Top Five… Ensembles

Everyone loves a good ensemble cast. It give us all the chance to shout: ‘Hey! I know that guy! And that guy! And that other guy was in something too!’ In his stunning debut piece for Ross v Ross, English Bob guides us through the best acting groups in movie history.

5. True Romance

Only something like a Tarantino project contains the appeal to get big names to lay their egos at the door for ensemble and even cameo roles. You could realistically place a number of Tarantino efforts on this list in good conscience, but let’s pick True Romance, which despite being directed by Tony Scott crackles with a typically fast-paced script from the great man and corrals the wide-ranging talents of (deep breath) Christian Slater, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Arquette, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken and Samuel L Jackson (phew!).

4. The Royal Tenenbaums

Comedy cliques are nothing new, and the last decade has seen countless outings of varying quality from the group comprised of Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn and Ferrell. The Royal Tenenbaums is possibly the best though, as Ben Stiller and Luke and Owen Wilson are joined by veteran Bill Murray and straight men/women Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Danny Glover and Gwyneth Paltrow, who all hit the right notes in this quirky black comedy.

3. Ocean’s Eleven

Before this franchise became a complete caricature of itself, this Steven Soderbergh remake of the Rat Pack classic was notable because it gave the appearance that its all-star cast would have been happy to work for free given the opportunity to hang out and shoot the shit in Vegas. Kings of cool Clooney and Pitt lead the way as Matt Damon, Elliot Gould, Andy Garcia and co put on a show that at the time was endearing for all the implied in-jokes and cameos – although Don Cheadle’s accent takes some getting past. Unfortunately the subsequent films have tarnished Eleven, but I suppose James Caan’s kid and Ben Affleck’s brother need someone to give them work every now and then.

2. Sneakers

I always knew this espionage caper had a great cast (Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Ackroyd and Ben Kingsley), but until watching again recently I had forgotten the presence of David Strathairn and River Phoenix in one of his last roles. It’s refreshing to see the likes of Poitier show off his comic timing with some Punch and Judy exchanges with Ackroyd, while Kingsley porks it up superbly as villainous Cosmo and Redford is his usual charismatic self.

1. The Great Escape

Dicky and Stevie couldn't find the rest of the cast anywhere

A who’s who of who’s huge from the 1960s, director John Sturges grouped together a host of leading men and soon-to-be leading men from both sides of the Atlantic in a film that cemented the iconic status of rising star Steve McQueen. The story of the Allied escape from a German POW camp brought together Brits Richard Attenborough (already nearly 20 years a headline act), Donald Pleasance and Man From UNCLE David McCallum and US stars James Garner, James Coburn and Charlie Bronson, fresh off his and McQueen’s breakout in the Magnificent Seven (which almost deserves a place on this list in its own right), for a piece of escapism that continues to delight audiences stuffed with Christmas dinner.



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20 Responses to “Top Five… Ensembles”

  1. Gosford Park. Times give.

  2. Ooh, good subject.

    As a resident oldie would suggest

    Towering Inferno – Newman, McQueen, Astaire, Robert Wagner, William Holden, and OJ

    and definitely

    Casino Royale – Welles, Niven, Sellers, Woody Allen, John Huston, George Raft, Deborah Kerr, Jean Paul Belmondo and Ursula Andress.
    Man, that should be in the list.

    Copland, The Godfathers, JFK (Costner, Sutherland, Bacon, Oldman, Tommy Lee the Hack)

    And a low rent ensemble….Love Actually

    And one for the ladies..Steel Magnolias (Parton, MacLaine, Roberts, Hannah, Field)

    And don’t evem get me started on war films The Longest Day or A Bridge Too Far (Olivier, Cann, Caine, Connery, Hackman, Redford, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan O’Neal, Gould and Dirk Bogarde!)

    man, make that list a top 10.

  3. What about Pulp Fiction? John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette

    Glengarry Glen Ross
    Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce

    LA Confidential
    Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, David Strathairn

    Others: Batman Begins/ Dark Knight, the LOTR and Harry Potter movies

  4. Ocean’s Eleven, have you seen the “Rat Pack classic”? It was a terrible movie, little more than an excuse for Frank and the boys to get together and party.

