He first gained notice for his breakout role in the coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused (1993). He appeared in such films as the slasher Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994), the legal thriller A Time to Kill (1996), Steven Spielberg's historical drama Amistad (1997), the science fiction drama Contact (1997), the comedy EDtv (1999), and the war film U-571 (2000). In the 2000s, McConaughey became best known for starring in romantic comedies, including The Wedding Planner (2001), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Failure to Launch (2006), Fool's Gold (2008), and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009).
Since 2011 he has preferred dramatic roles, in such films as The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Bernie (2011), Killer Joe (2011), The Paperboy (2012), Mud (2012), Magic Mike (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), and Interstellar (2014). McConaughey achieved much success in 2013 for portraying a cowboy diagnosed with AIDS in the biographical film Dallas Buyers Club, which earned him both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, among other awards and nominations. In 2014, he also starred as Rust Cohle in the first season of HBO's crime anthology series True Detective, for which he won a Critics' Choice Award.