Matthew McConaughey came up big at the 86th Academy Awards when he took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role for his performance in “Dallas Buyers Club.” If someone had told you that Matthew McConaughey would be an Academy Award winner, or even a nominee, before 2011, you would have laughed or asked if they’ve been living out a scene from “Dazed and Confused.” While the Texas-born actor has always had talent – check out the aforementioned film, “A Time to Kill,” and “We Are Marshall,” – he was known for relying on his stunning good looks to carry him through rom-coms. Matthew McConaughey took a break after “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and emerged as one of the most prolific actors of our time, giving us some of the best performances of his or any career in a very brief time span and inspiring people to call it “The McConaughssance.” Here is a look back on the brilliant performances of Matthew McConaughey leading up to his Academy Award for Best Actor at the 86th Academy Awards.
Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
After Matthew McConaughey’s two-year hiatus from film, he reemerged as an attorney in the gripping “Lincoln Lawyer.” While his portrayal of Jake Brigance in “A Time to Kill” made him a star, the role was a straight-forward hero part, whereas his part in “Lincoln Lawyer” was much more complex and layered, showing off the actor’s ability to play multi-dimensional characters. The McConaughssance was underway.
Matthew McConaughey got his start playing Wooderson in “Dazed and Confused” and two decades later he reunited with director Richard Linklater for this Texas-set black comedy. The indie-film showed off more of McConaughey’s brilliant ability to play complex, multi-faceted characters with deep-rooted motivations.
Magic Mike (2012)
Critics and Matt Damon have long picked on Matthew McConaughey for liking to take his shirt off so when he played a stripper named Dallas he was leaving himself open for fodder. Pre-2012 Matthew McConaughey would likely have gotten by on his good looks alone but post-McConaughssance Matthew McConaughey delivered a layered performance that earned critical praise.
Killer Joe (2012)
William Friedkin, best known for directing “The Exorcist,” lent his direction to this gritty black comedy. Matthew McConaughey played a manipulative, double-crossing detective and the performance was simply spectacular. The film garnered critical acclaim on the festival circuit and hushed any doubts about the legitimacy of the McConaughssance.
Mark Twain would have approved of this beautiful coming-of-age film and critics put their seal of approval on the southern-set tale as evidenced by the movie competing for the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The McConaughssance was hitting its stride.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
“Dallas Buyers Club” is a once-in-a-lifetime film for an actor and a movie that can best be described as career defining. Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of Ron Woodruff is marvelous and the way the actor captures the nuances of the character and sells his development is captivating. This performance earned the Texas-born actor the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 86th Academy Awards and made “McConaughssance” a household expression. The average person’s opinion of Matthew McConaughey’s acting ability had changed forever and he was no longer the dude from that rom-com.
Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Although Matthew McConaughey only appears in this Martin Scorsese film for a brief time, the actor makes the most of his camera time and delivers one of the film’s most memorable moments. He shines in a small role just as he did in “Dazed and Confused” except for this time he did so in a true Hollywood blockbuster.
True Detective (2014)
Rust Cohle’s deeply troubled character and existentialist dialogue are the stuff of screenwriting legend, but they would fall flat in the hands of a lesser actor. Matthew McConaughey won over legions of fans with his spellbinding performance in this HBO drama, solidifying the importance of the McConaughssance on the film AND television world.
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