Walter Matthau Movies

matthau 1111Want to know the best Walter Matthau movies?  How about the worst Walter Matthau movies?  Curious about Walter Matthau box office grosses or which Walter Matthau movie picked up the most Oscar nominations? Need to know which Walter Matthau movie got the best reviews from critics and audiences and which got the worst reviews? Well you have come to the right place….because we have all of that information.

Over 4 years ago we published a Jack Lemmon movie page.  At that time we got numerous requests to do a Walter Matthau (1920-2000) movie page.  Not sure why it took so long for us to get around to this page…but we finally have a Matthau page.  Joel Hirschhorn’s Rating The Movie Stars book best describes Matthau.  “Matthau looks less-like a box-office star than any other actor in movies, but people identified with Matthau; they like him.  This he’s-one-of-us charm, plus his enormous talent for comedy and drama, have contributed to his huge success.”

His IMDb page shows 104 acting credits from 1950-2000. This page will rank 58 Walter Matthau movies from Best to Worst in six different sortable columns of information.  Television appearances and movies not released in North America were not included in the rankings.

Tatum O'Neal and Walter Matthau in 1976's The Bad News Bears

Tatum O’Neal and Walter Matthau in 1976’s The Bad News Bears

Walter Matthau Movies Can Be Ranked 6 Ways In This Table

The really cool thing about this table is that it is “user-sortable”. Rank the movies anyway you want.

