Ryan Reynolds has put a lot of Hollywood content out into the universe. Some of the actor's big screen work is good and some of it is not so good. We'll be able to decide on his latest this weekend, as Reynolds will be heard on the big screen again with his newest film, Detective Pikachu, which will either be his latest franchise-starter or his newest non-starter, depending on how the box office reception goes for this blockbuster.
Early reviews for Detective Pikachu are generally strong, which is both surprising and comforting given that A) it's a video game movie (which, admittedly, don't have great track records, critically-speaking) and B) it's the newest film starring Ryan Reynolds, an actor who has seen his fair-share of critical darlings and commercial failures throughout the actor's variety career. In this list, we'll look back on some of those triumphs and overlooked gems on the big screen, as well as a few of his regrettable failures.
Now, it should be noted there are some Ryan Reynolds films which have their loyal fans that didn't make the cut here. For instance, Waiting ... and The Proposal. Also, a few of Reynolds' most savaged movies, including Blade: Trinity and The Amityville Horror remake, were not picked-apart this time around, but easily could have been. There is also Just Friends, which didn't garner glowing reviews but a lot of people still have a passion for. And we mean they really love it.
Even though these particular movies weren't put on either list, you should know they were not forgotten — for better and for worse. And that shouldn't diminish your feelings towards them, whether passionate or rage-inducing. With that said, without further ado, here is a list of some of Ryan Reynolds' best and worst movies to date.
Because how could we include a list about Ryan Reynolds without mentioning Deadpool? The surprising 2016 hit is not without its detractors. But at its core, it represents the rise and fall and rise again of Reynolds' constantly wavering career. And though it took a long time to get it on the big screen justly, Deadpool proved everyone wrong by becoming a gleeful, cheeky middle-finger to the other superhero movies before it, while still falling in line with their heartfelt spirit.
After years of false starts and unfulfilled potential, both for the actor and the character, Deadpool felt like a breath of fresh air. Yes, it didn't exactly change superhero movies forever. It still falls in line with your typical origin story, just with some more four-letter words thrown into the mix. Still, it gave Ryan Reynolds the chance to prove his strengths as a comedic actor, dramatic actor and a romantic lead, and it showcases the talent and promise that only seen in minor indie movies and overlooked dramedies before it. Deadpool is a winner, and it's a well-deserved one for Ryan Reynolds too.
While Ryan Reynolds and directors/screenwriters Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Captain Marvel) are perhaps best known for their new superhero movies, their first (and, to date, only) team-up came before their biggest blockbusters. And their collaboration had absolutely nothing to do with super-heroics. The sorely overlooked 2015 character drama Mississippi Grind is the film that quietly snuck its way to select theaters before the aforementioned Marvel movie smashed records everywhere, and it's a low-down, no-good shame, since it's some of their best work.
Working alongside a career-best performance from his co-star Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds puts his talents for fast-moving confidence and weighted gravitas to excellent use in the role of Curtis Vaughn, a hard-drinking, smooth-talking card player who winds up in a state-crossing gambling spree with his new acquaintance. Appropriately (and/or ironically) addictive in its gritty, hard-nosed approach, this indie flew under the radar before Ryan Reynolds made it big with Deadpool and Anna Fleck & Ryan Boden worked their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's well-worth a watch if you're a fan. It's anything but a grind. I'll guarantee that.
For many folks, Van Wilder served as their first introduction to Ryan Reynolds. The actor was playing a veteran, party-loving super senior who had no ambitions or prospects of graduating from college anytime soon. But it's a frat-boy comedy with heart, particularly as Reynolds begins to form a relationship with a bookish, headstrong Tara Reid during the course of the film. It's a simple premise, told with no shortage of crass and coarse humor, that could've gone nowhere if it weren't for Ryan Reynolds.
Beyond the gross-out humor, the sex jokes and the general raunchiness on display here, Van Wilder is able to work because Ryan Reynolds commits wholeheartedly to the crass, jubilant title role. It was an early showcase for his talents as an actor, and it lead the young performer into superstardom. And while it is no longer his most famous role, it is definitely one that holds a soft spot for many viewers out there.
To captivate an audience for 95 minutes, particularly while trapped inside a box, you have to be one hell of a good actor. That's certainly not an easy feat to accomplish. While Ryan Reynolds has endeared himself to audiences through in his various films, Buried is one of those underground masterworks (you see what I did there?) that shamefully tends to get overlooked in the broad overview of the actor's diverse, accomplished career. Nevertheless, despite its small-scale reputation, it towers over some of his other films.
