Zac Efron’s 10 Best Roles, Ranked

Recently, actor/singer Zac Efron has made quite a name for himself. From his role as Troy Bolton in High School Musical (2006) all the way to portraying Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019), Efron has displayed some incredible acting abilities. More recently, he has tended to keep within the realm of comedy, however, that hasn’t stopped him from doing some more serious roles from time to time. 

At the moment, fans of Efron are eagerly awaiting the actor’s upcoming role of Fred Jones in the Scooby Doo remake, Scoob which is set to release next year. To look back at some of the actor’s accomplishments, here is our list of Zac Efron’s 10 best roles.

RELATED: Zac Efron's Career Evolution, From High School Musical To Ted Bundy

10 Troy Bolton, High School Musical (2006)

All three High School Musical films became immensely popular, especially for teenage girls. Part of that wide appeal came from Zac Efron, who played the male lead, Troy Bolton. The films mostly revolved around high school drama and situations with an added musical element that made them great kids movies.

Regardless of the actual quality of the films, there’s no denying that they really launched Efron’s career and “put him on the map” so to speak. Efron’s time as Troy Bolton allowed him to show off some decent acting chops, but mostly his incredible vocals. From there, doors to many new opportunities would open for Efron, leading to some much bigger and greater roles.

9 Link Larkin, Hairspray (2007)

Shortly after High School Musical debuted, Efron landed the role of Link Larkin in the musical, Hairspray. The movie itself revolves around a lot of race issues in the 1960’s and cleverly portrays the role of African Americans in popular culture.

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As Link Larkin, Efron had a relatively smaller role. However, that didn’t stop him from continuing to show off his vocal talents. Likewise, Efron also had the opportunity to take a slightly more serious role. Unfortunately, Efron didn’t get the chance to really show off his acting abilities in this movie, though he still fit nicely within the world of the film. Even though he has had better roles following Hairspray, it was still a great next step in his career.

8 Charlie St. Cloud, Charlie St. Cloud (2010)

In 2010, Efron starred in the romantic drama, Charlie St. Cloud. The movie follows young veteran, Charlie St. Cloud after he survives a car crash that his brother dies in. Fortunately, Charlie is blessed with a gift that allows him to see his younger brother along with other deceased people from his past. However, when Charlie falls in love, he finds that he must choose between his brother or his girlfriend.

The movie itself received mixed reviews, yet Efron’s performance is generally considered to be one of the stronger points of the film. Charlie St. Cloud was also the first time audiences saw Efron in a very serious role. While the final result proved to be a bit underwhelming, Efron thankfully got to show off some more serious acting abilities, free of his vocal talents.

7 Jack Jansen, The Paperboy (2012)

The Paperboy is a mystery thriller that revolves around the murder of a sheriff. As Jack Jansen, Efron eventually begins to investigate the case alongside his older brother and their partner. While the movie received mixed reviews, it was still nice to see Efron in a more mature, darker role. 

Despite critical reception, it is a shame that Efron’s performance went overlooked. Considering where he started, Efron showed an incredible amount of acting chops in this film. While his work isn’t necessarily groundbreaking in this film, it still shows that Efron is capable of portraying a variety of characters and personalities.

6 Mike O’Donnell, 17 Again (2009)

17 Again was the first role to really set Efron apart from High School Musical. Fresh off of the HSM finale, Efron played a younger version of the character, Mike O’Donnell. When his life is at its lowest point, Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) finds himself transformed into his younger self, destined to repeat his senior year with the opportunity to reset his life.

Part of what made the role so great for Efron was in how different it was from High School Musical. Aside from taking place in high school, the two roles are so incredibly different, with 17 Again taking a much funnier and even slightly raunchy approach. Likewise, there was no singing involved which rested the entire film on Efron’s acting abilities alone. Thankfully, he succeeded as the movie went on to receive general praise and is even considered a cult film.

5 Teddy Sanders, Neighbors (2014)

Surprisingly, Efron would eventually find himself as a part of a Seth Rogen movie. Neighbors saw the two actors go to war following the move of Efron’s fraternity into the house next door to Rogen’s. The antics that would then ensue made more some great laughs and even greater destruction.

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Efron fits in excellently with the likes of Rogen and even returned for the film’s sequel a few years later. Like with 17 Again, Efron felt very comfortable in the role. However, it definitely appeared as though he had more fun, as Neighbors’ R rating meant Efron could essentially do whatever he wanted. Unleashed, Neighbors is a great example of what Efron can do in a comedic role.

4 Dr. Charles “Jim” Carrico, Parkland (2013)

Director Peter Landesman’s film Parkland follows individuals who were involved with John F. Kennedy on the day he was shot. With a very wide cast, the film aims to show how certain individuals responded to the situation the morning of and following the assassination.

Efron plays Dr. Charles “Jim” Carrico, one of the doctors tasked with saving the President’s life upon his arrival at Parkland Hospital. Efron not only brilliantly plays the character, but also appears to be aged up. Up until this point, Efron typically landed a lot of roles in which he was required to play a younger character, often no older than college-aged. Parkland, however, allowed him to try his hand at playing an older role, in which he greatly succeeded.

3 Jason, That Awkward Moment (2014)

That Awkward Moment is the tale of three best friends who all happen to find love around the same time. Zac Efron plays the character, Jason, a rather promiscuous personality who often uses his appearance to get with all sorts of women.

Though Efron plays the character very well, he can’t help but feel very similar to the character of Teddy Sanders, at least at first. Really, Efron’s abilities in the film shine through his interactions with fellow actors, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. The trio are all incredibly charming and immensely funny together and really make the underrated film great. By the end, Efron is able to take the character of Jason through a much more drastic change than Teddy Sanders went through, making for a much more impressive display of acting skills.

2 Phillip Carlyle, The Greatest Showman (2017)

The character of Phillip Carlyle was created to fit into the story of The Greatest Showman. The Greatest Showman is a very loose historical adaptation of the famous con man and circus runner, P.T. Barnum. Though Efron’s character may have been entirely fictitious, he still fits in well with other elements of the film as well as his fellow cast members.

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As a musical, Efron felt right at home in the world of The Greatest Showman. He not only got to bring out his vocal abilities once more but also gave an incredibly charming performance. Efron’s own abilities were also very complemented alongside actors like Hugh Jackman and Zendaya. The song “Rewrite the Stars” by Efron and Zendaya proved to be one of the more powerful numbers in the whole film and the two had great chemistry on the screen. Overall, Efron’s role as Phillip Carlyle is undeniably one of his best.

1 Ted Bundy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

Efron’s most recent performance is likely also his best. In Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, Efron portrays infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy. Unlike other biopics, this film focuses mostly on Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) and how her real-life relationship with Bundy affected her. While the specifics of Bundy’s crimes may not be the main focus of the film, he still holds a strong presence throughout.

Efron succeeds in showing off some immense skill as an actor in this film. He manages to come across as creepy, and unsettling in just about every frame. Those who are familiar with Bundy’s tactics would likely agree that Efron managed to portray him very well. Furthermore, Efron bears a striking resemblance to the notorious serial killer, making him all the more terrifying on screen. Overall, Efron’s incredible display of talent in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile only prove his capabilities as a great actor.

NEXT: 10 Things Netflix's Ted Bundy Tapes Left Out

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