As an actor that rose to stardom on sheer affability, he graduated from teenage rom-coms in his twenties to adult rom-coms in his thirties. At 49, Paul Rudd seemed an unlikely candidate to play Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But taking a look back at some highlights from his varied film career, it’s not hard to see why Marvel Studios wanted to include the versatile actor in its cohort.
While to some, he will always be “Josh” from Clueless, he did not sink into obscurity like some of his peers. He went on to appear in countless ensemble comedies starring heavy hitters like Will Ferrell in Anchorman and Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin (among many other Judd Apatow movies). He has appeared in dramatic movies, family movies, and even horror movies, all of which are elevated by the presence of the always amiable Paul Rudd.
The one that started it all. A Paul Rudd compendium wouldn't be complete without the film that arguably put him on the map. With an ensemble cast including It Girls Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy, it was a modern, Gen X take on the classic literature story “Emma”, about a young social climber navigating the corridors and heartache of high school in Los Angeles rather than the English countryside.
Paul Rudd’s natural charisma, earnestness, and pithy banter as Cher's college elitist step brother Josh elevated the entire film and provided its best moments. A star was born.
9 ROLE MODELS
Paul Rudd takes the straight forward role of sales rep for an energy drink company and makes it complex and endearing. Having just been fired, along with his partner (Seann William Scott), for having a public breakdown after his girlfriend breaks up with him, they are assigned probation where they will mentor two unruly teens.
Paul Rudd gets the live action roleplayer obsessed with being a medieval knight in a DnD setting, and while at first he's dismissive of the assignment, by participating in the “nerdfest” he awakens the integrity and selflessness in himself that he needs to fix his life.
8 HALLOWEEN VI: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS
If you're wondering what Paul Rudd is doing in the 5th installment of the Halloween franchise, he's getting his first paycheck (this was filmed before Clueless). As Tommy Doyle from the original Halloween, he helps the niece of Myers escape from his methodically dogmatic killing spree.
Rudd doesn’t just phone it in; he treats the material with the same level of commitment he does all his films. It was the last time veteran character actor and hero of the first films, Donald Pleasence would portray Doctor Loomis, chasing Myers from victim to victim.
7 ALL IS BRIGHT
Taking on a slightly more dramatic role alongside Paul Giamatti in All is Bright, Paul Rudd plays Rene, an old partner to Giamatti’s Dennis, a man out on parole and down on his luck. The two French Canadians decide to hatch a get rich quick scheme so that Dennis can get his young daughter the piano she has always wanted for Christmas.
They decide to go to New York City and start selling Christmas trees, though the potentially festive venture quickly turns sour as the two fight endlessly. Still, despite Giamatti’s grouchy misanthropy clashing with Rudd’s charm, they turn it into a holiday buddy movie by the end.
6 OVERNIGHT DELIVERY
Shortly after appearing in Clueless, Paul Rudd found himself a highly sought after young star for playing the male lead in romantic comedies. In Overnight Delivery, he plays a college student who breaks up with his cheating girlfriend via overnight post, but has second thoughts and decides to drive all night to intercept it.
He meets a spunky stripper (Reese Witherspoon) while despondent at a night-club, and she agrees to loan him her car if he takes her along for the ride. A buddy road-trip movie ensues with plenty of teenage hijinks elevated by its main stars.
5 THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING
Paul Rudd has another successful foray into drama in this sometimes tragic, often poignant, and always witty Netflix Original film about two lost souls trying to navigate life’s bumpy road together. In The Fundamentals of Caring, he plays a writer who, after the death of his young son, decides to become a caregiver to the disabled.
He is assigned to a sharp-mouthed teen who is confined to a wheelchair. They form an unlikely bond and travel to several landmarks in the US together, to the chagrin of the teenager’s overly protective mother. It will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate life’s little lessons.
A more recent release that Rudd fans may not realize included a truly one-of-a-kind Paul Rudd performance. Its somewhat lame attempt to copy Blade Runner is excusable for his turn as a surgeon turned torturer for the Russian Mob.
He comes in the crosshairs of a mute Amish bartender (Alexander Skarsgard) who will stop at nothing to find his missing cocktail waitress girlfriend in futuristic Berlin. It's as ridiculous as it sounds, but Paul Rudd steals the show and provides laughs as well as dark twists.
3 IDEAL HOME
Lacking marketing, this comedy might have slipped by some Rudd fans. He plays Paul, the hardworking hipster producer of his partner’s popular cooking show. It features a very theatrical Steve Coogan as chef Erasmus Brumble, whose liaison with a woman twenty-five years ago gave him an estranged son that Paul is not fond of.
When the son is imprisoned, it’s up to Paul to help Erasmus raise his precocious grandson, Angel. Part The Bird Cage, part Leaving Arizona, it is a touching look at two worlds colliding with some hilarious life lessons.
2 THIS IS 40
An unofficial sequel to Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up (which featured Rudd as well), This is 40 examines the life of a couple as they turn 40 and take stock of what they’ve achieved so far. Pete (Paul Rudd) has a failing business, as does his wife, their kids never get along, and they may lose their house. The struggles of adulthood threaten to tear their relationship apart.
With the threat of impending financial and romantic doom always hanging over their heads (and an angry Melissa Mcarthy), Pete and his wife have to learn to navigate all the bumps in the road of parenthood and married life before they can learn to appreciate them.
1 OUR IDIOT BROTHER
Getting to showcase more of his outlandish comedic skills than in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and I Love You, Man, Paul Rudd isn’t forced to play the “grounded friend” or “sarcastic straight man.” Instead, he’s the “idiot brother” to three sisters who just wants to take life easy after being released from prison for selling weed to a cop.
As a dim slacker, Paul Rudd terrorizes his sisters (Zoey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, and Emily Mortimer) by sleeping on their couch, eating their food, and not helping around the house. With no ambition or purpose, he nevertheless teaches them a thing or two about being too goal oriented.