Relatively speaking, any list of Kevin Spacey movies will show how much of an anomaly he is. Many names in the industry broke into the film industry from somewhere else. Some started on stage, others in commercials, while some others have practically graced our screens since they were in diapers. Kevin Spacey doesn’t break this trend as he too got his start in stage productions. However, even with his long-standing status as a Hollywood great, it seems his career has maintained an undulating pattern.
Even after Kevin starred in breakthrough roles in movies like L.A. Confidential, The Usual Suspects, and Se7en, he still continued to take on bit-part roles that weren’t reflective of his growing reputation within the industry.
Spacey started participating in stage plays from high school, he played Captain Georg von Trapp for a stage adaptation of The Sound of Music. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Julliard School where he trained under veteran actress Marian Seldes. More recently, he has added projects like All the Money In the World and Billionaire Boys Club to his career portfolio. He is mostly known for his time on Netflix’s House of Cards as Frank Underwood.
We’ve done a round-up of movies and televisions series that are worth pointing out from Spacey’s career so far. We have looked at Spacey’s performance, box office earnings, and feedback from fans and critics while selecting these movies.
Kevin Spacey Movies and TV Show Reviews and Summaries
L.A. Confidential (1997)
First on our list of Kevin Spacey movies sees the actor play the role of Detective Jack Vincennes. Set in the 1950s, the detective is something of an anomaly in the police force. Renowned for exposing hot shots in the film industry, Jack also serves as the technical advisor for the fictional TV series Badge of Honor.
This movie was a hit for many reasons. For one, it was the vehicle that introduced North American audiences to Australian actors like Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. L.A. Confidential was also praised for its picture-perfect depiction of the relationship between Hollywood and the Los Angeles crime scene set in the post-war era of the early 1950s.
Kevin Spacey was especially hailed for his ability to interpret his role as Jack Vincennes, a “celebrity cop” who is constantly walking the tight rope between committing a crime and seeking justice. The movie received praise from all corners, earning it a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an aggregate score of 90 on Metacritic. The movie raked in $126.2 million at the box office from a budget of $36 million.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Another ultra-successful Kevin Spacey movie, the story follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey), the lone witness and survivor of a shipyard accident who also happens to walk with a limp resulting from cerebral palsy. Owing to the millions of dollars missing from the scene and the 27 dead bodies discovered, Kint is brought in for questioning.
The plot utilizes narration and flashbacks to depicts Roger’s story of how everything went down. The police are trying to find out from him everything they can about a known criminal kingpin he supposedly works for, a man known as Keyser Söze. After a long and drawn out deposition, Roger is released only for the police to realize that Roger is in fact Keyser Söze.
Spacey won himself an Academy Award for his mind-bending transition from low-life thug to a criminal kingpin in The Usual Suspects. The movie wasn’t meant to be a blockbuster movie and only opened up in a few theatres. Still, it managed a gross of more than five times its mini-budget of $6 million. It received a commendable 89 rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a meta score of 77 on Metacritic.
A Bug’s Life (1999)
Our first animated movie on the list, Kevin Spacey voices the role of Hopper, the hostile leader of a gang of meddlesome grasshoppers who harass an ant colony every season and take all their food. A Bug’s Life tells the story of Flik (Dave Foley), an anti-social ant, who decides to go in search of warriors who will help his colony fight off Hopper and his notorious gang.
Produced by Pixar Animation Studios, the animated film was praised for its creativity, the computer imagery, its bountiful humor, unforgettable characters, and flawless dialogue. However, while it received mostly positive reviews from critics – it got a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes – a few critics considered it a little sub-par when compared with Antz, which was also released by DreamWorks Animations around the same time. Nevertheless, A Bug’s Life scored a $363.3 million gross against a budget of $120 million.
Se7en was popular because it lived up to its promise of conjuring up really dark scenes, disturbing themes and a brutal plot, a feat that received high praise from critics. In the movie, Kevin Spacey plays a character known simply as John Doe. He is the antagonist of the movie who is being haunted by veteran police officer William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and hot-headed and idealistic detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) for his gruesome acts of murder in line with the seven deadly sins.
The movie recorded a $327.3 million gross from a production budget of $33 million. It received an 81 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a rating of 8.6 out of 10 on IMDb. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.
