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50 Greatest Ensemble Casts

Sin City (2005)

The Cast: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benecio Del Toro, Josh Hartnett, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Elijah Wood, Rutger Hauer, Nick Stahl, Carla Gugino, Jaime King, Devon Aoki.

Pause The Screen When:
The showdown in Old Town brings a lot of the big names together, as Rosario Dawson leads her army of tooled-up hookers into battle.

Stand-Out Star: Mickey Rourke is excellent as the hulking Marv, a role that would relaunch his career as a serious Hollywood star.

Short Cuts (1993)

The Cast: Julianne Moore, Andie MacDowell, Jack Lemmon, Bruce Davison, Matthew Modine, Anne Archer, Fred Ward, Lily Tomlin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey Jr., Madeline Stowe, Peter Gallagher,Tim Robbins, Tom Waits, Frances McDormand, Buck Henry, Lyle Lovett.

Pause The Screen When: Understandably, there's no big ensemble shot of a cast this size. Threes and fours only, sadly, like the above quartet of Robert Downey Junior, Lili Taylor, Chris Penn and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Stand-Out Star: Tim Robbins is on scarily good form as the traffic cop bedding another mans wife while systematically abusing his own.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The Cast: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madson, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Quentin Tarantino, Eddie Bunker.

Pause The Screen When: The suited crims make their way across the parking lot, accompanied by the strains of Little Green Bag . One of QT's magic moments.

Stand-Out Star: Buscemi is brilliant as the twitchy, non-tipping Mr. Pink, although there's really not much to choose between this lot. Wall to wall talent on show here.

The Departed (2006)

The Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson.

Pause The Screen When:
There are never usually more than three of the big guns on the big screen at any one time. That said, the first meeting between DiCaprio, Sheen and Wahlberg is particularly electrifying.

Stand-Out Star: Mark Wahlberg makes off with every scene he appears in as the foul-mouthed Dignan. "You calling us cunts?" he says to a dumbstruck DiCaprio. It gets progressively more entertaining from there!

The Avengers (2012)

The Cast: Robert Downey Junior, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Pause The Screen When:
The Avengers form a huddle in the middle of a battle-scarred Manhattan, preparing themselves for the next round of extra-terrestrial onslaught,

Stand-Out Star: It's a testament to Joss Whedon's script that everyone gets their moment in the sun, but Mark Ruffalo is the stand-out performer, bringing humour and melancholy to Bruce Banner, and letting it all hang out as the Hulk.

Cold Mountain (2003)

The Cast: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Donald Sutherland, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, James Gammon, Ray Winstone, Giovanni Ribisi, Cillian Murphy, Jack White, Ethan Suplee.

Pause The Screen When: The sequence in the woods brings Law, Kidman, Gleeson and Zellweger together for the film's big finale.

Stand-Out Star:
Zellweger provides a spiky foil to the wistful rumination of Nicole Kidman. Jude Law is also worthy of note for his Oscar-nominated performance as the lead.

12 Angry Men (1957)

The Cast: Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec, Robert Webber.

Pause The Screen When: Whenever you like! With the whole film taking place within the four walls of the jurors' room, there are plenty of shots featuring all twelve stars.

Stand-Out Star:
Fonda bags himself the showiest role as the lone voice of dissent who insists on looking at the case in a new light.

Heat (1995)

The Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, William Fichtner, Danny Trejo, Ted Levine.

Pause The Screen When:
De Niro's crew tool up and head to the bank for their bullet-spraying showdown with the cops, with most of the primaries on show.

Stand-Out Star: Tough to pick a winner between Pacino and De Niro, but we'll opt for Bobby's icy cool over Al's shouty ball-breaking.

The Women (1939)

The Cast: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine.

Pause The Screen When:
The scene on the train to Reno throws protagonist norma Shearer in with a glut of her co-stars, including Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard and Joan Fontaine.

Stand-Out Star:
It's tricky to pick one given there are a staggering 130 speaking roles (all played by women), but we'll opt for the acerbic Joan Crawford as perfume counter girl, Crystal.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, William Fichtner, Cillian Murphy.

Pause The Screen When: Not many ensemble shots to report here, with the final three-hander between Bale, Eckhart and Oldman probably the starriest of the lot.

Stand-Out Star: Who do you think? Ledger didn't get the Academy Award for nothing.