One of the greatest and most beloved talents to come from Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell has been a staple in comedy for over twenty years and continues to dominate the industry. Known for his impressive improvisational skills and fearless can-do attitude, the funnyman is never afraid to be over-the-top and truly commits to every character he portrays. Since his major film debut as a leading man in 1998 (A Night at the Roxbury), Ferrell hasn’t slowed down a bit. His run of films with director Adam McKay is legendary, but the two have since stopped working together, leading some to wonder about Ferrell’s funny future.
With so many hilarious roles and iconic personas on his impressive resume, it’s difficult to narrow down his top movies. Like any actor in Hollywood, Ferrell has had a few less-than well received flicks. However, his star power is strong and he always bounces back, adding to his ever growing list of feats and accomplishments. With his career continuing and the success of his Paul Rudd-starring show The Shrink Next Door airing in 2021, let’s take a closer look at the best Will Ferrell movies.
10 A Night at the Roxbury (1998)
Comedy dream-team Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan reprised their Saturday Night Live roles as the bumbling goofball Butabi brothers in 1998’s well-dressed A Night at the Roxbury. The plot is simple and features the airhead Roxbury Guys attempting to get into the most exclusive club in town. Though the film was panned by critics, fans of the iconic sketch show enjoyed seeing Ferrell join forces with Kattan and expand on the dimwitted duo on the big screen. It’s a feel-good and lighthearted movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and has since garnered a cult-like following. Regardless of the loyal following, Ferrell has mixed feelings about A Night at the Roxbury, having once told Moviehole, “It’s a strange thing that one. It wasn’t a hit at the cinemas, it wasn’t a flop either. But it found more of a life on video and DVD.”
9 The Other Guys (2010)
In a somewhat unlikely Hollywood pairing, Ferrell partnered up with tough guy Mark Wahlberg to portray two mismatched New York City detectives in 2010’s buddy comedy The Other Guys. The parody film sees Ferrell playing Allen “Gator” Gamble, a mild-mannered detective who spends most of his time at his desk rather than fighting crime. The Other Guys is unique for the actor, as his character isn’t the boisterous, loud-mouthed character he often plays. Instead, Ferrell acts as the straight man to Wahlberg’s hot-headed and smart-alec Terry Hoitz.
This is also the only collaboration that the SNL alum didn’t co-write with filmmaker Adam McKay; the comedy creators publicly announced they were parting ways in 2019 after 13 years of producing together. The funnyman told The Hollywood Reporter, “To me, the potential of seeing a billboard, and being like: ‘Oh, we’re producing that?’ I don’t know. … At the end of the day, we just have different amounts of bandwidth.”
8 Stranger than Fiction (2006)
Will Ferrell broke from his comedy lane when he took on a more serious and challenging role in the fantasy dramedy Stranger than Fiction. The star portrays I.R.S auditor Harold Crick, a man who begins to hear his mundane life being narrated by a disembodied voice, and soon fears the narration is leading up to his impending death. Ferrell was praised for his restrained and subdued performance and received critical acclaim for his first starring dramatic role. In an extremely complimentary review, Roger Ebert heralded Ferrell’s performance, saying, “Will Ferrell stars in another role showing that, like Steve Martin or Robin Williams, he has dramatic gifts to equal his comedic talent.” His departure from comedy in favor of drama was impressive; the actor was nominated for both a Golden Globe and Saturn Award for Best Actor. Ferrell’s portrayal shows he’s much more than just a comedic genius; his dramatic acting chops would later be showcased in the Apple TV+ miniseries The Shrink Next Door, co-starring Paul Rudd.
7 Old School (2003)
Old School features an all star cast of comedy’s heavyweights including Luke Wilson, VInce Vaughn and Jeremy Piven. The plot focuses on a group of depressed thirty-something men who start a fraternity in an effort to relive their glory days. Ferrell is right in his element playing Frank “The Tank” Ricard, an average guy who wants to be a good family man—but also has an affinity for chugging beer and streaking naked through his neighborhood. Old School is the film that truly helped propel Ferrell to stardom and it showed Hollywood he had bankability.
