Michael Douglas' 21 Best Roles
21. Ed Leland, Shining Through (1992)
This World War II thriller was rejected at the box office and by critics, and alas, starring as an OSS agent infiltrating Nazi Germany, Douglas didn't manage to shine through but did earn a Razzie Award nomination for worst actor.
20. Dr. Nathan Conrad, Don't Say a Word (2001)
As with many of his other films, Douglas elevates an otherwise pedestrian thriller with a solid performance — this time as a child psychologist whose young daughter is kidnapped.
19. Pete Garrison, The Sentinel (2006)
This by-the-numbers thriller didn't burn up the box office, but Douglas turns in a credible performance as a Secret Service agent who is accused of plotting to assassinate the president.
18. Steven Taylor, A Perfect Murder (1998)
In this stylish remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, Douglas plays a wealthy Wall Street hedge fund manager who conspires with a low-life painter (Viggo Mortensen) to murder his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow).
17. Jack T. Colton, The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Critics weren't kind to this sequel to Douglas' 1984 hit Romancing the Stone, which reunited the characters from the original film on a quest for lost treasure in the African desert. Still, Douglas' smug, smarmy charm in the role of adventurer Jack Colton was undiminished, and the film was just as big a hit as its predecessor.
16. Tom Sanders, Disclosure (1994)
Starring in a sexually charged thriller, Douglas plays a software executive who is accused of sexual harassment by scheming femme fatale Demi Moore, demonstrating once again his utter fearlessness when it came to portraying less-than-flattering privileged-white-male stereotypes.
15. Nicholas van Orton, The Game (1997)
In this mind-bending, Inception -esque thriller from director David Fincher, Douglas plays a rich investment banker who gets so sucked into a trippy all-encompassing role-playing game, he loses track of reality.
14. Alex Gromberg, It Runs in the Family (2003)
The sight of Douglas uniting with his legendary father — Kirk — and his son Cameron may initially inspire simple warm fuzzies, but this intergenerational comedy, which Douglas also produced, admirably refuses to shy away from difficult issues of aging, mortality, infidelity, and family dysfunction.
13. Nick Conklin, Black Rain (1989)
Playing a New York vice detective who gets entangled with the Japanese yakuza, Douglas proved, as he so often did in his career, that he was more than willing to delve into the dark side of his characters, turning what might have been a stock cop role into a complex antihero.
12. Gordon Gekko, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Updating his most iconic role for a new generation of moviegoers, Douglas easily slipped back into the skin of financier Gordon Gekko, who has been imprisoned for eight years for insider trading and securities fraud but, as the 2008 financial crisis unfolds, shows he is not entirely rehabilitated of his scheming ways.
11. Richard Adams, The China Syndrome (1979)
In this gripping antinuke thriller, which opened just 12 days before the Three Mile Island disaster, Douglas brought fiery intensity to his performance as a muckraking TV news cameraman who helps expose safety cover-ups at a nuclear power plant. A team player (he also produced the movie), Douglas helped his two costars, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon, earn Oscar nominations with his work, though he himself was passed over.
10. Oliver Rose, The War of the Roses (1989)
In this pitch-black comedy about a wealthy couple whose marriage devolves into vicious warfare, Douglas — reunited with his Romancing the Stone costar Kathleen Turner — showed off his talent for skirting along the knife edge between humor and tragedy, helping turn a film that's often difficult to watch into an unlikely box office smash.
9. Det. Nick Curran, Basic Instinct (1992)
Everyone remembers Sharon Stone and her uncrossed legs in that notorious interrogation scene, but Douglas, who'd agreed to star in this coldly stylish erotic thriller after a string of other actors turned it down, was taking the bigger career risk. The risk paid off, of course, when the movie became a smash phenomenon, sharply dividing critics and audiences on its way to grossing more than $117 million.
8. William Foster, Falling Down (1993)
Making a sharp turn from Basic Instinct, Douglas brought a startling coiled rage to the role of a seemingly mild-mannered defense engineer who begins to mentally unravel after he is laid off from his job. As he faces one dehumanizing misery of urban life after another, he snaps and goes on a violent rampage, creating an indelible cinematic depiction of the ''angry white male.''
7. Ben Kalmen, Solitary Man (2009)
Pulling together many of the recurring threads in his career, Douglas delivers a soulful, unflashy performance as an impulsive businessman who has seen everything — his financial success, his marriage, his health — slip away largely due to his indiscretions and is fighting to get his life back on track.
6. Robert Wakefield, Traffic (2000)
In Steven Soderbergh's sprawling look at the war on drugs, Douglas plays a newly appointed national drug czar who is horrified to discover that his own teenage daughter has become addicted to crack cocaine. Douglas' performance is haunted by echoes of substance-abuse issues he'd struggled with in his own personal life — and would continue to face in ensuing years with his son Cameron.
5. Jack T. Colton, Romancing the Stone (1984)
Playing an arrogant, swashbuckling soldier of fortune who becomes involved with a romance novelist (Kathleen Turner) in a search for lost treasure, Douglas helped elevate this comic thriller to something much more than a mere Raiders of the Lost Ark knockoff. The film grossed more than $86 million worldwide, vaulting Douglas to A-list stardom and genuine sex-symbol status.
4. President Andrew Shepherd, The American President (1995)
Having played so many smug and morally shaky characters, Douglas may have seemed at first an unlikely choice to play the virtually-perfect-in-every-way president Andrew Shepherd. But as Douglas' widower Commander-in-Chief fell for a beautiful lobbyist (Annette Bening), audiences fell in love with the film's larger-than-life love story. The idealized depiction of the presidency embodied by Douglas would prove a major inspiration for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's subsequent TV series The West Wing.
3. Dan Gallagher, Fatal Attraction (1987)
Costar Glenn Close earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her frighteningly unhinged turn as a bunny-boiling jilted lover, but Douglas' anguished performance as a conflicted man whose marital infidelity threatens to destroy his life helped ground this button-pushing thriller emotionally and drive it to massive success at the box office, as well as six Oscar nominations.
2. Prof. Grady Tripp, Wonder Boys (2000)
In a surprising but welcome change of pace from his usual glamour roles, Douglas packed on 25 pounds to play a burned-out, pot-smoking novelist-turned-college professor in Curtis Hanson's adaptation of Michael Chabon's 1995 novel about academia, turning in a rakishly funny and endearing performance that earned him critical raves and a Golden Globe nomination.
1. Gordon Gekko, Wall Street (1987)
''Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.'' With that coldly calculating formulation, Douglas, at his most devilishly charming as cutthroat corporate raider Gordon Gekko, neatly summed up the go-go 1980s zeitgeist and delivered a riveting performance that won him an Oscar for Best Actor and secured him a permanent spot in the pantheon of iconic movie villains.