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The 25 Best Ensemble Movies Ever

Cinema’s starriest in film history’s greatest.
Update The Lists Ensemble Films
By  · Published on July 30th, 2018

20. Get on the Bus (1996)

Ensembles Get On The Bus

As important as it is great, Get on the Bus brought together an all-star black cast at a time when it was relatively unheard of on such a large scale. Spike employed many of his past and soon-to-be regulars to establish a group of culturally diverse men with a shared goal to participate in the Million Man March. The dynamite cast includes Wendell Pierce, Isaiah Washington, Richard Belzer, Charles S. Dutton, Harry Lenix, Ossie Davis, Albert Hall,  Randy Quaid (an obvious outlier), Andre Braugher, and Bernie Mac.

19. Heat (1995)

Ensemble Films Heat

The first thing that comes to mind here is not “ensemble.” It’s Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s names in all caps. Heat has etched itself into film history canon with its iconic diner discussion and showdown finale between De Niro and Pacino, but the rest of the cast deserves some serious love. Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Dennis Haysbert, Ted Levine, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, William Fichtner, Hank Azaria, Jeremy Piven, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Tom Noonan, and a tweeny Natalie Portman. Every familiar face contributes to the excellence of Mann’s magnum opus.

18. The Hours (2002)

Ensembles The Hours

Like Heat, Daldry’s film is rarely recognized for its huge ensemble; rather, it’s recognized for its A-list leading ladies (Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf). As if those three aren’t enough, the time-hopping literary drama includes characters played by Toni Collette, Ed Harris, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Dillane, Eileen Atkins, and the queen of all supporting roles, beloved character actress Margo Martindale.

17. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Ensemble Films Wet Hot American Summer

This wacky flick probably sits a little higher on this list than most would expect. But even if the comedic stylings aren’t up your alley, this is about great ensembles working together to make great films, and it is a fascinating illustration. No film has predicted stardom and comedic synergy better than David Wain and Michael Showalter’s breakout project. They captured the comedic brilliance of Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper pre-fame, paired it with an overflowing gaggle of character actors (H. Jon Benjamin, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Meloni, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Judah Friedlander, and more), and in doing so, cemented this turn of the century comedy into ensemble glory.

16. The Women (1939)

Ensemble Films The WomenIn 2018, it can be difficult to determine the ensemble gravity of the recesses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but rest assured that Cukor’s boundary-pushing picture belongs in the collective blinding light of celebrity stardom that shines from every film on this list. Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Phyllis Povah, Lucile Watson, Virginia Weidler, Ruth Hussey, Marjorie Main, Virginia Grey, and the infamous Hedda Hopper. Although the film accomplished an astounding feat with an exclusively female cast (yes, even the animals), I’m not sure how the anti-Bechdel tagline (“It’s All About Men!”) would fare in today’s Hollywood.

15. The Ice Storm (1997)

Ensemble Films The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm is one of many incredible James Schamus/Ang Lee (writer, producer/director) pictures within the duo’s ever-moving career, but it is the only one with a loaded cast. The division of stardom is stark enough to suggest that this wasn’t intended to be a huge ensemble film at the time. On one hand, you have the then A-list talent of Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Kevin Kline, and Joan Allen. And on the other, there are the future stars in Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, and Allison Janney. A solid cast of seemingly always present supporters accompanies them, including Henry Czerny, Jamey Sheridan, and debatably the most beloved character actor of all-time—in a contest with Margo Martindale, of course—David Krumholtz. Pinpointing the remarkable cast only scratches the surface of what makes this the best film the duo made that decade.

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Luke Hicks is a New York City film journalist by way of Austin, TX, and an arts enthusiast who earned his master's studying film philosophy and ethics at Duke. He thinks every occasion should include one of the following: whiskey, coffee, gin, tea, beer, or olives. Love or lambast him @lou_kicks.