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By Sam Kench/April 1, 2022 6:37 pm EDT
At 89 years old, Sir Michael Caine (knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the year 2000) continues to act regularly, often appearing in multiple movies each year. His first appearance on screen arrived all the way back in 1946 with an uncredited part in the made-for-TV movie “Morning Departure” when he was just 13 years old. But it was the late 1950s when Caine’s career really started taking off, and by the 1960s, he was a full-blown international movie star.
These days, Sir Michael Caine is a household name who continues to balance leading roles with supporting parts. His distinctive voice and accent are often imitated the world over. Dueling Michael Caine impressions between fellow Brits Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan even became a running bit in the “Trip” series. This list will take a look at Michael Caine’s major film roles and rank them from worst to best, according to Rotten Tomatoes critics.
46. Jaws: The Revenge
“Jaws: The Revenge” is the fourth film in the “Jaws” movie franchise that first began in 1975 with the original Steven Spielberg classic. After the terrible reception to the third movie in the series, “Jaws 3-D,” the fourth film took a step back chronologically. “Jaws: The Revenge” is a direct sequel to “Jaws 2” which pretends that “Jaws 3-D” never happened. Unfortunately, rewriting the series timeline didn’t help, and 1987’s “Jaws: The Revenge” fared even worse than its predecessor with both general audiences and critics alike on Rotten Tomatoes.
With an abysmal 0% critic score, “Jaws: The Revenge” isn’t just the lowest rated “Jaws” movie but also the lowest rated movie of Michael Caine’s entire filmography. Lorraine Gary returned from the original film to star in this 12-years-later sequel as Ellen Brody, the wife of Roy Scheider’s police chief Martin Brody from the original film. The far-fetched plot contends that the Brody family has been plagued with great white shark troubles ever since the events of the original film. Ellen strikes up a relationship with a plane pilot, played by Michael Caine, after her son has fallen victim to a shark attack. As the ridiculous tagline stated, “This time, it’s personal.”
45. Blame it on Rio
20th Century Fox
“Blame it on Rio” is an ’80s sex comedy that clocked in with virtually no laughs and much more than its fair share of creepiness. The misguided premise follows a pair of friends and coworkers, played by Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna, who go on vacation together without their wives as they are both going through matrimonial troubles. The creepiness comes in with the addition of each man’s daughter accompanying them on their vacation, and Caine’s character striking up a sexual relationship with his friend’s much younger daughter, played by Michelle Johnson.
This was a movie that was doomed right from its premise, and this grossness was a point hit on by many film critics. Roger Ebert gave “Blame it Rio” a one-star rating and began his review by stating flat out that there was something incredibly inappropriate about a married 47-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl — who happens to be his best friend’s daughter — getting it on. He went on to describe the movie as “clearly intended to appeal to the prurient interests of dirty old men of all ages.”
44. Get Carter (2000)
One of Michael Caine’s big hits of the 1970s was the original “Get Carter,” in which he starred in the titular role of gangster Jack Carter. That film lands much higher in this ranking of his filmography, but the same cannot be said of its much-maligned remake from 2000. Caine returned for the remake but is now relegated to the supporting role of Cliff Brumby, which was previously portrayed by Bryan Mosley in the original film. The remake’s supporting cast includes the likes of John C. McGinley, Mickey Rourke, Alan Cumming, Miranda Johnson, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Gretchen Mol.
Filling the lead role of Jack Carter for the remake was Sylvester Stallone, who received a wealth of criticism for his performance from Rotten Tomatoes critics. Sean P. Means of Film.com criticized Stallone’s “emotional immobility,” and critic James Sanford described Stallone as “sleepwalking his way through a stillborn crime drama that belongs in a morgue, not in a movie theater.”
43. On Deadly Ground
“On Deadly Ground” is a 1994 action vehicle for star Steven Seagal. Beyond just starring in the lead role, Seagal also tried his hand at producing and directing the film this time around, Not surprisingly, this was Seagal’s first and last time in the director’s chair. All but two movies starring Steven Seagal have landed “rotten” critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes, so it should come as no surprise that “On Deadly Ground” wound up with a “rotten score” as well and lands near the bottom of Michael Caine’s filmography.
Caine plays Michael Jennings, the film’s generic villain who uses his position as an oil tycoon to destroy communities and reap massive profits until one of his employees, played by Seagal, has a change of heart and puts an end to his nefarious activities. Caine’s casting was a strange choice given that the character is meant to be a Texan, and his attempt at a Texas accent is laughable by any metric. Also on the cast are Joan Chen, R. Lee Ermey, John C. McGinley, and Billy Bob Thornton. Many Rotten Tomatoes critics derided “On Deadly Ground” as a vanity project for Seagal, such as Stephen Hunter of the Baltimore Sun, who gave the movie a zero out of four score.
42. The Last Witch Hunter
Vin Diesel produced and starred in this modern-day fantasy action film. The story follows the centuries-old main character as he fights to save humanity from a resurrected witch queen, played by Julie Engelbrecht, whom he faced long ago. Michael Caine plays Diesel’s friend and mentor known as the 36th Dolan. His protégé, however, the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood), serves as a secondary antagonist against Diesel’s main witch hunter character. Rose Leslie, Isaac De Bankolé, and Rena Owen co-star.
