It might surprise you, but Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wasn’t always the most bankable action star in the world.
There was a time when the pro-wrestler-turned-actor was trying to stay afloat doing sequels to bad franchises and playing the lead in straight-to-DVD movies.
Looking at Johnson’s filmography over the last 17 years is a testament to his hard work to elevate from playing the tough guy, and being known mainly for his WWE persona, into a worldwide movie star.
Leading up to Johnson’s latest blockbuster, “Skyscraper” (opening Friday), we look back on all his movies (even the ones where he makes cameos) and rank them from worst to best.
37. “Jem and the Holograms” (2015)
Yes, The Rock is in “Jem and the Holograms.” The disastrous movie has a scene where big names like Chris Pratt and Alicia Keys say how much they love the band and Johnson is among them. Either he was doing this as a favour or someone involved with the movie really has something on The Rock.
36. “Longshot” (2001)
Yeah, we’ve never heard of this movie, either. But Johnson is in it for a split second playing a mugger. It was never released theatrically in the US, instead finding a home on the Disney Channel and DVD hoping to attract fans of Britney Spears and NSYNC, who also make cameos.
35. “Why Did I Get Married Too?” (2010)
Johnson has another blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo is this Tyler Perry movie. Johnson shows up at the very end of the movie as a dashing philanthropist who introduces himself to Janet Jackson’s character. The movie ends implying that sparks may be flying between the two. At this point in his career, Johnson was desperately trying to show Hollywood he could play more than just the tough guy.
34. “You Again” (2010)
This forgettable comedy also sports a Johnson cameo. In this one, he plays an air marshal who has to calm down a frantic Kristen Bell. If anything, it shows Johnson’s ability to hold his own doing some comedic work.
33. “Empire State” (2013)
Right when Johnson was kicking it into high gear in his movie career with the release of “Fast & Furious 6” in May of 2013, Lionsgate put out its The Rock movie four months later – straight to DVD. Starring alongside Emma Roberts and Liam Hemsworth, Johnson plays an NYPD detective trying to stop a heist being planned by Hemsworth’s character. It’s really not worth your time.
32. “The Scorpion King” (2002)
This one isn’t worth your time either. Johnson reprises his role as The Scorpion King from “The Mummy Returns” for this standalone movie. Though it scored number one at the box office its opening weekend, the movie is so forgettable Johnson even didn’t come back for the sequel, which was recast and released on DVD (a third movie went straight-to-DVD, too).
31. “Planet 51” (2009)
Throughout his career, Johnson has tried to capture the hearts of the family audience. This was round one, as Johnson signed on to voice the lead character for this animated movie about an astronaut who lands on an alien planet. The movie was another forgettable attempt to get Johnson to branch out of his WWE bubble.
30. “Faster” (2010)
Johnson plays a tough guy only known as “Driver” who, following a 10-year prison sentence, sets out to avenge his brother’s murder. It’s another movie where The Rock was trying to get his footing on what his audience wanted from him.
29. “Doom” (2005)
It makes a lot of sense for Johnson to sign on to this movie, which is loosely based on the hit video game. But it turned out to be all wrong. The movie bombed and only put Johnson deeper in the hole of trying to find respectability in Hollywood.
28. “Be Cool” (2005)
However, in the same year “Doom” opened, Johnson starred in the “Get Shorty” sequel playing a gay bodyguard. The movie is quite forgettable compared to the original, but Johnson is one of its few highlights.
27. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” (2013)
Playing Roadblock in the live-action version of the iconic toy/Saturday morning cartoon, Johnson jumped on the sequel but even he couldn’t give the franchise the jolt it needed to be successful.
26. “The Game Plan“ (2007)
Marking the final time Johnson would include his WWE ring name, “The Rock,” in a movie’s credits, this stale Disney movie was another attempt by Johnson to get families to trust him with their kids. It shows him going in the right direction, but he’s not there yet.
25. “Baywatch” (2017)
Nothing about this movie works. It’s one of the rare whiffs by Johnson in the last couple of years. Even with all his jokes and physical feats, he couldn’t save this one.
24. “Walking Tall” (2004)
A remake of the 1973 film starring Joe Don Baker, Johnson plays a former US soldier who comes home to clean up the crime and corruption there (with Johnny Knoxville by his side). Like most of Johnson’s movies, especially earlier in his career, the critics hated it. At this point in his career, The Rock getting top billing in movies was good, but he wasn’t getting the top projects.
23. “Hercules” (2014)
What a difference a decade makes! Here Johnson was the lead of a major studio tentpole playing a character known the world over. The critics still hated it, but it was a respectable global performer at the worldwide box office, earning close to $US250 million.
22. “Snitch” (2013)
Jumping on a project that had been in development for years, Johnson did the most with what he had, playing a father who goes undercover to save his son. The movie was another bust but showcased Johnson’s evolving acting abilities.
