Matt Dillon's 55th Birthday: His 15 Best Movies Ranked

Matt Dillon, born in New York on February 18, 1964, turns 55 today. He rose to fame in his teens playing disaffected, rebellious kids. But unlike many stage-schooled child actors, Dillon was the real thing—sort of.

Casting directors were visiting New York middle schools looking for "the new James Dean" when they found Dillon wandering the hallways when he should have been in class. "He had this chipped tooth, and he was presenting himself as a tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks," talent scout Jane Bernstein told Vice.

Bernstein would discover that Dillon had been acting even then: "We later learned he was from a lovely family in a beautiful section of the suburbs of New York. He was as middle-class as they came," she said.

Still, Dillon's charisma and on-screen presence were undeniable and he won the role in 1979's Over the Edge. Big roles in young adult novel adaptations followed in Tex (1982), The Outsiders (1983) and Rumble Fish (1983).

It's a testament to how well he could convey the emotional turbulence of teenagehood that these early roles are the ones he is most associated with. He went on to find success in later movies, like 1999's There's Something About Mary, and even got an Academy Award nomination for his part in 2005's Crash. But his adult roles haven't quite matched the cultural impact of his distinctive 1980s peak.

His 2002 Cambodia-set directorial debut, City of Ghosts, was a stab at establishing a voice, but it flopped at the box office.

He has two movies due for release this year: the Al Capone biopic Fonzo, and Proxima in which he plays a chauvinistic astronaut. Ahead of their release, Newsweek has collected data from critical review websites Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb to find Dillon's 15 most critically acclaimed movies in his career so far.

01 Rumble Fish
Universal Pictures

15. Rumble Fish (1983). Total score: 64.875%. IMDb users: 7.2. Metacritic: 63. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.6.

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola. Starring: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage, Chris Penn, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Sofia Coppola.

Plot summary: Rusty James, an absent-minded street thug struggles to live up to his legendary older brother's reputation, and longs for the days when gang warfare was going on.

What the critics said: "A number of the images in Rumble Fish are more memorable than the film is as a whole, sometimes for the wrong reasons." Janet Maslin, New York Times.

02 In & Out
Paramount Pictures

14. In & Out (1997). Total score: 67%. IMDb users: 6.4. Metacritic: 70. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 2.9.

Directed by: Frank Oz. Starring: Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Tom Selleck, Matt Dillon, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Newhart.

Plot summary: A midwestern teacher questions his sexuality after a former student makes a comment about him at the Academy Awards.

What the critics said: "One of the jollier comedies of the year, a movie so mainstream that you can almost watch it backing away from confrontation, a film aimed primarily at a middle-American heterosexual audience." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

03 The Saint of Fort Washington
Warner Bros.

=12. The Saint of Fort Washington (1993). Total score: 67.5%. IMDb users: 7.2. Metacritic: (n/a). Rotten Tomatoes: 6.6. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.9.

Directed by: Tim Hunter. Starring: Danny Glover, Matt Dillon, Rick Aviles, Ving Rhames.

Plot summary: A homeless schizophrenic seeks the help of a streetwise combat veteran as they attempt to overcome cruel life on the streets.

What the critics said: "Whatever its shortcomings, The Saint of Fort Washington takes its subject very seriously, in ways that no audience can fail to find wrenchingly sad." Janet Maslin, New York Times.

04 Nothing But the Truth
Freestyle Releasing

=12. Nothing But the Truth (2008). Total score: 67.5%. IMDb users: 7.2. Metacritic: 64. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.6.

Directed by: Rod Lurie. Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Vera Farmiga, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, David Schwimmer, Courtney B. Vance.

Plot summary: In Washington, D.C., a reporter faces a possible jail sentence for outing a CIA agent and refusing to reveal her source.

What the critics said: "Every once in a while, for reasons as random as a Hollywood executive's taste or an economic meltdown, a perfectly decent movie slips through the cracks, never receives a theatrical release and is relegated to the purgatory called straight-to-DVD." Ann Hornaday, Washington Post.

05 My Bodyguard
Twentieth Century Fox

11. My Bodyguard (1980). Total score: 67.625%. IMDb users: 7.1. Metacritic: 67. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.7. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.4.

Directed by: Tony Bill. Starring: Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon, Joan Cusack.

Plot summary: When a boy comes to a new school and gets harassed by a bully, he acquires the services of the school's most feared kid as a bodyguard.

What the critics said: "In his directorial debut, Tony Bill assembles a truly remarkable cast of youngsters with little or no previous acting experience." Variety.

06 Beautiful Girls

10. Beautiful Girls (1996). Total score: 68.25%. IMDb users: 7.2. Metacritic: 64. Rotten Tomatoes: 7. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.6.

Directed by: Ted Demme. Starring: Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Annabeth Gish, Lauren Holly, Michael Rapaport, Noah Emmerich, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman, Rosie O'Donnell, Martha Plimpton.

Plot summary: A piano player at a crossroads in his life returns home to his friends and their own problems with life and love.

What the critics said: "[Natalie] Portman was memorable as the little girl in The Professional, but her work here throws off an eeriness in its revelation of such huge talent in one so young." Jeff Millar, Houston Chronicle.

07 Factotum

9. Factotum (2005). Total score: 68.375%. IMDb users: 6.6. Metacritic: 71. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.2.