    My top pick would be Glengarry Glen Ross as Mikey mentions above.

    Also, how about Sin City.

  5. Sin City, good pick!

    The Godfather also has quite a cast:
    Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton

  6. Gotta give it up for Sneakers. What a great movie. Excellent choice!

    I would add or take into consideration:

    Pulp Fiction

    Lord Of The Rings

    The Departed





    The Usual Suspects

  7. nice list English Bob, welcome to RvR…
    heres a few more:
    Cannonball Run – it has Dean Martin, Roger Moore, Burt Reynolds, Sammy Davis Jr, Farrah Fawcett, Jackie Chan, Peter Fonda and the guy who was Jaws in the Bond movies
    I also have a soft spot for the ensemble at the beginning of Mission: Impossible that gets wiped out within about ten minutes. any film that has the balls to kill off Emilio Estevez early on has got to be good

  8. Dammit! Jaws from Bond was in Cannonball Run 2, along with most of the original cast AND Telly Savalas, Frank Sinatra, Ricardo Montalban (KHAAAANNNN!!!), Shirley MacLaine, Cheech Marin and Tony Danza! Who’s The Boss, eh?

  9. English Bob Says:

    Lots of good suggestions there, it’s kind of a wide open topic because every film could potentially be argued for…

    The Godfather missed out because of its place on every G.O.A.T list… All those movies tend to have great casts and I wanted to go beyond the obvious a little.

    Glengarry Glen Ross was on the shortlist but I wanted to pick a comedy and Tarantino deserved a slot.

    PS. Had a bit of a brain fart over ‘Rat Pack classic’ I admit. I know it’s terrible, just spat that out without thinking….

  10. Paul the Ball Says:

    ‘just spat that out without thinking…’
    well, youre on the right website.

  11. English Bob Says:

    tell me about it.

  12. Sneakers = classic! Love that movie.

    12 Angry Men would be my pick: Henry Fonda, Jack Warden, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, Ed Begley…

    I’d also add another vote for Glengary Glen Ross.

  13. mcarteratthemovies Says:

    Mikey and I agree — no love for “Pulp Fiction”? How about “Reservoir Dogs”? Or how about some oldies, like “The Breakfast Club” or — this is reaching waaaaaay back — “12 Angry Men”?

  14. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” , with Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Jim Backus, Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Terry Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Rochester, Joe E. Brown, Don Knotts, Peter Falk, Buster Keaton, Carl Reiner, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Ethel Merman and The Three Stooges … and it’s funny, and it has a serious point … top that.

  15. […] *This is a subject of debate between Ross and Ross. […]

  16. …are we confusing ensemble with star studded?

    I wouldn’t say that Towering Inferno was an ensemble piece. To me ‘ensemble’ is a cast with close interaction throughout the film and not just an impressive list otherwise the concept becomes meaningless.Reservoir Dogs, The Usual Suspects and Young Guns yes. Pulp Fiction, Heat and Tombstone no.

    anyway my favourites that haven’t already been mentioned are…

    The Thing
    The Goonies
    44 Inch Chest (review on the blog tomorrow)

  17. Glengarry Glen Ross. Booyah.

  18. Love Actually
    …because every British person is in it and it’s irresistibly charming.

    Mystic River
    …because it’s two Academy Award winning performances are just the beginning.

    Into the Wild
    …because even if the stars pop up for only a second, they bolster the movie in some beautiful kind of way

  19. mcarteratthemovies Says:

    And also: What about “Mystery Men”? Even if you hated the movie, you’re talking about William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens, Kel “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger” Mitchell, Hank Azaria, comedian Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear AND Geoffrey Rush in ONE MOVIE!

  20. Based on pure Star Power, I gotta put Ocean’s 11 at #1. It has arguably 5 of the 10 biggest stars in the world. Not a fan of Sneakers up there. Also would’ve included Pulp Fiction and Copland, which is highly under-rated!

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