  • Sort Walter Matthau movies by co-stars of his movies.
  • Sort Walter Matthau movies by adjusted domestic box office grosses using current movie ticket cost
  • Sort Walter Matthau movies by yearly domestic box office rank
  • Sort Walter Matthau movies how they were received by critics and audiences.  60% rating or higher should indicate a good movie.
  • Sort by how many Oscar® nominations and many Oscar® wins each Walter Matthau movie received and
  • Sort Walter Matthau movies by Ultimate Movie Rankings (UMR) Score.  UMR Score puts box office, reviews and awards into a mathematical equation and gives each movie a score.
  • *** = Oscar® nominated role
  • Use the search and sort button to make this page very interactive. For example type “Lemmon” in the search box and up pop the 11 movies that Jack Lemmon and Matthau made together.
RankMovie (Title)UMR Co-Star LinksAdjusted B.O. Domestic (mil)Box Office Rank by YearOscar Nom / WinCritic Audience RatingUMR Score
Odd Couple, The (1968)Jack Lemmon & John Fiedler$286.505th of 196802 / 0085.00%73.62
Cactus Flower (1969)Ingrid Bergman & Goldie Hawn$201.007th of 197001 / 0178.00%69.28
Charade (1963)Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn$183.804th of 196401 / 0083.50%68.13
JFK (1991)Kevin Costner & Jack Lemmon$141.0017th of 199108 / 0282.00%67.68
Hello, Dolly! (1969)Barbra Streisand & Directed by Gene Kelly$257.806th of 197007 / 0361.00%67.15
Sunshine Boys, The (1975)George Burns & Richard Benjamin$89.7024th of 197604 / 0176.50%59.68
Bad News Bears, The (1976)Jackie Earle Haley & Tatum O''''Neal$127.504th of 197600 / 0083.50%59.00
Fortune Cookie, The (1966)Jack Lemmon & Directed by Billy Wilder$32.2079th of 196604 / 0185.00%55.89
Grumpy Old Men (1993)Jack Lemmon & Kevin Pollack$142.9015th of 199300 / 0068.00%54.11
Pete 'n' Tillie (1972)Carol Burnett & Geraldine Page$121.7015th of 197302 / 0067.00%53.02
California Suite (1978)Michael Caine & Maggie Smith$154.609th of 197903 / 0155.67%51.92
Front Page, The (1974)Jack Lemmon & Susan Sarandon$107.4026th of 197500 / 0069.00%50.95
New Leaf, A (1971)Elaine May & Jack Weston$77.4018th of 197100 / 0081.50%50.92
Candy (1968)Marlon Brando & John Huston$135.5012th of 196900 / 0059.67%49.04
Kotch (1971)Directed by Jack Lemmon$55.7029th of 197104 / 0067.50%48.32
Fail-Safe (1964)Henry Fonda & Dan O''''Herlihy$46.1071st of 196400 / 0086.00%47.57
Face in the Crowd, A (1957)Andy Griffith & Patricia Neal$43.00121st of 195700 / 0086.00%47.08
Goodbye Charlie (1964)Tony Curtis & Debbie Reynolds$91.0020th of 196500 / 0070.00%47.00
Guide for the Married Man, A (1967)Directed by Gene Kelly$95.8019th of 196700 / 0067.00%46.34
Bigger Than Life (1956)James Mason$41.60107th of 195600 / 0083.50%45.69
House Calls (1978)Glenda Jackson & Art Carney$114.3018th of 197800 / 0058.00%44.98
King Creole (1958)Elvis Presley$48.2099th of 195800 / 0079.50%44.83
Hopscotch (1980)Glenda Jackson & Sam Waterston$56.6043rd of 198000 / 0073.50%44.56
Kentuckian, The (1955)Burt Lancaster & Diana Lynn$120.4039th of 195500 / 0054.50%44.28
Lonely Are The Brave (1962)Kirk Douglas$31.8087th of 196200 / 0083.50%44.17
Strangers When We Meet (1960)Kirk Douglas & Kim Novak$101.2018th of 196000 / 0060.50%44.13
Indian Fighter, The (1955)Kirk Douglas & Lon Chaney Jr.$113.5033rd of 195600 / 0055.50%43.67
Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)Robert Shaw & Martin Balsam$15.0092nd of 197400 / 0085.00%42.28
Onionhead (1958)Andy Griffith & Felicia Farr$80.3044th of 195800 / 0061.50%41.35
Grumpier Old Men (1995)Jack Lemmon & Sophia Loren$138.6022nd of 199500 / 0041.00%40.31
Mirage (1965)Gregory Peck & Diane Baker$33.5057th of 196500 / 0074.67%40.28
Plaza Suite (1971)Barbara Harris & Lee Grant$61.9027th of 197100 / 0062.50%39.59
Charley Varrick (1973)Joe Don Baker & Norman Fell$14.40114th of 197300 / 0078.00%38.89
Casey's Shadow (1978)Robert Webber & Alexis Smith$34.4057th of 197800 / 0066.50%36.59
Who's Got The Action (1962)Dean Martin & Lana Turner$48.2062nd of 196300 / 0061.50%36.37
Ride A Crooked Trail (1958)Audie Murphy & Henry Silva$32.10123rd of 195800 / 0066.00%36.00
First Monday in October (1981)Jill Clayburgh & Barnard Hughes$37.8060th of 198100 / 0060.00%35.31
Secret Life of an American Wife, The (1968)Anne Jackson & Patrick O''''Neal$55.2039th of 196800 / 0056.50%35.12
Voice in the Mirror (1958)Richard Egan & Julie London$17.10113th of 195800 / 0067.00%34.14
Dennis the Menace (1993)Christopher Lloyd & Joan Plowright$104.4025th of 199300 / 0038.50%34.09
Laughing Policeman, The (1973)Bruce Dern & Louis Gossett Jr.$25.3069th of 197400 / 0064.00%34.00
I.Q. (1994)Meg Ryan & Tim Robbins$54.5053rd of 199400 / 0054.00%33.83
Buddy Buddy (1981)Jack Lemmon$22.0075th of 198100 / 0063.00%33.02
Slaugher on Tenth Avenue (1957)Richard Egan & Dan Duryea$15.10156th of 195700 / 0065.00%32.89
Little Miss Marker (1980)Julie Andrews & Tony Curtis$20.5079th of 198000 / 0061.50%32.08
I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982)Ann-Margret & Dinah Manoff$20.0075th of 198200 / 0061.00%31.77
Ensign Pulver (1964)Jack Nicholson & Robert Walker$34.8054th of 196400 / 0052.50%30.06
Out to Sea (1997)Jack Lemmon & Dyan Cannon$53.3073rd of 199700 / 0046.00%29.88
Grass Harp, The (1996)Jack Lemmon & Sissy Spacek$1.10225th of 199600 / 0057.00%26.96
Couch Trip, The (1988)Dan Aykroyd & Charles Grodin$22.6087th of 198800 / 0049.50%26.76
Gangster Story (1959)Directed by Walter Matthau$15.90134th of 195900 / 0050.50%26.20
Odd Couple II, The (1998)Jack Lemmon$34.0088th of 199800 / 0042.00%25.01
I'm Not Rappaport (1996)Ossie Davis$0.01288th of 199600 / 0049.50%23.26
Survivors, The (1983)Robin Williams & Jerry Reed$37.5051st of 198300 / 0037.00%23.13
Pirates (1986)Directed by Roman Polanski$3.70153rd of 198601 / 0047.00%23.06
Hanging Up (2000)Meg Ryan & Diane Keaton$56.4066th of 200000 / 0029.50%22.60
Island of Love (1963)Tony Randall & Robert Preston$14.70145th of 196300 / 0041.00%21.55
Movers and Shakers (1985)Charles Grodin $0.90165th of 198500 / 0035.50%16.84

