Is there any actor hotter right now than Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson? He is currently starring in the well received Central Intelligence, alongside Kevin Hart, and, on July 17th the Great One returns to HBO with the second season of Ballers. Ballers has received generally favorable reviews, with Johnson’s portrayal of Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL star turned financial manager, being largely praised. And praise is nothing new for Dwayne Johnson, who has developed a loyal fan base from his career as a WWE Superstar and his subsequent jump to Hollywood megastar, where he is the people’s box office champ.
For the last several years, Johnson has been one of the busiest leading men in film. Since 2009, The Rock has starred in over a dozen movies, most of which have received positive reactions from fans, and have been successes at the box office. Johnson has referred to himself as “Franchise Viagra”, after contributing to the massive success of Fast Five, G.I. Joe Retaliation, and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and that title is well earned.
Dwayne Johnson has not only helped revitalize established franchises, but has gone on to succeed as a leading man in original properties as well. Last summer’s San Andreas, is a prime example, where The Rock’s natural charm and charisma led to a generic disaster movie (which has been done time and time again) grossing nearly $500 million at the global box office. Johnson is showing no signs of slowing down, as he has Moana, Baywatch, Jumanji, Doc Savage, Fast 8, and Shazam! all in various stages of production.
So without further introduction, if you smell what The Rock is cookin’, keep on reading, because finally The Rock’s 15 Greatest Movie Roles have come to Screen Rant!
15. Hercules (Hercules)
When Brett Ratner decided to direct an adaptation of Steve Moore’s comic, Hercules: The Thracian Wars, there was really only one actor to cast – Dwayne Johnson. When you think of Hercules, you think of strength, integrity, and maybe just a bit of awesomeness – three qualities The Rock absolutely possesses. In fact, Johnson had to pull off a bit of a herculean task to even get ready for the role.
For you wrestling fans out there, you may know that The Rock suffered a legitimate injury during his Wrestlemania 29 match against John Cena. This injury didn’t stop The Rock from finishing his match, but it did push back the filming of Hercules while he recovered. And recover he did. Watching Hercules, you would never have known that The Rock was just coming back from injury.
The film ultimately received generally (though not overwhelmingly) positive reviews, and went on to gross just under $250 million at the global box office. While the film fell short of expectations domestically, failing to gross $100 million, Dwayne Johnson stood out as the Greek demigod, and further cemented his status as a bona fide film star who studios have had no trouble backing.
14. Get Smart (Agent 23)
Prior to fully cementing his status as a Hollywood leading man and box office juggernaut, Dwayne Johnson had a supporting role in the film adaptation of the popular Mel Brooks TV series, Get Smart. The film starred Steve Carell as Max Smart, and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, while Johnson played the film’s (surprise) primary antagonist and double agent, Agent 23.
The role was a great fit for Johnson, who has always been noted for his comedic chops. He’s continuously displayed those chops in the WWE with a mic, and during his appearances on Saturday Night Live, the show some would say was the launching pad for The Rock’s current level of stardom. Get Smart was one of the first of many films in which Johnson is able to utilize not only his impressive physical attributes, but his comedic talents as well. It’s no wonder, he’s gone on to star in Central Intelligence and the upcoming Baywatch.
Get Smart was a box office success, grossing over $100 million domestically, and $230 million globally. And while many fans likely showed up to see the hilarious Steve Carell, arguably nobody organizes his fan base better than Dwayne Johnson, who surely contributed to the box office success of the film.
13. The Other Guys (Det. Christopher Danson)
Admittedly, The Other Guys was not about Dwayne Johnson. The film was the first of now two Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg comedy team ups. But if you ask fans of this film who their favorite characters were, you may be surprised to hear names other than Detective Gamble (Ferrell) or Detective Hoitz (Wahlberg). You may, in fact, hear that many fans felt that it was Detective Christopher Danson (played by Dwayne Johnson) and Detective P.K. Highsmith (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who stole the show.
