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Will Power: Every Will Ferrell Movie, Ranked

From ‘Anchorman’ to ‘Zoolander,’ we rate every one of the star’s off-the-wall performances

Will Ferrell

When you think about it, Will Ferrell is an unlikely movie star. Once upon a time, during his Saturday Night Live days, he was a classic scene-stealer: He'd show up in someone else's film, playing an incompetent henchman, or a dumb jock, or Jesus — and methodically make off with the picture. Then, almost overnight, he became a superstar in his own right, going from comic-relief sidekicks and wild-card cameos to headlining a number of comedies that became monumental blockbusters. His talents, of course, are considerable: With his beefy presence and his seemingly supernatural ability to randomly switch between mousy and blowhard, he is an intrepid, unpredictable screen presence.

That has served Ferrell well; occasionally, however, it's allowed him to coast, too. He's made his share of classics, but he's also racked up an unfortunate number of films where the biggest joke is merely the sight of him in a goofy wig or weird outfit. Regardless, he is one of the biggest comic actors of our time, and, as this ranked list of his big-screen role s proves, is one of the most prolific as well. On the eve of his latest movie Get Hard, we present the good, the bad and the fugly of Will Ferrell's big-screen career — ranked for your pleasure.


‘Winter Passing’ (2005)

Here's an interesting, if flawed, film that almost nobody saw. Zooey Deschanel plays a troubled young author who returns to her family home, only to find her reclusive novelist father (Ed Harris) living in the garage and the house taken over by two strangers – a housekeeper played by Amelia Warner and a weirdo, Christian-rocker/handyman played by, well, guess who? It's a modest little movie, and its indulgence in quirk occasionally threatens to undo it. But the interactions are surprisingly human, and Ferrell brings real charm to his bizarre character, even when badly singing Eagles songs at karaoke.


‘Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie’ (2012)

Alt-comic weirdos Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim botch an attempt to make a billion dollar movie and flee to a remote town to find new lives for themselves. Yes, it's random, crude, occasionally quite funny stuff. Ferrell plays the owner of a local mall that our heroes take over – his deliriously trippy commercial inviting people to come take his mall over for a billion dollars is undeniably one of the film's high points.


‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ (2013)

This sequel did mostly what the original Anchorman did: create a bunch of increasingly ridiculous scenarios to force star newscaster Ron Burgundy to confront his pig-headed, out-of-date persona and his cohorts to act like equally asinine idiots. But like many follow-ups to successful films, repetition of the same material isn't enough, especially if its done with a little less elegance and way more bloat. It passes the time, but even with a souped-up, star-studded news team brawl this time out, it's not nearly as memorable as the first one.


‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ (2001)

This laid-back Kevin Smith comedy, which has the comic-relief duo from Clerks heading to Hollywood when they find out someone's making a movie about them, is one of the director's few films where the looseness of execution seems in tune with the material. Ferrell plays the hapless lawman pursuing our heroes, and gets some of the film's choicest bits. His ability to instantly switch from macho-man to milquetoast serves him well here.


‘Melinda and Melinda’ (2004)

Woody Allen’s existential meditation on the power of storytelling interweaves two tales featuring the same woman (Radha Mitchell) intruding on a dinner party — one as comedy and the other as tragedy. In the comic version, Ferrell plays the married, out-of-work actor who falls for the beautiful interloper. The film doesn't have many laugh-out-loud moments; the humor here is wry, observational. But freed from the need to get big laughs, Ferrell is surprisingly endearing.


‘Megamind’ (2010)

Ferrell is clearly having a blast voicing the title character of this animated flick, and the concept is right in line with this brand of comedy, too. He plays a super-villain who, one day, actually does away with his arch-nemesis, the great hero Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt). Realizing he has no one left to fight, Megamind goes about fashioning a new superhero rival for himself. It's not quite as inventive as The Incredibles, or as goofy as Despicable Me, but Ferrell's desperate attempts at megalomania still make it plenty fun.


‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’ (1997)

As Mustafa, a fez-wearing low-level Dr. Evil functionary, Ferrell actually had one of the more memorable scenes in this hit Mike Myers comedy about a Sixties superspy forced to contend with the modern world. Provoking the displeasure of his mercurial, villainous boss, his character is dispatched through a trap door, presumably to his death. But he doesn't die – instead, the henchman civilly calls for help, and drones on about how he could be saved if someone would just call for an ambulance. That's the governing ethos of this movie: spy-movie antics with real-world scenarios. And Mustafa's pitiful cries somehow sell the joke beautifully.


‘Stranger Than Fiction’ (2006)

This was billed as a serious turn for Ferrell, even though the film is still basically a comedy. He plays an IRS auditor named Harold Crick, whose life begins to be narrated by an author (Emma Thompson). The thing is, Harold can hear the narration, and it starts to affect what happens in his life – yet he's powerless to change it. The self-aware, Pirandello-esque concept may seem too cute by half, but it turns out to be a poignant meditation on fate and trying to live a good life. And Ferrell brings an appealing, surprisingly realistic helplessness to the part – he makes for an adorable Everyman.


‘Dick’ (1999)

Ferrell played Bob Woodward — yes, that Bob Woodward — in this uproarious, star-studded political satire that revolves around two groovy teens (Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst) who wind up befriending an older man: one Richard Milhous Nixon (Dan Hedaya), just as he's hitting the height of the Watergate scandal. As such, Ferrell was mostly a straight man; this was before he had his big breakthrough roles and it's not really his movie. But it was proof that he could work well with an ensemble (as well as Kids in the Hall's Bruce McCulloch, playing Carl Bernstein) and offers a glimpse of things to come.


‘Blades of Glory’ (2007)

Billed as "sex on ice," Ferrell's character here is another variation on the basketball stars, racing gods, and TV broadcasters the actor played in his golden period; in this case, he's an alpha-male ice skater banned from skating due to his attitude regarding things like sportsmanship and etiquette. Thankfully, he manages to make a comeback by becoming a couples skating team with his fierce onetime rival, played by Jon Heder. The movie is a triumph of physical casting – the awkward, meaty Ferrell is such the opposite of a dainty, elegant ice skater that you can't help but laugh anytime he's on screen.


‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Bobby Ricky’ (2006)

For a while there, this kind of movie was the template for most of Ferrell's comedies – the rise and fall and rise again of a delusional macho-man. But this racing comedy about a NASCAR legend who has to earn his way back to the no. 1 spot managed to be one of his most successful projects, both critically and commercially. Credit not just Ferrell's total immersion into the part of never-say-die, self-obsessed racing legend Ricky Bobby, but also John C. Reilly's touching turn as his best friend and fellow racer Cal. That saying-grace scene ("Dear tiny Jesus, with your golden fleece diapers with your tiny little fat, balled-up fists…") is a keeper.


‘Elf’ (2003)

It's fascinating to think that, once upon a time, Will Ferrell was thought to be too edgy to star in something family-friendly like this, playing a man raised among Santa's elves who comes to New York in search of his origins. The tonal mix of heartwarming holiday fare and goofy, over-the-top slapstick sight gags might seem strange at a glance. But it works beautifully, in part thanks to how well Ferrell himself plays the overgrown innocent at the heart of this story. There's a reason this movie has become a go-to holiday classic for families trying to avoid the usual Christmas-movie overdose of sweetness — though speaking of ill-advised sugar rushes, we implore you not to try eating Buddy's preferred breakfast of spaghetti, candy and chocolate sauce. Trust us on this one.


‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ (2004)

Ferrell's signature role, the preening Seventies caveman-broadcaster Ron Burgundy, is a character who transcends the film around him. Seriously, do you even remember the film's plot? It's largely a series of excuses to put Burgundy's dainty Me-Decade machismo in conflict with a changing world around him. This is that rare movie that manages to make us laugh at the same joke over and over again, and — no offense to his comedy compadres — its largely thanks to the Big Man's brilliant dumb-act bluster. Stay classy, Ron.