“The Last Witch Hunter” was directed by Breck Eisner, who previously directed the adventure film “Sahara” and the horror film “The Crazies.” “The Last Witch Hunter” was his last film to date, though he has continued to work in television, most recently directing several episodes of the sci-fi television show “The Expanse.” General audiences enjoyed “The Last Witch Hunter” slightly more than critics did on Rotten Tomatoes, but still not enough to land the 2015 movie a positive score.
2005’s “Bewitched” is a romantic comedy that uses the real-life 1960s “Bewitched” sitcom as a jumping-off point. An egomaniacal actor attempts to star in an upcoming television reboot of the classic series of the same name. But trouble ensues when he gets a real witch cast in the lead role opposite himself. The outside-the-box premise helps set “Bewitched” apart from other cash-in reboots of popular old properties, but the film itself falters at nearly every level, leaving it with “rotten” critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman star in the two lead roles, and the impressive supporting cast is filled with the likes of Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Carell, Kristin Chenoweth, David Alan Grier, Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Richard Kind, Michael Badalucco, and more. “Bewitched” was directed and co-written by Nora Ephron, who was a preeminent expert of the romance, comedy, and rom-com genres with hits under her belt like “When Harry Met Sally,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “Julie and Julia.” “Bewitched” was Ephron’s penultimate film as a director before she passed from pneumonia in 2012.
40. Sherlock Gnomes
“Sherlock Gnomes” is an animated children’s movie and a sequel to 2011’s “Gnomeo and Juliet.” The garden gnome characters of Gnomeo, voiced by James McAvoy, and Juliet, voiced by Emily Blunt, return for the 2018 sequel, as does Lord Redbrick, voiced by Michael Caine. New to the cast this time around is Sherlock Gnomes, voiced by Johnny Depp as a facsimile of the classic detective character Sherlock Holmes. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matt Lucas, Jamie Demetriou, Dexter Fletcher, Dame Maggie Smith, and Mary J. Blige all lend their voices to the project as well.
Both of these garden gnome-centric kids’ movies landed low critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes, but “Sherlock Gnomes” was even more coldly received than its predecessor. Mike McCahill of The Guardian wrote that the movie felt like it was “driven more by commercial calculation than creative inspiration.” Regardless of the poor reception, “Sherlock Gnomes” brought in over $90 million at the worldwide box office (via Box Office Mojo), a decent showing if not enough to turn a profit.
39. Now You See Me 2
Next up in this ranking of Michael Caine’s filmography is another sequel, 2016’s “Now You See Me 2.” Just like the “Gnome” movies, both “Now You See Me” entries landed “rotten” critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes, but the sequel plunged even lower in the ratings with both critics and general audiences. Caine reprises his role as Arthur Tressler alongside the group of criminal magicians known as The Four Horsemen. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, and Mark Ruffalo all return from the first film as well, along with new additions to the cast including Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan.
Caine is signed to play the Tressler character once more in “Now You See Me 3,” but it remains to seen whether the film ever goes into production. Jon M. Chu took over the directing duties for “Now You See Me 2” after the first film was directed by French filmmaker Louis Leterrier, who also helmed “The Incredible Hulk” for Marvel in 2008.
38. Sleuth (2007)
Sony Pictures Classics
Similar to “Get Carter,” 2007’s “Sleuth” is another example of Michael Caine appearing in a poorly-received remake of another movie that he previously starred in. The original “Sleuth” from 1972 ranks much higher up on this list, but the 2007 version was a non-starter with critics and audiences alike on Rotten Tomatoes. Even the 1972 film wasn’t the first telling of this story, as it originally began life as a Broadway stage play which ran from 1970 to 1973.
“Sleuth” follows a mental cat-and-mouse game between an old writer and a young actor. Michael Caine played the younger lead in the original film adaptation but plays the old writer in the 2007 remake, opposite Jude Law as the actor. Kenneth Branagh directed from Harold Pinter’s screenplay, based on Anthony Shaffer’s original script. The 2007 “Sleuth” isn’t 100% faithful to the source material, and its biggest change has to do with a twist in the third act, which critic Mike Massie called “ludicrous.” Most critics agreed that the new ending was altered for the worse, with the remake not holding a candle to the original.
37. Cars 2
Pixar’s original “Cars” movie from 2006 was a big hit and fared well with both critics and general audiences. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the sequel released in 2011. “Cars 2” saw both the critic and audience scores dipping down into “rotten” territory on Rotten Tomatoes. Owen Wilson returns as the voice of the main four-wheel protagonist from the first movie, Lightning McQueen, but this sequel pivots toward more of a focus on the former supporting character of Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. Racing remains a core part of the plot, but the scope also widens to find Mater getting involved in international espionage.
Michael Caine was a new addition to the cast for the sequel and voices Finn McMissle, a British spymaster on a top secret mission, who Mater becomes entangled with. Mater also finds himself attracted to McMissle’s protégé, Holly Shiftwell, voiced by Emily Mortimer. The odd decision to make this “Cars” sequel a spy movie in part was an area that critics hit upon in their negative reviews. Critic Shubhra Gupta criticized the story, writing that “the plotlines tumble and collide with each other creating, mostly, cacophony.”
