The Rundown of Rock Movies
In 2018, yours truly took on the seemingly impossible mission of proving that Dwayne Johnson has been playing the same character throughout his entire career, which has actually just been the epic story of one legendary man. Well, now comes a slightly easier task — ranking every film starring the artist formerly known as The Rock. Get smart and read on for our full rundown.
33. Empire State (2013)
If you have The Rock and Liam Hemsworth in your movie and it still goes straight to DVD, then it must be dumpster fire bad.
32. Doom (2005)
The best thing about Doom actually happened 13 years after its release, when Johnson celebrated his perceived success of Rampage by tweeting, “It seems we may have finally broken the dreaded video game curse. And remember, I starred in the stinker ‘Doom’ so I have lived thy curse.” The Doom Twitter account then responded with just, “Dwayne.” Sorry, Doom, but Dwayne wasn’t lying.
31. The Scorpion King (2002)
Universal was so impressed with Johnson’s big screen debut in The Mummy Returns that they greenlit this prequel before filming on the former had even completed. Unfortunately, Johnson’s first lead role was a step down for the franchise, lacking the fun that director Stephen Sommers and Mummy star Brendan Fraser had tapped into with the original adventure-fantasy films.
30. Tooth Fairy (2010)
It’s always a great sign when you have five screenwriters. And one of them came up with the line, “You can’t handle the tooth,” but thankfully, The Tooth Fairy made Johnson realize the truth is that he needed to leave behind his run of family films and become the action star that he always was destined to be.
29. Planet 51 (2009)
While this animated film gets credit for flipping the usual alien-human dynamic and having Johnson’s astronaut be the incoming “invader,” the execution doesn’t do enough with the premise. But respect to Johnson for providing a few of Planet 51‘s more amusing moments.
28. Be Cool (2005)
In the opening scene of the Get Shorty sequel, producer Chili Palmer (John Travolta) complains about sequels, but the attempt at being meta instead inadvertently serves as a cruel joke about the disappointing movie to come. Be Cool manages to squander a star-studded cast of Travolta, Johnson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, and Vince Vaughn. And yet, still early in his acting career, Johnson is the comedic standout as a gay bodyguard/aspiring actor who does a killer Bring It On monologue.
27. Southland Tales (2007)
Upon its infamous premiere at Cannes Film Festival, writer-director Richard Kelly’s film was greeted with boos and audience members walking out. And it’s understandable, considering by the end, I was left wondering WTF I just watched. The same could be said for stars Johnson and Justin Timberlake, who have admitted they often didn’t know what was going on, which seems less than ideal for the film’s narrator. And still, I moved Southland up a few spots solely for ambition.
26. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
The follow-up to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra marked the end of a three-year stretch where Johnson starred in three sequels in which he wasn’t in the original films. After this forgettable and unneccessary sequel/reboot, he finally opted to start his own potential franchises, while still smartly staying aboard the Fast train.
25. Baywatch (2017)
Hot take: Baywatch isn’t the disaster that it’s been made out to be. Now, is it a good movie? No, but it does provide enough laughs along the way. That being said, not sure I can go as far as Johnson did and declare that fans loved it. That seems a bit overboard.
24. Faster (2010)
Johnson’s attempt at making a film noir doesn’t live up to its ambitions, but Faster does succesfully steer his career in the right direction, with Johnson becoming an action leading man for the first time in six years — and also preparing him to become a Fast star.
23. Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
I’m gonna say it: I don’t buy The Rock as a taxi driver. Now what I do buy is his chemistry with Carla Gugino, which he wisely also tapped into in both the previously mentioned Faster and 2015’s San Andreas. While Johnson’s relationship with the alien kids he’s protecting isn’t as indelible, their goodbye at the end of the film packs some real emotion.
