Over the past 20+ years, Will Ferrell has become and remained one of the funniest movie stars in Hollywood history. With dozens of appearances in feature films, television series, and internet videos, Ferrell has built quite a legacy for himself.
With Downhill arriving in theaters, we couldn’t help but take a trip down the old memory lane to remember 10 of the comedy star’s funniest films from over the years.
10. Semi-Pro (2008)
In early 2008, Will Ferrell gave us one of his worst best movies with the release of Semi-Pro. Centered around one-hit-wonder Jackie Moon (Ferrell) after he purchases a fledgling American Basketball Association while the league was merging with the National Basketball Association, the film takes audiences on a convoluted and moronic series of events as Moon attempts to find his way on the successful end of the merger. Much like the team featured throughout, the movie two is a disaster.
I saw this movie when it first came out more than a decade ago, and the scene that still sticks out to this day is the poker scene that starts off with Ferrell and company trading light insults before the tide turns after once character calls another a "jive turkey." What follows is one of the most hilarious and tensest moments in Will Ferrell's filmography. It's only a shame that the rest of the movie wasn't as funny as this one particular scene.
9. Kicking & Screaming (2005)
Kicking & Screaming is one of those movies you watch because you can’t reach the remote to change the channel on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It’s watchable, sure, but that doesn’t make it a great, or even good movie. Will Ferrell made a few bad and forgettable movies between Anchorman and Talladega Nights, and this is one of them. The other, Bewitched, wasn’t even worth putting on this list. It’s bad, like so bad we forgot it even existed until we looked through Ferrell’s filmography.
Ferrell plays Phil Weston, an unremarkable man dealing with the emotional and physical scars endured by his over-competitive father, Buck Weston (Robert Duvall). Phil thought he would escape his father’s torment when he became an adult, but after his father treated his own grandson as a bench warmer on his youth soccer team, Phil coaches a team of his own, his son included.
Much like other comedies of the era, Kicking & Screaming is a "paint by numbers" affair, but that doesn't take away from some classic Will Ferrell meltdowns that audiences have come to love and expect from the comedy superstar. The introduction of Pro Football Hall Of Famer Mike Ditka provides some of the funniest moments of the movie, the scene where Ferrell flips out on the former Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints coach by referring to him as "Juice Box" being one of them. Those familiar with the scene will remember how unhinged and power-hungry Ferrell's character becomes at this moment, to the point where he degrades to one of the greatest football players and coaches of all time to point where he walks off the pitch and is never seen again (at least in the movie).
8. The Other Guys (2010)
Will Ferrell continued his successful run of the box office hits with the 2010 buddy cop film The Other Guys. Co-starring Mark Wahlberg tells the story of two New York City detectives from different backgrounds with different personalities who are forced to team up as they uncover a major conspiracy a financial bigwig.
The Other Guys did quite well at the box office, bringing in over $170 million in ticket sales worldwide, but it’s one of the Will Ferrell movies that a lot of us forget about when looking over his memorable roles. Throughout much of the film, Ferrell's character, Detective Allen "Gator" Gamble, is portrayed as a mild-mannered and inexperienced forensic accountant who fumbles through procedural police duties when on the beat, but he drops all niceties when Wahlberg's Detective Terry Hoitz attempts to put him in check, comparing himself to a lion and Gamble to a tuna. Gamble quickly turns the scenario around and explains (in great detail) the lengths he would go in order to defeat, kill, and eat the lion in one of the movie's most hilarious scenes.
7. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Just months after the release of the smash hit, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Ferrell gave audiences and more nuanced and toned down performance in the 2006 dark comedy Stranger Than Fiction. In this bizarre film, Ferrell portrays Harold Crick, an IRS agent who begins to hear the voice of author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) narrate his life.
Stranger Than Fiction may lack the quotable lines and hilarious situations that Ferrell gave audiences in his previous efforts, but it does show that Ferrell can do more than just put on a wig, yell insane lines, and act like a crazy person. Seeing Ferrell freak out as he realizes that someone is narrating his life is nothing less than comedy gold, and it would be hard to find someone with better comedic timing in a role that falls more on the dark comedy side of the spectrum. And while it didn’t have the same success at the box office as some of Ferrell’s previous films, Stranger Than Fiction did earn the comedy star a Golden Globe nomination for a supporting actor in a musical or comedy.
