With The Expendables 2 knocking on our door (it hits theaters August 17th), it’s time to kick movie stars aside and welcome in the best of ensemble cinema. Focusing on a collective rather than a certain person or two works very well for the ADD-addled minds here at Screen Junkies, so we thought we would share with you guys the best of the best (or, at the very least, our favorite) ensemble films.
So take a look, why don’t ya.
The youngest ensemble on this list is a gang of young adventurers who run afoul of some criminal eye-talians in the Pacific Northwest. And wouldn’t you know it, Mikey, Mouth, Chunk, Data, and a bunch of teenagers all manage to save the day and save their parents’ houses.
Maybe if the parents were a little more responsible, they wouldn’t be losing their houses to Troy’s dad, and they could keep better track of their kids.
Astoria Child Protective Services is probably a very busy social services department.
While more than a couple of the casts of characters up here are bad ass mofos, none come as young or as suburban, or as so angsty as the teenagers with the Saturday detentions in the fictional town Shermer, Illinois. They may have been broadly painted as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, but that just means that they were much more accessible to everyone else.
And for much of the audience, Claire was way ahead of the curve in introducing a whole generation of aspiring yuppies to sushi.
So there’s that, but the most compelling dynamic is just watching all these different slices of high school play in the same sandbox.
Wes Anderson films are known for being quirky due to both his (and collaborator Owen Wilson’s) writing, but the quirk is able to come at you in so many different ways through the use of his ensembles. And no Anderson pic is more ensemble-y than The Royal Tenenbaums, which takes a look at a literally timeless New York City (probably) family that is dysfunctional in such a mesmerizing way that it’s almost soothing.
Of course, most ensembles need a reason for being, and it would seem that Gene Hackman’s Royal Tenenbaum, the patriarch of the family who fakes disease to get back in his family’s good graces.
Which doesn’t last long.
If someone clocked their head in 1988 and wound up in a 22-year coma, they would think that all the biggest action stars of their time were covered in aging makeup. That doesn’t sound like the best thing in the world, but the premise of the film (expendable old mercenaries getting back together) is exactly what lends it its charms.
While charm is in short supply with much of the action-star cast, this self-deprecating examination, coupled with some clever writing allows all of yesteryear’s biggest shoot-em-up stars to play off each other in terrific fashion.
It’s a photo finish as to whether or not this motley crew featuring Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown and the like is a more reprehensible lot than The Tenenbaums, but these guys definitely score higher in the violence department. In hindsight, the characters aren’t all that distinct. Mostly tough guys that will kill as a matter of business. However, Steve Buscemi stands out as the one complainer, a weasely little fella that doesn’t quite fit in.
It doesn’t work out terribly well for most of the gang, but it sure is fun to watch the fireworks.
A heist film in a decidedly more palatable fashion, the gang that Danny Ocean assembled, all eleven of them, were about as slick a group as one would imagine. In fact, they’re so slick that only Hollywood could have dreamed these guys up.
Nonetheless, they got work DONE. I credit most of their success to the little Asian gymnast, but the Mormon idiots also had a big hand in it. Very little credit goes to Brad Pitt, and almost no credit goes to Julia Roberts, who played the token love interest who just managed to bring everyone down with her lamenting about how her husband got sent to jail and wasn’t around. Give it a rest, lady.
To end on a somber note, I’d like to nod towards a great representation of not only war films, but the subset that focuses not on a person, but on a group of soldiers tasked with the impossible, and how they persevere in the face of not only completing their mission, but survival.
It’s a harrowing look, and Tom Sizemore dies, as he always does, but that doesn’t mean it’s not some quality cinema that takes your breath away as we marvel at the group dynamic during one of the most iconic periods in recent world history.