The Best Movie Ever | George Clooney
There aren’t many movie stars left like George Clooney, who worked his way up from crap like Return of the Living Tomatoes to become a major force in television and eventually films, where he became a box office sensation who wasn’t afraid to lend his credibility to worthwhile independents, goofy comedies and strange experiments. He’s an Academy Award winner, and nominated many more times over, and he is at least arguably the sexiest man on the planet.
We would all probably kill to be in George Clooney’s shoes, either because we have somehow taken over his body or because we lost our own shoes and had to borrow his to walk across the chilly four-star hotel floors to the bathroom after just having hours of sex with him. In any case, we all probably love at least some of his movies, and with his latest Coen Brothers collaboration arriving in theaters this weekend, we though the time was right to finally ask the question: What’s the best George Clooney movie ever?
This week on The Best Movie Ever, our panel of critics – Crave’s William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, and Collider’s Brian Formo – have each come up with the one film (just the one) that they think represents the greatest work of George Clooney. As usual, they went in all different directions, although they all seem to agree that the films that earned Clooney his Oscar nominations are anything but his finest work.
Find out what they each picked and why, and come back every Wednesday for more all-new, highly debatable installments of The Best Movie Ever!
Brian Formo’s Pick: Out of Sight (1998)
For the past two decades, George Clooney has felt like a career politician as an actor. He can give a great speech, he’s there in times of need (raising money for organizations who can’t keep track of it), he can wear the hell out of a suit, and he’s charming in a way that feels like he’s trying to win you over. I would not be surprised if he routinely kisses babies at movie premieres or fundraisers. Out of Sight was released during the early part of Clooney’s post-ER movie career and it was sexy potboiler stuffed inside a heist film. I would say it’s always been his best film. But re-watching it now, after becoming associated more so with socially conscious dramas, Steven Soderbergh’s use of Clooney almost feels perverse—in the best way possible.
Clooney is a career criminal who’s busted out of jail by an old pal (Ving Rhames) and a hyena who never takes off his sunglasses (Steve Zahn). That duo kidnapped a federal marshal from the scene of the escape (Jennifer Lopez) whom Clooney flirts with in the trunk of the getaway car. Once they do get away, he pines for the marshal and she also finds herself fantasizing about him. (And she hasn’t even seen him in a suit yet.)
Out of Sight is a gritty, fun adaptation of an Elmore Leonard’s novel. There are great supporting turns from Zahn, Don Cheadle and Albert Brooks. But what takes the movie to another level and makes it infinitely watchable is the combustable chemistry between Clooney and Lopez. Admittedly, in 1998 this duo was perhaps the most attractive pairing possible, but they and Soderbergh understand that ramping up attraction to seduction is all in the eyes, hair pushes and pauses. Soderbergh’s cutting between a barroom conversation of where they assume new identities (while fluttering snow drops behind them) to a dual striptease in the hotel room above is one of the sexiest moments in all of cinema.
William Bibbiani’s Pick: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
George Clooney is a debonair man about town, a sexy Oscar-winning serious actor who makes films about American history for your dad to watch while sipping dry sherry. But he is also, and this is why I love him dearly, one of our most talented buffoons.
I suspect those two sides of George Clooney are closely related. It’s okay to admire his slick persona because he doesn’t always take himself seriously, and it’s okay to laugh at his bug-eyed pratfalls because sometimes he takes himself WAY too seriously. I look at Clooney’s straight man performances and I admire them, but I look at his comedic work and I laugh my buns off, because he’s hilarious. And I don’t think he’s ever been funnier than he was in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a screwball comedy musical of the highest order, directed by The Coen Brothers as a sort of Depression Era, bluegrass interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey.
Clooney, sporting a spot-on Clark Gable pomade hairdo and pencil mustache, escapes from prison to stop his wife from getting remarried, dragging his two chain-gang oafs (John Turturro and Tim Blake Neslon). Of the three of them, Clooney is marginally the smartest, and tries to strong-arm his sweet-hearted cohorts from one adventure to another, running afoul of Klansmen and sirens and cyclops Bible salesmen. They sing (or at least, Clooney’s vocal stand-in does) some of the best songs ever written, and do so in dopey costumes.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is wonderful fluff, the kind of smart-dumb filmmaking that has long since been replaced by dumb-dumb filmmaking. And George Clooney is perfection in it, a rascally blend of bravado and dopiness that makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. It’s not just the best George Clooney movie ever… it’s bona fide.
Witney Seibold’s Pick: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
George Clooney has been, historically, compared to Cary Grant. It’s easy to see why. Not only do they look alike (I would love to see them compete in a chin-off), but they possess a similar frothy, cosmopolitan charm. Grant is the upper crust. Clooney is the jet setter. Clooney is, of course, a more versatile actor than that image would imply – he’s played his share of scoundrels and losers – but the reason he came to be known as a major player in the ineffable Hollywood firmament is his sparkling, charming “it” quality. Clooney is at his best when he’s playing the dazzler, the seducer, the ever-so-slightly-bad boy with a twinkle in his eye.
As such, I select Steven Soderbergh’s trifling heist picture Ocean’s Eleven as Clooney’s Clooniest. Soderbergh managed to reach into the very core of Clooney, extracting the pure nectar of the known Clooney personality, presenting it to audiences, unadulterated, shiny and alluring. Ocean’s Eleven is not a complex film, and it doesn’t seem to be about much. But it is a grand, slick, ultra-cool romp wherein numerous notable actors gathered to have a lot of fun and goof around in a gentle, awesome caper comedy. And although the film is feather-light, it is not without its sophistication. The entire cast, with Clooney in particular, presents themselves as suave, charming adults who are simply very good at what they do. If there was ever an American equivalent of James Bond, it’s Danny Ocean.