‘Wedding Crashers’ (2005)

Arguably the best of Ferrell's uncredited, drive-by cameos, one of those surprise appearances where he seems to just parachute into a movie and walk away with it. He gets just one scene in this hilarious bromance-cum-rom-com, but it's a memorable one: Ferrell's veteran wedding crasher Chazz Reinhold quickly gives Owen Wilson both a crash course in perpetual-adolescence awesomeness and offers a cautionary tale to his younger admirer. The film seems like a time capsule today – it captures that moment in time when Wilson and costar Vince Vaughn were known for their boisterous charm, and when a cameo from one of the world's biggest stars didn't feel like overkill. And where is that meatloaf, Mom?!?


‘Zoolander’ (2001)

As Mugatu, the elaborately coiffed, psychotic fashionista villain, Ferrell effectively stole the show in Ben Stiller's satire of the modeling world. The film's humor is broad and stylized to begin with, but the star brings a bizarre, over-the-top surrealism to the proceedings. Zoolander was fairly well-received when it first came out, but its reputation has exponentially grown since – it's gone from cult favorite to a near-canonical comedy classic, and Mugatu is one of the reasons for its resilience. We can't wait for the sequel.


‘Old School’ (2003)

As "Frank the Tank," the onetime frat-hero and party animal now saddled with all sorts of real-world problems, Ferrell was the break-out star of this hit comedy about Luke Wilson trying to start a fraternity so that he doesn't get kicked out of his house. It was the first real hint that his unhinged manchild act might actually translate into something that screamed "movie-star potential." When you watch the movie now, it's obvious that the part was perfect for Ferrell's comedy of extremes – here was a submerged weakling finally given a chance to relive his glory years, and he cut loose with fearless abandon.


‘Step Brothers’ (2008)

Ferrell and John C. Reilly play overgrown man-children who have to learn to get along and be brothers when their single parents (Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen, both wonderful) get hitched. It's smart use of both actors' talents: Two grown men acting like kids – and violent, temper-tantrum-throwing little brats at that. At first, watching these two petulant jerks try to one up each other is glorious. But the film enters into a whole new stratosphere of comedy when they actually become best friends, and wreak even more havoc. You have not lived until you've seen Ferrell rub his testicles all over a drum set. Seriously.


‘The Other Guys’ (2010)

Nobody ever thought that a Mark Wahlberg-Will Ferrell match-up would result in the ultimate buddy cop comedy, but well, here we are. What looks like a throwaway set-up – two supercop detectives are killed in the line of duty, so two desk workers wind up taking their place – is turned into a marvelous engine of comic invention. You can credit the perfect chemistry between Wahlberg's manic do-gooder and Ferrell's awkward office drone. But it's also because the film, knowing that it has a thoroughly unremarkable premise, takes the license to go big, bold, and batshit-absurdist with its humor. Never mind that's it's one of the star's best movies; this is one of the great comedies of the decade.


‘The Lego Movie’ (2014)

For most of last year's amazingly inventive, hilarious animated action-movie spoof, Ferrell is the voice of President/Lord Business — the egomaniacal yet horrifically insecure leader of Legoland who's secretly planning a horrific fate for his fellow citizens. But towards the end of the film, the actor actually shows up as "The Man Upstairs" — in a live-action section that sends the film spinning off in a touching, oddly philosophical direction. What seemed to be a freewheeling, joke-filled trifle suddenly becomes an inquiry into the mind of God. And, perhaps even more impressively, what initially appeared to be a parody of a benevolent dictator (and possibly a riff on the comedian's famous impersonation of a recent POTUS) turns into a performance that brings the pathos without becoming pablum. Ferrell is responsible for all of it. The funnyman contains multitudes after all.

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