In The Other Guys, Johnson plays the hotshot detective, Christopher Danson. Along with Detective Highsmith, they are New York City’s greatest policemen, known for their cocky demeanor, and reckless methods used to apprehend the criminals. Their actions, which lead to millions of dollars of property damage, are largely a parody on more serious police films, where cars explode and buildings collapse, with virtually no recognition of the financial ramifications.
Danson and Highsmith’s time in The Other Guys was unfortunately short-lived, as while following a group of criminals on a rooftop, they decide to courageously jump off the high rise towards some nearby bushes. With the Foo Fighters’ My Hero playing in the background Danson and Highsmith fall not towards the bush, but the concrete – and their death.
12. Snitch (John Mathews)
In 2013, Dwayne Johnson departed from his usual film roles, when he portrayed John Mathews in Summit Entertainment’s Snitch. As opposed to Johnson’s usual lighthearted comedies, comedic action movies, or straight up blockbusters, Snitch was a more dramatic film, dealing with more complex themes and emotions – such as a father’s love for his son, and the lengths we will go to protect our loved ones.
In Snitch, Johnson plays John Mathews, a construction company owner and father of accused drug dealer, Jason (played by Rafi Gavron). In an attempt to reduce his son’s sentence (which could go as high as ten years) and protect him from the dangers of prison, Mathews decides to become a drug informant for the US Attorney (played by Susan Sarandon).
The film was a modest success at the box office, grossing a little under $60 million globally, on a relatively small budget. Despite mixed reviews, Johnson was noted for his thoughtful performance, and departure from his usual roles. We hope Dwayne Johnson continues to explore new genres and show off his ever evolving acting prowess.
11. Gridiron Gang (Sean Porter)
Even those that know absolutely nothing about professional wrestling know that Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson was once one of the most popular wrestlers in the world during his full time WWE tenure. What you may not know is that the man who became known as The Rock, originally was a college football player for the University of Miami Hurricanes. In fact, he has a 1991 National Championship ring to go along with all those WWE Championship belts. If not for an injury, Dwayne Johnson and Ballers’ Spencer Strasmore could be the exact same person.
Given his college football background, Johnson was a natural fit for the film loosely based on the Kilpatrick Mustangs’ 1990 season. In Gridiron Gang, Johnson played Sean Porter, a Kilpatrick Detention Center employee who creates a football program for the inmates. The film followed other inspirational sports dramas such as Remember the Titans, Coach Carter, and Glory Road (to name a few), which led some to criticize Gridiron Gang as a bit of a cliché.
Regardless of its mixed reviews and limited box office success, Gridiron Gang is just another example of Dwayne Johnson stealing the show. He was perfectly cast as Sean Porter, and brought both heart and charisma to the role – as he does to most.
10. Faster (Driver)
The 2010 film Faster was not a box office champ, nor was it an awards contender. What it was, was a good amount of fun. Most of that fun was due to Dwayne Johnson. Let’s think about Faster, and the role Johnson played. Driver is an ex convict who is out for revenge after his brother was murdered and he was shot in the back of the head – yea, he survived. Driver starts checking names off of his list (by killing them of course) as retribution for his brother’s death.
While that is all happening, a handsome British hit man is employed to kill Driver, all while a drug addicted, soon to be retired, cop is investigating the murders. Throw in some twists, such as the cop’s (played by Billy Bob Thornton) involvement with the murder of Driver’s brother, and you have Faster. Forget about awards, critical acclaim, or box office receipts – does that not sound like a blast?
9. Pain & Gain (Paul Doyle)
In 2013, Dwayne Johnson starred alongside Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie in Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain. The film was loosely based on the Sun Gym Gang and Pete Collins’ book Pain & Gain: This is a True Story. Pain & Gain grossed nearly $90 million worldwide on a modest $26 million budget. Despite its successes, the film was not without controversy. After all, the movie, which was billed as a crime comedy, was based on a true story with real victims.
