Ben Stiller has been making the media rounds for the past couple of weeks as his alter-ego Derek Zoolander, even doing a surprise spot on SNL's Weekend Update. He's promoting the long-awaited Zoolander 2, which is earning some strong early buzz. It might actually be that rare comedy sequel that lives up to the original. In honor of the film's upcoming release, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite Ben Stiller movies. Here are the results.
The premise of Meet the Parents is rather simple: A neurotic, recently-engaged male nurse with the unfortunate name of Gaylord Focker heads to the suburbs of Long Island with his fiancée to meet her parents. With a cast that includes Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner and Owen Wilson, it resulted in a surprise comic masterpiece. De Niro has never been funnier than as the overbearing, former CIA future father-in-law, while Stiller's slow breakdown in the face of constant, humiliating setbacks is brilliantly played. The 2000 movie grossed $300 million and launched two sequels, though none live up to the original.
Few movies are more quintessentially 1990s than Reality Bites. Stiller directed the 1994 film, which centers around a group of college graduates trying to find their place in the world as they deal with sexuality, AIDS, unemployment and the pressures of adulthood. The soundtrack included Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)," which became a massive hit for the singer-songwriter, although she was an unknown, unsigned artist at the time. The film also brought the Knack's 1979 hit "My Sharona" back into the spotlight, and it helped make Stiller a major MTV player after the cancellation of The Ben Stiller Show the previous year.
Not a lot of great movies began as skits on the VH1 Fashion Awards, but Stiller created such a hilarious character for the long-defunct TV specials in the mid-1990s that he felt compelled to expand it into a feature-length movie. Zoolander hit theaters just weeks after 9/11, which initially seemed like horrible timing for a goofball comedy. In fact, people were in desperate need of a distraction that month, and it grossed over $60 million. It took on a whole new life once it hit DVD and cable, and this year, a sequel is finally coming to deliver more Blue Steel for a new generation.
Long before Judd Apatow was one of the most powerful forces in Hollywood, he was a screenwriter churning out scripts like 1995's Heavyweights. It's about a children's fat camp that get's taken over by a psychotic fitness guru, played by Ben Stiller. Kenan Thompson plays one of the kids, and Paul Feig – who would go onto create Freaks and Geeks and direct Bridesmaids – has a bit part. If you were a kid in the 1990s, you probably know this movie by heart. If you weren't, odds are high you've never even heard of it.
Remember Alf? The 1980s sitcom, about an alien from the planet Melmac that lived peacefully with a family in California, included writerJerry Stahl, a severely self-destructive guy named who had a severe addiction to heroin. It hardly sounds like the subject of a great movie, but in 1998, Ben Stiller portrayed Stahl in the supremely bizarre movie Permanent Midnight. The film received mixed reviews and barely saw a theatrical release, but it's aged quite well and has a devoted cult following.
A group of weak misfits banding together to compete against a team of brawny elites in a sporting match is hardly a new idea for a movie, but 2004's DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story actually manages to make it compelling again. It's about the owner of a rundown gym (Vince Vaughn) who needs to raise $50,000 in just 30 days to save his establishment. Fortunately for him, there's a dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas where the grand prize is, you guessed it, $50,000. Ben Stiller plays the psychotic owner of a rival gym that competes against him. The film was a surprise hit, grossing $167 million. A sequel is reportedly in the works.
The incredible critical success of Rushmore in 1998 gave Wes Anderson carte blanche to make pretty much any movie he wanted as a follow-up. He opted to make huge ensemble movie about a family of former child prodigies struggling to life normal lives as adults. Ben Stiller played Chas Tenenbaum, a business genius that can't get over the tragic death of his wife. It's a stellar film that only gets better with repeat viewings.
James Thurber's 1939 short story about a sad, middle-aged man with an amazing fantasy life was adapted into a movie with Danny Kaye in 1947, and it came close to getting remade with Jim Carrey in the title role nearly 50 years later. That project ultimately fell apart, but Ben Stiller picked up the pieces in 2013 for a new, contemporary adaptation. This time around, Mitty was working in the photo department of Life magazine when he was forced to travel to a distant corner of the world to track down a lost negative. Stiller played the lead role and directed the film, which grossed $188 million.
Ben Stiller's career had a lot of ups and downs before There's Something About Mary came out in the summer of 1998, but after the insane success of the Farrelly brothers gross-out comedy his career was never the same again. It meant he got his pick of roles in upcoming major comedies, and soon enough, he was in Meet The Parents and passion projects like Zoolander were getting the green light. The movie was also the high watermark for the Farrelly brothers, and ever since they've struggled to regain that magic. After all, where is there to go after the "hair gel" scene?
Ben Stiller not only convinced Robert Downey Jr., the most bankable star in Hollywood, to wear blackface in his 2008 film Tropic Thunder, but he got Tom Cruise to put on a fat suit, a bald cap and and play a profane, stereotypically Jewish film executive. Both of those could have been career-ending decisions, but Tropic Thunder is so damn hilarious that few criticized those details. It's about a group of privileged actors shooting a movie about the Vietnam War that find themselves in the middle of an actual war, sort of like Galaxy Quest in the jungle. The movie was so popular that this poll received multiple votes for Simple Jack, the fake movie within the world of Tropic Thunder, in which Ben Stiller played a mentally challenged child name Jack. The few clips we see of Simple Jack in Tropic Thunder are some of the funniest parts of the movie, and they manage to make the movie somehow even more wonderfully anti-PC and offensive.