20 Best Hollywood Movies with an Ensemble Cast: Ensemble films have been a staple genre of Hollywood since the early decades of cinema. But, the marked increase in its popularity can be traced to the postmodern era of the 1990s. Because a film has the potential to explore and reflect cultural politics, moral complexities, and ideological standpoints, it has become even more imperative now to have more conversations about an ensemble cast.

The unification of different plot lines and characters is a key attribute of ensemble casting in films. The overarching theme, location, event, narrative structure, or anything could tie the characters together.

So, here is an attempt to collate the 20 Best Hollywood Movies with an Ensemble Cast. The primary cast includes the biggest names in the industry, sharing equal screen time or important plot devices to take the narrative ahead. This list does not include superhero films because that might require a separate dedicated list!

It’s difficult to choose only 20 as this could easily be a never-ending list. See if you can find your favorites here, otherwise, let us know your recommendations in the comments.

Hon’ble Mentions: Though I hate the concept of honorable mentions, I didn’t have the heart not to include a few of my absolute favorites.

The Breakfast Club (1985), Babel (2006), Requiem for a Dream (2000), The French Dispatch (2021), and The Women (1939).

20. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) (Dir. James Foley)

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

The ensemble: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce, Bruce Altman, Jude Ciccolella, Lori Tan Chinn, Paul Butler, and a few more future superstars.

What are they doing? Selling real estate properties! (well, actually not as drab as it sounds)

How are they doing? The almost poetic working-class vernacular representation is as fierce as it is funny in Glengarry Glen Ross. The film is a stinging social rebuke with sharp dialogues and implicit thematic thrusts that are impossible to ignore. Even though the film is cynical and has an acidic worldview, the script is brutal and snappy with a fever pitch of dramatic intensity. Rarely can a film sustain and contain such ferocity. Not only one of the best ensembles from Hollywood, but it is also one of the best films in the industry.

19. The Thin Red Line (1998) (Dir. Terrence Malick)

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The ensemble: Sean Penn, George Clooney, John Travolta, Adrien Brody, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, Nick Nolte, John C. Reilly, John Cusack, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, Tim Blake Nelson, Larry Romano, and some more additions to this testosterone-heavy cast.

What are they doing? Facing an unlikely battle at the Guadalcanal, where they lose out on each other while still hoping to win the Second World War.

How are they doing? The Thin Red Line is to be experienced rather than seen. It is so richly detailed and textured that its images leap from the screen. The film is a meditation of formless accounts of pain inflicted and the cynicism of wars. In a typical Terrence Malick fashion, the film relies less on coherence and more on the perception of flowing images. The ensemble is incalculable, in fact, the first cut took seven months to edit, and it ran for 5 hours! Terrence had to remove Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas, and Mickey Rourke’s portions out of the final cut.

Heads up: not everyone’s cup of tea, but DEFINITELY worth a shot.

18. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) (Dir. Stanley Kramer)

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

The ensemble: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Peter Falk with 24 cameos and 33 supporting cast members!

What are they doing? Searching for buried treasure while participating in an adventurous journey.

How are they doing? Everyone who has ever been funny is in the film! As many as seven have been modeled on the Mad World since 1963, the latest being the Hindi film Total Dhamaal (2019). So many excellent actors are doing so much in this film that it is beyond my space to credit them. It’s a salute to the gift of lunacy. This mega comedy might feel bloated for some, but I would highly recommend it for its insanely funny dialogues, star cast, and cameos.
“Why don’t we just shoot ’em down and be through with it.”

17. Murder on the Orient Express (1974) (Dir. Sidney Lumet)

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

The ensemble: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Rachel Roberts, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Perkins, Richard Widmark, Wendy Hiller, and many other suspects!

What are they doing? Well, solving a murder on the Orient Express!

