Ranking the greatest movie runs of all time

What is a movie run you ask? A movie run is when an actor goes on a tear releasing three or more great/influential movies in a row. There have been some great movie runs over the years, but which reigns supreme?

It’s tough to compare a movie run by Jim Carrey to a movie run by Jack Nicholson, so I will rank the best comedic movie run of all time and the best dramatic movie run. The actors I list go in no specific order.

Robert De Niro has had multiple great movie runs, but the one I will be focusing on is his tear from 1973-1976. In those three years he acted in Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II, and Taxi Driver. Mean Streets is one of the greatest independent movies ever made, The Godfather Part II is the greatest movie of all time, and Taxi Driver is a contender for best New York City movie ever made. De Niro went from an unknown to a global star, but most importantly he was a star with an edge. Taxi Driver is one of the most controversial movies of all time, De Niro wasn’t just another star, he was a star that people thought would snap like his character Travis in Taxi Driver. One could make the argument that his run from 1978-1984 was more important to establishing De Niro as a mainstay in Hollywood. In that span movies like The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, and Once Upon a Time in America were released. But I keep this movie run out of my list because The King of Comedy was a bomb, The Deer Hunter was too “real” for the time, and Once Upon a Time in America didn’t become well-received until the European version was released to America in the 90s. De Niro never had a great movie run like this again, he would have a good movie then two bad movies after the release of Midnight Run, I know Jack Walsh would tell me to, “Shut the fuck up”. But it’s true, during the 90s even though he made some great movies, he made some really bad ones. One could even say to De Niro, “You blew it”. It stopped becoming a big deal whenever De Niro was in a movie unless it was directed by Scorcese or Michael Mann. Heat needs to be on more lists for the greatest movies of all time. “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” One of the greatest movie quotes of all time, and some great advice…… From a bank robber.

Sticking with stars in the 70s, Al Pacino started his career with a bang. From 1971-1975 Pacino’s run may be the greatest movie run of all time, but I guess we’ll find out later. Panic in Needle Park, The Godfather, Scarecrow, Serpico, The Godfather Part II, and Dog Day Afternoon. That’s an insane run, whoever Pacino’s agent was back then deserved the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are my two favorite movies of all time, Dog Day Afternoon is incredibly quotable just like the two movies I mentioned earlier in this sentence, and Scarecrow is criminally underrated. “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse”, “I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart, you broke my heart”, “Attica! Attica! Attica!” You could quote Al Pacino all day long, especially if you’re in the mob, it works best if you’re in the mob. Pacino has had his fair share of bad movies, but he started his career off with some of the best movies of all time. 

Staying on the dramatic side next up is Jack Nicholson. From 1974-1983, Nicholson was in some of the greatest movies of all time. Those movies are Chinatown, The Passenger, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Reds, and Terms of Endearment. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, is one of the creepiest movie quotes of all time. Chinatown hosts some of the greatest acting of all time, same with Reds. Terms of Endearment won Nicholson an Oscar, even though it may not be considered a Jack Nicholson movie. Nicholson can control his eccentricities in some roles, and not able to control it at all. Luckily for Nicholson, it works extremely well in his favor. His being on edge during the entirety of The Shining is amazing, his calm demeanor in Chinatown makes the movie great, and his axe-wielding abilities are quite good. He’s really selling his axe swinging in The Shining, and I think that he forgot he was filming a movie for a minute. Nicholson might have had the most influential movie run of all time, but we’ll find out later on.

