by Jason Koenigsberg
We are a little under two months away from Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, wow that title is a mouthful. A lot of criticism has already befallen this All Star spectacle ever since the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. Prior to seeing the previews comic books geeks, super hero fanatics and nerds of all types were calling for Affleck’s head on a pike saying that he was a terrible choice for the Caped Crusader of Gotham City. Initially, I had Affleck’s back. Sure the guy has made his fair share of stinkers, it’s kind of amazing he still has a movie career after some of his missteps.
But it is important to remember two things:
1. Michael Keaton, the actor to give the best portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman (not necessarily the best actor to play Bruce Wayne/Batman) received a huge amount of criticism when it was announced that he would be the Dark Knight in Tim Burton’s film. Look how that turned out, he is revered as an icon among super hero and comic book cinema.
2. Ben Affleck has made some great films and has two Oscars under his belt. He has embarrassed himself several times in big features, but has also impressed audiences and critics. He has succeeded as an actor, writer, director and producer, his public image often makes people forget that beneath it all, Affleck is a pretty smart guy.
Here is a look at the 5 best films of Ben Affleck’s career thus far, and the 5 worst. Just a warning, the worst ones are really, really, really bad.
1. Argo (2012)
The Academy chose this as the Best Picture of 2012 and even though there were arguably some stronger films nominated, there is no denying that Argo is a great film and it was directed by and stars Affleck. A suspenseful and entertaining history lesson about how Hollywood came to the rescue of American hostages in Iran. This film also accomplished a major feat, winning Best Picture and it’s director, Affleck himself, was not even nominated. The first time that has happened since Bruce Beresford was not nominated for Driving Miss Daisy (1989) which won Best Picture. But don’t feel too bad for Affleck, he was listed as a producer so he did take home a statue that night. Argo is his crowning achievement in the film industry thus far.
2. Gone Girl (2014)
It seems like since Ben Affleck started going behind the camera more often, his script selection and acting have improved in front of the camera. His performance as a sociopath who may or may not have murdered his wife is one of Affleck’s very best performances. With expert direction from master filmmaker David Fincher and a taut script by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel. All these right elements combined to make Gone Girl one of the best films of 2014 and one of the great screen mysteries of recent years.
3. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Affleck’s directorial debut and he knocked it out of the park in his first at bat. Like Gone Girl, this film has a lot of similarities with it besides just it’s title. This is about a missing person, only this time it is a child who disappeared and private detectives are trying to solve the case which unravels into a very intriguing mystery. Ben does not act in this but his younger brother Casey is the lead and it is his best performance in anything he has done. Great supporting turns from Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and especially Amy Ryan as the missing girls mother. He captures his hometown of Boston perfectly without ever over romanticizing the city. The final shot will haunt you and really says a lot about the themes and the performances, as well as the fact that like him or not, Ben Affleck is a very talented director.
4. Good Will Hunting (1997)
In many ways this is the best movie on the list and one of the best films of the 1990’s. It is important to know that Affleck along with his best friend and co-star Matt Damon won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for this film. It is like Affleck was slumming it for quick paycheck’s the next ten years after he won his first Oscar. He helped write an impressive and powerful drama that catapulted his career and Matt Damon’s into the stratosphere of Hollywood A-listers and they have never really left. It was also the only film to earn the late-great Robin Williams an Oscar and he absolutely deserved that Best Supporting Actor trophy. A modern classic that will continue to be cherished for years. Why is this ranked here on the list you might ask, because Ben Affleck is out-acted by most of his co-stars especially Matt Damon as the lead, Robin Williams as his mentor, and even Minnie Driver as Damon’s love interest.
5. Chasing Amy (1997)
Ben Affleck’s first great leading role and Kevin Smith’s best film is one of the best romances of its era. Tackling issues of friendships vs. relationships and homosexuality and homophobia. Affleck is the anchor that reflects how the audience feels about Joey Lauren Adams’ complex and emotional lesbian character. His performance allows us see see things through his eyes and makes the film work. It’s funny, heartfelt raunchy at times but always relatable.
