Week of Favorites: Actors

The great thing about film is that there are so many aspects to appreciate, favoring specific tracks on soundtracks to cinematographers to performances to directors. Another great part about film is that it’s always evolving, introducing new actors, rehashing old story plots, improving technology. There are always new and old films to watch and rewatch, new introductions to characters to be made, new soundtracks worth listening to, and so on.

After a stroke of writers’ block, I decided to get back to the basics and post my “Favorite Five” of various film categories each day this week, today starting with my five current favorite actors. While over time (and with more films to view), I’m sure my favorites will change over time, but for now, these are my five six favorites. Stay tuned for favorite actresses, films, and other favorite lists coming up this week.

6. James Franco

I’m of the belief that James Franco will become one of the best actors of the younger generations. He’s still only in his 30s, but he already has a rocking resume that boasts plenty of potential. He’s done everything successfully, from the big screen to the small screen to soaps to hosting the Oscars, and yet he pulls it all off with incredible charisma. I really enjoyed him playing the sharp, confused Harry Osborne in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, although I was especially blown away by his Oscar performance in 127 Hours. I still laugh at him in Never Been Kissed, watching the then-unfamous, unrecognized Franco spout off a couple forgettable one-liners in the background. Who would have figured him to have embodied James Dean only two years later? There’s loads more of positive things I could say about him, so I would direct you to my spotlight post on him here.

5. Tom Cruise

Coming in at my number 5 slot is none other than Tom Cruise. He may not be the most popular person in real life, but on screen, he’s one of my favorites. I tend to lean more toward his 90s or early 2000s films, such as A Few Good MenVanilla Sky, and my favorite of his, Jerry McGuire. He also established himself through the Mission Impossible franchise, his latest film hitting theaters only in December of last year. He’s versatile enough to be playing action hero or dramatic lead, and he brings an intensity to each role that he plays. I found him unusually funny in Interview with the Vampire, easily outdoing his popular co-star Brad Pitt. Although Risky Business wasn’t my favorite film, I still appreciated Cruise’s hilarious performance back when he was younger. The guy ceases to age physically, as Richard Roeper tweeted during the Oscars that Cruise has aged at least 3 years in the past 30.

4. Matt Damon

Matt Damon is another hard hitter, although he’s often overlooked for George Clooney or Brad Pitt. While both the latter are good actors in their own ways, there’s this drama and insight that I see more in Damon. He embodied a newer, more interesting, James Bond-like character as Jason Bourne in the Bourne series, but he really won me over with his stunning and moving performance in Good Will Hunting. He’s transitioned from action star to more fatherly roles in his more recent films, and he balances them well. He works well as both a supporting and leading man in film, and I’m excited to see what else he has up his sleeve.

3. Will Smith

Part of me leans toward Smith because I grew up watching Fresh Prince and I dug his humor. He lights up the screen in whatever film he’s in. Smith either fights off the bad guys or moves you to tears. He also does a nice job of staying out of the limelight despite being married to an incredible actress and raising two kids that are turning in careers of their own. Since 2005, Smith has acted as producer for all of the films he’s collaborated with. My favorite films of his are currently Hitch and The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith is one of the few actors who seem to hold a strong grip on comedy, action, and drama films, making him one of the more flexible actors in Hollywood today. I don’t care much for the Men in Black franchise, but I look forward to him taking on newer projects in the future.

2. Jim Carrey

One of my favorite actors of all time is Jim Carrey. He tends to play character actors in most of humorous roles, but he’s also created new funny guys such as Bruce Almighty. Carrey is probably known best for his funniest films: Liar Liar, Dumb and Dumber, or The Cable Guy. It’s often said that comedic actors struggle to cross over into drama; that may be true, but Carrey would be an exception. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Truman Show to The Majestic to The Number 23, Carrey could be considered a dramatic actor every bit as much of a comedic one. He’s turned in multiple performances that make you question how someone can so effectively walk the line between comedy and drama and come out as successful as he has on both ends.

