best film:  George Clooney is not front and center in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998) – Nick Nolte, Elias Koetas, Sean Penn, and Jim Caviezel stand out from the rest – but Clooney has a scene – and he handles himself well in it – even if this film cannot be considered a big part of his resume. The all-star cast ensembled is one of the best of the late 20th century. It is said that the actors lined many offering to work for free or nothing, for the enigmatic Malick. Massive stars like John Travolta (certainly a big name coming off of his Pulp Fiction renaissance in the 1990s – and Clooney himself (just becoming a star really in 1998) are used for a single scene. Clooney is the clear second fiddle to Sandra Bullock in 2013’s Gravity from the great Alfonso Cuarón – but still –  there is more for him there than The Thin Red Line. In Gravity, the star power pays off – Clooney is instantly charming (few on screen have ever had the ability exude charm as easy as Clooney has over his career) and good old Sandy Bullock (not an overly talented actress per se) is instantly relatable and sympathetic. This is an example of narrative short cut star casting at its finest. If one is looking for a film starring Clooney for this category – Out of Sight (1998) from Steven Soderbergh or O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) from the Coen brothers are the strongest options.


best performance: Out of Sight but Michael Clayton may be an acceptable answer as well. Clooney taps into his trademark charm more so in the former than the latter. Clooney’s Jack Foley in Out of Sight is a role Paul Newman could have knocked out of the park in the mid to late 1960s when Newman was at his prime – just passed that angry young man role phase in Newman’s career. Foley is Clooney’s Butch Cassidy – an endlessly affable outlaw. Out of Sight, with those brilliant freeze frames,  is one of Soderbergh’s best films – and it makes for one hell of a coming out party for Clooney in 1998 as he was breaking into cinema stardom after becoming a television star a few years prior. Clooney is just so smooth – making it all look easy – but Clooney’s talent should not be taken for granted because he makes it look so easy.


if there was any trepidation of George Clooney’s ability to cross over from television to film – it was put to bed quickly – Clooney here as Jack Foley in Steven Soderbergh’s (during his peak stretch) Out of Sight (1998)


stylistic innovations/traits:  George Clooney was born in 1961 – and worked his way up from television in the 1980s and 1990s before becoming an A-lister (so much so as to headline a film and eventual franchise with Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon flanking him in support). George Clooney’s good looks and charisma come to mind first – and that confidence that was built to be a leading man.   Clooney is the perfect choice to take on the Frank Sinatra role of Danny Ocean in Ocean’s Eleven (the original is far from being a masterpiece). Clooney is not swallowed up by or scared off by Sinatra’s swagger and carries the assuredness of Danny Ocean. The best of the three films is Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) with a great scene at dusk on the strip with Brad Pitt and Clooney talking about old Vegas. Clooney’s filmography during that nearly twenty (20) year stretch from 1998 to 2016 is impressive – sixteen (16) archiveable films with four (4) Oscar acting nominations (a win for Syriana – and nobody thinks that is his best work) during that time. Half of those sixteen (16) films are with the Coen brothers (they tend to cast him as a buffoon and accentuate his screwball comedic talents – a la Cary Grant – and certainly that is an actor to bring up and compare here with Clooney) and Steven Soderbergh. There is quality work from Clooney spilling out of that top five (5) – Up in the Air, for one, is a performance to be proud of, and it does not make the cut. Clooney, the actor, has been a little hobbled by Clooney the director – a pedestrian career (Good Night, and Good Luck is his one film as a director that does not feel like its just a waste of a talented cast and crew). Also – and it is bad luck more than anything else, but out of his four (4) films with the Coen brothers, two (2) of them have been at, or near, the very bottom of the Coen brother’s filmography (Hail, Caesar!, Intolerance Cruelty) – unfortunate.


Michael Clayton (2007) – Clooney (as the titular Clayton) gets grittier than Cary Grant may ever been asked to here. The climax finale is pitch perfect with Clooney’s  “I’m not the guy you kill” speech and his walk off and drive away scene with that long take hold.


directors worked with:  Steven Soderbergh (4), the Coen brothers (4), Terrence Malick (1), David O. Russell (1),  Alexander Payne (1), Alfonso Cuarón (1). Four (4) Coen brothers films, in particular, is something to brag about – it just so ill-fated that none of those films land in the best eight (8) films of the Coen’s career.


Clooney as Everett – the Coen brother’s Odysseus character in the update and re-envisioning of Homer’s Odyssey.  O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000 arrives during Clooney’s best stretch of his career. Clooney’s range is not his strongest asset – he always plays versions of his trademark persona – but to go from Out of Sight to Three Kings to O Brother, Where Art Thou? to Ocean’s Eleven in a four (4) year stretch from 1998 to 2001 is a magnificent run.


top five performances:

  1. Out of Sight
  2. Michael Clayton
  3. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  4. Ocean’s Eleven
  5. Three Kings


archiveable films

1998- Out of Sight
1998- The Thin Red Line
1999- Three Kings
2000- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
2001- Ocean’s Eleven
2003- Intolerable Cruelty
2005- Good Night and Good Luck
2005- Syriana
2006- The Good German
2007- Michael Clayton
2007- Ocean’s Thirteen
2008- Burn After Reading
2009- Up in the Air
2011- The Descendants
2013- Gravity
2016- Hail, Caesar!