The Judge (2014)
The Judge will see two massive acting forces pair up: Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall. What makes this particular pairing so exciting, however, is that they represent two different ends of film history. Duvall, famous for starring in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Godfather movies across the 60s and 70s, is an acting titan from a long-gone Golden Era; Downey Jr is the man of the moment, the face of mega-franchises like Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, but with the acting chops to back it up. In The Judge, they play father and son; Downey Jr’s Hank Palmer is a slick city lawyer, called back to his family farm when he learns of his mother’s death. Hank’s dad, Joseph ‘Judge’ Palmer is an old man (Duvall is 83 himself), unwilling to reconnect with his son despite such tragedy. Expect the tears to flow as we witness two genuine goliaths duke it out in the courtroom.
Harry Potter (2001 - 2011)
At no other time has a film series assembled such a varied, large and talented cast of British actors than the Harry Potter movies, which over the course of 10 years featured some of the UK’s best-known faces, and while it was at it, pumped new life into the flagging British film industry. The saga saw Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up together in front of the camera in proto-Boyhood fashion as Harry, Hermione and Ron, three wizarding friends who went to Hogwarts school and battled the forces of evil. While the films made them famous, the series saw many already celebrated actors join them; Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis, Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branagh – it’s like the last three decades of British film history crammed into one very, very lucky franchise. Let’s face it; in what other film are you going to see the villain from Die Hard and the chest-burster guy from Alien share the screen?
Take one for both comedy and women everywhere; when Bridesmaids came out a few years ago, it was a massive hit not just because it was stupidly funny, but because its main cast was an all-girl extravaganza (with only a single Chris O’Dowd turning up to buffer the male-to-female ratio). It was also the breakout role for Kristen Wiig, whose lead in Bridesmaids showed the world her comic and dramatic talents in equal, heartwarming measure. But she’s only one of a larger, even greater ensemble cast; comedy regular Maya Rudolph and newcomer Rose Byrne starred, while it introduced the world to the one-woman powerhouse that is Melissa McCarthy, now a big box office draw thanks to her memorable turn. Unfortunately, we still haven’t seen a sequel (we’re guessing they’re all just way too busy), but if the cast do reunite, they’ll have their own legacy to live up to.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Grand Budapest Hotel probably contained this year’s biggest cast – but all in the form of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos. Zero (F. Murray Abraham), the owner of the dilapidated Hotel of the title, recalls to the Author (Jude Law) his time as a lobby boy; in its busy prime, the hotel was overseen by the concierge Gustave H., played by Ralph Fiennes in perhaps both his funniest and most heartbreaking role. If those big names weren’t enough, Gustave H.’s adventures treat us to the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Willem Defoe, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton… the list goes on, and then a bit more. Director Wes Anderson, known for his visually distinctive style, always uses these familiar faces, no matter how brief their appearance, to memorable effect. For instance, if you saw Bill Murray screech to a halt in front of you in a taxi and yell, ‘Get in!’ – which does indeed happen – you’re sure to notice him.
The Towering Inferno (1974)
After the huge success of The Poseidon Adventure, disaster flicks were suddenly all the rage in the early seventies. The best film to come from the craze was probably 1974’s The Towering Inferno, where the cast was trapped inside a burning building instead of an upside-down ocean liner. That’s not just the only place the stakes were raised; the cast was essentially a mini-constellation considering the number of stars appearing in it. Not only did it including heavyweights Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, but also old-hands like William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fed Astaire, Robert Vaughn, and even a young O.J. Simpson. It’s difficult to think of a cast both this large and this talented, but there was, naturally, some ego clash; Newman and McQueen, the biggest names in the biz, both wanted to be billed first during the opening credits. Their compromise? The names were arranged diagonally on the screen, so it was the viewer’s choice to read whichever one first.