1. Tom Hanks

When I was thinking through some of my favorite actors, Tom Hanks was the first to come to mind. I grew up watching him in Big and Turner and Hooch and Sleepless in Seattle, and I loved how he was really the everyman in his films. I’ve always found Hanks to be a relatable guy in most of the roles he embodied, and that’s what always attracted me to his films. He’s won two Oscars and I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t through with winning big awards yet. He’s starred in some of the most memorable films, from Forrest Gump to The Green Mile to Philadelphia to one of my favorite films of his, Saving Private Ryan. He seems to have done a little bit of everything, from voicing the iconic animated character Woody in the incredibly successful Pixar franchise Toy Story, to working with CGI animation in The Polar Express, to bringing The Da Vinci Code books to life, to playing a man stuck in an airport in The Terminal. Hanks is one of those actors who will do most anything, even gaining a significant amount of weight, acting against himself, and talking to a volleyball in my favorite film of his, Cast Away.

Who are your favorite actors? What makes them so good to you? Who holds your top spot?

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26 thoughts on “Week of Favorites: Actors

  1. Nice list. This is something I plan on doing in the future as well. I did notice my favorite current actor didn’t make your list. I’ll share who it is soon. 🙂 Hanks is a nice choice. You hit on what stands out about him. It’s his range. Whether it be a World War 2 soldier, a mentally challenged man, a mob hitman, a comedian, a voice for an animated picture, he has done (and succefully) so much.

    Great write-up as always!

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    • Ha! I’m curious about who your favorite actor is now, Keith! Yeah, Hanks is just great. I can’t help but love him on screen, and like you said, he’s very versatile, yet he plays each character so well. Thanks, Keith! Looking forward to finding out who your favorites are!

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  2. There are currently *no* actors who will get me into a movie theatre just because they are in the flick. But here are a few that come close…

    Ryan Gosling
    Michael Shannon
    John Hawkes
    Jeremy Renner
    Brad Pitt
    Paul Giamatti
    Phil Seymour Hoffman
    and George Clooney

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    • That’s an interesting thought, Ryan. Believe it or not, most of these actors typically aren’t my reason to go see a film, if they’re in them. Occasionally they are, but I had to think hard because it’s more actors like Cillian Murphy or JGL or Matt Bomer or Ryan Reynolds (I could go on) that get me into the theater because I enjoy getting to look at beautiful men on the big screen, haha.

      Nice list! Gosling really came through last year and I watch him more carefully now than I used to. And it looks like Ides of March definitely had you in the theater with Giamatti, Seymour Hoffman, and Clooney on your list.

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  3. Really great list. I’m with you on Tom Cruise. Whatever his personal life is all about he’s done some excellent work in some brilliant films. You can’t ignore that.

    With you on Matt Damon too. I can’t remember what made me take notice of him. I remember being taken aback by his performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was amazed by his transformation to action actor in the Bourne films and his performance in Good Will Hunting was nothing short of amazing. And as well as this, he comes across so warm and genuine in interviews and behind the scenes things.

    Oh and Will Smith too! I was and still consider myself to be a Fresh Prince fan. I’ll never not be. But he’s got an incredible amount of charisma and huge load of talent. I was floored by his performance in Ali and yet I love watching him in Bad Boys.

    Who’d be on my list? Eep, that’s tricky! What I think these actors that I’ve mentioned have in common is there ability to be incredibly versatile. I like it when actors can do their “thing” but it really makes an actor if they can do all sorts, and well.

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    • Exactly! Glad to know you feel the same. I think too often actors’ personal lives interfere with their careers and people focus more on what the person is like in real life versus his/her screen work. Unfortunately the two cross paths too often and people avoid certain films because “that person” is in it and “that person” did stupid things in real life.

      Damon definitely switches gears well from action to drama genres. He really makes you care for him on screen. I think it’s that genuine side of him that comes across in interviews that also flows onto the screen, making him very likable.