36. Miss Congeniality
“Miss Congeniality” is the first movie thus far on the list to receive a positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, though critics still left it with a “rotten” tally. This action comedy follows an FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock, who goes undercover in a beauty pageant to stop a terrorist who has threatened to bomb the contest. Michael Caine plays Victor Melling, a beauty pageant coach who whips Bullock’s main character into competitive shape.
The rest of the supporting cast is fleshed out by William Shatner, Ernie Hudson, Candice Bergen, and Benjamin Bratt. Some viewers found “Miss Congeniality” to be a simple but fun time, but most critics found it shallow and unable to live up to the promises of its premise. Nick Cramp of the BBC came down hard on the film, writing, “If you’re expecting action and comedy, you’ll find this film has little of either.”
35. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
2012’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” is a sequel to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The first movie received a moderately fresh score with critics, but the sequel fared much worse, and both movies scored poorly with general audiences. Though Brendan Fraser starred in the first “Journey” movie, he does not return for the follow-up. Taking Fraser’s place is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, while the main returning character is Sean Anderson, played by Josh Hutcherson. Also in the main cast are Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman, and Kristin Davis.
The story follows the main group of adventurers as they head to a mysterious island in the South Pacific on a rescue mission. Michael Caine plays Alexander, the man they are attempting to save from an unsavory fate. Brad Peyton took over the directing duties of this sequel from Eric Brevig, who helmed the original. Peyton has worked with The Rock on blockbuster movies since “Journey 2,” including “San Andreas,” “Rampage,” and the announced but yet to start filming “San Andreas 2.“
34. Going in Style
The premise of “Going in Style” hinges on gathering a trio of beloved elderly actors for its main characters, and that’s exactly what the film cobbled together in the form of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin. Unfortunately, this impressive cast of oldsters wasn’t enough to save the weak material they were given, and the film wound up with “rotten” critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Caine, Freeman, and Arkin play retired friends who decide to rob a bank after their pensions are cut off. Christopher Lloyd, Peter Serafinowicz, Matt Dillon, Keenan Thompson, Joey King, and Ann-Margret round out the rest of the cast.
“Going in Style” was directed by Zach Braff, who is likely best known as the lead actor of the long-running hospital-based sitcom “Scrubs.” Braff previously directed and starred in the movies “Garden State” and “Wish I Was Here,” and also directed several episodes of “Scrubs” as well as “Alex, Inc.” which he also stars in. Some critics found “Going in Style” to be a slight yet enjoyable movie, while others came down much harder on the film. Jake Wilson of The Age gave the movie a 1.5 score and called it “the kind of old-fashioned entertainment that gives old-fashioned entertainment a bad name.”
33. Now You See Me
The first “Now You See Me” fared considerably better with critics and audiences than its much lower-ranking sequel, and audiences left it with an overall “fresh” score even if it still wound up with a “rotten” rating from critics. This far-fetched story of bank-robbing magicians relies on the star power of its A-list cast, which includes Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Mélanie Laurent, Woody Harrelson, Common, and Michael Caine.
Some critics considered “Now You See Me” to be a fun, popcorn, blockbuster-type movie that can be enjoyed if you switch your brain off. Others found it to be a movie that fell apart if any time was spent thinking about the over-the-top plot and the implausible plot twist. Critic Kent Garrison gave the movie an “F” rating on the Mad About Movies podcast, saying that it “relies on one of the worst, if not the worst twist in cinema history, and literally erases everything that it builds up to.”
32. Best Sellers
In 2021’s “Best Sellers,” Michael Caine stars as Harris Shaw, a semi-retired author who agrees to help the career of Lucy Stanbridge, a publisher played by Aubrey Plaza, by going on one last book tour. Also in the cast are Cary Elwes, Ellen Wong, Veronica Ferres, and Scott Speedman. “Best Sellers” is the feature-length directorial debut of Lina Roessler, who has worked far more as an actor in projects like “Lost Girl,” “Murdoch Mysteries: Beyond Time,” and “The 9th Life of Louis Drax,” as well as the first produced screenplay from Anthony Grieco.
Despite the charm of its two leading actors, “Best Sellers” wound up with marginally “rotten” critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Rex Reed of The Observer considered the film to be boring and lacking in purpose, writing, “If there’s a central message we should take home and think about, it eludes me.” He also described the movie as mediocre and likely to make viewers fall asleep.
31. Austin Powers in Goldmember
New Line Cinema
“Austin Powers in Goldmember” is the third movie in the spy spoof series, following up “Austin Power: International Man of Mystery” and “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.” All three were directed by Jay Roach, who also directed “Bombshell,” “Meet the Parents,” and others. The first “Austin Powers” movie was written by star Mike Myers, with the latter two entries co-written with Michael McCullers, who also penned movies like “The Boss Baby” and “Baby Mama.”