6. Zoolander (2001)
There is only one reason Zoolander is not ranked higher on this list and that is because it doesn’t feature enough of Will Ferrell’s diabolical Jacobim Mugatu and his plan to have Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) assassinate the prime minister of Malaysia.
Ferrell was still in the middle of his tenure on Saturday Night Live when he co-starred in this Ben Still-directed picture satirizing the modeling world. It’s easy to see that Ferrell would later become a comedy legend throughout his abbreviated screen time in this feature film, and even before he was giving us memorable line after memorable line in his starring roles, he still gave us the iconic “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills” line.
5. Step Brothers (2008)
Released two years after Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly teamed up for some “Shake and Bake” action in Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, the comedy duo returned to the silver screen with another summer hit with 2008’s Step Brothers. If you thought a movie centered around two grown men who live at home after their parents get married to one another would be more toned down than Talladega Nights, then you would be mistaken. This movie is insane while not really making any sense at the same time.
Most of the scenes in this film seem like Ferrell and Reilly were just playing off one another in a manic improv exercise and for the most part, it works out. The drum scene, the “did we just become best friends” moment, and the entire music video reveal are just three of the scenes that stick out the most in this regard.
4. Talladega Nights (2006)
Following the success of Anchorman, Will Ferrell took a few swings at other types of characters and while some were enjoyable (more on that later), others were major misses for the established comedy star. That all changed in 2006 when Ferrell teamed up with Anchorman writer and director Adam McKay and released the mega summer hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.
If audiences thought Buddy the Elf, Frank the Tank, and Ron Burgundy were as insane as Ferrell could get, they quickly realized how wrong they were when Talladega Nights debuted in the summer of 2006. Centered around a down on his luck NASCAR driver, the film tells the redemption story of the titular character as he finds love, a new race car, and success on the race track.
It would be hard for anyone to forget where the famous “Shake and Bake” line came from every time Ricky Bobby and his friend and teammate Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly) get on the track or behind a microphone. This is also one of the first times the pairing of Ferrell and Reilly got together on screen, but it wouldn’t be the last.
3. Anchorman (2004)
Will Ferrell didn’t rest on his laurels or waste any time getting back on the big screen when he introduced the world to San Diego anchorman Ron Burgundy in the 2004 comedy smash Anchorman.
The only thing outshining the hair, mustache, and clothes worn by Burgundy are the actions and attitude of the man bringing the character to life. From the “Jazz Flute” scene to brawl with the rival news stations, Ferrell shines in this role where he was allowed to absolutely go off the rails.
To this day, people are constantly quoting this iconic movie with lines like “Great Knights of Columbus that hurt,” “I'm in a glass case of emotion,” and “It's so damn hot. Milk was a bad choice.”
2. Old School (2003)
Will Ferrell had quite a year in 2003, and not just because of the hit Elf that brought millions of moviegoers to the silver screen during the holidays. Ten months before Buddy the Elf danced and sang his way into our hearts, Ferrell introduced the world to Frank Ricard, aka “Frank The Tank,” a mild-mannered recently married man whose life goes downhill when he starts hanging around his old friends who started a fraternity.
Ricard’s demise isn’t all for naught, as it gives us some of the most quotable Will Ferrell lines that are still being yelled out at college parties to this day. From drunkenly planning out a “nice little Saturday” with a trip to Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond (if there’s time), to the classic “We're going streaking!” line, Ferrell quickly showed the world that he was more than capable of stealing the scene.
1. Elf (2003)
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas and this list wouldn’t be a list of the funniest Will Ferrell movies without the inclusion of Elf. Released in 2003, this holiday classic had everyone holding their sides laughing as we saw what Will Ferrell could do in a starring role a year after he left the cast of Saturday Night Live.
The entire movie is filled with classic Will Ferrell lines and situations that no one could do better. From the hilarious “You stink! You smell like beef and cheese, you don’t smell like Santa” line to the scene where Buddy goes to the mailroom, Ferrell shines throughout.
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Ferrell in either of those scenes or in the rest of the movie, for that matter. He has a way of handling the manic nature of a human raised as an elf better than anyone else before him.
Well, there you have it. Some of the funniest (and not so funny) Will Ferrell movies from throughout his illustrious career. Will Downhill end up on this list. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.