The year of ensemble-cast movies – which one is your favorite?

With The Avengers kick-starting the Summer movie season, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of blockbusters. The year of ensemble cast blockbusters to be exact, as The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit are all vying to be amongst the ‘billion dollar club’ of the decade.

Avengers’ cast in the London premiere

An ensemble cast: a cast in which the principal performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance and screen time in a dramatic production.

A couple of years ago I listed my top five ensemble cast films from the past decade. Now, it’s not as simple as just hiring a bunch of actors in one movie, as some dismal movies like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve did. A good ensemble formula is when the assembled players actually work well together and elevate the story, instead of just getting ‘butts in seats’ for their name’s sake.

The ensemble cast films aren’t limited to just the mega blockbusters, however, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love also boast a large troupe of actors for their films. There’s also the 80s action heroes ensemble that is Expendables 2, and comedy ensembles What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Movie 43 from the Farrelly Brothers which I talked about last March [it’s apparently has been pushed out ’til next January]. On a smaller scale, there are these two independent projects I’m highly enthusiastic about:

  • At Swim Two Birds with the Irish ‘dream team’ of Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Michael Fassbender, and Jonathan Rhys Meyersthat’s hopefully out this year as well.
  • All Things to All Men with Gabriel Byrne, Rufus Sewell, Toby Stephens, Elsa Pataky (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth’s wife), Leo Gregory, Julian Sands and James Frain. I will blog about this as soon as I have more info about the project, but in the meantime, check out this comprehensive post on Byrneholics site.

Ok, these three films represent three of my favorite ensemble cast from this year’s release (apart from The Avengers that is):

Moonrise Kingdom

  • Edward Norton
  • Bruce Willis
  • Bill Murray
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Jason Schwartzman
  • Frances McDormand

Norton, Willis and Murray… what a trio! The trailer looks like a hoot as well. This might be another Wes Anderson movie I like since The Royal Tennenbaums!

The Dark Knight Rises

  • Tom Hardy
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Christian Bale
  • Liam Neeson
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Gary Oldman
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Michael Caine

The Dark Knight‘s cast is already ace, but the additional cast (especially Hardy and Gordon-Levitt) just makes it even better!! I’ve never even heard of Josh Pence before (last photo on the 2nd row) but curious how he’d fare as young Ra’s Al Ghul.

The Hobbit

Click image to see a larger version
  • Luke Evans
  • Hugo Weaving
  • Elijah Wood
  • Martin Freeman
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Evangeline Lilly
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Christopher Lee
  • Ian McKellen
  • Andy Serkis
  • Richard Armitage
  • Ian Holm
  • Lee Pace
  • Billy Connolly

Now, is it any wonder I actually dreamed about being on the set of this movie??! Again, I already LOVE the cast of the Lord of the Rings trilogy but Peter Jackson seems to have upped the ante even more as The Hobbit is chock full of my favorite UK/Aussie actors!! A lot of them are from UK TV shows so I wonder if PJ are a big fan of BBC? 😀 You already know this but I’m looking forward to seeing Richard Armitage as Thorin the most, but also Lee Pace as Thranduil the Elven King!

Added 12/3


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – I LOVE the all-British cast, especially the two Dames: Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. But it’s also nice to see the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy amongst the cast as well.

Inspired by my pal Terrence’s Time to Vote Tuesday, I figure it’d be fun to have an interactive post for today 🙂

So which of these ensemble cast is your favorite? Please cast your vote below (you can pick 2) and do share why in the comments 🙂


77 thoughts on “The year of ensemble-cast movies – which one is your favorite?

  1. PrairieGirl

    All Things to All Men, of course. Rufus Sewell is a must, but I do like Gabriel Byrnes and Toby Stephens too. And never heard of Moonrise Kingdom, but the cast and that photo certainly look quirky enough for me to think I’d really like it.

    1. It’s Gabriel Byrne, no ‘s’ 🙂 Yes I’m highly anticipating that as well. He’s playing a crime boss, so he’s a mob just like in my fantasy pitch Moran’s Epilogue, yay! Rufus looks great in the on-set pics too.