“The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Goldmember” both landed on the “rotten” side of the ledger, but “Goldmember” was the only “Austin Powers” movie to also wind up with a “rotten” audience score on Rotten Tomatoes in a clear case of diminishing returns. The plot this time around again finds Powers’ arch-nemesis Dr. Evil attempting to take over the world, this time with the help of the titular Goldmember and through the use of time travel. Michael Caine was a new addition to the cast as Austin Powers’ father, Nigel. Caine was a welcome addition for many critics, even if he wasn’t enough to save the movie. Leigh Paatsch of Australia’s Herald Sun wrote that Caine and co-star Beyoncé Knowles “lightened the load,” but added that Myers took on too much by playing four characters, making “heavy going of everything else.”
30. Gnomeo and Juliet
Similar to “Now You See Me” and its sequel, “Gnomeo and Juliet” ranks considerably higher than its sequel, “Sherlock Gnomes,” on Michael Caine’s filmography, but both movies still didn’t sit well with critics and audiences alike on Rotten Tomatoes. In this animated garden gnome re-envisioning of Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet,” James McAvoy and Emily Blunt voice a pair of gnomes from feuding gardens who fall in forbidden love.
Caine and Maggie Smith lend their voices to Lord Redbrick and Lady Bluebury respectively, surrogates for the patriarchal and matriarchal Montagues and Capulets of the original story. The voice cast is chock full of big names such as Patrick Stewart, Dolly Parton, Julie Walters, Jason Statham, Stephen Merchant, and even a couple of bizarre casting choices in the form of Ozzy Osbourne and Hulk Hogan. Even Elton John is on board as an executive producer and composed a number of original songs for the movie.
With so many big names behind “Gnomeo and Juliet,” critics were split right down the middle on whether or not the movie was a worthwhile endeavor. Some reputable outlets, like The New Yorker, described the movie as “‘Toy Story’ goes Shakespearean,” while other outlets, like E! Online, thought it fell short, writing, “There’s enough going on to make you wish the movie worked better than it does.”
29. The Weather Man
“The Weather Man” stars Nicolas Cage as, you guessed it, a weather man dealing with depression who’s divorced from his wife, semi-estranged from his children, and living in the shadow of his successful father, an acclaimed author played by Michael Caine. The movie landed marginally “rotten” critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. In the director’s chair was Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, as well as “Rango,” “The Lone Ranger,” and the English language remake of “The Ring.”
Rotten Tomatoes critics were divided when it came to “The Weather Man.” Some critics, like Kam Williams of Upstage magazine, found the movie to be an awful piece of work, giving it a zero out of four rating and calling it “gross” and “relentlessly depressing.” Others, such as James Berardinelli of ReelViews, found it more worthwhile, calling it “a meticulously developed character piece.”
28. Secondhand Lions
New Line Cinema
“Secondhand Lions” is the first movie thus far on this list to secure a positive score from Rotten Tomatoes critics, but it only avoided “rotten” territory by a mere one percent. Haley Joel Osment stars as a boy who gets dumped off by his mother, played by Kyra Sedgwick, to spend the summer with his callous uncles, played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall. This is a drama with coming-of-age elements alongside a theme of recovering one’s youth through the eyes of a child.
The movie features a schmaltzy tone aimed at appealing to family audiences, but is mostly successful, according to the majority of film critics. Some, however, found the saccharine tone grating and the script lacking in believability and nuance. Richard Roeper of “Ebert and Roeper” fame gave the film a negative review and singled out Caine as one of its biggest weaknesses, writing that the veteran actor was flat-out miscast and not particularly suited for his role.
27. A Bridge Too Far
Though its three-hour length was noted by many as a fault, “A Bridge Too Far” received generally positive reviews from critics and an even stronger reaction from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. This war movie from 1977 tracks a team of British and American paratroopers who work together during World War II. Ryan O’Neal and Sean Connery star as an American and British general respectively, while Edward Fox and Michael Caine play important lieutenants on the ground. James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Elliott Gould, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Liv Ullmann, Arthur Hill, and Robert Redford round out the rest of the main cast.
“A Bridge Too Far” was directed by Richard Attenborough, who also directed biopics like “Gandhi” and “Chaplin” as well as leading an illustrious career as an actor. Adapted from the non-fiction book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, the adapted screenplay was penned by Oscar-winning writer William Goldman, the man behind movies like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Princess Bride,” “Marathon Man,” and “All the President’s Men.” The immensely talented cast and above-the-line crew make “A Bridge Too Far” work in spite of its hefty length. The movie won four BAFTAs and was nominated for four more, including Best Film.
26. Harry Brown
2009’s “Harry Brown” is a crime thriller of the vigilante variety, in the vein of movies like “Death Wish” and “Dirty Harry.” Michael Caine stars in the titular role, a retiree who puts his skills as an ex-soldier to use after a friend of his is murdered by young gangsters. Even for the genre, “Harry Brown” is exceptionally bleak and violent. David Bradley, Liam Cunningham, Emily Mortimer, Sean Harris, and Plan B co-star.
“Harry Brown” was the debut feature film of director Daniel Barber. He has directed only one additional feature in the years since: the 2014 drama “The Keeping Room,” set during the Civil War. Caine earned praise from many film critics on Rotten Tomatoes for his work, with Richard Propes of The Independent Critic calling it one of the actor’s “most complex and richly realized performances in years.” The amount of harrowing violence within the film was criticized by some critics as excessive, such as Philippa Hawker of Australia’s The Age, who wrote, “The movie seems at times almost to revel in the nastiness it depicts.”
