Ocean's Twelve

Weekend Roundtable: Favorite “All-Star Cast” Movies

For his big, glossy remake of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, Kenneth Branagh brought together a hell of an ensemble of A-List talent. Our Roundtable this week looks at other movies promising the proverbial “all-star cast.”

Note that, in order to qualify for this distinction, a film must have at least four big-name actors in major roles.

M. Enois Duarte

Ocean’s Twelve‘ is not only one of the best sequels that’s just as good as its predecessor, but it’s also one of the best ensemble cast movies out there. I can already hear the furious tapping of keyboards charging forth with accusations of committing cinematic sacrilege or head-scratching confusion since both films feature the same cast of actors. While that may be true, I would argue it wasn’t until this sequel that director Steven Soderbergh really found his rhythm and was a little more daring to let loose his particular brand of filmmaking.

When wanting to finance smaller, personal projects, Soderbergh will accept more mainstream, major-studio jobs. Such was the case when doing ‘Erin Brockovich’ for ‘Traffic’ and ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ to greenlight ‘Solaris’. And when those big-budget movies became hits, Soderbergh became interestingly comfortable making major studio movies that were more in line with his familiar oeuvre, which can be seen in the sequel, making for a more fun and carefree caper flick with influences from other classics, such as ‘Rififi’. At the same time, the cast was also familiar and comfortable with each other, so the entire film feels like a genuine reunion with believable camaraderie. Personally, I love ‘Ocean’s Twelve’.

Brian Hoss

While it’s pretty much a given that a Quentin Tarantino movie will have a star-studded cast, my favorite might be ‘Jackie Brown‘. As with other Tarantino films, this one has a mix of hot A-List talent like Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, and up-for-anything out-of-cycle stars like Michael Keaton and Pam Grier. While the elusive Chris Tucker is spent on a less than dignified cameo, the ensemble somehow manage to tread the line between being key characters and splitting off into their own storylines.

Luke Hickman

My all-time favorite ensemble film is Martin Scorsese’s American adaptation of Hong Kong’s ‘Infernal Affairs’. The cast list of ‘The Departed‘ is chock full of some of the best acting talent, old and (then) new. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon play two deep-rooted characters with secret connections. DiCaprio is a Boston cop undercover with an Irish gang. Damon is the gang’s mole detective within the Massachusetts state police force. The two are aware that each other exists, but don’t know the identities of one another. Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin play higher-ups on the police side, while Jack Nicholson plays the organized crime boss. Combine the excellent non-A-lister co-stars Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, James Badge Dale, Kevin Corrigan and David O’Hara, a brilliant screenplay and Scorsese’s unmatched direction, and you’ve got a perfect film. There was no way that Scorsese wasn’t walking away with the Oscar for ‘The Departed’.

Josh Zyber

Brian’s mention of ‘Jackie Brown’ made me want to pick ‘Reservoir Dogs‘, but then I realized that few members of that cast were actually famous beforehand. At the time of its release, Harvey Keitel was the biggest name in the credits. Players like Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen had been working character actors, but hadn’t achieved much personal fame until Quentin Tarantino’s movie became a big indie sensation.

Instead, I’ll go with another movie from 1992: James Foley’s adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer-winning ‘Glengarry Glen Ross‘. This tale of the dark side of Capitalism features one of the greatest power ensembles ever put to film. The original play is famous for its razor-sharp dialogue, and the movie lets Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jonathan Pryce, and (stealing the whole thing in a brief scene) Alec Baldwin tear into it with gusto. (At this particular moment in time, I hesitate to mention that Kevin Spacey is in it too, but he was damn good at playing an asshole.) Best of all is the legendary Jack Lemmon as the one-time top dog trapped in a losing streak that brings out a frightening desperation. It’s some of Lemmon’s finest work. Every performance in this film is sterling.

Honorable mentions for me include Robert Altman’s ‘Short Cuts’, Wes Anderson’s ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Magnolia’.

Tell us in the Comments about your favorite movies overflowing with stars.


  1. CxDx

    I love Galaxy Quest, it’s up there as one of my favorite movies that I can re-watch over and over and still laugh every time.

    all the “stars” weren’t huge stars, but they were all famous and recognizable in their own right.

    it had Tim Allen riding the Home Improvement and Toy Story wave, Sigourney Weaver killing it as the sex symbol, Tony Shalhoub recognizable to the kids from MIB and the adults for Wings (probably one of the greatest sitcoms ever in my opinion.), then it had the man, the myth, the legend Alan Rickman ’nuff said.

    but it also gave us rising stars Sam Rockwell and Justin Long, and it was… no still is a great movie!

  2. Eric

    I’m going with “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”. Overflowing with multiple generations of big name talent, and it’s hilarious to boot.

  3. Csm101

    Kurt Russell, Samuel Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tim Roth in The Hateful Eight. Not to mention Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Channing Tatum.

  4. NJScorpio

    ‘Contagion’ comes to mind (another from Steve Soderbergh). It’s a movie that by design has important story elements happening all over the world, and they cast a range of big name stars to fill roles in those locals to keep a compelling quality all throughout. While most ensemble casts are working in physical proximity to each other, this cast worked in a sort of semi-independent harmony. (Gwyneth Palotrow, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Lawrence Fishburne).

    (Is Lawrence Fishburne still an A-list Hollywood star? I want him to be, but his stuff has kinda dropped off…)

  5. Chris B

    Barry Levinson’s Sleepers is a really good, if not great film. Robert Deniro, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt and Kevin Bacon made for a pretty great lineup. Not to mention Jason Patric and Billy Crudup.

  6. Dick Dreyfuss

    “At this particular moment in time, I hesitate to mention that Kevin Spacey is in it too”…….soon you won’t be mentioning anyone.

  7. ‘The Dark Knight’ (and Batman Begins). Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, what a cast …

  8. William Henley

    I’ll echo Airplane and Galaxy Quest as favorites.

    There are so many movies out there with all star casts that were awesome, some cheesy, but all are favorites of mine. The Expendables series is a great example, as is Dreamgirls and Demolition Man. It Takes Two with the Olsen Twins is an all star cast, as is Mamma Mia (both cheesy movies, but you got to love them). If you throw in animated movies, you have practically anything released in the past 20 years (Shrek, Toy Story, Emperor’s New Groove). You could also throw in practically any movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The first Harry Potter movie had an all-star adult cast, but after the first movie, the child stars were all recognizable, so it could be argued that any movie after the first, all the main characters were stars. Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird is an all-star cast of early 80s pop culture.

  9. I choose Blues Brothers.

    Cab Calloway, James Brown, Chaka Kahn, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Kathleen Freeman, Carrie Fisher, John Candy, Pee Wee Herman, Twiggy, Frank Oz and Steven Spielberg

    Plus the Blues Brothers and their band, of course.

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