  2. Okay, I wanted to vote for The Avengers but I think that’s pretty much a “given.” So I voted for my #2 and #3 as it were.

    I voted for The Dark Knight Rises and To Rome With Love. I really wanted to vote for Moonrise Kingdom as well because I am really looking forward to it but while Wes Anderson has some delightful films, Christopher Nolan and Woody Allen seem to have a better handle at presenting characters via ensemble casts.

    Nolan’s mix for his concluding tale of The Dark Knight has such a great mix of actors for the finale. There is so much to look forward to here.

    Allen just grabs my attention with several (not all) of his movie choices. He puts people together that you wouldn’t expect and they really gel greatly with one another. Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, even Roberto Benigni?? Yeah, I’m liking this. Esp after his ensemble cast in Midnight in Paris, Scoop, and Matchpoint.

    And, yes, I’m super stoked for The Hobbit. But we’ve seen some of the ensemble cast before (I guess that would go for TDKR as well), but, I’m excited to see what Allen does with this oddly assembled group.

    GREAT poll today. And thank you for the kind mention!

    1. Oh you are free to choose The Avengers! That’s why you can pick two 🙂 I am voting for The Hobbit and TDKR myself, I mean Christian Bale and Richard Armitage are two of my beloved Brits 🙂

      Thanks for inspiring me about having a poll, it’s really fun!

  3. I voted “other”. What no love for the Expendables 2?
    Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Norris, Van-Damme, Jet Li, Statham, Lundgren, Rourke, Liam Hemsworth, ex-UFC champion Randy Couture and ex-NFLer Terry Crews. Probably the greatest action ensemble ever assembled. Ok so the movies probably gonna suck (Stallone wrote it) but what a cast. Bonus points for leaving that tool Seagal off the roster!

        1. Ahahaha, too funny Dave! Thanks T for straightening him out 🙂 I don’t care for Expendables as the first one was so terrible but I realize the cast is appealing to a lot of people.

          1. Yeah I actually have no plans to see it. LOL. I just thought what a great cast. Although I will say this, Van-Damme’s movie JCVD from a few years ago was worth seeing for his acting. Yes… I said his acting. Check it out.

            “Post-JCVD, we’ll never again be able to think of Van Damme as just another kickboxer turned actor. Van Damme is an actor, pure and simple, and proves that he is just as deft and accomplished as the movies in which he appears.”

  4. The Hobbit has James Nesbitt and Ken Stott as two of the dwarves as well as the ones you’ve listed. Really looking forward to this and I’d vote for The Avengers if it wasn’t for this The Hobbit cast.

    1. Hey Carl, you can vote for two 🙂 I figure there are too many ensemble-cast films this year for people to choose just one.

  5. Great discussion! I voted for “The Dark Knight Rises” since it’s my most anticipated film of the year. But I have to give props to a movie not on your list, “Lawless”. Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, and even…ahem…Shia LaBeuf, LaBeff, whatever. Anyway, amazing cast that will definately bring it!

    1. Ahah, so I take it you like Tom Hardy 😀 Yes Lawless has a great cast, I knew I’ll be forgetting some movies but that is indeed a good one.

    1. I never thought of Dark Shadows as being an ensemble cast as it’ll probably focus mostly on Johnny, but ok. I’m looking forward to that one actually.

  6. Yeah it’s amazing how many outstanding ensembles of pretty huge stars there are these days. I went for TDKR and The Hobbit but could easily go for Prometheus too. Avengers and Moonrise Kingdom though are also excellent casts. That’s a lot of talent up on screen at one time!

    1. Yeah, it’s definitely becoming a trend these days, which is fine for us moviegoers I guess as we get more bang for our bucks 🙂

  7. I vote for ARGO, the new Ben Affleck movie coming out this September. They just released the trailer and I am FLOORED. This cast is remarkable. May I present them to you? Don’t mind if I do.

