6 Genius Movies With an Ensemble Cast
Hollywood loves a good movie star, but sometimes the most satisfying films feature an expansive group of actors, rather than one flashy lead performance. "Ensemble casts," they're called, and they've been at the forefront of many a classic film. Here are six of the best movies with ensemble casts.
"12 Angry Men"
You might not think a movie set almost entirely in a jury room would be so exciting, but when the twelve dudes of the titles are twelve of the best actors of their generation, and the guy behind the camera is a never-better Sidney Lumet, you have no reason to be surprised. This is a textbook definition of a terrific ensemble—there's not a weak link in the chain, and the audience gets to see them interact with each other in many different permutations.
"The Magnificent Seven"
Most action movies are centered on one lead badass, but "The Magnificent Seven" (not to mention the Kurosawa classic it's based on) opts for another approach: Seven dangerous badasses, with Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, and Charles Bronson among them. Hard to argue with a cast like that, especially since they somehow manage to not overshadow each other.
Master director Robert Altman was famous for his movies with big ensembles, and "Nashville" is arguably the best of the bunch. It follows a cast of around 30 characters to Nashville for a political speech that ends up turning deadly, then somehow inspirational. And every single one of the characters is as fascinating as the next.
The heist movie is uniquely suited to accommodating an ensemble cast, since the heist in the movie requires a diverse group of people to pull off. One of the best is Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," featuring such luminaries as Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, and Michael Madsen. The "Reservoir Dogs" are equally captivating to watch whether they're shooting at each other or laughing and joking around over coffee, which is the mark of a great ensemble.
"The Usual Suspects"
If the ensemble you've assembled to make your movie includes Stephen Baldwin and your movie doesn't suck, congratulations, you have a great ensemble cast. Unfortunately, this is only known to have happened one time, in Bryan Singer's breakthrough thriller, which is still one of the most satisfyingly twisty movies ever made. But the real joy is in the cast, including Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, and others, who have the kind of easy chemistry you just don't seen very often.
Paul Thomas Anderson is well-known as a protege of Robert Altman, and he got the chance to try out a full-blown ensemble movie of his own with "Magnolia." Philip Baker Hall, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, and Tom Cruise or just some of the people you'll see ensembling it up in Anderson's "everyone in LA is connected" drama. You even get to see practically everyone in the movie sing along to an Aimee Mann song, which is kind of fun.