When Matt Damon won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy earlier this year, he thanked the usual people — his children, his wife, his colleagues — and graciously ignored the fact that his winning film, “The Martian,” was not really a comedy. Then he said something surprising.
“When people go see movies, it’s kind of rare,” Damon said. “I’ve made a lot of movies that people just didn’t go see.”
Really? Damon has been a major celebrity since he starred in “Good Will Hunting” (1997) and shared a screenwriting Oscar with Ben Affleck. He followed that by becoming an action hero in “The Bourne Identity” (2002), which became a popular franchise that he juggled with the “Ocean’s Eleven” films. Throw in that Globe for “The Martian” — the 10th highest-grossing film of last year — and you might wonder: Which Matt Damon movies did we not go see?
There are more than you’d think. Damon’s resume includes not just major hits but also a mix of middling performers and flat-out misses. Ahead of the July 29 release of Damon’s much-awaited “Jason Bourne,” the fifth film in the series, here’s a selective look at the actor’s career.
MISS: 'SCHOOL TIES' (1992)
After making his film debut with a brief appearance in “Mystic Pizza” (1988), Damon landed his first major role in this prep-school drama alongside newcomers Brendan Fraser, left, Chris O’Donnell and Ben Affleck. Reviews were middling, as was the box office, but it’s an early example of Damon’s easy charm and effortless-looking acting.
HIT: 'GOOD WILL HUNTING' (1997)
Damon was already a rising star when he co-wrote and co-starred with Ben Affleck in this drama about a brilliant thug who begins seeing a therapist (Robin Williams, left). Now considered a 1990s landmark, the movie marked the first of Damon’s collaborations with director Gus Van Sant.
HIT: 'THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY' (1999)
Anthony Minghella’s moody thriller cast Damon in the unlikely role of a charming sociopath who murders his way across Europe. Though not Damon’s biggest hit, “Ripley” may be his best performance to date. The supporting cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Jack Davenport, left, and Gwyneth Paltrow, center.
MISS: 'THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE' (2000)
Robert Redford’s adaptation of a novel about a war-damaged golfer (Damon) who meets a mystical caddie (Will Smith, left) polarized critics: Some warmed to its life lessons, others called it racist claptrap. The same year, Damon starred with Penélope Cruz in another novel adaptation, “All the Pretty Horses,” which sunk like a stone.
HIT: 'OCEAN’S ELEVEN' (2001)
With all the A-list names packed into Steven Soderbergh’s Las Vegas heist comedy — George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt — there’s barely any time for Damon as pickpocket Linus Caldwell. That somewhat minor role, however, means Damon will always have this $1 billion trilogy of films on his resume.
MISS: 'GERRY' (2002)
Damon and director Gus Van Sant re-teamed for this story about two friends (one played by Casey Affleck, right) who get lost in the desert. All three wrote the non-narrative screenplay. Despite critical acclaim, “Gerry” was a flop even by art-house standards, pulling in a little over $250,000.
HIT: 'THE BOURNE IDENTITY' (2002)
If Damon is synonymous with any role, it’s Jason Bourne, the amnesiac superspy created by Robert Ludlum. Slick but hard-hitting, preposterous but somehow believable, this first “Bourne” movie launched Damon on another $1 billion franchise.
MISS: 'STUCK ON YOU' (2003)
The Farrelly brothers cleaned up their act for this Christmas release starring Damon and Greg Kinnear, right, as conjoined twins. The gags aren’t too gross and the characters are rather sweet — but was that the wrong move? The film earned about a third of what “Dumb and Dumber” made in 1994. Also starring Wen Yann Shih, left.
HIT: 'THE DEPARTED' (2006)
Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed mob movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio cast Damon in a supporting role as a corrupt cop. It’s one of Damon’s better performances (and one of Scorsese’s best-loved films), but the Oscar nomination went to Mark Wahlberg as the principled Sgt. Dignam. The impressive cast included Jack Nicholson, left, as a mobster.
HIT: 'GREEN ZONE' (2010)
Damon and two-time “Bourne” director Paul Greengrass struck a serious note with this dramatic thriller about an Army officer looking for WMDs in Iraq. Damon’s star power helped this Middle East war movie fare better than others, but the box-office take of $94 million still fell short of the movie’s $100 million budget.
HIT: 'THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU' (2011)
This sci-fi romance based on a Philip K. Dick story starred Damon and Emily Blunt, right, as lovers kept apart by a shadowy network of reality-wranglers. Writer-director George Nolfi (a “Bourne” writer) gives the story wit, warmth and tenderness — but also a disappointingly schmaltzy ending. Still, the two stars made a nice team and helped the film pull in a decent $127 million.
MISS: 'WE BOUGHT A ZOO' (2012)
Damon plus Scarlett Johansson? How bad could it be? Well, it wasn’t great. This Cameron Crowe movie, based on the memoir of a neophyte zookeeper, marked the start of a somewhat fallow period for Damon that included the preachy political drama “Promised Land” (2012), the so-so sci-fi thriller “Elysium” (2013) and the middling war movie “The Monuments Men” (2014).
HIT: 'THE MARTIAN' (2015)
Damon bounced back big time in this space-adventure about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film was nearly a one-man show for Damon, who as Mark Watney often speaks to the camera as he plans his escape. Audiences lined up for the chance to spend two-plus hours with the infinitely charming actor, and the movie became a $630 million hit that put Damon firmly back in the stratosphere.