    Ben Affleck
    John Goodman
    Bryan Cranston
    Philip Baker Hall
    Kyle Chandler
    Victor Garber
    (even if we stopped here, I would be totally sold. But I’m not done yet.)
    Alan Arkin
    Tate Donovan
    Titus Welliver
    Richard Kind
    Zeljko Ivanek
    Adrienna Barbaeu
    Taylor Schilling
    Rory Cochrane
    Chris Messina
    Clea DuVall

    (out of breath). I mean, how awesome is this? Am I alone here on this? Hello?

    Oh, the other movies you listed above are cool, too. 🙂

    1. Wow, that is cool!! Thank you for bringing that to my attention Dave. That is an impressive cast. I have heard about this movie, just forgot that it’s released this year yet.

    2. I knew nothing of the film until I saw the trailer last night and I had to go and IMDB the cast as there were just SO many faces!! (I’m partially surprised Alan Dale isn’t in this actually). Amazing cast.

  8. THE HOBBIT without any doubt. I mean Lukester Evans, Lee Pace and Blanchett in the same film? Wish they all get married and have perdy little kids 🙂

    1. Yep that’s what I voted for Dezzy… and The Dark Knight Rises. I know you don’t like the latter and that’s okay 🙂

  9. Ted S.

    Well since I haven’t the other films yet, I voted for The Avengers just because it contains all of the big superheroes. Also, I don’t consider The Dark Knight Rises ensemble since I hope the film will focus on Bruce Wayne/Batman and the rest of the cast are just supporting. That’s why I love Batman Begins, it’s all about how Bruce became Batman, so for this “last” film I want to see The Dark Knight actually rises to save the day.

    Definitely looking forward to The Hobbit.

    1. Yeah I like Batman Begins as it’s more about the hero than the villain, hopefully that’ll be the case in the 3rd one as well w/ him ‘rising’ up to the occasion. The Hobbit can’t come fast enough!!

  10. Wait a minute….you’re telling me there’s a movie coming out starring Colin Farrell AND Michael Fassbender….AND I’VE NEVER HEARD OF IT TILL NOW! I feel horrible, I must research this!

  11. Too early to tell since I haven’t seen 90% of those movies lol. Loved the cast of The Avengers for the most part but at this point, I would say TDKR. Some really great ensemble cast this year though, I could also add Les Miserables, the Untitled Terrence Malick flick, Argo, Lawless, and the list could go on!

    1. See, I knew there’s even more reason this is the year for ensemble cast!! Can’t wait for the Malick film too, Castor.

  12. THE AVENGERS’ ensemble is pretty hard to beat, but I’m gonna have to go old school and cast my lot in with THE EXPENDABLES 2. That’s a 80s action nostalgia dream team there, for sure. And THE HOBBIT, for all the reasons you listed…just a ginormous cast of quality Brit, Aussie and Kiwi actors. Several other good ones on that list (that Wes Anderson movie looks promising!), but the above are my top choices.

    1. ’80s action nostalgia dream team’ is precisely the draw they’re getting at I think, hence the thin plot buried under the massive biceps of the stars 😀 The Hobbit however, hopefully will have as compelling a story as the cast!

  13. Hmmmm – toughie. I’ve gone for The Avengers and The Hobbit. TDKR has an amazing cast but I’m not sure that everyone will have equal amounts of importance/screen time. But great poll.

    1. Good point Louise, Ted was saying the same thing about TDKR. I do think The Hobbit might be a bit more balanced screen time-wise even though it’ll focus primarily on Bilbo.

    1. All right Nov!! So who is your MOST favorite cast member of The Hobbit. No wait, stupid question, of course it’s Benedict!! 😀

        1. Oh I forgot about that!! Bummer, it’d be nice to see him w/ Martin also. Yeah, I like him too, but my ultimate fave cast member would be Richard Armitage as Thorin [swoon]

            1. He..he.. I’m so smitten w/ him again since ‘Spooks’. I fell head over heels in love w/ his performance as Thornton in BBC ‘North and South’ but he makes for an awesome action star as well as a period drama hero! 😉

  14. I find it interesting that Bill Murray and Bruce Willis are finally doing a movie together, since their comedic styllings are very similar. In fact, when Willis first burst on the scene in “Moonlighting,” I thought he was just doing a Bill Murray impersonation. Of course, he quickly created his own on-screen persona, the wisecracking tough guy (Murray definitely is not a tough guy despite the wisecracking). It will be cool seeing how they bounce off each other.

