There is a lot to consider when trying to determine the best movie cast ever. A film can have a stellar cast, but the movie may end up being a ho-hum watch or even a complete waste of time. Take, for instance, the 1979 film Caligula. This is a film that boasted screen legends such as Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Peter O’Toole, and Helen Mirren but the only thing it was noted for was its highly controversial X-rated content.
In the end, it comes down to the story that is being told. It’s magical when a great movie cast is merged with a great story. We have selected the 10 best movie casts ever that have also been combined with good stories. Of course, these lists are always subjective, so let us know what you think.
10 Best Movie Casts Ever
10. Ocean’s 12 (2004)
The very first Ocean’s film came out in the Rat Pack days and starred a stellar cast that included Rat Packers themselves – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. When Steven Soderbergh chose to give that film a facelift, he went all in with his cast. In making his first sequel in the Ocean’s franchise, he turned it up even more.
On top of bringing back his original cast that included George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy García, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, and Julia Roberts, the sequel also included Catherine Zeta-Jones and Eddie Izzard. Soderbergh was able to grab cameos from Topher Grace, Robbie Coltrane, and Bruce Willis as well. It was a stacked movie cast with a fun script.
9. The Outsiders (1983)
Director Francis Ford Coppola, one you’ll hear more from shortly, put together one of the best movie casts ever in the coming-of-age 1983 drama, The Outsiders. What makes his cast even more impressive is the simple fact that at the time, they were all a bunch of near nobodies.
For instance, Tom Cruise was a young buck in this film, and to his name he had made three films, one being Taps. Patrick Swayze was another virtual unknown when he was cast by Coppola, having appeared in the regrettably forgettable TV movie, Pigs vs Freaks.
Along with Cruise and Swayze, Coppola brought in a number of unknowns who would go on to much bigger things. This group includes Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, and C. Thomas Howell. Actress Diane Lane made a name for herself in The Outsiders and in an uncredited role, Nicolas Cage (director Coppola’s nephew) even made an appearance.
8. Goodfellas (1990)
Who doesn’t love a good gangster movie? And when you can deliver it with one of the best casts ever assembled, it turns into a major win-win. This is what Martin Scorsese brought to audiences in 1990 with Goodfellas when he told the biographical story of gangster Henry Hill.
Ray Liotta played Hill and he was joined by Robert De Niro, the amazing Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino. Although he didn’t have a major role, Scorsese even tossed in a bit of Samuel L. Jackson for good measure. This is one instance where the big-name cast was small in numbers but delivered big time.
7. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Speaking of gangster movies, how about one for the ages? Francis Ford Coppola returned in 1974 with one of the greatest sequels ever to be made, The Godfather: Part II. The pressure was immense for Coppola and his cast as 1972’s The Godfather was already being called one of the best films ever made.
The Godfather: Part II told the further story of the Corleone crime family, so Coppola already had a great start on one of the best movie casts to hit the big screen.
Although he lost screen legend Marlon Brando and James Caan from the first film, Coppola was able to replace them with another A-lister, Robert De Niro. Joining De Niro (and returning) were Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, and Abe Vigoda.
6. The Avengers (2012)
Avengers assemble! We had seen some of these A-listers in Marvel films prior to Joss Whedon bringing them all together but what we didn’t know is the effect it would have on the MCU. According to the audience’s reaction, this was the greatest ensemble superhero cast that could be made.
The Avengers saw Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury put together his team consisting of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to go up against the ever mischievous and always dangerous Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
The cast also boasted Stellan Skarsgård, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Tough to beat that group.
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
You know one thing for certain when it comes to a Quentin Tarantino film, you are going to get one bad-ass cast. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino didn’t disappoint. Although Pulp Fiction was only his second feature film (after Reservoir Dogs), he already had a reputation as a great filmmaker, so attracting A-list talent was not a difficult chore.
Tarantino put together one of his best movie casts that included John Travolta (in his career-saving role), Samuel L. Jackson (who would become a part of many Tarantino films), Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames, Rosanna Arquette, and Christopher Walken.
4. The Departed (2006)
One more gangster film, one more Scorsese film, and one more of the best movie cast on film. Scorsese loosely based his gangster flick on the real-life Boston Winter Hill Gang and what a tense story he wove.
The Departed tells the story of Irish mob boss Frank Costello, who plants a spy inside the Massachusetts State Police while the police assign one of their own to go deep undercover in Costello’s organization.
The film’s A-list cast includes Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin. The film is notable for Scorsese, who has always been considered one of Hollywood’s top directors, as it became his only Academy Award win for Best Director.
3. How the West Was Won (1962)
To find this next film that has one of the best casts ever, we go to the way-back machine. It takes us to 1962 and the Western, How the West Was Won. This epic film is divided into five chapters as it follows a family from the 1830s through the 1880s and everything they dealt with as the West continued to expand.
The five chapters include the Gold Rush, the Civil War, the expansion of the railroads, and the outlaws of the old west. The film used three famed directors for the five chapters including John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall.
The cast included Carroll Baker, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda, Carolyn Jones, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Robert Preston, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Brigid Bazlen, Walter Brennan, Raymond Massey, Agnes Moorehead, Harry Morgan, and Russ Tamblyn. Screen legend Spencer Tracy handled the narration duties.
2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
We decided that we weren’t going to include just one film for this, but the entire trilogy, as the impressive cast held court in all three films. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, obviously, is based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, The Lord of the Rings. Director Peter Jackson took on the duties of translating it into film, turning it into a $3 billion combined box office hit. He couldn’t have done it, though, without one of the best movie casts ever.
The impressive cast includes Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, and Sean Bean.
1. The Godfather (1972)
We are not going to go crazy here and say this is the best cast ever assembled, but what we will say about Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece, The Godfather, it is the combination of a great story and a stellar cast that Coppola took many chances with that puts it at the top of the list. Coppola fought tooth and nail with the suits at Paramount Pictures to get the stars he wanted in his film, and the end result made Paramount a very happy company indeed.
Not many were high (as in none) with Coppola’s decision to bring in Marlon Brando as the key figure, Don Vito Corleone, in the Corleone Crime Family, but Coppola’s vision was more than correct. His desire to hire a virtual unknown, Al Pacino, as baby-faced Michael Corleone was perfect as audiences got to see the transition of Michael from war hero to a mob boss.
The remainder of the cast included James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Sterling Hayden, Talia Shire, Richard Castellano, John Cazale, Richard Bright, Abe Vigoda, and Alex Rocco. It’s definitely an ensemble cast, each one playing a significant part and playing it well. Many of the names may be unfamiliar, but as a cast, they are one of the best.