The Martian (which you can read my review for here) stars Matt Damon as astronaut/botanist Mark Watney who is marooned on Mars when his NASA teammates leave him behind on the planet after fearing him dead. With a short supply of food and water and no communications system, Mark must use his scientific knowledge and unwavering determination to stay alive until another NASA mission to Mars can rescue him.
To celebrate the release of the Ridley Scott helmed sci-fi epic The Martian, here is a countdown of my favourite Matt Damon performances.
5. Mark Watney – The Martian (2015)
Damon’s latest film will start things off as his portrayal of stranded astronaut Mark Watney is certainly among his best work. The role of Watney demanded a combination of humour, vulnerability, fear, willpower and intelligence – all which Damon was able to bring in spades.
It’s a testament to his impressive acting ability that The Martian was so entertaining as for a large part of the film he was the sole character onscreen. Damon’s everyman-like personality radiated through the role as although we share nothing in common with Watney (we’re not super-smart astronauts abandoned on Mars – well at least I’m not) we were able to fully relate and endear to him.
4. Jason Bourne – The Bourne Trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007)
When Damon was initially cast as Jason Bourne, there were many who were sceptical of his ability to play a convincing action hero. But after the first film of the series, The Bourne Identity, was released – everybody and their mothers knew he could be play a certified tough guy.
In the trilogy Damon portrays a former CIA assassin with amnesia who is being targeted by his previous employers. Not only does he have to piece back together his life, throughout the three films, but he also has to deal with a rogue section of the CIA who want him dead at all costs. Jason Bourne could have easily been seen as an American knock-off of James Bond but Damon injected enough depth into the character to make him a viable super-spy in his own right. The Damon-starring Bourne films grossed nearly $950 worldwide and he has begun filming the untitled Bourne 5 set for release in 2016
3. Colin Sullivan – The Departed (2006)
In Martin Scorsese’s gritty crime drama set in Boston, Damon plays corrupt cop Colin Sullivan who poses as an officer of the law while feeding information to mobster Frank Costello (played by Jack Nicholson). Damon is excellent in the villainous role and is a character who you’ll love to hate as he and the hero of the story Billy Costigan (played Leonardo DiCaprio) seek to expose each other.
Damon held his own in a film packed to the brim with incredibly gifted actors – Nicholson, DiCaprio and Mark Walberg – and rightfully proved he deserved to be in the same category as some of Hollywood’s most talented men. The Departed went on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture, and Damon was an extremely important part of Scorsese’s masterpiece.
2. Tom Ripley – The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Here Damon plays the titular role in this psychological thriller mainly set in 1950’s Italy. Tom is a con-artist who tricks the wealthy father of a rebellious playboy into sending him to aborad to bring back his son Dickie Greenleaf (played by Oscar-nominated Jude Law). Once he arrives in Italy, Tom befriends Dickie and starts to live a lavish life until his desires get the better of him.
Damon shines in arguably the darkest role of his career as he exhibits a complex mixture of menace, impulse, intelligence and desperation which his riveting to watch. His 90’s era boyish looks enhance his character’s multiple layers of creepiness as you’ll wonder how someone so innocent looking could commit such shocking acts.
1.Will Hunting – Good Will Hunting (1997)
In this touching drama, Damon plays 20 year old Will Hunting, an orphaned self-taught mathematical genius who humbly works as a university janitor while hanging out with his buddies. Will’s vast potential is often undermined by his rebellious attitude and it’s up to his girlfriend Skylar (played by Minnie Driver) and his psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (played by Robin Williams – who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role) to help the guarded young man open up and see how far he can go in life.
Damon’s performance takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as his great range and versatility as an actor is on full display. You’ll laugh with Will and you’ll cry with Will as Damon puts on an acting masterclass in the role that put him on the map. Damon’s performance was so good that he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor while winning an Academy award for Best Original Screenplay with writing partner and BFF Ben Affleck (who also stars in the film as Will’s best friend Chuckie). A must see performance in a must see film.