House of Cards (2013 – 2018)
One of the flagship series from Netflix, Kevin Spacey plays the lead role of a South Carolina Democrat Congressman and floor leader Francis “Frank” Underwood. Frank is overlooked for the position of the Secretary of State and together with his equally devious and ambitious wife, he starts to put together an elaborate plot to get into the office.
Kevin Spacey also worked as an executive producer of the first five seasons of this political thriller web series. However, the series came to a wobbling end, partly because of the exclusion of Spacey from the cast due to him being embroiled in a series of sexual allegation cases at the time.
Throughout its run time, House of Cards received an overall rating of 78 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and was hailed for its decisive directing and strong performances from the likes of Robin Wright and Spacey himself. The series received an avalanche of nominations which included 33 Primetime Emmy Awards and 8 Golden Globe Awards.
American Beauty (1999)
This Kevin Spacey movie sees him play a slightly disturbing character. In this drama, he is Lester Burnham, an executive in an advertising firm who quits his job and is going through a mid-life crisis. As the story unfolds, his growing apathy towards his materialistic wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening) sees him become infatuated with his daughter Jane’s (Thora Birch) best friend (Mena Suvari).
Everything about this film – casting, acting, and directing – received a good ovation from critics. It scored an 88 on Rotten Tomatoes and an 86 on Metacritic. It also gathered a huge sweep of awards at the Academy Awards, winning Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (for Kevin Spacey), Best Director (for Sam Mendes) and Best Picture. American Beauty was created with a cost of $15 million and brought in a total of $356.3 million in worldwide gross.
Baby Driver (2017)
A fast-paced action film with the likes of Spacey and Jamie Foxx, baby driver tells the story of Miles “Baby” (Ansel Elgort), a young and skilled driver who drives the getaway car for a crew of robbers working for Doc (Kevin Spacey) as a way to repay his debt for stealing a car. Miles’s plan is to be able to pay off his debt to Doc and start a life free of crime with his girlfriend Debora (Lily James). However, Doc has other plans.
The film won a plethora of awards including a Critic’s Choice Movie Award and two Empire Awards. It was also nominated for multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, and Academy Awards among others. The film was rated 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic awarded it a meta score of 86. Baby Driver made a worldwide total of $226.9 million from a $34 million budget.
Billionaire Boys Club (2018)
This Kevin Spacey movie sees him share the set again with Baby Driver actor Ansel Elgort. Set in the 1980s, Billionaire Boys Club tells the story of Joe Hunt (Ansel) who leads his group of wealthy friends to pool money together to invest in a Ponzi scheme. To achieve this, they bring on high roller Ron Levin (Kevin Spacey) who unknown to them is a con man who swindles them of all their money. The story ends up with Ron killed and Hunt and his friend with their hands on the trigger.
While the movies received overwhelmingly negative reviews, it was perhaps worsened by Spacey’s ongoing sexual allegation battles. It opened to an unbelievably tragic $618 on its opening weekend and could only recoup $2.5 million at the box office from a budget of $15 million. It was given a score of 30 on Metacritic and an abysmal 7 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Superman Returns (2006)
In Superman Returns, the terrestrial superhero returns to earth after half a decade away only to find himself in conditions that he would rather not be in. For one, the love of his life Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) seems to have moved on with her life, while the city he loves so much has adapted to living in a world without him. While he fights to win back Lois, he is already saddled with the responsibility of protecting the earth from one of his greatest enemies.
Spacey plays the role of the evil sociopath and Superman’s (Brandon Routh) perennial nemesis Lex Luthor. Kevin and Routh were especially singled for the way they handled their roles in the film. It got a 75 percent rating, a “B-” and a meta score of 72 from Rotten Tomatoes, CinemaScore, and Metacritic respectively. It performed modestly at the box office, pulling in $391.1 million from a budget of $223 million.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Here Kevin Spacey plays David Harken, the uncaring and soulless boss of Jason Bateman’s character Nick Hendricks. Jason joins forces with two of his friends (Charlie Day as Dale Arbus and Jason Sudeikis as Kurt Buckman) who have corresponding and overbearing difficulties with their respective bosses. These three friends decide to kill off their bosses (played by Spacey, Jennifer Aniston Dr. Julia Harris, and Colin Farrell as Bobby Pellitt).
While Horrible Bosses was not totally horrible, it did not perform as well as a few other Kevin Spacey movies either. Critics said that the film was nothing special and was only noted for the acting of its carefully selected ensemble cast. It received an average score of 57 on Metacritic and a 69 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.