Released in 1981, “Victory” is a hybrid of the sports and war movie genres set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The national soccer team of Germany is set to play against a group of allied P.O.W.s, but an escape attempt is in the works with the aid of the French resistance. Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone star as English and American captains. The movie also made use of real soccer players like Bobby Moore and Pelé. Also of note on the cast is Max von Sydow as a German major.
“Victory” was directed by John Huston, who led a long and storied career as both an actor and director. Huston also directed classic movies like “The Maltese Falcon,” “The African Queen,” “Prizzi’s Honor,” “Annie,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Asphalt Jungle” and more. Throughout his impressive career, Huston was nominated for a staggering 14 Oscars across various categories and won both Best Director and Best Screenplay for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” in 1948.
Michael Caine has appeared in many of director Christopher Nolan’s films, many of which will show up later on this list, but his role in “Tenet” is one of the smaller ones he’s done for the acclaimed filmmaker. John David Washington, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Martin Donovan, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson flesh out the core cast. The story follows an unnamed protagonist on a top secret mission that involves traveling backwards and forwards in time for the sake of preventing global catastrophe.
Many Rotten Tomatoes critics took issue with the writing and sound mixing of “Tenet,” but many also found enough quality in the cinematography, music, and action set pieces to make the overall film worth recommending. Film critic G. Allen Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that while he found the film to be remarkable in many ways, he also “gave up trying to follow the plot.”
“Deathtrap” is a 1982 mystery drama, with comedy elements, directed by the great Sidney Lumet, the director behind movies like “12 Angry Men,” “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and many others. Michael Caine stars as Sidney Bruhl, a washed up playwright who hatches a plot to murder an ex-student, played by Christopher Reeve of “Superman” fame, and take credit for his latest work. Bruhl’s wife, who eggs on his murder plot, is played by Dyan Cannon.
“Deathtrap” was adapted from the stage play of the same name written by Ira Levin. In addition to writing plays, Levin was also an author who wrote the novels “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives,” both of which received big-screen adaptations as well. Critics were generally positive toward the film, with Roger Ebert scoring “Deathtrap” three stars out of four. He wrote that the film is largely effective at subverting what the audience anticipates out of a movie like this, while still providing the requisite unexpected shocks.
22. The Cider House Rules
“The Cider House Rules” is a coming-of-age drama from 1999. Tobey Maguire stars as an orphan who strikes out for a life on his own after leaving behind his tutor, a doctor and the director of the orphanage, played by Michael Caine. The story was adapted from the novel of the same name published in 1985 by John Irving, who adapted his own story for the screen and won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for his work.
The movie was nominated for an impressive seven Academy Awards, with Caine winning the Oscar for best supporting actor in addition to Irving’s win for best adapted screenplay. “The Cider House Rules” provided Caine with his second of two Oscar wins and his sixth Academy Award nomination overall. “The Cider House Rules” was directed by Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström, who also directed critically acclaimed movies like “Chocolat” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”
2015’s “Youth” is a drama written and directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, who also directed television projects like the HBO miniseries “The Young Pope” as well as movies like “The Great Beauty” and “The Hand of God.” The low-key story is set in the Alps and follows a pair of old friends on vacation. One is a filmmaker, played by Harvey Keitel, who’s writing the script for what he believes to be his final great work, while the other, played by Michael Caine, is a retired composer and conductor who is being pressured by the Queen of England to come out of retirement for a final performance. Also of note on the cast are Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, and Rachel Weisz.
Given that Caine’s character is a composer, music holds great significance in “Youth.” The movie was nominated for the best original song Oscar for “Simple Song #3” by David Lang, but ultimately lost out to Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall,” from the James Bond thriller “Spectre.” “Youth” is the first film on our list to land the coveted “Certified Fresh” badge on Rotten Tomatoes, with the film’s stunning cinematography, the performances, and the dynamic between Caine and Keitel highlights for many Rotten Tomatoes critics.
“Interstellar” is the second of seven collaborations between Michael Caine and filmmaker Christopher Nolan on this list, with all seven landing “fresh” scores on Rotten Tomatoes. “Interstellar” is a sweeping science fiction epic about a last-ditch effort to save humanity from ecological disaster, by traveling through a wormhole in search of another hospitable planet on which to resettle the human race.
Michael Caine plays the NASA physicist masterminding the mission, while Matthew McConaughey plays the pilot of the spacecraft who leads the mission with a team of experts. The impressive cast also features John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, and Ellen Burstyn in memorable roles. “Interstellar” was nominated for five Academy Awards and won in the visual effects category. The film also ranks in the top 30 highest rated movies on IMDb. Film critic David Stratton of At the Movies called “Interstellar” a “rich and thoughtful meditation on time and space and gravity.”
19. Kingsman: The Secret Service
20th Century Fox
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” is a bombastic 2014 spy movie packed with plenty of action and comedy. The plot follows a young hooligan named Eggsy (Taron Egerton), who is recruited into the ranks of a top-secret British spy guild called The Kingsmen by Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Michael Caine plays Chester King, codenamed Arthur, the head of The Kingsmen who betrays the organization by falling in league with the villainous Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Mark Strong, Mark Hamill, and Sofia Boutella round out the cast.