And now, brace yourself for the very worst of Ben Affleck’s career. Most of these should have never been made. Some are celluloid train wrecks that are so terrible they have to be seen to be believed and others just take up valuable real estate in my brain that I wish I never saw them in the first place.
Here we go…
This is one of those cinematic bombs that needs to be seen to be believed how truly insipid and outlandish it is. Although I do not “recommend” it to anyone unless they really have a burning desire to see what the hullaballoo was all about back when “Bennifer” was a tabloid staple. Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s careers would both rebound after this black eye, but writer/director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop, Scent of a Woman) would not. To date he has not made another film since Gigli killed his career. Maybe rightfully so since he wrote a scene where Jennifer Lopez (who is supposed to be a lesbian) opens up her legs to Affleck and says “gobble gobble”. Affleck has never been more miscast than here as the titular Italian wise-guy hitman. It’s astounding that so many intelligent people collaborated to make such a stupid movie, one of the most inept films I have ever seen.
2. Daredevil (2003)
Anyone who has inhibitions about Ben Affleck playing Batman need only point to this early Marvel picture to prove their case. This to date is still one of the worst comic book movie adaptations we have ever seen. Mostly due to lazy hack direction by Mark Steven Johnson, but Affleck should not get away from this catastrophe unscathed. His performance is simply awful as a blind attorney who moonlights as a vigilante superhero. It also features some career worst performances from Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Garner whom he would eventually marry. At least something good came out of this mess for Affleck, even though they recently filed for divorce.
3. Pearl Harbor (2001)
One of the worst movies I have ever seen. This Michael Bay disaster ranks as the worst type of bad movie. Overlong, way too expensive and I wish I could erase this film from my memory. I avoid this movie like the plague, in fact there may be certain types of plague I would rather have than sit through all three plus hours of this jingoistic and misogynistic excuse for a war movie. Everyone involved in this movie should be embarrassed at how shameless and terrible it is especially the people at the top. I’m pointing at you director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and star Ben Affleck. One of the worst screen romances and worst military films ever made.
4. Paycheck (2003)
In case you could not tell, the early 2000’s were a really rough time for Ben Affleck to make a decent movie. On the surface, Paycheck should have been one of his better movies from that time period. Directed by John Woo (Face/Off) and from a story by science fiction author Philip K. Dick, who’s writing inspired some of the best futuristic thrillers like Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990) and Minority Report (2002), Paycheck should have been a slam dunk. Instead it was an air ball. Affleck was terrible as the lead, Uma Thurman who is a talented actress and has proven she can handle action with the Kill Bill movies was completely void of any interesting qualities and it even wasted great character actors Aaron Eckhart and Paul Giamatti. Like Gigli, the biggest casualty of this failure was the director. John Woo has never made another movie in the US for a big studio and likely never will.
5. Extract (2009)
This is a terrible and ultimately forgettable comedy from the mind of Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill and Office Space. Nothing works in this boring and unfunny comedy starring Jason Bateman as a guy having marital and professional problems. Ben Affleck plays a supporting role as a bartender who gives our main character some mundane advice in scenes that were probably meant to be comical, but were not even the slightest bit funny. You can hear the crickets between the lines of dialogue. Like Martin Brest and John Woo, Mike Judge has not directed a big budget movie for a major studio since Extract. Some athletes have a reputation as a coach killer, Ben Affleck should have the movie equivalent as a director killer. He really should stick to directing his own films since they are all better than the dreck he made during the early 2000’s.
Where will Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice rank in Ben Affleck’s filmography? We will find out soon enough. The trailers so far do not look promising but I am doing my best to hold off judgment on any preconceived expectations about that film. We can only hope that it will rank closer to the first five movies mentioned in this article and not be like the terrible flops Affleck has worked so hard to pull himself away from making in the past 5 to 10 years. He finally has a good reputation again as an actor, writer, director and producer. I hope that this upward trend he has been on continues for years to come and his portrayal of Batman does not lead back to a downward spiral of more big budget terrible movies.