1997) Pictures

Any list of Matthew McConaughey best movies has to include his portrayal of lawyer Roger Sherman Baldwin in Steven Spielberg’s historical film Amistad. It’s about the 1839 revolt of Mende captives aboard La Amistad, a Spanish-owned slave ship that is captured off the coast of Long Island.

The courts are left to decide whether the Mende are slaves or free men, and Baldwin is brought on to defend the African men in court and proves they were sold to the Americas illegally. He and John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins) appear before the Supreme Court, arguing they were free citizens of another country and not slaves. A moment in history that audiences won’t soon forget.

7. Magic Mike (2012)

Matthew McConaughey in ‘Magic Mike’
Matthew McConaughey in ‘Magic Mike’ (2012) Horse Entertainment (II)

McConaughey reveals his six-pack in this film starring Channing Tatum, in which a group of well-chiseled male strippers work all day only to work it at night. He portrays Dallas, a former stripper who owns Xquisite, the strip club being explored in the film. The character is driven by hunger for profit above anything else, and doesn’t care who is stripping just so long as it brings in money. Although an actual strip scene was not originally written for his character, the actor asked for one that was later added. His performance earned him critical praise for its authenticity. 

6. A Time to Kill (1996)

'A Time to Kill'
Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock in A Time to Kill (1996) Regency Productions

This riveting film, which also stars Sandra Bullock, reveals Southern racial tensions after Tonya Hailey (RaeVen Kelly), a ten-year old African American girl, is abducted, raped and beaten by two local white men in Mississippi.

The young girl survives and the two men are arrested. In comes McConaughey as Jake Brigance, a white lawyer known to Tonya’s dad, Carl Lee (Samuel L. Jackson), who explains that the two men will probably walk free due to rampant racism in the South. Enraged by this possibility, Carl Lee opens fire in the county courthouse, killing both rapists, with Brigance then having to defend him. The whole scenario plays out in the national media, especially when Carl Lee ends up with an all-white jury.      

5. Lone Star (1996)

This suspenseful murder mystery film — made relatively early in his career — set in a small town in South Texas, features McConaughey alongside Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena and Kris Kristofferson. When the skeleton of his murdered predecessor is found 40 years after his disappearance, Sheriff Deeds (Cooper) uncovers many other long buried secrets in this Texas border town, the film refusing to shy away from exploring its complex characters. It was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the Best Films of 1996, certainly earning its place as one of Matthew McConaughey best movies.  

4. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Lawer in ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’
Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) Gate Films

A legal thriller adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly. McConaughey once again plays a criminal defense lawyer, this time named Mickey Haller, who works in Los Angeles County from the back of his chauffeured black Lincoln Town Car, which he prefers to an office setting. Usually Haller works for low-end criminals, but he is now hired to defend the son of a wealthy business woman in an assault case. Eventually this case intertwines with one of his older ones, the various twists turning this into a tense legal drama.

3. Mud (2012)

Matthew McConaughey in ‘Mud’
Matthew McConaughey in Mud (2012) Gate Films

Two young boys, Neckbone and Tye, set out to an island on the Mississippi River where Neckbone has discovered a boat high in the trees. So as young teens will do, they climb the tree and see that someone has been living in the boat. His name is Mud, and he’s a gritty, superstitious man on the run after killing someone.

In desperate need of help, he tells the boys he will give them the boat in exchange for food. But as things unfold, the film reveals itself to be more than the tale of two boys and Mud’s survival, with Tye questioning love and romance in the relationships closet to him. One of McConaughey’s least seen movies, the lines are blurred between him being a hero or villain as Mud is gradually revealed to be genuinely tormented.

2. Dazed and Confused (1993)

Matthew McConaughey in ‘Dazed and Confused’
Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused (1993) Pictures (I)

Gotta love this as one of the best Matthew McConaughey movies! The film follows a variety of teenagers on the last day of school in Austin, Texas in 1976, with him as the 20-year-old who hangs around with them. You would think the role was specifically written for the Texas native as he brings authenticity to the part.

Rather than feature a conflict or villain, the plot follows different social groups and character as they participate in hazing rituals, getting high, parties and a bit of romance. It’s definitely McConaughey’s break out role that almost didn’t happen. Alright, alright, alright!

1. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Cowboy in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Entertainment (II)

Set in the mid-1980s when the treatment of HIV/AIDS and the cause of its spread were misunderstood. It was also a time that saw most men who contracted it becoming the subject of stigmatization, the word AIDS rarely mentioned by politicians or the general public at all.

McConaughey is rodeo rider Ron Woodroof, who, after being diagnosed with the disease, smuggles unapproved drugs into Texas to treat his symptoms. He’s also distributing them to others suffering with AIDS through the establishment of the Dallas Buyers Club. Offering up a heartbreaking performance as Woodroof, McConaughey, who lost nearly 50 pounds in preparation, earned many acting awards, including an Oscar for Best Actor

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