From Steven Soderbergh to Jason Reitman: George Clooney’s best films on Netflix
(Credit: Netflix)

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From Steven Soderbergh to Jason Reitman: George Clooney’s best films on Netflix

“I don’t believe in happy endings, but I do believe in happy travels, because ultimately, you die at a very young age, or you live long enough to watch your friends die. It’s a mean thing, life.”

George Clooney is a legend. Please do not judge Clooney for having played Batman, the poor guy apologises for it even now and has been quoted saying, “The truth of the matter is, I was bad in it. … I’m terrible in it”. Despite enacting a much-maligned film and getting heavy criticism for it, Clooney’s overall swagger and glitzy filmography makes up for all of it. Suave and charming, this two-time Academy Award winner (and six-time nominee) can make hearts flutter with his captivating on-screen presence and wonderful acting skills.

Born in Kentucky to a councilwoman mother and television host father, Clooney had suffered from Bell’s palsy as a child which had partially paralysed his face for nearly nine months until his first year of high school, which he admits “was a bad time for having your face half-paralysed”. This condition helped him develop the habit of having a good laugh at himself, a habit he would cherish later on after he became famous and would help him take criticism in a positive light. 

Clooney was never adept at academics and dropped out of University, making a living for himself by engaging in random jobs. He got his first role as an extra in a television mini-series before bagging a major role in a sitcom named ER that eventually fizzled out after dominating TV sets across the glove. As he continued making appearances on various TV shows as well as some obscure horror films, he undertook acting classes at Beverley Hills Playhouse for five years. His role in ER eventually earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, setting up a platform for future success. 

His breakthrough role was in Robert Rodriguez’s bizarre horror-comedy-crime-thriller alongside Quentin Tarantino in From Dusk Till Dawn, where his performance, although overshadowed by the neurotic Tarantino, garnered him attention. Following this success, he started appearing in various rom-coms and thrillers before getting heavily criticised for his role as Batman in Joel Schumacher’s maligned film Batman & Robin. After he starred in Out of Sight, he began a fruitful collaboration with Steven Soderbergh, subsequently starring in the Ocean’s franchise and garnering financial success. Since then, Clooney has been a regular at box-office hits, exuding raw charm and being a fashionable swank, amassing a massive fan following. 

A philanthropist and a passionate advocate for crucial causes, including gay rights, gun control, Syrian cause, Clooney has been vocal about the various atrocities meted out to civilians all over the world, donating charitably for causes such as the Haiti earthquake and Beirut explosion to name a few. Clooney is not only an acclaimed, actor, director and producer, but the biggest advocate for human rights who engages in philanthropy out of genuine concerns which is a rarity in Hollywood.

As this uber-talented actor turns 60 today, we take a moment to appreciate his contribution to Hollywood by taking a look at some of his best films that are currently streaming on Netflix:

George Clooney’s best films on Netflix:

7. Money Monster (Jodie Foster, 2016)

IBIS Clear Capital’s stock crash and the investors lose around $800 billion while the CEO Camby suddenly takes off. In the middle of his show named Money Monster, Lee Gates and his producer Patty Fenn are taken hostage by an irate investor named Kyle Budwell whose entire life savings have gone down the drain. He holds the host Gates accountable for having marketed IBIS so highly while they try to explain the glitch in the algorithm to Budwell, both Patty and Lee realise that there is more to it than it seems and decide to help Budwell after Lee takes pity on him. Soon they stumble upon an uncomfortable reality which frames the CEO as a corrupt beguiler.

Julia Roberts who stars as Patty Fenn shot all her scenes with a green screen as she had scheduling conflicts with Clooney. While Foster could have added more meatiness to Clooney’s role, the actor manages to breathe in an iota of life into his soulless character. While the film lacks surprises and is a flat thriller with obvious endings, it is clear why Clooney took a long break after the film, probably to analyse the kind of roles he was taking on. With a pretty intense hostage situation, the unexpected humorous bits add some extra likeability to the film. 

“Once again it all boils down to good old fashioned fraud.”

6. The Midnight Sky (George Clooney, 2020)

While it is not really the best sci-fi film out there, The Midnight Sky tugs at your heartstrings with its heavy emotional undertones, emphasising the genius of Clooney as a director to take a step back and revel in the poignance of a man who is simply trying to survive. Clooney’s character, Augustine Lofthouse is suffering from a terminal illness and knows he does not have much time left. The Earth is contaminated with most of its population decimated, and all Lofthouse wants is to save the remaining people that is the crew onboard Aether. Among the crew is his long-estranged daughter Iris “Sully” Sullivan whose hallucination as a child keeps him going during his darkest days. 

This was his first film ever since the 2016 flick Money Monster and lived up to audience expectations by providing a wholesome film. Clooney lets the emotional matter do the talking as he reduces himself to a man trying to save the survivors. Its melancholy tone and poignance are peppered with silent rays of hope and truckloads of sentiment which heightens the hurt and comfort. Felicity Jones as Iris was actually pregnant at that time and Clooney rewrote her character as a pregnant woman as he did not want to replace her.  

“I’m afraid we didn’t do a very good job of looking after the place while you were away.”

5. From Dusk Till Dawn (Robert Rodriguez, 1996)

Seth Gecko and Richie Gecko are two brothers who are on the run after having looted a bank and killed civilians and police officers. They seek shelter in a motel before holding a family hostage and sauntering through the deserted and unmanned arid regions of the Texan highway to be driven to the border of Mexico. While they are on their way, they make a pitstop at a club named Titty Twister where the employees including the seductive private dancer turn into bloodthirsty vampires that threaten to kill the Fuller family as well as the Geckos. Together, they try to defeat the vampires amidst bizarre sequences of a vampire band strumming a dead body with strings attached across its torso to glory. 

