RANKED! Will Ferrell’s Best Film Roles (In Anticipation of Him and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in ‘Downhill’)
Will Ferrell is arguably one of the world’s most famous comedic personalities. He’s also one of the most prolific. While Ferrell is mostly known for his talents as a comedian, he also has the ability to play a diverse number of roles both within and beyond the comedy space. With the eclectic actor’s latest role in Downhill (an American remake of Force Majeure) looking to take advantage of both his comedic and dramatic talents, there’s no better time to look back on Will Ferrell’s best film roles. So without further adieu, let the ranking begin!
Cover Photo: Dreamworks Pictures
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10. 'Blades of Glory'
At this point, Will Ferrell is just as famous for his sports comedies as he is for anything else. Although Blades of Glory represents middle-of-the-road fare for the actor, it’s still one of his best roles to date. It’s essentially a variation of what he did the year prior with Talladega Nights, albeit slightly more formulaic and less interesting.
9. 'Old School'
As the launching pad that thrust Will Ferrell into the Hollywood spotlight, Old School is a notable for a few reasons. It wasn’t the first time that he would play a character who is a man-child (that honor goes to Night at the Roxbury), but it might be his most quotable performance playing that type of role. Ferrell pretty much completely steals the movie, which makes it the epitome of a living meme from 2003. Much like most of Todd Phillips’ filmography, Old School unfortunately doesn’t hold up as well as it should.
8. 'Stranger Than Fiction'
While Will Ferrell is mostly known for his comedic performances, he’s also great at drama – if the role is able to take advantage of his talents. Stranger Than Fiction is that kind of film, mostly because it plays against his type as an actor. It’s one of the rare roles where Ferrell plays the straight man, which also makes his performance in the film one of the most heartfelt of his career.
7. 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'
When it comes to wacky sports parodies, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is easily the best comedy that Will Ferrell has made. It’s the type of role that allows him to absolutely skewer the sport of auto racing, while also offering a legitimate commitment to the type of character that he’s portraying. Ultimately, Talladega Nights is a near-perfect sports parody, one that perfectly blends biting sharp satire, interesting comedic choices, and legitimate dramatic surprises. In the words of the late Colonel Sanders, “I’m too drunk to taste this chicken.”
As one of the only true villains that Will Ferrell has played throughout his career, Zoolander also happens to be one of his most memorable roles. Although Ferrell only plays a supporting role in the film, he makes every moment count with a deliciously over-the-top performance. While the long-delayed sequel takes some of the luster away from the original, he still steals the show in a film that features numerous scene-stealing performances.
5. 'The Other Guys'
While Ferrell has certainly played the straight man in dramas, The Other Guys represents the rare occurrence where he plays the straight man in an absurdist comedy. It’s a unique role in his filmography, mostly because it allows him to give a more reserved comedic performance that plays against type. Ultimately, The Other Guys may not be the best comedic role of Ferrell’s career, but it certainly provides some of his most interesting acting choices.
4. 'The LEGO Movie'
Even though Ferrell has dabbled in the genre of family comedies throughout his career, his performance in The LEGO Movie offers the perfect amalgamation of both his comedic and dramatic chops. His dual role in the in the film not only plays to the best of his often-absurdist comedic sensibilities, but it also takes advantage of the (limited) emotional range that he brings to the table as an actor. Considering that his performance in The LEGO Movie is crucial for the emotional core of the story to land in the way that it does, the film also offers one of his most balanced overall performances.
As his most family-friendly role to date, Elf also happened to instantly become a Christmas classic. While this is mostly due to the insane manic energy that he brings to the character of Buddy, it’s also an excellent story that is extremely well told. Ultimately, it’s Ferrell’s committed performance that elevates the film from being a good Christmas comedy to a downright classic, even if it borders into genre clichés at times.
2. 'Step Brothers'
True to Will Ferrell’s personality, Step Brothers offers perhaps the most pure representation of his comedic sensibilities. It's a movie where he’s not only playing a literal man-child, but also one that takes advantage of his outstanding chemistry with a perfectly-cast John C. Reilly. It’s one of the all-time great comedic pairings, which also means that it’s also an endlessly rewatchable film that is easy to toss on at any point and enjoy.
1. 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy'
To anyone who thought that Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy wouldn’t be at the top of this list – stop kidding yourself. It may not be a perfect movie, but it certainly is one of the best comedies ever made. Ferrell manages to capture lightning in a bottle through a once-in-a-lifetime performance that he also calls “his most satisfying characters.” Simply put, the character of Ron Burgundy is so indelible that it’s one role he’s still revisiting almost two decades after the release of the original film itself. That’s lasting cultural relevance if there is such a thing.