21. “Race to Witch Mountain” (2009)
Family audiences began to turn around and accept Johnson after this Disney hit, which is a remake of the 1975 movie “Escape to Witch Mountain.”
20. “The Mummy Returns” (2001)
In Johnson’s first major movie role, he plays the Scorpion King and at one point in the movie shows up in probably the worst CGI form ever put in the final cut of a movie. Despite that, it was the first step for Johnson in building a movie career.
19. “Reno 911! Miami” (2007)
The cameos aren’t over yet! Johnson shows up in this movie as a confident S.W.A.T. team member who is to be the saviour of the overwhelmed Reno officers. Instead he blows himself up with his own grenade. Johnson shows off his wit and just lays down a cool factor with the appearance. With this, The Rock finally figured out how to do cameos the right way.
18. “Gridiron Gang” (2006)
Trying out his dramatic chops, playing a counselor to juvenile teens who gets them to rethink their lives through playing football, Johnson shows he’s not scared to go out of his comfort zone.
17. “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” (2012)
Filling in for Brendan Fraser in this sequel to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” Johnson holds his own as the lead of a bigger-than-life 3D action movie.
16. “Tooth Fairy” (2010)
Johnson finally cracked the family market with this hit comedy about a minor-league hockey player (Johnson) who must be a tooth fairy for a week. t was helped by the success of “Race to Witch Mountain,” but also Johnson’s charm and charisma are on full display here.
15. “Southland Tales” (2006)
The most ambitious role Johnson has taken on in his career to date, Richard Kelly’s cult classic has him doing things that were beyond anything he’d attempted on screen at that point as a full-time actor. You have to respect Johnson’s go-for-broke attitude.
14. “The Other Guys” (2010)
Johnson masters the cameo with this final one. Along with Samuel L. Jackson, the two play hero cops whose egos take them too far. While chasing suspect, they jump off a building aiming for bushes and find life-ending cement.
13. “Get Smart” (2008)
Starring in a movie alongside the likes of Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway had to be a confidence booster for Johnson, who proves here he can play alongside some of the biggest stars in the world.
12. “San Andreas” (2015)
This is the movie that woke everyone up in Hollywood and made them realise that Johnson was a global star. The disaster movie didn’t just make a profit, it was Warner Bros.’ biggest box office hit of 2015.
11. “The Rundown” (2003)
The movie wasn’t a commercial success (though found its audience on DVD and when it hit cable TV), but after the “The Mummy Returns” and “The Scorpion King,” Johnson was finally able to play a modern-day role and showed that he could do more than show off his physique and say a couple of one-liners.
10. “Rampage” (2018)
Johnson takes on a bunch of mutants with the help of a super-sized ape and pretty much cements his place as one of the very few profitable action stars left in the business.
9. “The Fate of the Furious” (2017)
Despite his obvious real-life beef with the holder of the “Fast and Furious” flame, Vin Diesel, Johnson’s work is a highlight of the movie – especially alongside Jason Statham (we can’t wait for their own standalone movie).
8. “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)
Johnson really joined the “Fast and Furious” family with this one, as he teams with Dom and Brian to go on “one last job.”
7. “Skyscraper” (2018)
Playing a dad determined to save his family from a burning 240-story building, Johnson plays this disaster movie with a lot of vulnerability. It proves that even on top, he’s always challenging himself.
6. “Furious 7” (2015)
Johnson always gives Hobbs a comic book character quality, but in this one he’s nuts with it as he breaks the cast on his arm by just flexing it, and walks around shooting a massive gun.
5. “Pain & Gain” (2013)
Johnson is really unbelievable in this movie. Starring alongside Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie as bodybuilders who get caught up in an extortion and kidnapping scheme, Johnson is the highlight as the coke-snorting, born-again loose cannon Paul Doyle. The performance director Michael Bay gets out of Johnson is one of his best ever.
4. “Central Intelligence” (2016)
There’s so much to love about Johnson in this movie. His comedy is perfect and is fuelled working opposite Kevin Hart. And audiences thought so too, as the movie was one of the biggest box office hits of 2016.
3. “Fast Five” (2011)
This movie didn’t just push Johnson on the path to the top level of super stardom that he’s enjoying currently, but his casting also gave new life to the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Hobbs’ intimidating force was the element the franchise needed to get out of its slump. But also, after a string of roles that went against type, Johnson dove in head first to a part that focused on his tough guy strengths. The audience responded. The rest is history.
2. “Moana” (2016)
With the magic of Disney and the songwriting talents of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Johnson voicing the character of Demigod Maui is perhaps one of his most beautiful performances to date. All those years of trying to get into the family market finally paid off. And pulling off the singing is icing on the cake.
1. “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017)
The role is everything Johnson wants to get across. He play off his tough rep, shows he can do comedy, and is vulnerable. He captures it all here and gives a multi-layered performance that by the end you hate to see fade away once the kids leave the Jumanji game. Thank goodness there’s going to be a sequel.
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