A claustrophobic nightmare to the nth degree, Buried is centered around a terrifying prospect: What if you woke one day and you were buried alive, under totally mysterious circumstances, with only a cell phone with limited service and a dying phone battery as your fleeting connection to the above world. In addition to being a logistical struggle for any filmmaker to shoot, it relies a lot on your actor to make this enclosed movie both captivating and commanding — especially as the tension ratchets up and you feel your own air supply starting to dwindle. With Ryan Reynolds as the only actor on-screen for the whole length of the film, it puts all the attention on him. Thankfully, he shines in this dark, underseen little thriller.
Until a certain point in time, Ryan Reynolds was liked but not fully respected as an actor. With people still seeing him as the guy from Van Wilder or Waiting..., it was hard for audiences to take him seriously. Sure enough, in true comedic actor fashion, there came a time when Ryan Reynolds decided he wanted to become a dramatic actor. It's a risky proposition for a lot of comedic performers, with the success rate being varied-at-best. With Ryan Reynolds, however, he proved himself enormously with the compelling, heartbreaking indie drama, The Nines.
Joined alongside Hope Davis and a pre-fame Melissa McCarthy, both of whom are also fantastic in this movie, The Nines finds Ryan Reynolds taking on a variety of different roles throughout the course of this twist-heavy drama. As a result, audiences who sought out this indie title got a chance to see the early potential of the actor, and how he proved himself through a wealth of layered and dynamic roles and performances. He really takes it, yes, to the nines. It's not the movie that people often think about when they put together their list of favorite Ryan Reynolds movies, but that just means more people should seek it out.
While Ryan Reynolds has often been at the forefront of his movies of late, he has also proven himself exceptionally verstaile in supporting roles. The actor bleeds charisma and charm, and when he's the side character who is hanging around throwing jokes willy-nilly, it really plays to his strengths. Sure enough, while Adventureland might not be considered your typical "Ryan Reynolds movie," his appearances in the romantic coming-of-age dramedy certainly play a big role in audience's affections for this sweetheart movie.
In fact, depending on how you feel about the movie in general, you could argue that in his scenes, he arguably steals the movie away from the main leads: Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, respectively. We're not here to make it a debate. We just wanted to recognize Ryan Reynolds' talents as a supporting actor in attention to his commendable and varied work in lead roles throughout nearly two decades of filmmaking.
While Ryan Reynolds is no stranger to the romantic comedy genre, there are only a select few who became both critical and audience successes. Namely, Definitely, Maybe. The 2008 rom-comedy, written and directed by Adam Brooks, is a time-hopping New York City story that follows Ryan Reynolds and his on-screen 11-year-old daughter, as they do a sort of How I Met Your Mother-esque flashback to his previous relationships in order to explain why he is getting divorced to the girl's mother, and how they got married in the first place.
Though it was well-liked upon release, it has earned a bigger cult following for those romantic types who are looking for something comforting and sweet during a date night on the couch, while still offering something a little different than your garden variety romantic comedy. Sure enough, Ryan Reynolds is typically at his best when he makes something that's at least a little subversive, while still hitting on the hallmarks of a given genre. That is definitely true for Deadpool and (hopefully) Detective Pikachu, and that's certainly the case for this lovable, sweet and good-hearted romantic comedy.
Another dark comedy that came out in 2015, just a year before Ryan Reynolds hit it big again with Deadpool, The Voices was another brilliant showcase for Ryan Reynolds' talents as a comedic and dramatic performer. A bittersweet horror comedy that centers around a timid and unhinged factory worker who starts to hear voices from his animals (also voiced by Reynolds) telling him to kill other people, it is definitely not a film with wide audience appeal, particularly as the film grows more violent and disturbing. But it is not only a credit to the vibrant and commendable direction from Marjane Satrapi, but Ryan Reynolds' unlikely performance that really makes this movie sell.
The Voices is a disturbing and twisted movie that is given nuance, depth and surprising tenderness from Ryan Reynolds' remarkable performance. It is a hard sell of a movie, and it would be a difficult movie to appreciate if it weren't for Reynolds work here, as he showcases the light and the darkness of his character in stark depictions, inviting us into this character's twisted mindset while also sympathizing with his despicable actions. It is a very difficult balance, and it's only that works thanks in large part to Reynolds' triumphant acting.
