The Best Ensemble Casts in Movie History

Margin Call, a fact-based thriller concerning the beginning of the financial crisis, opens tomorrow with a stellar ensemble cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, and Mary McDonnell. (And Demi Moore. Hey, can’t win ‘em all.) Throw in last month’s Contagion (featuring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, Marion Cotillard, and Elliott Gould) and December’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, and Mark Strong), and this is starting to look like the Season of the Ensemble. In celebration of these smart, adult movies flush with Oscar winners and fine character performers, we’ve assembled some of our favorite big-cast ensemble movies after the jump — check it out, and throw in your own in the comments.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce

David Mamet’s 1984 play Glengarry Glen Ross won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and every one of its six male characters was a showcase role—there are blow-ups, break-downs, fake-outs, and generous helpings of Mamet’s trademark rat-tat-tat back-and-forth byplay and gutter-poet dialogue. No wonder the eventual film adaptation attracted such a top-notch cast — particularly when Mamet adapted the screenplay himself, throwing in additional pathos for Lemmon’s old-timer Shelley “The Machine” Lavine, as well as the entirely new (and juicy) character of “Blake,” the hot-shot company man from the main office (played by Alec Baldwin at his absolute nastiest). Mamet’s brilliant script thus moves from Baldwin’s fierce monologue to a series of masterful duet scenes between the paired-off cast members, culminating in a second half (or act, to use the stage parlance) that tosses the six characters together into the pressure cooker of their burglarized office, and watches them boil.