The film is strange and quirky, to say the least with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez bringing together their respective creative geniuses to create a genre-bending freakshow. Tarantino appears as the sleazy Richie who is a violent and neurotic sex offender; Clooney appears as his level-headed older brother Seth who can keep Richie under control. Seth often finds himself in difficult predicaments due to Richie’s brazen decisions. Clooney is the typical bad guy with a lion heart who attains his redemption in the audience’s eye with his final acts of kindness. 

“Now, is my shit together or is my shit together?” 

4. Up In the Air (Jason Reitman, 2009)

Ryan Bingham is a sharply dressed businessman whose suave and classy nature has no time to harbour emotions. He is a man who specialises in laying off people ad is estranged from everyone who might just care for him. He starts a casual relationship with a woman named Alex who is equally busy and shares his philosophy of living solo. To live his dream of earning the much-coveted ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines, Bingham keeps travelling to various places, laying off people and delivering motivational speeches. One day, he is challenged by the young Alex who wants to do the same using technology and Bingham, taken aback, decides to bring her along which proves tumultuous for him as he is forced to confront various truths about himself that he had formerly suppressed consciously. 

With this film winning Clooney the third Oscar nomination out of his four, the director Jason Reitman has always stressed how he tries to reexamine philosophy as a whole by exploring the trope of isolation via a man’s eyes that believes in living solo yet begins to question his lifestyle. Clooney represents the disillusioned modern man who is totally isolated, disconnected and is quick to cut off relations with those who might have feelings of love and care for him yet lives in a bubble of pseudo-understanding and certainty. The gruelling and competitive corporate world gets featured here in all its nakedness. The poignance of the film lies in the alienation, unemployment as well as inability to grapple with one’s emotions. 

“You know that moment when you look into somebody’s eyes and you can feel them staring into your soul and the whole world goes quiet just for a second?”

3. Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)

The first film of the Ocean’s franchise with an ensemble cast comprising the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Bernie Mac, Julia Roberts and more, the film is one of Soderbergh’s best. Following his release, Danny Ocean dreams of planning the biggest heist in history and ropes in ten other members including Rusty Ryan, Reuben Tishkoff etc. They plan to rob the three impregnable Las Vegas casinos, namely the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand casinos and make a profit of $150 million. All three casinos are owned by Terry Benedict who is the arch-rival of Tishkoff. However, the heist is not easy to carry out and the eleven members need to be extremely cautious amidst the hostile climate.  

An absolute fun watch from the beginning to the end, the heist sequence is possibly one of the best as conjured by Soderbergh comprising 11 dashing criminals. Incredible cinematography and wonderfully riveting sequences add the oomph factor to the film. The cast had incredible fun behind the scenes as well where they played pranks on each other as well as dealt hands, where Clooney, lacking the coolness of his character, lost the most number of times, 25 blackjacks in a row to be precise. As Danny, Clooney is smooth and smug, adept and shows off an unimaginable swagger that compliments his witty quips throughout the film. 

“I’m not sure what four nines does, but the ace, I think, is pretty high.”

2. Syriana (Stephen Gaghan, 2005)

Clooney won his first (and indeed well-deserved) Oscar for his role in Gaghan’s film where he managed to rope in deep cynicism into his character contrasting his usual persona that indulges in activism and passionate participation in activities, a rarity in Hollywood. Clooney went the extra mile and gained nearly 30 pounds for his role and displayed his moral and spiritual exhaustion with a deftness credited only to an actor of his stature. Jaded and devoid of illusions regarding the morality of his work, Clooney is a vision amidst this searing film commentary that exposes the sky-high ambitions of the governments which often prove dangerous not just to the people but also to the environment.  

American oil companies Connex and Killen are merging to form the Connex-Killen. Connex loses several oil fields in the Persian Gulf as the foreign minister of the country as well as the next heir to the throne seal the contract with the Chinese. Since Killen manages to secure contracts with Kazakhstan oil fields, Connex-Killen ultimately hopes to be beneficial to both companies in the end. However, corruption and the desire for power runs high and the four parallel stories presented in the film commence and converge at the oil fields. A blistering commentary on the state of the oil industry as well as those involved, the film is an eye-opener with brilliant performances from an ensemble, especially George Clooney as Bob Barnes who is a pawn that has been assigned the task of assassinating the Prince to save the American oil industry from losing their face.

“Innocent until investigated? That’s nice. It’s got a nice ring to it. Bet you’ve worn some miles on old sayings like that. Gives the listener the sense of the law being written as it’s spoken.” 

1. Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)

Jack Foley is a career bank robber who breaks out of prison with the help of his friend Buddy and ends up abducting a US Marshal named Karen Sisco with whom he feels undeniable chemistry and palpable sexual tension. He hatches a plan with Buddy and the chicken-hearted Glenn to rob the mansion of a foolish braggart of a businessman named Ripley who claims to have hidden uncut diamonds there. Having partnered with another gang of robbers with Maurice as their leader, Foley infiltrates the mansion while being pursued closely by Sisco whose intentions are murky and unclear.  

As opposed to the previous films he was seen in, Clooney was sexy, suave, bold and loosened up quite a bit. This film helped establish the quintessential swagger and carnal appeal that he bore throughout his career and also marked the beginning of his fruitful collaboration and friendship with director Steven Soderbergh. His knowing smile and old-school sophistication exude the raw charm of a lead actor. Looney was supposedly extremely excited by the role as the character of Foley forever appeared to him as the kind of a bad guy whose escape everyone would desperately root for.  The film helped Clooney cement his name in the list of actors suitable for playing the leading man and is always considered one of his best performances. 

“Is this your first time being robbed? You’re doing great.”