A promising actor then a tabloid punchline and now an accomplished, Oscar-winning filmmaker, Ben Affleck has run the gamut of labels in Hollywood.
With the nostalgia of “Bennifer” roaring back in the past year, there’s some comfort in knowing the industry still believes the talented actor, director, writer and producer is worthy of attention.
To celebrate Ben Affleck’s 50 years around the sun, Variety ranks his 15 best film performances of his career.
Unfairly written off as the “other guy” next to childhood best friend Matt Damon at first, Affleck has more than proven himself to be one of our most capable and talented artists. Having already reflected on Affleck’s position following the releases of Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel” and George Clooney’s “The Tender Bar” in the Variety piece titled, “The Miseducation of Ben Affleck,” it’s clear that the California native, later turned Massachusetts staple, isn’t going anywhere.
Looking through his career, you must divide it into multiple chapters. The Affleck legacy begins with his stint as a childhood actor, landing roles in Burger King commercials and the PBS children’s series “The Voyage of the Mimi” in 1984.
While studying and directing student films at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he began making the rounds in ‘90s classics such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992), “School Ties” (1992) and “Mallrats” (1995). However, the big break came when Affleck and Damon wrote the drama “Good Will Hunting” (1997), directed by Gus Van Sant. The film grossed over $225 million at the box office, making the pair household names. For their writing efforts, the duo won the Oscar for best original screenplay, with the film winning the long overdue Robin Williams his first Academy Award statuette.
All great stories aren’t devoid of hiccups and speed bumps experienced along the way. While Affleck landed roles in the best picture winner “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), he also was admonished by critics for his turns in uneven features such as “Phantoms” (1998), “Pearl Harbor” (2001), and everyone’s favorite punching bag, “Gigli” (2003). It wasn’t until his turn as the “Superman” actor and star George Reeves in “Hollywoodland” (2006) which gave his most vocal critics a reason to stop and acknowledge that the actor can soar with the right material.
The career metamorphosis continued when he stepped behind the camera with his directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), which earned Amy Ryan a nom for best supporting actress. “The Town” (2010) followed, earning Jeremy Renner a supporting actor mention, then, most significantly, “Argo” (2012), which won the Academy Award for best picture.
Affleck also continued to challenge himself with auteur filmmakers like Terrence Malick in “To the Wonder” (2012), David Fincher in “Gone Girl” (2014) and Gavin O’Connor with “The Accountant” (2016) and the masterful “The Way Back” (2020).
And who can forget his work in the #SnyderVerse? Entering the world of DC Comics as Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), “Justice League” (2017) and the four-hour counterpart version “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021), his fanbase expanded significantly (alleged bots aside).
Next on the horizon for Affleck will be a small role in Kevin Smith’s “Clerks III,” due out in September and reprising his role as the Caped Crusader in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” with Jason Momoa, due out in 2023. However, his most anticipated work will be stepping into the director’s seat once again for an untitled Nike period drama for Amazon Studios. He co-writes and stars with an ensemble that includes Damon, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans and Chris Tucker.
Read Variety’s list of Affleck’s best performances and watch the clip of his best scene by clicking on the image.
Honorable mentions: “School Ties” (1992); “Boiler Room” (2000); “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)