Will Ferrell’s last few movies have been panned by critics and some of them have bombed at the box office, because his edge is gone. He used to make absurdist R-rated gems, but now, he’s making family-friendly movies that rely on the same cheap gags. It can be easy to forget just how great his movies used to be.
This is the man who gave us Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby, and Chazz Reinhold. Naturally, his critical reception has been up and down, reaching heights of acclaim and lows of disdain. So, here are Will Ferrell’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (71%)
Director Adam McKay and his star Will Ferrell followed up their cult hit Anchorman, a zany tale about newscasters, with Talladega Nights, a zany tale about NASCAR drivers. As with any successful sophomore effort, Talladega Nights managed to satisfy fans of Anchorman by being bigger – with a denser plot and a wider scope – yet just as funny.
At its heart, it’s the story of a patriotic American driver getting threatened by the arrival of a hotshot French driver, but along the way, he loses his family, his home, his best friend, his career, and his dignity. Of course, by the end, he emerges from the ashes of his life triumphantly as a new man who understands what’s important in life.
9 TIE: Stranger Than Fiction (72%)
The unusual premise of this fantasy comedy is executed brilliantly by the movie. It stars Will Ferrell as a tax inspector who begins to hear Emma Thompson’s voice narrating all of his actions and he realizes he’s a fictional character in a novel.
The parallel storylines of Ferrell in the narrative breaking off on his own and living his own life and Thompson as the author in the real world, writing a story about a character who has become independent, are fascinating. Stranger Than Fiction isn’t a perfect movie, but it blends comedy and drama wonderfully and it’s an uncharacteristically thoughtful and sensitive movie from Ferrell.
8 TIE: Megamind (72%)
For a kids’ animated movie, Megamind has a pretty dark premise. It’s about a supervillain named Megamind who always threatens to kill a superhero named Metro Man and always fails, because Metro Man always manages to foil his evil plans in time. However, one night, he actually succeeds in killing Metro Man.
At first, he’s happy, because it means he’s free to do whatever he wants. But without a challenger, he finds that his life has become pretty boring. The plot thickens when it turns out Metro Man is really alive and wanted an excuse to give up his career as a superhero.
7 Everything Must Go (73%)
This little-seen, underrated gem stars Will Ferrell as a man who sits out on his front lawn and sells all of his belongings when his wife leaves him. It was adapted from a short story by Raymond Carver called “Why Don’t You Dance?” and, unlike other Ferrell movies, he plays a character whose flaws, like alcoholism and selfishness, aren’t played for laughs, but are instead explored in a serious way.
Rebecca Hall and Michael Peña provide great performances in supporting roles, but this is clearly Ferrell’s movie. Without his lead performance, the movie wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well.
6 TIE: Wedding Crashers (75%)
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are the real stars of Wedding Crashers, one of the box office hits that gave way to the R-rated comedy craze of the 2000s, and Will Ferrell just makes a cameo appearance as Chazz Reinhold. Still, he steals every scene he’s in, delivering lines like “Ma! The meatloaf! F***!” with such intense gusto that they’re hilarious on every viewing.
Chazz is a weird dude – he doesn’t just crash weddings; he crashes funerals, too. On the whole, Wedding Crashers is a consistently funny romantic comedy that has strong character and narrative development, but it simply wouldn’t be as good without Ferrell’s appearance.
5 TIE: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (75%)
No sequel to a cult favorite like Anchorman can ever hope to live up to the original, so it’s astounding that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues managed to satisfy most fans of the original. It even has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than the first one.
The sequel switches the setting from San Diego in the ‘70s to New York in the ‘80s, focuses on the dawn of the 24-hour cable news network, and most importantly, features all four main characters back in fine form. The plot is denser this time around, too, with a wider scope and a tighter structure. Heck, maybe the sequel is better.
4 The Other Guys (78%)
This parody of the buddy cop genre paired up Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg on the screen for the first time. When Adam McKay had dinner with the two actors and realized they’d make a great on-screen duo, he emailed his producer with the idea of casting them together, using a cop movie as an off-the-cuff example.
However, the producer loved that off-the-cuff example so much that the movie went straight into development. The result feels much more inspired than that anecdote would suggest, with a sharp commentary on the banking crisis running underneath all the big-budget action and absurdist comedy.
3 Elf (83%)
This one obviously needs no explanation. Elf is one of the funniest Christmas movies ever made. Every year, moviegoers are treated to a barrage of holiday-themed movies hoping to become a staple of every family’s yuletide celebrations, and since that’s a big commitment to make, very few movies manage it. But with its heartwarming message, engaging plot, and most importantly, timeless gags, Elf is one of those few.
Will Ferrell has said that while he was making it, “there were moments” where he thought “that one about the elf” would end his career. In the end, it had the exact opposite effect!
2 The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (85%)
Who would’ve thought that the two best-reviewed films of Will Ferrell’s career would be seemingly cash-grabbing big-screen adaptations of toys? The sequel, released earlier this year, didn’t do as well at the box office as its predecessor, but it was almost as good. No critic could quite put their finger on what made The Second Part a slightly inferior sequel.
It had all the humor and heart of the original; it just didn’t quite feel as fresh. It recaptured most of the magic of the original, just not all of it. But that’s a stupid gripe from people expecting too much. It’s a wonderful movie.
1 The LEGO Movie (96%)
There weren’t many people who expected the film adaptation of LEGO toys to be any good. However, it ended up being a Pixar-level animated delight that could be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. What helps to make it more than just a wacky, slickly rendered big-screen adventure and genuinely a modern classic is its big twist that the plot is taking place in a child’s imagination – and the villain is his father.
This is when Will Ferrell appears in live-action. Not only is he the cartoon villain President Business; he’s the kid’s dad who wants to glue all his LEGO into place. The LEGO Movie encourages kids to be imaginative, and for that reason, it’s more than just a movie.