Matthew Vaughn is a successful English director, producer, and screenwriter, who made his directorial debut in 2004 with Layer Cake. For his next project, he co-wrote and directed Stardust, followed by a movie adaptation of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass in 2010. Vaughn’s next cinematic endeavor is The King’s Man, which is a prequel to its predecessors, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle, also directed by Matthew Vaughn. Before The King’s Man arrives in theaters, let’s look back at Matthew Vaughn’s 5 best movies, including some Best British Film Awards winners.
5. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a spy comedy-drama film and the first installment of the ongoing Kingsman franchise. The film follows Gary “Eggsy” Unwin’s (Taron Egerton) recruitment and training into a secret spy organization known as Kingsman, which adopts its name from the tailoring company that acts as their cover. Eggsy joins a mission, in brutal and comedic fashion, to tackle a global threat from Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), a wealthy megalomaniac wanting to deal with climate change.
The Secret Service received generally positive reviews from critics, who highly praised the stylized action sequences, the acting performances, villain, score, and its dark humor. It grossed over $414 million worldwide, becoming Vaughn’s most commercially successful film to date and easily one of his best movies of all time. In 2015, it won the Empire Award for Best British Film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. Alternatively, it can be rented or purchased on the iTunes Store, YouTube, and the Google Play Store.
4. Kick-Ass (2010)
Kick-Ass is a black comedy superhero film based on the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. Its sequel, Kick-Ass 2, was released in 2013. It tells the story of an ordinary teenager, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who sets out to become a real-life superhero, calling himself “Kick-Ass”.
Dave comes to realize that he is way out of his depth when he meets Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a former cop. In his quest to bring down the crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his son Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Big Daddy has trained his eleven-year-old daughter, Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz), to be the ruthless vigilante Hit-Girl.
The film’s final gross in the U.S. was $48,071,303 and $48,117,600 outside of the U.S. with a worldwide gross of $96,188,903. Chris Hewitt of Empire magazine gave the film 5/5 and declared it, “A ridiculously entertaining, perfectly paced, ultra-violent cinematic rush that kicks the places other movies struggle to reach. The film’s violence is clearly fantastical and cartoonish and not to be taken seriously.” It won the Empire Award for Best British Film in March 2011.
Kick-Ass is available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
3. X-Men First Class (2011)
Based on the X-Men characters appearing in Marvel Comics, X-Men: First Class is the fifth installment in the X-Men film franchise. The success of First Class re-popularized the X-Men film franchise with various installments following, including several sequels focusing on younger iterations of the X-Men characters; X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), and Dark Phoenix (2019).
Set in the era before Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) became mortal enemies as Professor X and Magneto, respectively, X-Men: First Class follows the two former allies as they lead a powerful team of mutants on a mission to save the planet from nuclear annihilation.
The film grossed $146,408,305 in the United States and Canada and $207,215,819 in foreign markets, bringing its worldwide total to $353,624,124. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as “audacious, confident and fueled by youthful energy“, and said that “director Vaughn impressively maintains a strong focus dedicated to clarity and dramatic power… and orchestrates the mayhem with a laudable coherence, a task made easier by a charging, churning score by Henry Jackman…”
Without a doubt, X-Men First Class deserves its place as one of Matthew Vaughn’s best movies. Since it was produced by Marvel Comics, an American company, it was never submitted as a contender for Best British Film at the Empire Awards — like many of Vaughn’s others. However, it did win Best Fantasy Movie at the 2011 Scream Awards.
X-Men: First Class can be streamed by renting or purchasing on Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes.
2. Layer Cake (2004)
Layer Cake is a British crime film that marked Matthew Vaughn’s directorial debut. Not only does the electric crime drama attest to Vaughn’s vision, but Craig’s starring role in the film has been cited as the performance that led to his high-profile casting as James Bond.
Vaughn’s breakthrough plot revolves around an unnamed mid-level cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) in London who makes plans to step away from the criminal life. Before he can cut ties, the dealer’s supplier Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) draws him into a complicated pair of jobs involving kidnapping the teenage daughter of a rival gangster (Michael Gambon) and brokering the purchase of a large shipment of ecstasy pills from a dealer known as “the Duke” (Jamie Foreman).
Craig’s involvement leads to a series of elaborate double-crosses from all corners. The film also features Tom Hardy, Colm Meaney, and Sienna Miller. Craig’s character is unnamed in the film and is listed in the credits as “XXXX.”
Overall, it grossed $11, 850,214 worldwide. It made $2,339,957 in the United States and $9,510,257 internationally. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it a grade A, calling it a “Fast, convulsive, and densely exciting new British gangster thriller.” Layer Cake was the first of Matthew Vaughn’s movies and easily one of the best.
Layer Cake is currently streaming on Netflix.
1. Stardust (2007)
Stardust is a romantic fantasy film based on Neil Gaiman’s 1999 novel of the same name. When asked how the book inspired his vision for the film, Vaughn said that he wanted “to do Princess Bride with a Midnight Run overtone.”
The film follows Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man from the fictional town of Wall in Great Britain. Wall is a town on the border of the magical fantasy kingdom of Stormhold. Tristan enters the magical world to collect a fallen star to give to his beloved, Victoria (Sienna Miller), in return for her hand in marriage. He collects the star who, to his surprise, is a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). Witches and the Princes of Stormhold are also hunting for Yvaine. Meanwhile, Tristan tries to get her back to Wall with him before Victoria’s birthday, the deadline of her offer.
Much to Vaughn’s delight, the film was released to positive reviews and grossed $137 million worldwide. In 2008, it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.
Stardust is available to watch on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.
With more exciting projects on the way, Matthew Vaughn’s best movies could be replaced in due time.