In the past couple decades, Seth Rogen has transformed into one of the most dependably funny filmmakers working in Hollywood today. The smart and consistently funny actor/writer/director has built his brand off of sophomoric comedies and a lot of jokes based on weed and genitalia. That said, it's clear that through his surprisingly eclectic resume, he has continued to push himself as a performer and storyteller. That's allowed his signature brand of comedy to be found in a variety of different genres and allowed himself to find lively, exciting ways to explore his acute worldview in fresh, funny ways.
With the recent release of Good Boys, the latest R-rated comedy produced by the comedian and his working partner, Evan Goldberg, it felt like a good time to look back on Seth Rogen's filmography and celebrate the actor/writer/director's greatest triumphs, while also noting his few scattered misfires. Nobody has a perfect track record, after all. But looking at his resume, it's clear that Seth Rogen has had a hand in some of the most noteworthy and entertaining comedies of the past two decades. Comedy is always subjective, but it's hard to think of many other comedians who go out of their way to make movies that are as enjoyable, heartfelt and hilarious at a consistent clip. But Seth Rogen has continued to prove himself time and time again.
With that in mind, let's take a look at Seth Rogen's best movies, while also taking some time to comment on his, well, less-than-stellar films as well.
The Best Seth Rogen Movies
The Disaster Artist (2017)
In James Franco's surprisingly touching biopic dramedy, based on cult filmmaker Tommy Wiseau and the making of his so-bad-it's-great melodrama disasterpiece, The Room, Franco honored the mysterious filmmaker by taking on both acting and directing duties simultaneously, allowing himself to become the oddball guy as both a performer and filmmaker. Thankfully, however, the movie made by James Franco is notably better than what we got from Tommy Wiseau (if not quite as quotable). One big reason why this film worked where so many other films directed by Franco fell apart is knowing that Rogen played a heavy hand as a producer, both on-screen in the role of real-life script supervisor Sandy Schklair, and behind-the-scenes as well.
This is an emotional and tender, but also often funny and entertaining look at the creative process, and how one's desire to prove themselves and make something big and bold in the art-making process is ultimately more important and meaningful than making something that actually stands up to greatness. The Disaster Artist is a familial effort, allowing Franco to work with his brother, Dave Franco, and his friends, like Seth Rogen and many more. It provides a satirical, yet sympathetic look at what makes the moviemaking process so rewarding — even if the reception isn't exactly what you'd hope it would be.
A fun and inspired twist on the frat house comedy, Neighbors finally gives us something we didn't often see from those '80s comedies: the perspective of the cranky older neighbors trying to mind their own business without being disturbed by their party-loving lawn-sharers. It's a cheeky reversal that Seth Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller got sufficient mileage from, allowing the perspective of both the recent father (Rogen) and the head of the frat (Zac Efron) to get nearly equal screen-time, allowing neither party (hardy har har) to be either completely antagonistic or totally justified in their stance.
The result is not exactly the best comedy we have gotten from Seth Rogen and his crew, but it's an often enjoyable and consistently amusing R-rated comedy, one that finds the actor both indulging in the juvenile humor that made his brand while also maturing and recognizing that he is getting older, and that he's closer to being a functional adult than the party-loving college students living next door. It's a good transition point for the actor/writer, and it turned into one of his most profitable films to boot. The sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, while solid, didn't earn the same high attendance.
Observe And Report (2009)
One of the more controversial and divisive titles in Seth Rogen's filmography, and among the darker and more disturbing of Rogen's comedies, Jody Hill's sophomore film, Observe and Report, might not be an easy sell — even for some of Rogen's diehard enthusiasts. Yet, if you like your comedy to be a little more on the twisted side of the equation, this unhinged, mean-spirited studio comedy is certainly among the bolder movies Rogen has done. And, in my view, it's one of his strongest and most unflinching performances, proving what the actor could do when he pushes past his likable image.
A film that was inspired by Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver more than anything starring Seth Rogen, prior to its release, Observe and Report had the ugly misfortune of being compared — under rather shallow terms — to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the Kevin James comedy which came out only a few months before, and it never quite got its due. As I said before, it's one of the few studio dark comedies that is not afraid to really get into some nasty territory, making it an intentionally uncomfortable sit for many views. I don't begrudge anyone who has trouble stomaching some of its character turns. But it's still a stand-out for Seth Rogen, allowing the actor to challenge himself and push himself beyond his usual comfort zone and prove what he can do. It won't win everyone over, but it's one that is definitely worth considering and ultimately one of Seth Rogen's most surprising and underrated titles.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
While The 40-Year-Old Virgin is more of a vehicle for Steve Carrell's budding film career than a full showcase for Seth Rogen's comedy prowess, it was one of the actor's first noteworthy movie appearances. And because he was in quite a few scenes, the rising comedy star arguably stole the show. While certainly the crudest and most foul-mouthed of Carrell's on-screen companions, Seth Rogen's Cal is often showing his rather twisted, yet sweet side —doing what he can to tell his office mate get laid for the first time. Among the most outspokenly sexual members of the bunch, Cal does what he can to make sure Carrell's Andy isn't holding his V-card for long, and his frank and perverted dialogue provides some of the most raunchy and risqué jokes in the movie.