Stats and Possibly Interesting Things From The Above Walter Matthau Table

  1. Eighteen Walter Matthau movies crossed the magical $100 million domestic gross mark.  That is a percentage of 31.03% of his movies listed. The Odd Couple (1968) was his biggest box office ht when looking at adjusted domestic box office gross.
  2. An average Walter Matthau movie grosses $71.10 million in adjusted box office gross.
  3. Using RottenTomatoes.com’s 60% fresh meter.  37 of Walter Matthau’ movies are rated as good movies…or 93.33% of their movies. Fail-Safe (1964) is his highest rated movie while Hanging Up (2000) was his lowest rated movie.
  4. Eleven Walter Matthau movie received at least one Oscar® nomination in any category…..or 29.31% of his movies.
  5. Six Walter Matthau movie won at least one Oscar® in any category…..or 10.34% of his movies.
  6. An average Ultimate Movie Ranking  (UMR) Score is 40.00.  31 Walter Matthau movies scored higher than that average….or 53.44% of his movies. The Odd Couple (1968) got the the highest UMR Score while Movers and Shakers (1985) got the lowest UMR Score.
Kevin Costner and Walter Matthau in 1991's JFK

Kevin Costner and Walter Matthau in 1991’s JFK

Possibly Interesting Facts About Walter Matthau

1. Walter John Matthow was born in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1920.

2. During World War II, Walter Matthau served in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in England as a B-24 Liberator radioman-gunner, in the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart.

3.  Walter Matthau’s first movie role was in 1955’s The Kentuckian.  The Kentuckian was the only movie Burt Lancaster ever directed.  Matthau also starred in the only movie Jack Lemmon ever directed…1971’s Kotch.  Matthau directed one movie too……but neither Lancaster or Lemmon appeared in 1959’s Gangster Story….that does not seem fair.

4.  Walter Matthau screen-tested for the lead role in 1955’s The Seven Year Itch.  After seeing his test, director Billy Wilder believed he had found his leading man. Unfortunately, executives at 20th Century Fox were unwilling to take a risk on an unknown newcomer.  Ten years later Wilder would direct Matthau in his Oscar® winning role in 1966’s The Fortune Cookie.  Wilder would direct Matthau two more times….1974’s The Front Page and 1981’s Buddy Buddy.

5. Walter Matthau was nominated for 3 acting Oscars®.  He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for 1966’s The Fortune Cookie.  He was nominated for Best Actor Oscars® for 1971’s Kotch and 1975’s The Sunshine Boys.

6.  Walter Matthau was nominated for 8 Golden Globes®.  He won Best Actor for 1975’s The Sunshine Boys.  Other nominations: The Fortune Cookie (1965), The Odd Couple (1968) , Kotch (1971), Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972), The Front Page (1974), Hopscotch (1980) and First Monday in October (1981).

7.  Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon acted together in 9 movies: Buddy Buddy (1981), The Fortune Cookie (1966), The Front Page (1974), The Grass Harp (1995), Grumpier Old Men (1995), Grumpy Old Men (1993), The Odd Couple II (1998), The Odd Couple (1968) and Out to Sea (1997). The only movie Jack Lemmon directed was 1971’s Kotch….which starred Matthau. Lemmon and Matthau also both appeared in JFK (1991), but had no scenes together.

8.  Walter Matthau was married twice; first to Grace Geraldine Johnson from 1948 to 1958..they had two children, Jenny and David.  His second marriage was to Carol Marcus from 1959 until his death in 2000…they had one son, Charlie.  Charlie Matthau is an actor and a director.   He directed his father in The Grass Harp (1995).

9.  Walter Matthau’s lasting impact on pop culture.  In the Oscar® winning Pixar movie Up, Carl the main character is a combination of Spencer Tracy and Walter Matthau.  Dan Castellaneta has said that his original voice for Homer Simpson was simply an impression of Matthau.

10.  In the blockbuster box office hit Earthquake (1974) , Matthau did a cameo as a drunk.  He used the name Walter Matuschanskayasky in the credits.

Check out Walter Matthau’s movie career compared to current and classic stars on our Most 100 Million Dollar Movies of All-Time page.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau worked together on 11 movies

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau worked together on 11 movies

For comments….all you need is a name and a comment….please ignore the rest.

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18 thoughts on “Walter Matthau Movies

  1. 1 Walter was so menacing and evil in his debut movie The Kentuckian that one would not have immediately guessed that he could do great comedy as well. I rank him along with the likes of Cary Grant on the big screen for the remarkable ability to go seamlessly from comedy to drama and back again. On TV Kelsey Grammar as Frasier also had that ability.

