Back in the mid-’90s, Will Ferrell emerged as one of the standout performers on Saturday Night Live. Nowadays, the actor has evolved from roles as a male Spartan cheerleader and one of the club-hopping “Roxbury guys” to become one of the biggest comedic stars across the globe. With Ferrell set to reunite with his The Other Guys costar Mark Wahlberg in the new comedy, Daddy’s Home, here’s a look at some of his best films to date. For the record, we’re focusing on films in which Ferrell is a headlining star. So don’t expect memorable supporting turns in films such as Zoolander and The Lego Movie.
1. Old School (2003)
Although Ferrell had appeared in a dozen films prior to this Todd Phillips-directed comedy, it was his role as Frank “The Tank” Ricard that launched him into big-screen superstardom. Ferrell, Luke Wilson, and Vince Vaughn star as three 30-somethings who decide to launch a fraternity to recapture their glory days. The resulting film still stands as an early sign of Ferrell’s magnetic screen presence and a precursor to more popular roles to come.
2. Elf (2003)
As Jon Favreau’s sophomore directorial effort, this holiday comedy saw Ferrell take the shape of Buddy the Elf, a human raised by Santa’s helpers in the North Pole. When Buddy discovers his true parentage, he ventures to New York City and all kinds of fish-out-of-water gags ensue. While the premise could have easily become trite and repetitive, Ferell’s earnest, charming performance as the naive Buddy transforms the film — a clear throwback to the era of Rankin/Bass holiday specials — into an instant classic that families continue to enjoy each holiday season.
3. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
As Ferrell’s most famous role (arguably), arrogant newscaster Ron Burgundy is the only lead character who the actor has reprised in a sequel thus far. The infinitely quotable film sees Ferrell take his absurdist performance style to new heights and marks the first of several collaborations with the actor and filmmaker Adam McKay. Cowritten by Ferrell, it’s little wonder why it remains a fan favorite — a grand showcase for his comedic sensibility .
4. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Every once in a while, Ferrell exercises his more dramatic acting muscles, but this comedy/drama about a man who realizes he is the main character in a celebrated author’s latest novel is one of the most underrated examples of this skill at work. A more subdued Ferrell gets to display far more depth than his usual schtick here, with the film’s meaningful message of living life to the fullest underlining his endearing and tender performance.
5. Step Brothers (2008)
Ferrell and McKay reteamed for this comedy about a pair of grown men (Ferrell and John C. Reilly) who become stepbrothers when their parents marry. The film gives its two leads the perfect opportunity to turn in gleefully immature performances, and they don’t disappointment. Particularly noteworthy is the NSFW music video for “Boats ‘N Hoes.” For years, rumors about a sequel have circulated, though nothing is in active development just yet.
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