How are they doing? Agatha Christie mentioned that Murder… and Witness for the Prosecution (1957) are the only two movie adaptations of her books she liked. Although, she was disappointed with Poirot (Finney)’s mustache in this one! Director Sidney Lumet acted like a traffic manager in this film with the way he handled his actors. This highly enjoyable film boasts some great performances, but the majority of the film belongs to Albert Finney!

16. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

The ensemble: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, and many other unexpected virtues of acting talent.

What are they doing? Resurrecting a fading star’s career with a Broadway show.

How are they doing? It’s a bold film, a bold film that didn’t shy away from aesthetics and cinematic risks. Once over, you would contemplate whether it was a complex narrative that was very simple to watch or a simple concept that was a confounding viewing? The ensemble cast is simply heartbreaking to watch. Each character packs such gut-wrenching emotional smack that you might find it odd to smile or laugh at the dark comedy it serves. While Ed Norton and Emma Stone are sensational, Michael Keaton delivers an internal monologue through his eyes. His Oscar loss felt personal. It’s one of the most effective ensembles to come out of Hollywood.

15. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

The ensemble: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy García, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Scott L. Schwartz, and the heist is aided by many more conmen, or should we say, actors?

What are they doing? Planning & carrying out a smart heist in a Las Vegas casino.

How are they doing? Watching Ocean’s Eleven is like attending a well-scripted, witty, well-designed Hollywood award show! It’s compulsively re-watchable, slick, extremely stylish, and bobbing with energy. The number of globally renowned stars in the film reads like a laundry list, and everyone seems to be having fun! One of Hollywood’s most luxurious, justified, and exuberant ensembles. Highly recommended.

14. L.A. Confidential (1997) (Dir. Curtis Hanson)

L.A. Confidential (1997)

The ensemble: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, Amber Smith, and a few more prestigious names in this confidential list of actors.

What are they doing? Investigating an unsolved murder while tackling the corruption around it.

How are they doing? It’s a flawless ensemble. It conformed to the genre as much as it betrays it. L.A. Confidential functions as a lean, taut, terrific thriller with imperfect protagonists. It’s applaudable how much the cast is in sync with the noir style and not stealing the focus. The characters ricochet through the corridors of conspiracies through a densely structured script. It’s absurdly entertaining.

13. Inception (2010) (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

Inception (2010)

The ensemble: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, and a few more dream stealers!

What are they doing? Stealing information by infiltrating the subconscious, the dreams of their targets. Basically, a heist film!

How are they doing? A revolutionary ingenious innovation that is Inception! I had not seen such a confounding, complex, mind-bending blockbuster since The Matrix (2001). It might turn out to be a frustrating watch for many as you tend to lose the plot, but it’s ultimately satisfying. No matter how you look at it, you have never seen anything like it. Inception is involving but never indulgent. One of the best ensembles from Hollywood, undoubtedly.

12. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) (Dir. Wes Anderson)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The ensemble: Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Stephen Lea Sheppard, and Alec Baldwin as a narrator.

What are they doing? Finding some functionality in their dysfunctional family.

How are they doing? It is a stylized study of melancholy, forgiveness, and catharsis. Wes Anderson is a master of the ensemble, and The Royal Tenenbaums was an early warning of the ensemble avalanche he was about to bestow upon the world in the coming years. Actually, we might need another list to only feature Anderson’s ensembles! Each character is a key component of the story. The audacity of the film lies in finding and maintaining a whimsical, quirky tone while serving us some really intense moments of pain & loss. It’s a treat, don’t miss it.

11. August Osage County (2013) (Dir. John Wells)

August Osage County

The ensemble: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Misty Upham, and Sam Shepard. Add George Clooney as a producer to this psychedelic list!

What are they doing? Fighting! And trying to be a family together. “Eat the fish, bitch!”