Despite any shortcomings as a film, Pain & Gain featured another strong performance from Dwayne Johnson, in a role that again departed from his usual action fare. In the film, Johnson plays Paul Doyle (who is an amalgamation of Carl Weekes, Stevenson Pierre, and Jorge Delgado). Throughout the film, Doyle goes from a man looking for religious rebirth, to one back on a criminal path blowing all his money on strippers and cocaine. Johnson delivered with a wide array of emotions in what must have been one of his more difficult roles.
8. San Andreas (Raymond Gaines)
There is no doubt that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a full-fledged A-List actor. But despite that general consensus, Johnson’s most successful outings have generally been as part of a large ensemble. Films like the Fast & Furious franchise and G.I. Joe: Retaliation featured several other stars, and some of Johnson’s earlier roles were more family friendly affairs, which rely less on the film’s star power. Even the aforementioned Hercules was not a runaway success. But any doubt regarding Johnson’s star power was extinguished with last summer’s San Andreas – a film that opened to over $54 million (a record for Johnson as the leading man).
In San Andreas, Johnson plays Chief Raymond Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter rescue pilot. Gaines must, along with his ex-wife, travel to San Francisco in the midst of the nation’s most devastating earthquake to save his daughter (played by Alexandra Daddario). Despite this relatively generic disaster plot line (think The Day After Tomorrow), the film was a resounding success, and Johnson’s charisma was on full display.
We may see Raymond Gaines in theaters again, as New Line has announced that a sequel is in development.
7. Walking Tall (Chris Vaughn)
Dwyane Johnson went from wrestler to leading man in films relatively quickly. And one of his earliest (though not his first) leading roles was as Chris Vaughn in Walking Tall. The film was a remake of the 1973 flick of the same name, and was loosely based on the life of Sheriff Buford Pusser. While not one of the best films Johnson has starred in, Walking Tall is an early example of The Rock’s ability to lead a film. Whether it be his commanding presence, comfort with one-liners, or his general badassness (if that’s not a word, it should be), Johnson has been proving he can headline a film since the early 2000s.
In Walking Tall, Chris Vaughn (played by Johnson) goes on a one man war against drugs in his town, utilizing little more than a 2 x 4 and Johnny Knoxville (we know the 2 x 4 did most of the work). Neil McDonough plays the films’ main antagonist, casino owner Jay Hamilton, who is responsible for the influx of drugs into the town.
While Walking Tall may not be Johnson’s best film, if you’re bored one day, and you see it on the tube, there is no reason not to tune in and watch The Rock beat the living hell out of some bad guys with his 2 x 4.
6. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Hank)
Towards the end of the 2000s, The Rock went through a bit of a family friendly phase. Instead of starring in gritty PG-13 action flicks, we got milder fare like The Game Plan, The Tooth Fairy, and Race to Witch Mountain. While largely dismissed by the critics, all three of these films went on to gross over $100 million at the global box office. But during this family friendly phase, no film of Johnson’s was more successful than Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
The film, which was a sequel to the Brandon Fraser starring Journey to the Center of the Earth, grossed over $330 million worldwide on a budget south of $80 million. Johnson was joined by Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical). The film was a solid family adventure, and did well enough, that two sequels were announced to be in development.
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Roadblock)
Let’s be honest, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was not a very good movie. With a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a mere $300 million worldwide on a budget reported to be upwards of $175 million, nobody would have been surprised if Paramount decided not to move forward with a sequel. But when they did decide to go forward with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it is no surprise that they had some “Franchise Viagra” on their mind. And so Paramount turned to Dwayne Johnson, who was cast as Roadblock.
While G.I. Joe: Retaliation was also not embraced by the critics, fans seemed to have a different reaction. With an A- Cinemascore and $375 million at the global box office, it seems Johnson worked as prescribed. The film was also made on a slightly lower budget of $130 million, so it is not surprising that Paramount has asked Akiva Goldsman to lead a writers room for future G.I. Joe films. We just hope we get to see more of Johnson’s Roadblock, who was easily the films biggest standout.