22. Hercules (2014)
Another hot take: Hercules isn’t as bad as expected. Because, if I’m being honest, I wanted no part of this movie and wasn’t sure why Johnson would either considering he basically already did something in this vein with Scorpion King. But the solid action, lighter tone, and Johnson’s gravitas make this as good as a Brett Ratner Hercules film could be.
21. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
Having not seen the original, this is my first journey into the Journey franchise, and the experience was…fine. The movie is pleasant enough and an easy watch, even if Johnson must have thought it was better than that as he’s made Journey 2 filmmaker Brad Peyton his go-to director (San Andreas and Rampage).
20. Walking Tall (2004)
There’s not much substance here and the supporting cast hams it up, but Johnson puts Walking Tall on his broad shoulders, handling the leading man title just as well as his character handles a 2×4.
19. The Game Plan (2007)
Once I got past the ridiculousness of Johnson playing a quarterback (you don’t go from defensive lineman at University of Miami to being an alternate reality’s Tom Brady), The Game Plan was a charming family comedy. For once, Johnson gets to be an arrogant jerk and he plays it well, especially opposite the adorable Madison Pettis. This also scores points for being the only film to feature an extensive Rock ballet scene.
18. Skyscraper (2018)
Johnson tries to fire up his own Die Hard with this film that seemed crafted specifically to to be a huge hit in China, where Skyscraper is set. The latter came true, the former not so much. The suspense is there and Johnson does his job more than adequately, but he lacks an interesting foe like Bruce Willis had in Alan Rickman (no offense to the skyscraper).
17. Get Smart (2008)
While the film adaptation of the 1960s TV series fails to live up to its potential, Johnson, Steve Carell, and Anne Hathaway are game enough to make for an entertaining watch.
16. Rampage (2018)
I can’t go as far as Johnson did and proclaim that Rampage broke the “dreaded video game curse,” but I will say that it’s much better than Doom (precisely 16 spots better). And while Johnson is usually the main attraction, the real draws here are the 30-foot-tall gorilla George and Jeffrey Dean Morgan chewing scenery and oozing swagger.
15. The Mummy Returns (2002)
This may be Johnson’s film debut and his character’s presence hangs over the Mummy sequel, but he’s not really onscreen much, which is fine since Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz continue to be a winning combination, even if Returns fell short of its predecessor. Yet, it’s still much better than Tom Cruise’s 2017 film, and that’s why my motto is #BrendanFraserIsMyMummy.
14. Gridiron Gang (2006)
Despite being a diehard sports fan, I don’t usually enjoy sports movies because they’re basically all the same story and often tend to be one big cliché. While Gridiron Gang isn’t exempt from that, the detention center setting and a grounded performance from Johnson make it better than a lot of its contemporaries.
13. San Andreas (2015)
The Johnson and Gugino magic continues! And for San Andreas, I’m going to cede the floor to EW’s Chris Nashawaty, who perfectly summed up the film in his review: “As patently preposterous, scientifically dubious, and unapologetically corny as director Brad Peyton’s orgy of CGI devastation is, its popcorn prophecy of the inevitable is a blast of giddy, disposable fun. It’s a ridiculously satisfying slice of summer disaster porn.” Preach, Chris!
12. Snitch (2013)
Sometimes, I just want everyman Dwayne Johnson. And that’s what we get in Snitch, where he’s not a CIA agent or a god or the Tooth Fairy, he’s just a dad willing to do whatever it takes to help his son. And Johnson plays the role well, alongside a strong supporting cast of Jon Bernthal, Susan Sarandon, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Benjamin Bratt.
11. Pain & Gain (2013)
Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, Ken Jeong, Rebel Wilson, Rob Corddry, and Tony Shalhoub are all dialed up to 100 in Michael Bay’s dark comedy-crime film. And it’s their performances and chemistry that mostly lifts Pain & Gain above the over-the-top violence and controversy regarding the treatment of this true story.
