2. Good Will Hunting (1997)
A near-impossible maths problem is left on a black board in the corridors of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston), a problem that even the highest achieving students struggle to understand and yet the janitor, Will, solves on first sight.
Matt Damon plays the titular Will Hunting in this emotional drama about a boy genius who grew up on the wrong side of town. Damon’s performance is iconic and unforgettable, especially in the scene where he and Sean (Robin Williams in an Oscar-winning turn) finally get to the root of Will’s issues and he transitions from being the “tough guy” to a lost and lonely young boy in just a matter of seconds.
Along with his outstanding performance, for which he gained his first Academy Award nomination for acting, he was also the co-writer with fellow young actor Ben Affleck. They both went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the age of just 27.
It is clear from the emotional backbone of the film and the passion of each of their performances that Good Will Hunting was entirely a passion project for both Damon and Affleck. Having both grown up in Boston, and having attended Harvard college, their knowledge of the city and its social issues helped the film to grow into a timeless classic.
Recommended for you: 5 Moments in Good Will Hunting That Will Give You Chills
1. The Martian (2015)
Despite The Martian being an all round more comical film than Good Will Hunting and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ridley Scott’s brilliant adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel of the same name earns the distinction of presenting the greatest performance of Matt Damon’s career due to the emotional range Damon was required to display throughout its runtime.
In this 2015 science fiction film, Matt Damon plays lead character Mark Watney, a botanist on a space mission with Nasa to discover whether it’s possible to inhabit Mars. When the crew – made up of some of this film’s colossal cast including Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara and Michael Peña – are hit by an almighty storm, they evacuate the planet, accidentally leaving Damon’s Watney behind. Once Watney wakes up and realises what has happened, he needs to find a way to survive on Mars for 3 long years, the time it will take for a space rescue to come for him.
Damon spends the majority of the film alone, holding the entire production together with a combination of his trademark charm and some convincing moments of self-reflection and fear. He also does a great job of embodying the effects of isolation.
It’s a performance that earned the actor his third acting nomination at the Oscars, being one of the five names nominated in the Actor in a Leading Role category in 2016, and will surely be remembered as a shining example of his skill and range as a screen performer.
Recommended for you: Top 10 Ridley Scott Movies
With a career spanning 30-plus years and with more than 80 acting credits to his name, it’s safe to say Matt Damon has performed admirably in many more films that could have made this list – notably Contagion (2011), The Good Shepherd (2006), The Informant! (2009) and The Ocean’s Trilogy.