Channing Tatum's 10 Best Roles - Rolling Stone
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Channing Tatum’s 10 Best Roles

From ‘Step Up’ to ‘Side Effects,’ the movies that made his star rise

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum in 'White House Down'

Reiner Bajo/Columbia Pictures

Channing Tatum has come a long way since breakdancing his way onto the big screen in 2006 as the leading man in Step Up. Since then, he’s banked big box-office bucks and become part of Hollywood’s A-list with movies like G.I. Joe, The Vow and, of course, Magic Mike. With his next potential smash on the horizon, the action-packed White House Down, we break out 10 roles that have helped him get to where he is today.

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Step Up
Unless you count She’s the Man (we don’t), Tatum’s breakout role was this 2006 dance/romance, in which he put his dance skills on display. Although the late-summer sleeper-hit was widely panned, it eventually earned $115 million worldwide, giving Tatum a high-profile launch pad. It’s also where he met his wife, co-star Jenna Dewan, whom he married in 2009. (Their first child was born in May 2013.) The Step Up franchise has since gone on to include three more films, with Tatum making a cameo in 2008’s Step Up 2: The Streets.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
The first role in which Tatum really showed his acting chops was this 2006 film, which also stars Robert Downey Jr. and Shia LaBeouf. Based on a 2001 memoir by Dito Montiel, Saints largely revolves around Montiel’s youth in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York, during the 1980s. Tatum plays a younger version of Eric Roberts’ volatile character Antonio, whose abusive past eventually leads him to murder. The little-seen film earned Tatum praise and was nominated for several awards, winning a Special Jury Prize for ensemble cast at the Sundance Film Festival.

Keeping the serious-actor momentum going, this 2008 drama follows veteran soldiers, including actors Ryan Phillippe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who have served in Iraq and are forced to deal with the Army’s controversial stop-loss policy that orders them back into active duty. While the film bombed at the box office, it was another role that made people sit up and take notice of Tatum. At the time, Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers said Tatum “excels by going beyond the call of hunk duty” to find the film’s “heart.”

Public Enemies
By 2009, Tatum was holding his own alongside such box-office heavyweights as Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, playing Pretty Boy Floyd in the biographical, Depression-era gangster film Public Enemies. While it was a small role, it was one that proved he was moving up the Hollywood ladder and able to run with the big dogs. The film grossed $215 million worldwide and received generally favorable reviews. Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers gave it three-and-a-half stars, calling it “movie dynamite.”

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Piggybacking on the success of Public Enemies, released only a few weeks earlier, G.I. Joe was Tatum’s first bona fide box-office smash as a leading man. The action flick, based on the G.I. Joe toy franchise, made more than $300 million worldwide, despite receiving harsh reviews from critics. Still, the film stands as the moment when things really started to take off for Tatum. In 2013, he reprised his role as Duke in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which raked in close to $400 million three months after its release.

Dear John
In 2010, Tatum tapped back into his romantic side with Dear John, an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of same name about a young couple who exchange love letters after the title character, John, is sent off to war. Also starring Amanda Seyfried, the flick’s $30 million opening weekend was enough to dethrone James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar from a seven-week run at first place.

The Vow
Tatum once again flexed his box-office muscle as a romantic leading man with this 2012 tear-jerker based on a real-life couple. Rachel McAdams co-stars as Tatum’s amnesia-stricken wife who must be reminded why they fell in love. Bucking bad reviews, the movie surprised many by bringing in more than $40 million its opening weekend, becoming the sixth highest-grossing romantic drama of all time with a $200 million worldwide box-office gross. With that, Tatum officially became part of Hollywood’s A-list.

21 Jump Street
Tatum buddied up with Jonah Hill in this 2012 film adaptation of the 1980s TV series that helped put the Fox network on the map. In it, Tatum is briefly reunited with Public Enemies‘ Johnny Depp, who stars in the original series and makes a cameo in the film. The high-profile buddy-cop comedy pushed Tatum even more into the mainstream, and gave him his third Number One movie as a leading man.

Magic Mike
Hot on the heels of 21 Jump Street, released three months prior, Tatum’s career shot into the stratosphere with the Steven Soderbergh-directed dramedy Magic Mike, which caused a pop-culture ruckus with its male stripper-centric storyline. Loosely based on the actor’s own life prior to finding fame, the 2012 hit played up Tatum’s ripped abs and exotic dance skills. But audiences were surprised by the serious slant of the script, proving just how versatile Tatum is. The film was such a hit, a sequel and a Broadway musical are both reportedly in the works.

Side Effects
Once again pairing up with Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh, Tatum took on another serious role in the 2013 psychological thriller Side Effects, which chronicles a woman’s (Rooney Mara) tailspin into depression and prescribed antidepressants. Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers called Tatum’s turn as the woman’s newly released, ex-con husband “stellar,” solidifying him as a multi-faceted talented who can effortlessly fit into independent, art house fare.


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