      Definitely a Fresh Prince fan still too! I love his goofy sense of humor. You definitely called it by saying how much charisma Smith has. It’s his money point and what makes him so likable in each movie he’s in. He can make you laugh or cry very easily.

      I’m right with you on that. Versatility is such an admirable trait to have as an actor. It makes actors more well-known, gets their name out there more, and gets them more jobs in the end. None would be so successful without that ability. And really, isn’t that what makes an actor? To not be a one-trick pony, but a jack of many trades? I mean, gosh, look at James Franco. The dude does it all.

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  4. Nice list Kristin! Right with you on Hanks and Carrey. Both greats. Cruise has definitely been great in some things… Last Samurai and MI4 were both very impressive. Damon and Smith both great but not in enough of my fave films!

    Edward Norton’s my favourite. Also love a bit of Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio, Vincent Cassel, Robert Downey Jr, Kevin Spacey, Djimon Hounsou (though don’t see enough of him!) and Bruce Willis. Loving Ryan’s list above too. Wow we’re spoiled for choice! Nice work on narrowing it down to 5!

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    • Thanks, Pete!

      Glad to hear some of your favorites, Pete! A great list too. Definitely a fan of Edward Norton. He so capably plays both villains and heroes. Kevin Spacey is a riot as well, and RDJ is almost impossible not to like! Glad to see Leo on your list – I wish he got more credit. He’s put in so many great performances, it’s a wonder he hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar yet. No kidding! It was difficult to get it down to 5.

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  5. Billy Crudup’s my #1. All the way. And I will go see a movie just because he’s in it (which is why I just went and saw Thin Ice). He does some really weird movies, but I like that. He almost always seems to be challenging himself.

    And Matt Damon has actually become #2. He, like Crudup, is just so versatile. As each year passes he proves he can do more and more. Like comedy! Matt Damon is so funny! I honestly think he’s the funniest actor working right now, he just doesn’t always choose to do comedies.

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    • Crudup’s a fun, interesting choice. Definitely says a little bit about the kind of movie buff you are 🙂 It’s enjoyable to watch an actor try different things and not constantly play the same type of character ever film.

      Definitely a fan of versatility for an actor’s qualities – I think it makes him more likable and interesting to watch on screen, because who knows, you might be surprised when watching! Haha, I know he’s done some stuff on 30 Rock; never really considered him to be a super funny guy, although I’m sure he has a good sense of humor.

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  6. Nice post, Kris! I look forward to your other Favorites posts 🙂

    Well, none of these actors would make my list but I’ve grown to appreciate Matt Damon more lately. I REALLY like the Bourne trilogy so that makes me like him more, plus he seems like a good sport and has a good sense of humor.

    Tom Cruise is fun to watch in certain films, especially in action stuff like the latest MI movie. Hanks is likeable in most of the stuff I’ve seen him in, but lately I’m not interested in his movies. As for Carrey and Wil Smith, well can’t say I’m a fan. I only like them in a few things, The Truman Show and Independence Day respectively.

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    • Thanks, Ruth!

      Definitely – I think Matt Damon is almost a universal favorite. He has a lot going for him, and even some of the lighter, not as good films he chooses to be in, he still seems to shine in his role and bring something fresh and moving to the character.

      I feel like Hanks has had such a tremendous career, that he really hasn’t put out anything worthwhile (that is, in comparison to everything else) in several years. In my mind, it’s almost like he’s done his due, and now he’s just going to do whatever floats his boat. Can I give you a Jim Carrey film recommendation? I really enjoyed him in The Majestic. Perhaps you’ve already seen it or aren’t a fan, but if you haven’t, I think you might enjoy his character in it. Oh, and I love both The Truman Show and Independence Day!