The film was adapted from the “Kingsman” comic book series created by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Millar also co-created the “Kick-Ass” comic book series, with both “Kingsman” and “Kick-Ass” brought to the big screen by “X-Men: First Class” director Matthew Vaughn. Critics and moviegoers were both kind to “Kingsman,” and strong box office led to a sequel in 2017 subtitled “The Golden Circle” and a prequel in 2021 titled “The King’s Man,” with Caine appearing in neither.
18. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Of all the various tellings of Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol,” the Muppet version is one of the most beloved. Michael Caine puts his own spin on the iconic Ebenezer Scrooge character, one of the few humans interacting with the Muppet cast. The story of a miserly old grouch having a change of heart after being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future remains intact while injecting plenty of humor and musical numbers.
The movie was directed by Muppet founder Jim Henson’s son Brian Henson, who has worked within the Henson company throughout his life. This was Brian Henson’s first movie in the director’s chair, and he would go on to direct “Muppet Treasure Island,” episodes of “Muppets Tonight,” “Sid the Science Kid,” “Mother Goose Stories,” and various other Henson Company productions. Henson, Caine and the Muppets’ take on the Dickens tale resonated strongly with critics and audiences, both of whom gave the movie high marks on Rotten Tomatoes.
17. The Prestige
“The Prestige” is yet another highly-rated collaboration between Michael Caine and filmmaker Christopher Nolan. The movie is a mystery thriller set in the 1800s that follows a pair of rival magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, who are locked in a constant battle to one-up the other by any means necessary. The plot is full of twists and turns that keep viewers guessing up until the final moments. Michael Caine plays Cutter, an assistant and stage engineer who works with both magicians at different points. Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Ricky Jay, and Piper Perabo play important supporting characters, and David Bowie has an impressive cameo as Nikola Tesla.
“The Prestige” was adapted from the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan collaborated on the screenplay. While not an enormous box office success for Nolan, it continued his relationship with Caine even when they were not working on Batman films.
16. Dressed to Kill
“Dressed to Kill” is a 1980 thriller from writer-director Brian de Palma. As he did frequently throughout his career, de Palma channeled a strong Alfred Hitchcock influence when crafting scenes of suspense, while still putting his own unique signature on the film. De Palma has directed many critically acclaimed films throughout his career, such as “Scarface,” “The Untouchables,” “Carrie,” “Mission: Impossible,” and “Blow Out.”
Michael Caine stars as a psychiatrist who treats a patient played by Angie Dickinson. When the patient is mysteriously and brutally murdered, a prostitute, played by Nancy Allen, finds herself in danger after witnessing the murder. Most critics appreciated the technical craft on display and the twisty narrative, even though many admitted that it did all feel rather familiar. For some, the reveal of Caine as the cross-dressing killer came across as unfortunately transphobic. This was heavily focused on in an 1984 article in the magazine Transgender Tapestry, which described the movie as “a film which presents a serious threat to an already misunderstood minority.”
15. The Italian Job
While the 2003 remake landed solid scores with critics and general audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, the original “The Italian Job” from 1969 scored even higher with both. The story follows a British criminal, played by Michael Caine, who is released from prison and immediately gets wrapped up in a plot to steal gold in Italy. The most famous element of the movie is the big showstopper car chase toward the end of the film that makes creative use of Mini Cooper cars.
“The Italian Job” makes use of a goofy comedic tone that may or may not work for each viewer, but most critics found it enjoyable. Many critics also agreed that large stretches of the movie were not particularly engaging, but that the car chase finale made it all worthwhile. This was a sentiment touched upon by The Hollywood Reporter in their review, stating that the outstanding auto chase sequence in the film’s final stretch would perk up viewers who steadily lost interest during the first two-thirds of the picture.
14. Batman Begins
“Batman Begins” marked the start of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy and also the start of his ongoing collaboration with Michael Caine. Christian Bale stars as Bruce Wayne in this detailed and ambitious origin story for the Caped Crusader. while Caine plays Wayne’s trusty butler Alfred. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy are the villains, while the rest of the outstanding ensemble includes Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson and Ken Watanabe.
Though “Batman Begins” is the lowest-rated of Nolan’s “Dark Knight” saga, it is still a certified fresh crowdpleaser and doesn’t rank too far behind the other films in the series. “Batman Begins” took on a much more realistic tone than past big-screen incarnations of the iconic character, such as Tim Burton’s two “Batman” films from 1989 and 1992, or Joel Schumacher’s pair of campy entries from 1995 and 1997. As a result, the movie is credited with changing the superhero movie genre moving forward.
13. Get Carter (1971)
Ranking much, much higher than the Sylvester Stallone-led remake from 2000, the original “Get Carter” from 1971 is one of Michael Caine’s highest-rated films. Caine stars in the titular role of Jack Carter, a hardened gangster who seeks out revenge against the men responsible for his brother’s murder. The story was adapted from the novel “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis. Following the success of the film adaptation, Lewis wrote two follow-up novels, “Jack Carter’s Law” and “Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon,” although neither was filmed.
