Matthew McConaughey’s Career Arc Analyzed Through His Movie Posters

Matthew McConaughey

Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

updated 01/09/2014 AT 3:00 PM ET

originally published 01/12/2014 AT 8:30 AM ET

Matthew McConaughey’s transition – his “McConaughaissance,” if you will – from rom-com stalwart to serious dramatic actor has been one of the more delightfully implausible career arcs we’ve seen.

And if the eyes are the windows to the soul, then movie posters must be the windows, to what could be called a career’s “elan vital.”

With this in mind, as McConaughey’s latest project True Detective ramps up for its Sunday night premiere on HBO, here’s a look at this surprising arc, illustrated through the posters to his films.

Affable, grinning, and not yet in the practice of displaying his full body in posters, early-period McConaughey practically glowed with positivity and charm. Here, he shared the EdTV poster with future True Detective costar Woody Harrelson.

This is Matthew in his ripe-for-parody “I’m so charmingly relaxed as to be practically recumbent” rom-com period. Note the exuberant pastels used in these posters.

“Burnt-umber hued action star” seems to be the tone of this pairing. After doubling down on the aggressive man-of-action stance and earth tones in the Sahara poster, the imagery for Fool’s Gold sees a more varied color scheme and a warmer, jocular stance with costar Kate Hudson.

The poster for We Are Marshall could be considered transitional McConaughey: He’s adopted his latter-day practice of staring off into middle distance, despite keeping the rakish grin. Meanwhile, the poster for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past finds him backsliding (pun intended) into old poster tropes, though the striking blue-grey and red color palette could be seen as a predictor of the darkness to come.

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