10. Central Intelligence (2016)
It’s the chemistry between Johnson and Kevin Hart that lifts Central Intelligence above what’s on the page (cameos from Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy also help). But opposite comedy superstar Hart, Johnson manages to score the most laughs as a fanny pack-wearing, unicorn-loving spy.
9. Fighting With My Family (2019)
Johnson executive produces and plays a supporting role as himself in fellow Tooth Fairy alum Stephen Merchant’s delightful wrestling film, which is based on the life and rise of WWE superstar Paige. Vince Vaughn and Johnson are the big names in the cast, but it’s leading lady Florence Pugh who proves to be a star in her own right. Plus, Fighting gets bonus points for a Vin Diesel joke directed at Johnson.
8. The Fate of the Furious (2017)
I swear that I didn’t purposely put Fast 8 at No. 8. The Fate of the Furious has a lot to like: the evolving relationship between Johnson and Jason Statham (leading to the upcoming spin-off), Statham’s baby fight, and Queen Helen Mirren. And despite all of that, F. Gary Gray’s film suffers from the absence of Paul Walker, who died during production of Furious 7, and losing the Hobbs and Toretto dynamic that had become a crucial part of the franchise, a result of the drama between Johnson and Vin Diesel.
7. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
No one was asking for a new Jumanji, with all of us perfectly satisfied with the Robin Williams-led original. But, that’s what made Welcome to the Jungle such a pleasant surprise, which is thanks to a fun plot twist and the charming cast (the sequel’s ensemble will be even more charming with the additions of Awkwafina and Danny DeVito).
6. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Following the success of Fast Five, Johnson basically gets upped to a co-lead along with Diesel and Walker for the latest installment. But Fast 6‘s most notable cast news is the return of original star Michelle Rodriguez and the departure of future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. And while director Justin Lin continues to raise the bar for action set pieces (such as with the longest runway in film history), Fast 6 only suffers from being situated between the franchise’s two best films.
5. The Rundown (2003)
In his first non-Mummy related role, the action movie star belt is metaphorically passed to Johnson by Arnold Schwarzenegger via a cameo in the opening scene of Peter Berg’s underrated gem. The jungle setting and terrific chemistry between Johnson and Seann William Scott, who would later costar together in Southland Tales and Planet 51, make this a high point for all involved and leave us waiting for that long-rumored sequel.
4. The Other Guys (2010)
Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson steal the first 10 minutes of Adam McKay’s buddy cop action-comedy, only to then shockingly jump to their deaths. And despite their loss, the film continues to amuse through the chemistry of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, the hilarious use of Eva Mendes, and Michael Keaton’s love of TLC.
3. Furious 7 (2015)
Best remembered for the emotional goodbye to the late Walker, who died during production, and his character Brian O’Conner, Furious 7 is much more than that. Stepping in for Fast 3, 4, 5, 6 director Justin Lin, James Wan takes the action to new heights, literally (flying cars and jumping cars from skyscraper to skyscraper). And the addition of Jason Statham gives the franchise a bonafide, big named bad guy that it had yet to have. But, as previously mentioned, the highlight is Walker’s send-off, perfectly paired with “See You Again,” and making this writer cry every time he watches (which is a lot of times).
2. Moana (2016)
The biggest non-Fast hit of Johnson’s career was very welcome. The trio of Johnson, Auliʻi Cravalho, and Lin-Manuel Miranda were music to our ears and helped turn Moana into an animated classic.
1. Fast Five (2011)
It took a very fast five seconds for me to decide what No. 1 would be. Confession: I’ve seen Fast Five approximately 100 times. And that’s for good reason considering it’s the greatest action movie of all time (yeah, I said it). The fifth Fast & Furious film was a game-changer for the franchise, shitfting away from street racing, uniting the previous casts, and bringing in new blood with Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, who gets an epic introduction. And the last third is must watch with a Johnson and Diesel showdown, a safe destroying the streets of Rio de Janiero, and the “Danza Kuduro” tuned closing montage.