Directed by: Bent Hamer. Starring: Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei.

Plot summary: This drama centers on Hank Chinaski, the fictional alter-ego of "Factotum" author Charles Bukowski, who wanders around Los Angeles, CA trying to live off jobs which don't interfere with his primary interest, which is writing. Along the way, he fends off the distractions offered by women, drinking and gambling.

What the critics said: "Dillon and director Hamer manage to give us a real Bukowski by avoiding the overly dramatic histrionics that sometimes marred Barbet Schroeder's similarly themed 1987 booze-drama, Barfly with Mickey Rourke." Tirdad Derakhshani, Philadelphia Inquirer.

08 Singles 1
Warner Bros.

8. Singles (1992). Total score: 68.625%. IMDb users: 6.7. Metacritic: (n/a). Rotten Tomatoes: 7. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.4.

Directed by: Cameron Crowe. Starring: Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, Bill Pullman.

Plot summary: A group of twenty-something friends, most of whom live in the same apartment complex, search for love and success in grunge-era Seattle.

What the critics said: "There's a genial untidiness about Singles, but it's unified by Crowe's affection for his characters, and by the terrific Paul Westerberg music track, which plays like a pulse-beat to these people's lives." Peter Rainer, Los Angeles Times.

09 There's Something About Mary
Twentieth Century Fox

7. There's Something About Mary (1998). Total score: 69.625%. IMDb users: 7.1. Metacritic: 69. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.1. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.3.

Directed by: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Starring: Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Lee Evans, Chris Elliott, Jeffrey Tambor, Keith David, Sarah Silverman, Jonathan Richman.

Plot summary: A man gets a chance to meet up with his dream girl from high school, even though his date with her back then was a complete disaster.

What the critics said: "Remarkable for all the sick and politically incorrect sight gags it gets away with in its rule-breaking romp through the supposedly sacred laws of what makes people laugh, and what doesn't." Andrew Sarris, Observer.

10 Wayward Pines
Fox Network

6. Wayward Pines (2015) TV. Total score: 71.125%. IMDb users: 7.5. Metacritic: 66. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 4.

Created by: Chad Hodge. Starring: Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Hope Davis, Melissa Leo, Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino.

Plot summary: A Secret Service agent goes to Wayward Pines, Idaho, in search of two federal agents who have gone missing in the bucolic town. He soon learns that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.

What the critics said: "The title evokes Twin Peaks, as do the show's small-town setting and surrealism." Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly.

11 Tex
Walt Disney

5. Tex (1982). Total score: 71.75%. IMDb users: 6.6. Metacritic: 78. Rotten Tomatoes: 6.8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.5.

Directed by: Tim Hunter. Starring: Matt Dillon, Jim Metzler, Meg Tilly, Emilio Estevez.

Plot summary: After their mother dies and their father leaves them, teenage brothers Tex and Mason McCormick struggle to make it on their own.

What the critics said: "The characters are vividly real, especially the confused, searching Tex of Matt Dillon, a natural-born star, and the solid, sensible Mason of Jim Metzler, who is also destined for an important career." Bob Thomas, Associated Press.

12 Crash
Lions Gate Films

4. Crash (2004). Total score: 72.375%. IMDb users: 7.8. Metacritic: 69. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.9.

Directed by: Paul Haggis. Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe.

Plot summary: Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.

What the critics said: "The actors, especially Chris Bridges (aka rapper Ludacris), Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Michael Peña, and Larenz Tate, are adroit at conveying Haggis's candid observations about the crazy ways we live and think." Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader.

13 Over the Edge
Orion Pictures

3. Over the Edge (1979). Total score: 74.75%. IMDb users: 7.5. Metacritic: 67. Rotten Tomatoes: 8.2. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.8.

Directed by: Jonathan Kaplan. Starring: Matt Dillon, Michael Eric Kramer, Pamela Ludwig.

Plot summary: A group of bored teenagers rebel against authority in the community of New Granada after the death of one of their own.

What the critics said: "Script, photography and performances (including Dillon before he decided to become a teenage Stallone) are all top-notch, while Kaplan directs with pace, imagination, and a fine ear for dialogue and music." Geoff Andrew, Time Out.

14 To Die For
Columbia Pictures

2. To Die For (1995). Total score: 75.875%. IMDb users: 6.8. Metacritic: 86. Rotten Tomatoes: 7.3. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.1.

Directed by: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, Dan Hedaya.

Plot summary: A beautiful but naïve aspiring television personality films a documentary on teenagers with a darker ulterior motive.

What the critics said: "A smart black comedy that skewers America's fatal fascination with television and celebrity, it employs an unerring nasty touch to parody our omnipresent culture of fame. And it uses a rather unlikely combination of talents to do the job." Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.

15 Drugstore Cowboy
Avenue Pictures Productions

1. Drugstore Cowboy (1989). Total score: 79.25%. IMDb users: 7.4. Metacritic: 82. Rotten Tomatoes: 8. Rotten Tomatoes users: 3.7.

Directed by: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, Heather Graham.

Plot summary: A pharmacy-robbing dope fiend and his crew pop pills and evade the law.

What the critics said: "The movie stars Matt Dillon, in one of the great recent American movie performances... This is one of the best movies of the year." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.