Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, actor Matt Damon has shown talent right from the start, from his early days as a drama student to his first big break in Mystic Pizza in 1998. While Damon’s acting career may have been a little slow to take off in the early days, today Damon has stared in over 79 movies and has won countless awards with some of his latest including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in The Martian (2016), a People’s Choice Award for Favourite Actor (2008) and one of his older but most acclaimed awards being the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (1998), in which Damon co-wrote the script for the film as well as staring in it.
While Damon most prominently stars in Action movies, his diverse range of acting skills have meant that he’s also landed parts in a range of other films belonging to Drama, Science Fiction and Comedy. Below are some of the top scenes that Damon has featured in over the years.
The Talented Mr Ripley – 1999
In this dark thriller by Patricia Highsmith, Damon faced perhaps one of his toughest challenges in his early acting career as he played a psychotic chameleon that struggled with aspects of his identity. The film was considered one of the most stylish cinematic creations of the late 90’s in which is transported its viewers to the glamorous Italian Riviera. However the scenes were juxtaposed by the devious young character Tom Ripley, who took the audience on a whirlwind roller-coaster ride of emotions as he slipped in and out of different personalities.
So why did Damon get the leading role? When questioned about this, writer and director Anthony Minghella explained that Damon had a warmth, generosity and air of credibility that allowed the audience to bond with the character just enough to follow him through his psychotic episodes. As a highly complex character to play, Minghella went through a gruellingly long audition process, in which even Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role before Damon begged for it. One of the things that grabbed Minghella’s attention was that Damon was also a fellow screenplay writer, in which his previous works ‘Good Will Hunting’ was enough to reassure him that Damon could think about the character on a deeper level.
The film went on to make over $130 million at the box office and was up for a staggering five Oscar nominations. At over 20 years old, the film is still a big hit today and is one of Damon’s most famous titles.
Rounders – 1998
In what’s thought of as one of the best poker movies around, Matt Damon plays the loyal yet edgy Mike McDermott as a talented young poker player. The first scene opens to an unfortunate incident where Mike looses his $30,000 bankroll in a tense game of Texas Hold’em. After this event Mike decides to stop playing poker and stick to his studies at law school, influenced to stay on the straight and narrow by his love interest. However, this all changes when his childhood friend is released from jail and convinces Mike to start playing again in order to help him get out of debt.
The film offers us a rare insight into the poker underworld with tense scenes that grip the audience from the beginning. As in The Talented Mr Riplet, Damon captivates the hearts of viewers right from the opening scenes with his shining morality and innocence that put him in good stead for the remainder of the film.
Saving Private Ryan – 1998
Directed by the famous Steven Spielberg, this War Drama is once that’s stood out over the past two decades; receiving a total of 11 Academy Award nominations and picking up five. While he played a small role, Damon left a powerful emotional impact as he played the role of a heartbroken soldier who after losing his brothers in war, stayed determined to remain on the battlefield with what he described as ‘the only brothers he had left’. The closing scenes depict Damon as he’s much older and with a family, visiting the grave of ‘Miller’, a fellow soldier and brother. It’s here that Damon makes a powerful salute, leaving the audience with a lump in their throats as the grief echoes out of Damon’s character.
It’s a real tearjerker, but still one of Damon’s best performances and well worth a watch.
Good Will Hunting – 1997
Not only did Damon play a leading role in Good Will Hunting, he was also a screenwriter, in which the film was adapted from one of Damon’s early works that he’s submitted in college. As an arrogant but troubled genius, Damon again managed to charm the audience in another complex character role that lead to his rising fame.
Critics commented that Good Will Hunting was side-splittingly funny yet also quietly devastating, in which Damon delivered a breakthrough performance.
Overall, Damon has had quite a career, in which at the age of 50 he can attest to staring in a huge range of genres and some rather challenging roles throughout the years.