Thursday, April 12, 2018
My Favorite Movie Cast Ensembles
This list is a spinoff of my favorite and least favorite casting decisions lists. For me a great movie cast ensemble has to be more than just a bunch of big names thrown together. All the members of a great movie cast ensemble should have interesting and important roles to play (and this doesn't necessarily mean big roles). Many historical epic films stuffed their cast lists with famous stars, but wound up offering the talent involved nothing more than cameo appearances. THE LONGEST DAY is one of my favorite WWII movies of all time, but I wouldn't count it as a great ensemble cast, because most of the stars packed into it don't have all that much to do. THE LONGEST DAY is an event movie, not an actor's showcase.
Films from the Golden Age of Hollywood have a leg up on the competition for this list due to the fact that even the mediocre ones made during the period feature wonderful character actors, even in the smallest of roles. There's a number of times I'll be sitting around the house and I'll start watching a movie on TCM that isn't all that famous--or all that good--simply because of the acting talent in the cast.
Making out this list reminded me of how particular directors feature greater overall casts in their films than others. Frank Capra, in my opinion, was the master at putting together great ensemble casts--in his films there's no such thing as a throwaway role. John Ford of course had his famous stock company, and even though he doesn't get a lot of credit for doing so, John Sturges filled his movies with exceptional performers. I could have listed several films from each of those three directors.
I know some might complain about the lack of modern films here. I will mention that Martin Scorsese always has great ensemble casts. And no, I don't list any of the now many superhero movies that feature multiple comic book characters, because in my mind the fictional heroes in them are more important than the actors wearing the suits.
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, David Prowse
THE MALTESE FALCON (1941 version)
Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, Gladys George, Lee Patrick, Barton MacLane, Elisha Cook Jr., Jerome Cowan
Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson, S. Z. Sakall
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame, H. B. Warner, Frank Albertson, Samuel S. Hinds
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Claude Rains, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, Jose Ferrer
TUNES OF GLORY
Alec Guinness, John Mills, Dennis Price, John Fraser, Gordon Jackson, Susannah York, Kay Walsh
Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon
THE WILD BUNCH
William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, Strother Martin, L. Q. Jones
THE LAST HURRAH
Spencer Tracy, Jeffrey Hunter, Dianne Foster, Basil Rathbone, Pat O'Brien, Donald Crisp, James Gleason, Ed Brophy, John Carradine, Ricardo Cortez, Frank McHugh, Anna Lee
THE GREAT ESCAPE
Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum, Donald Pleasence, James Donald, Gordon Jackson, Nigel Stock
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974 version)
Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York