4. The Rundown (Beck)
Dwayne Johnson may have broken into film with the successful Mummy franchise, but it was his turn as Beck in the The Rundown that showed that he had the necessary skills as an actor to headline an original movie. In The Rundown, Johnson plays a bounty hunter who specializes in collecting debts for Bill Walker (played by William Lucking).
The opening sequence of the film shows Johnson’s Beck retrieving a championship ring from a football player in a nightclub. In a passing of the torch moment, we even get a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger who walks by Johnson and just says “have fun.” The Rundown was The Rock’s first foray into the buddy genre, and his comedic chemistry with Sean William Scott (the film’s co-star) was readily apparent. The film also featured Christopher Walken as the villainous Hatcher, and Rosario Dawson as Mariana.
Despite solid reviews, The Rundown did not catch on at the box office, but Johnson’s tough guy image was on full display and this was one of the earliest examples of his strength in the action-comedy genre.
3. Central Intelligence (Bob Stone/Robbie Wheirdicht)
Dwayne Johnson’s latest movie is the action buddy comedy Central Intelligence, co starring Kevin Hart. The film, which was released on June 17th, has received generally favorable reviews from the critics, and has already jumped out to $156 million worldwide (as of this writing). In the film, Johnson plays Robbie Wheirdicht (who also uses the alias Bob Stone) who was bullied as an obese youth only to be comforted by “popular kid” Calvin Joyner (played by Kevin Hart).
Twenty years after High School, Calvin is working as an accountant, and he ends up reuniting with Bob Stone. What transpires is a whirlwind of action sequences and comedy that is bolstered by the incredible chemistry shared between Hart and Johnson.
2. The Scorpion King (Mathayus)
The Rock’s first foray into acting was with a small role in The Mummy Returns. In that film, he played the seldom seen, but ultimately important leader of Anubis’s Army, The Scorpion King. We can’t say we got too much acting out of Johnson in The Mummy Returns, as he barely spoke, and was a CGI character in the film’s climax. However, Johnson’s role was expanded when he returned for The Mummy franchise prequel, The Scorpion King.
In The Scorpion King, Johnson once again plays Mathayus, but this time, long before he became a king. Mathayus is portrayed as one of the last remaining Akkadians, tasked with assassinating the King’s sorceress. The film grossed over $165 million worldwide, and its $36 million opening weekend was Johnson’s biggest as a leading man until last summer’s San Andreas. It seems audiences learned fairly quickly that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was destined for super stardom.
1. The Fast and the Furious Franchise (Luke Hobbs)
The Fast and the Furious franchises is one of the more remarkable collections of films we have seen in quite some time. What started as a run of the mill racing film has transformed into a global espionage franchise. Along the way, we also saw the franchise go through a heist phase, as well as back to its roots as an undercover sting film. The Fast and the Furious premiered in 2001, and since then we have been treated to six sequels – with three more to come.
While the franchise may have been revitalized by the fourth film, Fast & Furious, it was not until Fast Five that it was taken to another level. And who happened to pop up in Fast Five? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In Fast Five, Johnson plays Agent Luke Hobbs, who is tasked with tracking down Dominic Torreto (played by Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (played by the late Paul Walker) who are hiding out in Brazil.
The three films in which Johnson has appeared as the gun-toting, smack-talking Agent Hobbs have grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide. Hobbs has also provided some of the more memorable quotes in the franchise such as “Woman, I am the cavalry!” While Johnson didn’t feature as much as some would have hoped in Furious 7, don’t worry, Hobbs will be back on screen shortly in the upcoming Fast 8.
Dwayne Johnson continues to earn his reputation as one of the busiest actors in Hollywood. With several films in the pipeline, sporadic WWE appearances, and his role on HBO’s Ballers, one has to wonder whether he sleeps at all – his instragram page would have you believe that no, he does not. What are your favorite roles played thus far by The Rock? Let us know in the comments!
Central Intelligence is in theaters now.
Ballers returns to HBO on July 17, 2016.