Ultimately, while it's the title that launched Judd Apatow's directorial career and helped Steve Carrell become a marquee name when The Office was starting to become regular viewing for TV viewers around the country, The 40-Year-Old Virgin isn't necessarily celebrated for Seth Rogen's involvement. But his contributions to the laugh department shouldn't be ignored, and his involvement — notably sans shirt — in the "Aquarius" music number towards the very end of the movie alone makes it easy to put this movie on the list of Seth Rogen favorites. He wouldn't be who he is today without it.
Pineapple Express (2008)
Easily among the most celebrated of Seth Rogen's comedies, David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express played a huge part in making the actor a regular at the multiplex. The stoner action-comedy, which was also one of the big movies that helped to crystalize the big screen dynamic between Rogen and his scene-stealing co-star, James Franco, is a light-hearted romp that's not light on laughs, action, drug consumption or violence.
But the R-rated action-comedy also has a big, beating heart, amid the smoking and shooting, for his scrappy low-life characters who become unlikely action superstars in the midst of the movie's fast-moving turn-of-events. That fine mix of raunchiness and sweetness became more consistent than ever in Seth Rogen's resume through this heartfelt, fun-loving comedy, providing Rogen and Franco with another starring vehicle worth cruising at high speeds.
Steve Jobs (2015)
While Danny Boyle's unconventional biopic Steve Jobs is often celebrated for Michael Fassbender's exceptional lead performance in the role of the troubled title genius, one would be remiss to overlook the tremendous supporting work of his co-star Seth Rogen, playing Jobs' disgruntled right wing, Steve Wozniak. It's an exceptional dramatic performance from the typically-comedic actor, once again showcasing Rogen's undervalued acting range.
Given the task of playing one of the more subdued yet pivotal roles in the dramatic film, Seth Rogen provides one of the strongest performances in Steve Jobs, which is no easy task considering the high volume of talent attached to this project. His performance often feels raw and reserved, allowing us to see the frustration and also the acceptance that must come from working with some as egotistical yet undeniably brilliant as Steve Jobs — even if, as Steve Wozniak knows, he is the one who is behind some of the greatest inventions in Apple's history, and even if Steve Jobs will take the credit for his hard work. In the end, then, it's only fitting that Michael Fassbender got most of the praise while Rogen got overlooked, which is why we wish to celebrate it here.
Funny People (2009)
In some respects, Funny People can either be seen as Judd Apatow's misunderstood masterpiece or his most indulgent, overlong movie to date. I'm not quite on either side of the extremes, but I am certainly closer to the former than the latter. Judd Apatow's third film is, once again, a personal and heartfelt examination at lonely, joke-friendly people trying to make it through the tribulations of life as best as they possibly can. With the story focused on a once-respected comedic actor (Adam Sandler) suffering from cancer and potentially months away from his death, however, it's considerably more heavy than the usual light-hearted films we expect from the prominent writer/director/producer. And while it's Sandler's film, Rogen is also quite good.
While Seth Rogen's Ira Wright is a little more mild-mannered and gentle than some of the other Seth Rogen characters we got before then, it's still very much a role from Rogen's enjoyable blend of jokey-but-warm. He is caring and sweet, but he is also believably affable, and it's one of the roles that is best able to channel the everyman charm that has played a big role in the actor's appeal in the comedy scene. Paired well with Adam Sandler giving one of his best performances to date, Funny People provides both actors with a highly respectable and likably sincere look at comedy, living in the entertainment industry and what it means to make people laugh, even when you're crying inside. It lives up to its title, but Funny People is simultaneously a nice comedy and a respectable drama for these typically chuckle-friendly entertainers, and it's a shame that it didn't get a warmer reception upon release.
This Is The End (2013)
Having proven themselves as both writers and producers through a variety of hit-making comedies in the past five-to-seven years, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg finally decided to jump into the director's chairs with the apocalyptic ensemble comedy This Is The End. A horror-comedy with amble room for its talented team of actors to play around with the possibility of being holed up together during the literal apocalypse, This Is The End is both a very fun take on the hangout comedy, one that is given some serious stakes with the world literally ending outside their door, and a nice chance for all the stars to reflect upon their careers — and the highs-and-lows found therein — as they played heightened variations of their celebrity personas.