6 Zoolander (2001)
One of Ferrell’s few supporting roles in a later comedy came with the massive cult classic Zoolander, a satire of the fashion industry starring fellow funnymen Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. The actor’s portrayal of the conniving and oh-so-fashion-forward Mugatu was hilarious and original, and even among comedy’s elites, Ferrell shined. His role as the evil fashion guru has become a favorite among fans, and he even reprised his performance for its 2016 sequel. Ferrell was definitely a scene-stealer and his knack for absurdity is front and center as his humor and improvisation runs wild.
5 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
The sports comedy hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was another film that further cemented Will Ferrell’s comedy status. In the flick Ferrell plays beloved NASCAR sensation Ricky Bobby who, along with his loyal best friend and racing partner Cal, are challenged by the fierce and flamboyant Jean Girard to races. The film is full of comedic gold and great, hilarious performances by John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen. The sports satire really showcases the talent of its cast and Ferrell shines as Ricky Bobby; he seemingly channels his spot-on impression of George W. Bush for the character. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was a hit at the box office, grossing $163.4 million and further propelling the careers of Ferrell, Reilly and Cohen.
4 Blades of Glory (2007)
Full of side-splitting laughs and memorable quotes, Blades of Glory tells the story of a mismatched pair of banned figure skaters who reluctantly join forces on the ice when they discover a loophole. Ferrell stars opposite Jon Heder’s Jimmy MacElroy, a sheltered skater who bounces off the former’s boisterous Chazz Michael Michaels amusingly. When given the opportunity to let loose, Ferrell is truly in his element, delivering one zinger after the other (especially his magical rendition of The Black Eyed Peas) that are still comedy gold. Blades of Glory was a critical and box office success, garnering positive reviews and grossing $145.7 million. Ferrell particularly was praised, with The Monthly proclaiming, “There is a parodic exhilaration to everything Ferrell does; there’s always the sense that any scene is precariously close to being a blooper reel.”
3 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
“You stay classy, San Diego.” It’s easy to picture Ron Burgundy uttering this line as he dons his famous namesake red suit while rocking the iconic mustache. Few characters have had as big of an impact as Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy, an on-screen persona that has led to a sequel film, podcast and numerous entertainment appearances. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy portrays a 1970s television station where Ferrell’s titular character clashes with a new female co-anchor. The film takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the culture of that period, and Ferrell offers a knockout performance. Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy inspired a new wave of comedy films (many of which he would appear in) and also featured the talents of hilarious greats like Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Kathryn Hahn and David Koechner.
2 Step Brothers (2008)
Will Ferrell once again teamed up with his Talladega Nights co-star John C. Reilly and director Adam McKay in the aggressively wild and wonderfully weird comedy Step Brothers. The film follows two grown men who are forced to live together as brothers once their respective parents marry each other. What ensues is gut-busting chaos and screwball antics, the extreme comedy showcasing the hilarious madness Ferrell and Reilly can cook up, becoming one of the most iconic and beloved Ferrell films. Both of the film’s leads truly go for it and completely throw caution to the wind. Their chemistry is natural and effortless and the duo’s interaction on screen leaves viewers rolling from beginning to end. Ferrell and Reilly teamed up again in 2018’s Holmes & Watson, though that’s one collaboration best left unmentioned.
1 Elf (2003)
It’s a hard feat to star in a live-action Christmas movie that goes on to become a beloved winter staple, but Will Ferrell rose to the occasion and did just that. One of his most lucrative and critically acclaimed films to date, Elf tells the story of Buddy, a human raised by Santa’s elves who travels to New York City in search of his biological father. The film includes an impressive cast with big names like James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner and Mary Steenburgen and an iconic performance by Ferrell. Elf attracts viewers of all ages and is one of Ferrell’s most universally loved flicks and beloved characters. The star’s charming portrayal of the innocent and sweet Buddy is endearing and he radiates an infectious warmth. Critic Roger Ebert perfectly summed up the appeal of Elf, having said it’s, “one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.”
Will Ferrell was afraid Elf would sink his career until a bunch of frat boys helped change his mind.
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