Nicolas Cage is making a surprise appearance on this list, but he’s had a really solid career. People forget that he has an Oscar, and was nominated multiple times. He had a good run from 1986-1987, acting in movies like Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona, and Moonstruck. I contend to this day that Peggy Sue Got Married is a good movie, and Nic Cage is good in that movie, he’s over the top as hell, but that’s what makes him so great. But Nic Cage left his mark from 1995-1999, acting in movies Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, City of Angels, and 8mm. He won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, solidifying his place in movie history. In my opinion, Nic Cage has the greatest F Hollywood performance in movie history with his role in Face/Off. There’s an entire scene dedicated just so they can say Face/Off, and a pretty long scene too. It’s really just hilarious. Cage had another solid run from 2002-2004, acting in Adaptation, Matchstick Men, and National Treasure. There are people out there that believe National Treasure is the best Nic Cage movie ever, the answer is no it’s not, not even in the top 10 if you ask me, but it’s a good popcorn flick. Adaptation got Cage another Oscar nomination, and Matchstick Men is a really solid movie that grows on me more and more every time I watch it. Cage’s career has taken a bad detour these last eleven-year, but I think he will rise up once again!

Tom Cruise is next up on the list for greatest movie runs of all time. I know what you’re thinking Tom Cruise didn’t have a run that could be considered great in the context of the impact he had on film, but his movies are damn entertaining. 1983-1993 Tom Cruise made a lot of good to great movies, my mind can’t be changed. Here are those movies, Risky Business, Legend, Top Gun, The Color of Money, Cocktail, Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, and The Firm. Risky Business launched his career and was successful. Legend was directed by Ridley Scott, and Tom Cruise was good enough for Scott in 1985, the movie makes the list. Top Gun is a bad movie with four great scenes in it, but is extremely influential, and launched his career as a bankable box office star. The movie makes the list. In The Color of Money, Cruise was outacted big time by Paul Newman but was picked for the role by Martin Scorcese, another win for Cruise. Cocktail is a good movie, fight me. Rain Man should’ve gotten Cruise an Oscar nomination, he was a great game manager in that movie. I don’t have to explain myself for the last three, they are all great movies that speak for themselves. But that’s not where the list stops, well I guess it does, but it picks up again from 1996-2002. Mission Impossible, Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut (best “what the hell happened” movie ever), Magnolia, Mission: Impossible 2, and Minority Report. In those six years, Cruise started the greatest action franchise of all time, garnered two Oscar nominations (Jerry Maguire and Magnolia), and capped it off with a Spielberg film. If you didn’t think Cruise was a great and or influential actor before you read this article, you have to now.

I know I said earlier that Pacino may have had the greatest movie run of all time, but Hanks and one other actor give him a good run for his money. Tom Hanks’s movie run from 1992-2002 in baseball stats look like this, batting average .365, 32 home runs, 110 RBI, and an MVP. In non-baseball stats his run looked like this A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Toy Story, That Thing you do, Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story 2, The Green Mile, Cast Away, Road to Perdition, and Catch Me If You Can. Holy cow, is that a good run or what? I even put That Thing you do! Because he did so many great movies before that, a movie studio gave him 26 million dollars to write and direct a movie. From 1994-2001 Hanks was nominated for 4 Oscars, winning two, Philadelphia, and Forrest Gump. Hanks was on an absolute tear for ten years, which is unprecedented. Any movie he touched in the 90s turned to gold, not a lot of actors have the ability to do what Hanks did. In all likelihood, no actor will go on a movie run like this again. 

Staying in the 90s, Denzel Washington comes in a close second to Hanks for what actor won the 90s. From 1990-2001 Denzel was in Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Devil in a Blue Dress, He Got Game, The Hurricane, Remember the Titans, and Training Day. Not as good as Hanks’s run, but still pretty damn good. Garnering 3 Oscar nominations for his role in Malcolm X, The Hurricane, and Training Day. Whether it’s playing a hero or asshole, Denzel knows how to bring it. He can play the good guy, and he can invent a new way to play the bad guy. Like he did in Training Day where he just continuously does things that make you hate his character even more, and everyone is just like, “What the hell is Denzel doing? I thought he was always the good guy.” King Kong ain’t got shit on Denzel that’s for sure.