“Get Carter” was directed by Mike Hodges, who went on to direct “Flash Gordon,” “A Prayer for the Dying,” and “Croupier.” In a retrospective review published in 2021, critic Roger Moore of Movie Nation looked back at “Get Carter” and called Michael Caine’s lead character “the definitive British gangster,” adding, “50 years later, it’s still one of the definitive gangland films.”
Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending 2010 sci-fi thriller “Inception” concerns a group of professional criminals who use technology to infiltrate the minds and even the dreams of others to extract information. Their modus operandi changes when a new client asks them to do the opposite — implant an idea rather than extract one. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the team leader, while the rest of the cast features Nolan regulars like Michael Caine — as the father-in-law and longtime adviser to DiCaprio’s character — Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe alongside new additions such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, and Marion Cotillard.
“Inception” was a massive hit with viewers, bringing in a gargantuan $826 million at the worldwide box office off a budget of around $160 million (via Box Office Mojo). The movie took home four Academy Awards in the cinematography, visual effects, and both sound categories, while four additional nominations included a Best Picture nod. “Inception” often finds itself ranking highly on lists of the best movies ever made, including the IMDb top 250, which is determined by user votes.
11. The Dark Knight Rises
As the concluding chapter in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises” didn’t fare quite as well with critics as the middle entry in the series, but it did earn a higher critic score than “Batman Begins.” “The Dark Knight Rises” picks up eight years after the previous film and finds Bruce Wayne in retirement as a crimefighter eight years after the death of Harvey Dent. When he must put on the cape and cowl again, Michael Caine’s Alfred expresses deep misgivings that lead to a breach between the two men.
Along with Caine and Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Nolan’s final Batman movie brings back a bevy of familiar faces such as Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and even Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow in a brief appearance. Nolan also integrates a couple of additional characters from the comic books, most prominently Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard), and Bane (Tom Hardy), who proves to be the Dark Knight’s biggest threat yet.
10. The Quiet American
“The Quiet American” is a 2002 romantic thriller from eclectic Australian filmmaker Philip Noyce. Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser star as a British journalist and an American doctor respectively, both competing for the love of the same Vietnamese woman, played by Thi Hai Yen Do in one of just seven acting performances to date. The film is set in Vietnam in 1952 during the French Indochina War, and was adapted from the novel of the same name by Graham Greene, which was first published in 1955. Unlike the 1958 film adapted from the novel, which altered its tone and ending to make it pro-American, Noyce’s film was a condemnation of American intervention in the region.
The three leads, along with Tzi Ma in a supporting role, all earned acclaim for their performances in “The Quiet American.” Michael Caine received his last Oscar nomination to date for his work on the film, though he lost out to Adrien Brody for “The Pianist.”
9. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is an off-the-wall comedy starring the surprisingly well-matched duo of Michael Caine and Steve Martin. This 1988 farce set on the French Riviera follows a pair of rival con men, played by Caine and Martin, who compete to see who can take advantage of a particular rich target first, an heiress played by Glenne Headly. “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was directed by Frank Oz, who also directed “What About Bob?” and the 1986 musical version of “Little Shop of Horrors,” but is perhaps best known as the voice and puppeteer of Yoda.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is actually a remake of a lesser-seen 1964 movie titled “Bedtime Story.” Filling the roles of Michael Caine and Steve Martin’s characters were David Niven and Marlon Brando, and taking on the role of the rich mark was Shirley Jones. While that version of the film is not mentioned much anymore, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” — and its battle of wits between the elegant Caine and the more coarse Martin — remains a critical and fan favorite.
8. Hannah and Her Sisters
“Hannah and Her Sisters” is a 1986 romantic comedy drama from controversial writer and director Woody Allen. Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, and Barbara Hershey play three sisters, one of which (Farrow) is married to Elliot (Michael Caine), who is having an affair with the youngest of the sisters (Hershey). This ensemble mix of comedy and drama — which also features Carrie Fisher, Max von Sydow, Maureen O’Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan and others — is often considered to be one of Allen’s best movies.
Caine won his first of two Academy Awards for best actor in a supporting role for his work on “Hannah and Her Sisters,” which is considered among his finest performances. Dianne Wiest also won an Oscar for her role, and Woody Allen won his second best original screenplay Oscar for the movie. The film was also nominated for directing, editing, art direction, and best picture.
7. Children of Men
2006’s “Children of Men” is a science fiction drama with action elements set in a dystopian future that is rapidly hurtling toward an apocalyptic end, as humanity seems to have lost the ability to reproduce for unknown reasons. When a woman becomes pregnant for the first time in 18 years, her safety and survival become the top priority for Theo, played by Clive Owen, and a group of radical activists played by the likes of Julianne Moore and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Michael Caine plays the supporting role of Jasper, a friend of Theo’s who sacrifices himself for the greater good.
The story was adapted from the novel of the same name by P.D. James, first published in 1992. “Children of Men” was directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, whose filmography includes “Y tu mamá también,” “Gravity,” and “Roma.” While Caine’s appearance in the movie is relatively brief, “Children of Men” rose above initial box office indifference to become one of the most praised films of the 2000s.