Now that we mentioned Ryan Reynolds' Best Films, let's switch things up. It's time to divert ourselves to Ryan Reynolds' better movies to his less-than-favorable flicks.
Thankfully, Ryan Reynolds is doing pretty well these days in the superhero genre. His raunchy, foul-mouthed take/redo on Merc With A Mouth earned a number of renewed fans, and the actor's bumpy career has seen a resurgence in the wake of that R-rated film's surprise success. But it was a rough start for Ryan Reynolds. Beyond the bad decisions made to his original take on Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds was the butt of many jokes (more than a few, of course, he made at his own expense) for his infamously terrible appearance in Green Lantern.
Granted, it worked out in the end. It provided the actor with a good blueprint (or, rather, green-print) for what not to do with a origin story (you can't just copy Iron Man's homework). It also introduced Ryan Reynolds to his lovely wife and the mother of his kids, Blake Lively, and it obviously gave him great self-deprecating material later on. But that doesn't make the movie any better. This awkward, ugly, clunky and creatively bankrupt movie is an absolute mess. Reynolds tried his best, but it wasn't meant to be. Thankfully, while the rejection stung for years, the A-lister licked his wounds and he moved on nicely.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Everyone has to start somewhere. Ryan Reynolds eventually made a name for himself in the superhero genre, but the road that took him there was a very bumpy, windy road. In addition to the aforementioned Green Lantern, there was also X-Men Origins: Wolverine, an ill-fated spin-off film centered around Hugh Jackman's excellent portrayal of the long-standing, muscle-bound comic book character. And what was meant to introduce Deadpool into Fox's X-Men franchise turned very, very bad in a very, very quick fashion.
Where does one begin with X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Let's just mention Deadpool. It has been said a million times before, but you really thought it was a good idea to sew the Merc with a Mouth's literal mouth shut? In all the boardroom meetings, script rewrites, pitch meetings, what-have-you, that was always thought to be the best decision for this character? Seriously?! But I digress. Beyond this bone-headed decision, Ryan Reynolds plays a very minor part in this film, and he really ever gets beyond a moment or two to shine. Thankfully, he fought hard for a spinoff movie that was more in the vein of the character's self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking comic book origin. Before we got the movie that gave the character justice, however, we were stuck with this unfortunate stinker of a X-Men movie. At least we got a nod in Deadpool 2...
Before Deadpool exploded its way onto the big screen and following the fallout of the utterly laughable Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds had another comic book adaptation up his sleeve. Sure enough, he tried to bring Peter M. Lenkov's graphic novel Rest in Peace Department from the page-to-screen and provide another starring vehicle for the not-very-consistent career he's held these last few years. It was a clear attempt to have the actor headline a new Men In Black-style action-comedy for the new decade and generation. Suffice to say, it did not work out.
Hindered by bad special effects, a muddled story, some sweet-and-sour chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges and a weird lack of pulpy fun (despite the movie's laborious attempts at goofiness), R.I.P.D. doesn't carry Ryan Reynolds' charm and charisma, offering only a poor substitute for other, better movies in a similar vein, despite its strong, promising outer-worldly premise. This troubled movie was in development hell for a long time before it stumbled its way into theaters. Sometimes, things are better left dead.
Ryan Reynolds has great comedic chops. Most people can agree on that point. The famous actor is funny, charming, likable and affable the right roles and characters. There's no doubt that he should be at the forefront of a few raunchy comedies. Obviously, his success as Deadpool proved that he knows how to make people laugh. But as we've noted in this article, the road to Reynolds' most winning roles was not without its fair share of struggles. Sure enough, The Change-Up isn't one of Reynolds' finer works. That's putting it mildly.
Starring alongside Jason Bateman in a body-switching comedy that would've felt dated back in the '80s, this attempt to rejuvenate a tired premise with bad jokes and lackluster character development was not worth the hassle. While Ryan Reynolds got to play a little bit out-of-type when Bateman's timid persona embodied him (and visa versa for Jason Bateman), there is little heart or endearing humor to be found in this ribald comedy. It's better forgotten in the scheme of things. Thankfully, when it came to his career, Ryan Reynolds decided to change things up.
So, here are my picks on Ryan Reynold's best and worse. Doubtless, some of you would have chosen a little differently. (My editor even felt burned about The Proposal not making the cut.) All in all, though, this just means that Ryan Reynolds has made a lot of likable, exciting and re-watchable movies -- and maybe a few more duds than he'd like to admit. Do you prefer some of Ryan Reynold's other titles?
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.