      I think it’s great having different favorite actors. For myself, a lot of my favorite films and favorite performances often just happen to come at a certain time and they really stick with me. Some performances and characters you really just connect with or are attracted to (not in a physical sense). I think the other side of that coin is the films that you have seen. You can really draw only from what you have witnessed, so I feel that as a person in the beginning part of movie geekness (like that phrase? hahaha), I still have a lot to view, and then form opinions about. I can imagine some moving on or off the list in the next 5 years. It’s one of my favorite things about film – it’s constantly evolving (while still using many of the same techniques), and new people are introduced to us through the screen almost every week. I’d love to hear who some of your favorites are; I have a GREAT feeling Gerard Butler and Gregory Peck make your list 🙂

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      • Hi Kris, I’ll look up The Majestic. I think I prefer Carrey in less slapstick roles as it gets too overwhelming for me when he does his schtick. I did enjoy Ace Ventura, etc. but those types of comedies get old fast.

        Hanks is always watchable in anything. I mean, two of my fave rom-coms are Sleepless in Seattle & You’ve Got Mail and he’s just so wonderful in them. However, I’m also impressed with his more serious roles like in Road to Perdition and Philadelphia. He’s so likable in interviews, too!

        You’re right that a lot of the actors I like have more to do with the performances that speak to me. I mean, I fell for Butler in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ as I was so taken by his ‘tortured soul’ portrayal, as for Gregory, I must say I was struck by his incredible beauty 😀 But then I found out he’s beautiful in the inside as well with all the charity work he’s done. I tend to be very loyal when I like people though, I’ve been a fan of Gerry for 6 yrs now and I think I’ll forever be a Gregory Peck fan.

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        • Makes sense. Most of my friends enjoy Carrey either all comedic or all dramatic. I think he does both genres justice, although as I’ve told someone else on here, if I had to choose, I would prefer to watch him display his dramatic chops.

          I know! I think Tom Hanks is just one of the most likable guys, and I’m with you in that when you’re a fan of the person in real life, you tend to enjoy and respect the person more on screen. Haha, and some nice looks don’t hurt as well 🙂 I love your loyalty and admiration for these actors and think it’s neat that you appreciate really great actors who also happen to be really great people.

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  7. It feels like you are really old school with kind of the big pow-wow of who is who in Hollywood… 10 years ago ahah 😉 For the most part, I like your picks, they are all likable on-screen for a reason and that’s why they are huge movie stars. Right now, I’m really liking Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender and those 2 certainly could be where the Hanks, Damon and co. in 5 or 10 years time.

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    • Haha, you read me well, Castor! It’s true. I’m definitely a big fan of some of the younger and up and coming people, like Gosling and Fassbender, and even James Franco. I had to put down the actors who I’ve personally enjoyed in multiple performances in order to consider them my favorites. I think you make an excellent point – these younger guys will definitely be considered the “old Hollywood” in the next 10+ years.

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  8. Cruise, Damon and Smith are always favorites of mine. I’ve never been such a big fan of Hanks and I’m not really sure why. I really liked Carrey in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine, but when he goes slapstick I tend to be less impressed.

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    • Hey there! Glad to see we share some favorites. I think Jim Carrey is one of those actors that people really like one way or the other. Some of my friends much prefer only his funny side, while others can only take him when he’s playing a more serious role. If I had to choose a side of him, I’d go for the more dramatic side, although I do think he’s pretty hilarious in Yes Man, Liar Liar, and Dumb and Dumber.

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  9. My favorite actors would have to include: Tom Cruise (awesome in everything he’s in, doing pretty much all of his own stunts and being a good singer), Colin Firth, Christian Bale, James Franco, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, and Tom Hanks.

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    • Haha, Tom Cruise, Colin Firth, and Christian Bale–I knew those three were coming. And it’s hard to not love Mortensen and McKellen after LOTR. Mortensen was the heart and soul of those films and McKellen was brilliant as Gandalf (can’t wait to see him in The Hobbit). I wasn’t as big of a fan of McKellen in the X-Men series, though. James Franco was very close to making it on my list, and probably would have been the number 6 spot. I’m a little surprised to see Hanks on your list, but I definitely understand – he’s great!

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