How are they doing? As someone very aptly mentioned, the amount of acting going on in August Osage County threatens to overwhelm. But you just cannot complain. This is an ensemble in its truest sense. Each character is layered, each character adds to the story, each character gets to shine, and each character has an arc. This is the kind of feat now achieved through web series. It was, and still is, a rarity in movies. Perhaps that’s why the film feels overwrought at times. Meryl Streep leads the pack with her much showy, rather gimmicky performance, but it’s Julia Roberts and Julianne Nicholson who will steal your heart. Keep those tissues handy, you’ll be crying the bucket.

10. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

The ensemble: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Timothy Olyphant, Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Austin Butler, Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Maya Hawke, Damian Lewis, Margaret Qualley, Julia Butters, Lena Dunham, Kurt Russell and many more in Hollywood!

What are they doing? Navigating through their insecurities & vulnerabilities during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with some reimagination of real-life Manson murders.

How are they doing? It’s a gloriously grimy love letter to classic Hollywood and a reflection of the painful, blinding realities of spotlights. Once Upon a Time… boasts some of the finest actors of Hollywood who are keeping it funny, sad, and occasionally outrageous. Small or big, every actor/ character is ambitious with a sprawling narrative. The stark realism with the hallucinogenic fantasy of the film blurs the line between actors and characters. Damn, I love this movie!

9. True Romance (1993) (Dir. Tony Scott)

True Romance (1993)

The ensemble Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, Maria Pitillo, Michael Rapaport, and some more true talent in this savvy screenplay by Quentin Tarantino!

What are they doing? Selling cocaine to Hollywood while running away from the mob.

How are they doing? With all the gore and violence, True Romance is emotionally absorbing. Characters’ kinetic energies collide with Tarantino’s sexy, funny, unpredictable, shocking writing, and the mayhem is insanely transcendent. The cast is so potent that you won’t even notice some glaring flaws in the film. If you’re a fan of an ensemble cast, this film is unmissable! As someone very aptly said, this is the best Quentin Tarantino film that he never made!

8. Spotlight (2015) (Dir. Tom McCarthy)

Spotlight (2015)

The ensemble: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, and Richard Jenkins, and the spotlight is also on a few other acting geniuses.

What are they doing? Uncovering the truth of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church through journalism.

How are they doing? The excellent ensemble of actors affects on multiple levels, from personal to spiritual. Spotlight is relevant and minimalistic, with a pulse-pounding thriller structure. The cast delivers transformative performances. While you watch the film, you can feel why it is an effective ensemble, as you can see the collective effort—a salient story to tell.

7. Short Cuts (1993) (Dir. Robert Altman)

Short Cuts

The ensemble: Julianne Moore, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr, Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward, Anne Archer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Madeleine Stowe, Matthew Modine, Tim Robbins, Chris Penn, Jack Lemmon, Lori Singer, Andie MacDowell, Buck Henry, Annie Ross, and musicians Huey Lewis, Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, and probably rest of the Hollywood too!

What are they doing? Struggling to find solace and meaning in contemporary Los Angeles. Twenty-two of them!

How are they doing? Short Cuts is a long but never boring film. With more than 22 characters intertwined, the film is inevitably uneven. Some performances are better than others, and some stories are more effective than others. But, the film will make you happy even if it is just cold comfort. The film is an examination of the detached, dysfunctional modern America. Short Cuts is a pungent send-up of extant praxis. Don’t miss this insanely absorbing ensemble.

6. Magnolia (1999) (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)


The ensemble: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Blackman, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Melinda Dillon, Alfred Molina, John C. Reilly, Miriam Margolyes, Clark Gregg, Philip Baker Hall, Benjamin Niedens, April Grace, Luis Guzman, Thomas Jane, Ricky Jay, Emmanuel Johnson, and a trunk full of many other screen legends.

What are they doing? Not sure, probably searching for love, forgiveness, and meaning of their existence? Their ten damaged lives intersect, often by sheer coincidence, during a single day in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley.