6. Sleuth (1972)
20th Century Fox
The original 1972 film adaptation of the stage play “Sleuth” is leagues above the rotten 2007 remake in this ranking. Since it arrived so much earlier in Michael Caine’s career, he is playing the younger lead in the original movie, acting opposite the older Laurence Olivier. Anthony Shaffer adapted his own Tony Award-winning stage play for the big-screen version of “Sleuth,” changing very little in the switch between mediums.
“Sleuth” earned four Oscar nominations in the acting, directing, and music categories, with Michael Caine earning his second Academy Award nomination for best actor for his work on the picture. “Sleuth” was the final film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also made classics like “All About Eve,” “The Barefoot Contessa,” “Cleopatra,” “Guys and Dolls,” and the original 1958 film of “The Quiet American” – decades before Caine’s performance in the 2002 remake would earn him yet another Oscar nomination for best actor.
5. The Ipcress File
The Rank Organisation
1965’s “The Ipcress File” is a spy thriller that stars Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, who is looking into the brainwashing of scientists. The plot was adapted from the novel of the same name by Len Deighton. “The Ipcress File” was Deighton’s first novel, and he followed it up with six more books in what would become known as the “Secret File” series, all starring the same anonymous spy (who was given the name Harry Palmer for the films).
“The Ipcress” file was directed by Sidney J. Furie, who later helmed movies like “Iron Eagle” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” Michael Caine would go on to reprise the Harry Palmer character periodically throughout his career. He played the character four additional times in “Funeral in Berlin,” “Billion Dollar Brain,” “Bullet to Beijing,” and “Midnight in Saint Petersburg,” the most recent of which was released as a TV movie in 1996.
4. The Dark Knight
The final collaboration on this list between Michael Caine and Christopher Nolan is also their highest-ranked, breaking into the top five. “The Dark Knight” is the middle chapter in Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, and received by far the most critical acclaim and adulation. It is also the final Certified Fresh film on the list, though there are four Caine films with higher critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes that do not meet the pre-requisites for the Certified Fresh badge.
For this sequel, Caine remained as steadfast and loyal as ever as Alfred, while Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the character of Rachel Dawes, previously played by Katie Holmes in “Batman Begins.” But Gyllenhaal wasn’t the only new face in the cast. Aaron Eckhart played the pivotal role of District Attorney Harvey Dent, the man who becomes the villainous Two-Face. But the actor who stole critics and viewers’ attention the most was Heath Ledger, putting his unique spin on the iconic Joker character and winning a posthumous Oscar in the process.
In 1966, Michael Caine starred as the titular Alfie Elkins in an important early role in his career. The character is a womanizer who uses his looks and charm to sleep with various women while working as a chauffeur. “Alfie” is a character study of this lecherous man who gradually learns the error of his ways. The film was directed by Lewis Gilbert, who also helmed multiple James Bond movies.
Caine earned his first Oscar nomination for the part, and the critical acclaim his performance garnered made a pivotal difference in his acting career moving forward. Caine worked with director Lewis Gilbert again in 1983 on the film “Educating Rita,” which earned Caine his third Oscar nomination. In its review of “Alfie,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film catapulted Caine “into the select class of top international stars.” “Alfie” was remade in 2004 with Jude Law in the lead role, but the remake was widely panned by critics and general audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.
Michael Caine’s second highest-rated film is the 1964 historical war film “Zulu.” Alongside “Alfie,” “Zulu” provided another vitally important role in the beginning of Caine’s career. The film focuses on a large-scale battle between Zulu warriors and British soldiers in South Africa in 1879. The story is a fictionalized telling of the real Battle of Rorke’s Drift.
The legacy of “Zulu” is a somewhat controversial one. Many outlets, such as Empire magazine, list “Zulu” as one of the greatest movies ever made, but some consider its depiction of Zulu warriors, lionization of British Soldiers, and stance on imperialism to be antiquated or outright racist from a modern perspective.
As reported in The South African, a group of anti-racism activists made an attempt to prevent a public screening of “Zulu” in Kent, England in 2018. Others contend that “Zulu” isn’t an inherently racist film but that it is without a doubt ethnocentric and contains questionable elements. Blogger Frank Moraes explored this debate, writing that “while [the film] may not be racist objectively, it is easy to see a racist film while watching it … All of the ‘good guys’ are white and all of the ‘bad guys’ are black.”
1. The Man Who Would Be King
The number one highest-rated movie of Michael Caine’s long and illustrious career is 1975’s “The Man Who Would Be King.” The film was another collaboration between Caine and director John Huston, who would later direct him in “Victory.” “The Man Who Would Be King” tells the story of two British soldiers, played by Caine and Sean Connery, who abandon their station in India in search of adventure. The pair winds up in Kafiristan, a place cut off from the outside world. The two become leaders of the Kafiristan people, and Connery’s character is even mistaken for a god.
Christopher Plummer plays a supporting role as Rudyard Kipling, the author of the original short story that laid the foundation for the film. “The Man Who Would Be King” was nominated for four Oscars in the art direction, screenplay, costume design, and editing categories. The film also received a Golden Globe nomination for best original score, and two BAFTA nominations in the cinematography and costume design categories.