Ben Affleck is making a surprise appearance for some on this list, and for others, it’s not a surprise. Some people might still think that Affleck isn’t a good actor, and he shouldn’t be on this list, instead, Damon should be on the list. But let me explain my logic, here it is, Affleck is a talented director, writer, and actor. Bam! That’s my logic, right then and there. He won an Oscar for best original screenplay for Good Will Hunting, on his first attempt at writing a movie, that should be enough. Then he went out and took the money instead of going after being a talented actor/director. But from 2007-2014 he proved to all the haters he is talented, and then some. In those seven years, Affleck made or acted in Gone Baby Gone, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Town, Argo, and Gone Girl. Gone Baby Gone was directed by Affleck in one of the best directorial efforts of the last 20 years, He’s Just Not That Into You was a box office success, The Town is the best heist movie of the last 20 years, Argo is un-f-ing believable, and Gone Girl is a top 10 movie of the last decade. Skipping over to The Town, that movie proved that he is capable of being an action star as well as a good actor. He nailed the Boston accent and is arguably the best Boston movie ever, but I have to give that honor to The Departed. The Town is a close second, however. Gone Girl is one of the best thrillers ever made because of the gravitas Affleck carries in that movie, making up for Neil Patrick Harris’s performance in that movie. What the hell was Barney Stinson doing in a neo-noir thriller? 

Moving over to the best comedic movie runs of all time, I have to start that list off with Eddie Murphy. Eddie Murphy hit .400 in the 80s, everything he did was a huge success. From 1982-1988 Murphy was on fire. Here’s the list 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy: Raw, and Coming to America. The bar scene in 48 Hrs. where Eddie Murphy is yelling at the all-white bar, “I don’t like you, and you don’t like me” is one of the funniest movie scenes of all time. 

Murphy: “Where’d you get all this?” 

Barfly: “Tax refund.” 

Eddie Murphy: “Bullshit your too f-ing stupid to have a job”

Murphy was on such a roll in the 80s he couldn’t fail, even Harlem Nights has developed a cult following. Without a doubt, Eddie Murphy had the best comedic movie run of all time.

Not to disrespect other comedic actors, there were other good runs, but nothing could compare to Eddie in the 80s. Will Ferrell however did have a solid run from 2001-2010. Acting in movies like Zoolander, Old School, Elf, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Starsky & Hutch, Wedding Crashers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys. Anchorman is one of the funniest movies of the last 20 years, if not the funniest. All these movies listed could go on a top 30 comedies of the last 20 years list, and no one would complain. Will Ferrell has one of the best heat checks in a movie in Wedding Crashers, “Mom, could you make me some meatloaf!” Never fails to make me laugh. His cameo as Big Earl in Starsky & Hutch is often overlooked, but still hilarious. All comedic actors have a shelf life, and Ferrell has hit a wall in recent years, but we will always have these movies to laugh at. 

The final comedic actor I will be looking at is the great Jim Carrey. From 1994-1998 Carrey starred in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Cable Guy, Liar Liar, and The Truman Show. 1994 belonged to Jim Carrey, he had three movies that year that all debuted at number 1 at the box office. He played The Riddler in a Batman movie, think about that, he made some cult hits, before starring in The Truman Show. A movie that will go down as one of the funniest, dramatic, and bittersweet movies of all time. Carrey in one year alone made enough movies to entertain us all for a lifetime. His four-year run was truly special to the world of comedy. 

What’s the best movie run of all time? Here they are ranked in order from best to worst, even though the worst is still pretty good. Pacino, Hanks, Nicholson, De Niro, Washington, Affleck, Cage, and lastly Cruise. Pacino acted in The Godfather, and The Godfather Part II, with Scarecrow, and Serpico sandwiched in between. Capped off with Dog Day Afternoon, it doesn’t get any better than that. 

The best individual comedy movie runs of all time are Murphy, Ferrell, and Carrey. Murphy was untouchable in the 80s, Ferrell dominated the 2000s, and Carrey owned the mid-90s. But Murphy made the best/most influential movies in that timespan so he wins best individual comedy movie run of all time.  

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