    1. I never thought that about Willis and Murray, but now that you mentioned it I think you’re right! LOVE both of ’em and Willis is actually a more versatile actor than most people give credit for.

      1. Both Willis and Murray can be lazy and slip into their personas while sleepwalking through their roles, but when they’re invested into a character, both are great. Willis in particular is very versatile, as you said. Look at his performances in “Twelve Monkeys,” “Death Becomes Her,” and “Unbreakable” for a variation to his usual tough-guy role.

  15. As someone said, and I agreed with THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is essentially the old Avengers. Not an excellent film, but that group of great Britons? It’s difficult to dislike them.

  16. My top two choices aren’t on your list, actually.

    1. Les Misérables: Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen.

    2. Lawless: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Shia LaBeouf.

    I hadn’t heard about At Swim Two Birds before but the cast is AMAZING! A very close third. And my fourth would be Moonrise Kingdom.

    1. Oh yeah, those two have great cast, Fernando! I thought Les Miz isn’t out until next year but wow, that’s even more movies w/ ensemble cast this year, yay!

  17. Despite seemingly acknowledging that every good film this year has a great cast, I’ve not put two and two together. It does seem like the top actors are banding together this year doesn’t it. I do love a good ensemble!

    1. Yes I love a good ensemble too, especially those w/ Brits/Aussie actors 😉 They’re always far more interesting, to me anyway.

  18. Tough poll! I really wanted to vote for The Avengers – it’s a brilliant cast. But it’s not quite epic for me.

    So went for TDKR, with the likes of Oldman, Bale, Caine, Freeman, Hardy, JGL, Cotillard. Chris Nolan knows how to pick his cast.

    Second vote for Expendables 2 – yes it’s a big dumb film but it’s got the most epic action film cast that there has ever been. And it’s been smart enough to avoid Steven Seagal! That’s casting!

    1. Ahaha yeah I’m surprised Seagal is not in Expendables 2, maybe he and Sly don’t get along?? Big dumb film is an apt description, Jaina!

  19. With all these ensembles cast you’d think that blogger nerds like us ran Hollywood.

    And I agree with everyone that it’s a tough poll even though I can’t see how the alchemy with each cast works. I voted for To Rome with Love because I like seeing Judy Davis in an all star cast again.

    1. Glad to see To Rome with Love getting some well, love 😀 Well if I ran Hollywood, there’ll surely be a lot of juicy ensemble cast, he..he.. Thanks for voting Paolo!

  20. Had to vote Dark Knight Rises (even though I loved Avengers) because each of these actors is perfect playing their characters. I hope that doesn’t change with Hardy and Hathaway but Caine, Freeman and Oldman make these films so much better than most others.

  21. Pingback: Follow Fridays!: Flixchatter | Fogs' Movie Reviews

  22. Call me crazy, but my favorite is At swim two birds- the first time I hear about this movie, but the cast is unbelievable! Also, I like Moonrise Kingdom!

  23. Great cast indeed! wow, Christopher Lee is still making movies? Hats off to the old count, and I’m amazed Peter Jackson is willing to take the risk considering C Lee’s age now. They better hurry and finish The Hobbit, and sequel ( :

    1. I know, that guy is amazing isn’t it? I really like him in Hugo too, even in such a brief screen time. Oh I think he might still be around for a while 😀

    1. Why thank you Julienne, glad to have you stop by again, hope you’ll stick around for more 😀 Yes At Swim Two Birds sounds awesome isn’t it? Let’s hope that one gets released this year yet. Talk about the Irish dream team!

  24. Just saw The Hobbit and had to comment on the cast…

    Lee Pace is one of those actors that seems to look different in every movie he does. Infact I didn’t even realize he was in this film until the credits started rolling and I saw his name. I believe he appears briefly in the prologue. Blink and you’ll miss him though. Martin freeman is wonderful in this, by the way. He really does right as the star.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s