Benefitted nicely by allowing the talented actors to stay (mostly) restrained to their surroundings, allowing the talented actors to bounce off each other frequently and letting the improvisation comedy come naturally, while never entirely overdoing it in the process, This Is The End was a fine step forward for Seth Rogen as a screenwriter and newly-minted director, as well as another fine showcase of his buddy acting charms working off Jay Baruchel. Even as people are dying left-and-right and dangers lurk outside, there is a softness to the emotional core of the movie, and it was firm proof that Seth Rogen could take his well-proven style of comedy into new genres, expanding himself and his talents in a major way for future projects.
The Night Before (2015)
One of the most underrated movies from Seth Rogen to date, The Night Before was unjustly overlooked upon its release, with its holiday-themed festivities being glazed over in the busy winter holiday movie season. That's a shame, because at its best, The Night Before represents what can be so jolly and bright about a really solid Seth Rogen vehicle. Particularly when it comes to his warm and tidy buddy dynamic with Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which makes for a delightful reunion with the actor's solid 50/50 collaborators, including director Jonathan Levine.
A fast-paced, richly-inspired romp that keeps the laughs moving and the warm holiday feelings in mind, The Night Before is a wonderfully well-realized movie about what the importance of the holiday season can be, not merely for what it means to bring people together, but how the holidays are very important reminders of what is lost when we get too caught up in our lives and don't spend time with the people we love. It's a familiar message, but it's one that's told with a bundle of laughs and a lot of heart to boot. If you're looking for a fine holiday classic to add to your collection, I'd make a point to check out The Night Before, just in case you get a little tired of watching A Christmas Story or Christmas Vacation later this season.
One of the actor/producer's richest efforts in the dramedy category, 50/50 (much like Funny People, funny enough) tackles one of the toughest topics —cancer —and turns it into a rich, poignant look at life, friendship, humanity and what it means to be alive, even when you are potentially on the verge of death. It's a powerful, gently touching movie, and the irreverent-yet-sympathetic comedic styles of Rogen's well-established brand of comedy prove to be a great combination for this movie, one that is almost effortlessly able to blend laughs and tears into a complete and satisfying package. The result is one tremendously tender triumph, and it's another showcase for how the movies that allow Rogen to stretch himself warmly become his best.
Benefitting nicely from the firm buddy friendship of Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, while also being paired with screenwriter Will Reiser's autobiographical screenplay and commendably nuanced direction from Jonathan Levine, 50/50 takes what could've easily been too sentimental and saccharine, and turns it into a richly affecting look at life and laughter, resulting — in my opinion — in one of the best films from Seth Rogen to date.
Just a couple short months after Seth Rogen became the new leading man in comedy with his heartfelt and immensely charming lead performance in Knocked Up, Rogen proved that his talents extended behind-the-scenes in addition to in front of it with his screenwriting debut (alongside his regular collaborator Evan Goldberg) in Superbad. The R-rated coming-of-age comedy, which is quite easily among the most personal of his projects to date, focuses on the hardships of learning to say goodbye to your best buddy, and recognizing that sometimes life will take you away from the people you love the most, even if the emotions felt between you are still palpable and strong. It became one of the most sincere, winsome bromances of the '00s.
That said, the comedy is still as crude as the day is long. And this comedy, which focuses on a day-in-the-life of these socially-awkward high school teenagers trying to find the night of their lives before they find themselves in college several miles away, is both relatable and bombastic, finding a nice mix of realistic and over-the-top while never going too far in either direction. It's benefitted nicely from the influence of indie director Greg Mottola, who gives the movie its nice blend of heartfelt character beats while staying true to the raunch and silliness you expect from a juvenile comedy in this vein. It remains one of Seth Rogen's finest accomplishments, and it's the film that firmly solidified his status as one of Hollywood's major new comedy makers.
Knocked Up (2007)
When deciding which of Seth Rogen's movies are the best, there are clearly several different options to choose from. The actor has provided an abundance of riches to the comedy world, and it's apparent that he is only continuing to find his stride as an actor, writer, director and producer. But if you must pick the best, it's hard to overlook Knocked Up, the comedy that firmly proved to moviegoers that writer/director Judd Apatow is the real deal and the movie that richly put Seth Rogen into leading man territory. It's easily one of the smartest, most delightful, most human and heartfelt comedies of the 21st century.