    2 I always saw Walter as to some extent a successor to Buster Keaton in his comic roles as no matter how funny the plot Walt usually maintained that deadpan sad face and gave us that dreary voice.

    3 I loved the line in The Odd Couple where tiring of Lemmon’s constant hanging round him Walt says to Jack “Do you not think that for once we could get the company of others whose voices have a higher register than our own?” Magic Matthau!

    1. Hey Bob…thanks for the thoughts on Matthau….I agree who would have guessed that Matthau would be able to do comedy so well…after seeing his performance in The Kentuckian. Very interesting comparisons between Matthau and Grant, Keaton and Grammar. That is a good line in The Odd Couple…a movie filled with great lines from beginning to end. Good stuff.

  2. Walter Matthau is a welcome addition to your site. I’ve seen and enjoyed many of his films, but question the BO of one of my favorites; The Taking of Pelham one, two three supposedly grossed 16 million in the U.S. back in 1974-75… I would think that it would certainly adjust higher after 40+ years. Either way I love your site and look forward to you hopefully adding more year end reviews!

    1. Hey John….interesting…let me check my sources. Let’s see in the Variety issue January 8th, 1975 page 75…the Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 is listed as the 94th biggest hit of the year with 1.1 million rentals. Granted the release month was October….but when I check my All-Time Rental list (Variety -May 4th 1983) it is not listed…and if it had over 4 million in rentals it would have made that list. So….I will have to do some deeper research……but I agree with you the adjusted gross of $15 million seems pretty low….especially for a movie that is pretty good. Thanks for the heads up…I will see what I can find in the next couple of days.

  3. Hi, Bruce.

    My all-time favourite Walter Matthau movie is Charade. I watch it several times a year. So my favourite of his films is without Jack Lemmon.

    My favourite of his films with Jack Lemmon is The Odd Couple. There is one of their acting pairings I have yet to see and that is Buddy Buddy. I have not seen Kotch.

    In regards to your rankings:

    The highest ranking film I have seen is The Odd Couple at Number 1.
    The lowest ranking film I have seen is The Odd Couple II at Number 50.
    The highest ranking film I have not seen is Pete n’ Tillie at Number 11.

    Thus, I have seen all of Walter’s top 10.
    I have seen 12 of his top 15.
    I have seen 14 of his top 20.
    I have seen 18 of his top 25.
    I have seen 20 of his top 30.
    I have seen 23 of his top 40.
    I have seen 26 of his his films overall.

    So you win this time Bruce!

    My favourite five films are:

    Charade
    The Odd Couple
    Fail -Safe (which didn’t sell tickets because it was released after Dr. Strangelove)
    Cactus Flower
    Mirage.

    I find that Matthau is one of those actors who can have a good performance even in a bad film.

    I prefer Onionhead to a Face in the Crowd. I have had a hard time getting through A Face In the Crowd after seeing it once.

    I’ve enjoyed this look at Walter Matthau-five years after his most frequent collaborator.

    I too would like to see an Earnest Borgnine page.

    Cheers,

    Flora

    1. Hey Flora…thanks for checking out my Matthau page.
      1. I am a huge Charade fan too….although Father Goose seems to be the Cary Grant movie that I watch the most….Charade is a close second.
      2. Buddy Buddy is not the best of Lemmon, Matthau and Wilder…actually it is probably the one movie that would have liked to do over….so I do not think you are missing much.
      3. Kotch is a good movie but not one that begs for repeat viewings…Lemmon’s only directorial job makes you wonder why he did not direct more movies.
      4. Tally count….wow…I won a classic actor….though I think that he made so many movies from 1980 to 2000 is the main reason I topped you and Steve…Me The Gold….you the Bronze and poor little Stevie the bronze.
      5. Of your Top 5 I have seen and enjoyed all of them with the exception of Mirage…that one has escaped me so far. I recently rewatched Fail Safe….Matthau is good but Fonda is excellent..
      6. I had not even heard of Onionhead before doing this page…I was really surprised when it showed up on Variety’s list of big hits…I will have to check that one out. Walter is not in A Face In The Crowd very much.
      7. Hard to believe that so much time went by between doing the Lemmon page and the Matthau page….but it has been a fun ride.
      8. I have added you to Steve’s request on Ernie….he might take awhile to research…as his career was long and filled classics…but also filled with some lemmons (spelled that way in honor of Jack)
      As always…thanks for stopping by and commenting. My latest page is Julie Andrews….in my rotation she is listed as a current performer….so it will probably be three pages in a row that fall in your wheelhouse….Matthau, Andrews and yet to be determined.

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