Matt Damon's Best Movie: Good Will Hunting

[With The Adjustment Bureau hitting theaters on Friday, at Cinema Blend we've been thinking a lot about Matt Damon, and the star power that has kept him in the public eye for 15 years now. Starting off as a fresh-faced kid in the mid-90s, morphing into a bona fide action hero in the early 00s and snagging two Oscar nominations (and one win) along the way, he's had a career so varied that you can get into a lengthy argument with a friend about which film is his best, and both of you can be right. Which is exactly what we did, finally deciding we'd each pick a favorite and sing its praises. Kicking things off is Mack, who brings us back to 1997's Good Will Hunting, the film for which Damon and Ben Affleck won their famous screenwriting Oscar.]

More than anything else, Good Will Hunting is about baggage. It’s about the elevated neurons and elongated synapses embedded from birth that make millions of men see gibberish when staring at numbers on a blackboard but preordain another to assemble the logical patterns like a third grade arithmetic problem. It’s about the cigarette burns that scar trust in some and the hugs that nurture acceptance in others. It’s about our friends, our enemies and our mentors, the words of advice we carry in our back pockets and the hateful putdowns we can’t shake. We are what we’ve become, but that’s not necessarily all we’ll be.

Will Hunting (Damon) has become an underachiever. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) has become a wreck, and Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) has become a prick. Cluttered with cancerous relationships, dead wives and fucking Fields medals, each man’s baggage has come to define him. It’s shaped his outlook, set his ceiling and trapped him within a largely joyless existence of obsessing over the past. Will was reared to glorify an honest day’s work because the only loyal friends he’s ever had aren’t capable of more. Sean has learned to elevate his deceased spouse over his own happiness because all of his best memories are tied to her. Gerald has achieved the only goal he ever thought was worth achieving; so, he views anyone who settled for less as a failure. The addicts, the pimps, the whores and the charlatans know they need help. It’s the brilliant that need a little more convincing.

Good Will Hunting is a special movie, filled with incredible performances. At one point or another, the film allows all three men to lash out, giving voice to their baggage and airing their dirty laundry, often in cruel and condescending ways. Damon’s role is arguably the least showy of the three. Frequently, he’s run over, responding rather than initiating, but when ultimate vindication comes for the three men, it’s Will Hunting’s that we care most about. There are no easy solutions, only enough viewpoints to reason your way out.

Samuel Goldwyn once said, “Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day.” Good Will Hunting is a formidable counterargument. It’s never too late to get your shit together. You just need the right people around you.

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[Check back for more in our Matt Damon's Best Movie series, coming right here later this week.]

Mack Rawden
Editor In Chief

Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.