How are they doing? This sprawling character study is not a timid film. Magnolia rejects the diffident post-modernism of the 1990s. It is a film of sadness and loss, which upon release, we mistook for an entertaining, even funny cinema with intersecting stories. Perhaps, we were too fascinated and starry-eyed about the ensemble that we almost forgot why it had such a lasting haunting effect. As they say, and I can personally vouch for it, a traumatic past scars you for life, and it’s not a choice.

“We may be through with the past, but the past is never through with us.”

5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) (Dir. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris)

Films with an Ensemble

The ensemble:  Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Beth Grant, and a little more sunshine of actors.

What are they doing? Driving a VW bus to California to support the daughter in her bid to win the Little Miss Sunshine Contest while testing their sanity along the way.

How are they doing? If you are going to watch it in 2023 for the first time, it will be like a little ray of sunshine in a world of bland, boring, reheated franchises that are coming out of Hollywood. What separates Little Miss Sunshine from other well-written small movies is the charming performances of the star cast, especially Alan Arkin’s. The bribery and corruption which lie at the heart of most families are beautifully captured in the script. Join the ride if you haven’t already.

4. Lord of the Rings series (2001-2003) (Dir. Peter Jackson)

Films with an ensemble

The ensemble: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, Sean Bean, and a few more wizards.

What are they doing? Are on a quest to destroy the One Ring to ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron.

How are they doing? The trilogy grabs you with its sense of urgency, huge scope, and hope. There never was, and probably never will be, a better film trilogy. The biggest star cast on the biggest playgrounds, it’s an epic we never knew we needed. Nothing is ‘average’ about the series. No actor, no character, no dialogue, no frame, nothing. It’s the most potent motion picture fantasy, which gets its greatest strength from the star cast.

3. Boogie Nights (1997) (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Films with an Ensemble Cast

The ensemble: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Heather Graham, Luis Guzmán, Philip Baker Hall, Nicole Ari Parker, Robert Downey Sr., Ricky Jay, Michael Penn, and other stars twinkling on boogie nights.

What are they doing? Transforming a teenage busboy into an adult film sensation and documenting his rise & fall.

How are they doing? Philip Seymour Hoffman stands out in a cast that’s chock-full of standouts. Boogie Nights construct the abyss with much wit and shimmer, which is almost unprecedented. I didn’t want to repeat a filmmaker on my list, but the sheer exhilaration of Paul Thomas Anderson’s vision forced me to have two of his films. The film is uplifting and disturbing concurrently. Boogie Nights is proof positive that there should be an Oscar for Best Ensemble!

“You’re a star.”

2. The Departed (2006) (Martin Scorsese)

The Departed

The ensemble – Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Anderson, James Badge Dale, and many more acting gangstas!

What are they doing? – Well, outdoing each other in their games! An undercover cop infiltrates a mob’s crew, while a mole does the same with the State Police.

How are they doing? – Don’t think I need to say much about The Departed, ‘nuff said already! The scrumptious cast is drool-worthy, with Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg stealing the show. Quite possibly the most accomplished and accessible film from Scorsese, which has cinematic brilliance without compromising on commerce.

1. Apocalypse Now (1979) (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

Apocalypse Now

The ensemble: Marlon Brando, Harrison Ford, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Charlie Sheen, Dennis Hopper, Sam Bottoms, Albert Hall, Frederick Forrest, and other MALE actors!

What are they doing? On a mission during the Vietnam War, to search and assassinate a renegade colonel who has taken innocent lives and is believed to be a demigod by a tribe.

How are they doing? Filmmaking at its peak, it’s a kind of film that will justify your love for cinema! The cast involves so many legends and legendary performances that you’ll struggle to find your favorite. With the abundance of deep shadows and a cast of morally unstructured characters, Apocalypse Now is an ineffaceable essay on the lunacy of war. It’s definitely one of the best ensemble films from Hollywood.

Also, Read: 10 Movies With A Surprising Second Half

Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes

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