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The Undervalued Achievements of Actor Ryan Phillippe

Updated on February 2, 2009

I am not someone who typically tends to be obsessed with specific entertainers. Although there are some people who I know by name, I’m not really interested in pop culture enough to see every movie by a certain actor or to buy the latest CD of a popular singer. So, you can imagine the surprise of the people who knew me when I said that one of my 2008 goals was to see every movie that actor Ryan Phillippe was ever in. Not only was it a strange goal for me to have but most people consider this a strange actor to choose to follow.

Ryan Phillippe is an interesting actor to choose for an obsession because he is well-known but tends to be overlooked by most people. He has been in several highly famous movies ranging from teen horrors (I Know What You Did Last Summer) to modern dramas (Crash). People do recognize him by both name and face. However, he doesn’t often come to mind when people are naming their top ten favorite actors and actresses. And I think that’s a shame because he’s really an impressive entertainer.

There are two reasons that I really enjoy watching this actor at work. The first is that he has chosen to be a part of some really creative films that pushed the envelope of their genres. Many of his films have surprised me as a viewer with the twists that they have included. And many of his movies really captured my attention with the way they get into your heart in a really unique manner. It is not only the story lines of the films that allow this to happen but also the fact that Phillippe is a solid actor who really gets in to the characters that he’s playing.

Here is a look at some of my favorite films that Phillippe was a part of and the reason that I think each of these films stands out as a great movie even if it traditionally hasn’t been considered to be one:

• Playing by Heart. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I tend to like movies that look closely at human relationships and this one does a stunning job of weaving together various romantic entanglements along with complex family relationships. It’s the story of three sisters, their independent romances and the relationship between their parents. Phillippe plays a blue-haired loner boy pursued by a relationship drama queen (played excellently by Angelina Jolie); eventually it’s revealed that he is HIV-positive and they try to figure out how to be together despite this. The relationship between this is intense and it’s acted well and the movie is amazing on a million levels.

• 54. I saw this movie in the theatres when it first came out, drawn by the allure of learning more about Studio 54 and the era during which it came to life. It’s an interesting film but what really makes it terrific is the role played by Phillippe. He is this young dream-chasing guy who ends up becoming a 54 employee and through his eyes we learn about all of the ups and downs, pushes and pulls of the dramatic, artsy, drug-filled life that was lived out in that dance club.

• White Squall. I had never seen this film before renting it for the pure fact that Phillippe was in it. It’s a striking true story about a ship of youngsters that goes down and lives are lost. Phillippe is young in it but you can see even at this early age how he really gets into character. Watching it, I felt like I knew far more about who his character was than what was actually revealed through dialogue.

• Little Boy Blue. Speaking of Phillippe when he was young brings to mind this intense movie that he played fairly early on in his movie career. It’s a really dramatic film about a complicated dysfunctional family filled with abuse and incest. It really has to be seen to be understood but suffice to say that Phillippe’s role had to be really difficult to play and he absolutely played it well.

• Anti-Trust. This is a thriller movie about computer programmers, the open source movement and the corporate tech world. It’s a really smart movie which is what I liked about it. Phillippe often plays in smart films, not films that are just fluff, and I think there’s something to be said for an actor who chooses to do that.

• Crash. This is another really smart, really well-done movie that I absolutely loved. Phillippe’s role in this one is small compared to some of the other actors but it’s totally pivotal. He often plays roles that make you question what society is all about and what our values are; this is one of those cases.

• The I Inside. Phillippe is the star of this movie which is one of those films that uses amnesia as a basis for taking you back and forth between time periods (think Butterfly Effect or Memento if you’ve ever seen either of those). It’s a film that I liked a lot but actually think that I really need to see it at least one more time to get the full impact of what it was trying to say.

• Cruel Intentions. This movie was a teen movie and I saw it way back when I was a teenager but it still kind of stands out. It’s another one of those movies that pushes the boundaries in terms of the relationships that are played out in it and the way that those relationships unfold. Phillippe just has this knack for choosing characters that are rather complex and then bringing you to the edge of your seat as you try to understand them. For a teen flick, this one was pretty impressive.

It’s the films that Phillippe chooses that really draw me to him as an actor. And it’s the way that he really lives through the character and gives you as a viewer understanding into the character that makes me think his acting adds to those scripts. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s quite gorgeous! 

What Is The Best Ryan Phillippe Movie?

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 Some random Ryan Phillippe facts:

• The first big role that Phillippe played was the role of Billy Douglas on One Life To Live. This character was the first gay teen character to come out on daytime television.

• He has his own production company called Lucid Films.

• Phillippe was married to actress Reese Witherspoon for nine years. They had two children together and divorced in 2008.

• He has a black belt in tae kwan do.

• Phillippe was in a music video for the band Outkast.

• Ryan is his middle name. His first name is actually Matthew. 


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