Based on what happened between Judd Apatow and his wife, Leslie Mann, when it came to the birth of their first daughter and the formation of their relationship, Knocked Up finds Seth Rogen in an unlikely one night stand with Katherine Heigl's Allison Scott, a woman who is ultimately very much out of his league. And together, when they are thrust into a pregnancy that neither of them anticipated, they begin to form a cuddly and likable bond, one that grows stronger as the audience warms up to their dynamic more and more. It's a romantic comedy that even those who aren't fans of the genre can appreciate immensely, and that's benefitted enormously from the wonderful performance from Seth Rogen, which is filled with life, care and an abundance of sympathy and sincerity, even during the most outlandish comedy beats. It's a highly likable film, and it's arguably still Rogen's best.
The Worst Seth Rogen Movies
Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009)
While Seth Rogen has one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood today, there haven't been too many movies that have taken advantage of those vocal talents. To be clear, there are several animated movies featuring Seth Rogen, but many of them either have Rogen in a very minor role (Kung Fu Panda, for instance) or they don't find the actor living up to his full potential (like Sausage Party). Alas, Monsters Vs. Aliens is one of the most underwhelming animated movies in recent years, neither allowing its goofy and promising premise to flourish or let Rogen excel in his voice talents.
As the voice of B.O.B., a one-eyed slimeball who can twist and contort himself in a number of ways, Rogen is at least one of the standouts of the film, getting some of the biggest laughs and providing his likably goofy charm to the animated role. Alas, it's ultimately just a middling movie with very little living up to its potential. While it gave Seth Rogen a chance to expand himself into both animation and family-friendly entertainment, it is sadly a dud.
The Green Hornet (2011)
As this worst list would suggest, Seth Rogen tends to strike out more than he succeeds whenever he moves outside his R-rated comfort zone. While the actor/writer likes to experiment with genre and tone in a variety of projects, it's often the ones that land either PG or PG-13 ratings that tend to misfire. It is clear, then, that The Green Hornet was an ambitious, but underwhelming effort for the actor/writer/producer, hoping to expand himself into a blockbuster for his outsized persona, but not cracking the formula right, despite his best efforts. Sony's superhero project wasn't very super after all.
Taking on writing in addition to acting duties for this reimagining of the masked crime fighter, Seth Rogen tried to translate his lighthearted charm into this silly, good-natured take on the material. But it felt half-hearted in a way that most Seth Rogen films, whether good or not, often feel entirely whole-hearted. With a confused blend of tones and comedic stylings, the result was the rare lackluster miscalculation from Seth Rogen that's not so much bad, but entirely mediocre, which in some respects makes it worse. But The Green Hornet's failure was one that taught Rogen and Evan Goldberg a very valuable lesson that they continued to apply later: it's better to make lower budget risks than to try to conform into any big-budget expectations.
The Guilt Trip (2012)
A mother-son road trip dramedy with Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand: what could go wrong? Alas, The Guilt Trip, while almost entirely gentle and good-natured, was a disappointing misfire. Meant to be something in the vein of a James L. Brooks heart-tugger, with a liberal dose of love and laughs, The Guilt Trip isn't too far removed from some of Rogen's better movies. Only, this time, it would be more wholesome than dirty comedy. But The Guilt Trip is overly sentimental and saccharine in a way that most Rogen movies tend to avoid being, resulting in a comedy that's disposable and forgettable in a way that Rogen movies tend not to be, even when they aren't entirely successful. The result is something you don't usually get from a Seth Rogen movie: a boring, bland and ultimately middling effort, with nothing in the way of character of personality to make it stand out or succeed.
While it's nice to have the rare Seth Rogen movie that you can't take your grandma to see and not feel awkward about it, The Guilt Trip is hopelessly underwhelming, lacking anything resembling distinction or visual flair, even though the movie does have a nice heart in the right moments. While both Rogen and Barbara Streisand have a nice on-screen dynamic, which helps to make some of the listless comedy have a bit of a kick, it's not enough to make it something worthwhile, resulting in a disappointing and unsuccessful comedy that does go down smooth, but it leaves very little to reflect upon. And worse of all, it's light in the laughs department, making something that would live out its legacy in Wal-Mart bargain bins, then hopefully forgotten.
There are a few other Seth Rogen movies that didn't get mentioned here. For instance, Drillbit Taylor, which became another PG-13 misfire from screenwriter Seth Rogen, is best left forgotten. Additionally, Paul, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Like Father, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Zack and Miri Make a Porno and The Interview, are likable enough, but they are neither the best nor worst we've seen from Seth Rogen. (Though, that said, there's something to be noted about The Interview almost starting a war, which isn't something you can say about a lot comedies out today — good or bad.)
I also liked Take This Waltz, but it does not quite make its way into the top ten for Seth Rogen. And its not exactly a "Seth Rogen movie," though it is definitely one that I appreciated. I'm also not a fan of The Lion King (2019), but I'm not here to pick fights. And there are a lot of folks here who liked it.
Do you agree or disagree with these selections? Let us know in the comment sections how you feel about this ranking.
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.
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