- Danny DeVito is an actor best known for movies like “Matilda” (1996) and his recurring role on FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
- DeVito has earned critical acclaim for numerous performances, like his role in the crime drama “L.A. Confidential” (1997).
- Other films DeVito has starred in, such as “Look Who’s Talking Now” (1993) and “Head Office” (1986), didn’t get as much love from critics.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Although he’s mostly known for his comedic work on FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” 76-year-old Danny DeVito has proven himself as a film actor with an impressive range.
With an extensive career that spans nearly 50 years, DeVito’s work has been met with varying degrees of critical reception.
Note: All scores were current on the date of publication and are subject to change.
Danny DeVito’s best film is “L.A. Confidential” (1997).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%
Summary: Set in Los Angeles during the early 1950s, the dramatic thriller “L.A. Confidential” explores the dark side of the police force in the Hollywood hills.
As Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) heads the corrupt LAPD, Bud White (Russell Crowe) struggles to hide his violent side, and Sid Hudgeons (DeVito) gets rich off of Hollywood scandals.
Critics hailed “L.A. Confidential” as a thrilling film noir with a compelling central cast.
As critic Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel wrote: “Spicy and boiling-hot, this sensational early-’50s crime drama is a morality play disguised as pulp fiction – a sprawling saga of corruption and redemption set against a flashy West Coast backdrop.”
DeVito played Martini in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Summary: In the stirring drama “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) pleads insanity to avoid jail time and is shipped off to a mental hospital.
Shocked by the oppressive nature of the asylum, McMurphy grows close to his fellow inmates, including Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), Billy (Brad Dourif) and Martini (DeVito).
Largely regarded by critics as a classic film in the world of cinema, reviews point to the movie’s effortless direction and the talents of the cast assembled on screen.
“With ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Forman takes his rightful place as one of our most creative young directors,” wrote Arthur Knight for The Hollywood Reporter. “His casting is inspired, his sense of milieu is assured, and he could probably wring Academy Award performances from a stone.”
He was Sam Stone in “Ruthless People” (1986).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Summary: The comedy “Ruthless People” centres around Barbara (Bette Midler), a rich woman who is kidnapped and held for ransom by two amateur criminals (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater).
Barbara’s bitter husband Sam (DeVito) refuses to pay up, causing Barbara to bond with her captors.
Despite the broad comedic nature of “Ruthless People,” critics found the film endearing and well-crafted.
“Occasionally crude and tasteless, ‘Ruthless People’ is a comedy with a vitriolic twist,” wrote critic Candice Russell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s a comedy about people who love to hate, with actors who make it worth seeing.”
The actor performed in, directed, and narrated “Matilda” (1996).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
Summary: Raised amongst a volatile family that discourages her from learning and growing, Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) realises at a young age that she has supernatural abilities. Despite her parents’ (Rhea Perlman and DeVito) attempts to squash her curiosity, Matilda uses her intelligence to help others.
Critics had heaps of praise for the family film “Matilda,” which was directed and narrated by DeVito.
Film critic Roger Ebert wrote: “‘Matilda’ doesn’t condescend to children, it doesn’t sentimentalize, and as a result it feels heartfelt and sincere. It’s funny, too.”
In “Get Shorty” (1995) DeVito played Martin Weir.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Summary: In the comedy “Get Shorty,” mobster Chilli Palmer (John Travolta) travels to Los Angeles to collect a debt and he finds that the Hollywood industry doesn’t differ too much from the world he knows in the mafia.
Along the way, Palmer’s life becomes entangled with that of famous actor Martin Weir (DeVito) and gambler Leo Devoe (David Paymer).
Reviews heralded the comedy “Get Shorty” as massively entertaining and inventive.
“How cool can a mere movie be? A perfect cast and great script, based on a hilariously witty best seller, are key elements,” wrote David Hunter for The Hollywood Reporter. “When you add a talented director and let the magic of Hollywood take over, the result is ‘Get Shorty.'”
He was Ralph in the adventure film “Romancing the Stone” (1984).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%
Summary: The adventure comedy “Romancing the Stone” tells the story of famed novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) as she ventures into a dangerous jungle in the hopes of rescuing her sister from art dealers (Zack Norman and DeVito).
Teaming up with exotic animal smuggler Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas), Joan tries to save her sister and seek out a hidden treasure before it’s too late.
“Romancing the Stone” was praised by critics for its fun, thrilling plot and the chemistry of its leads.
“In this cracking jungle-set treasure hunt, director Robert Zemeckis spices up a deliberately old-fashioned matinée adventure with tongue-in-cheek gags, unpredictably clever touches and top-of-the-range action,” wrote Alan Jones in his review for Radio Times.
In “War of the Roses” (1989) DeVito played lawyer Gavin D’Amato.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%
Summary: In the comedy “War of the Roses,” divorce lawyer Gavin D’Amato (DeVito) sits down with a prospective client and relays the tale of his last big case involving Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner). As D’Amato tells the story, he reveals how the turbulent divorce proceedings between the Roses escalated out of control.
Critics lauded the distinctive narrative style of “War of the Roses,” which was also directed by DeVito.
“Greatly amusing, but its lasting achievement is DeVito’s atmospheric authority, shaping a genuine filmmaking triumph in style and mood that deserves a standing ovation,” wrote film critic Orndorf.
The actor voiced Phil in the Disney classic “Hercules” (1997).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Summary: In Disney’s animated film “Hercules,” the young titular hero (voiced by Tate Donovan) is a god raised alongside humans.
As he sets out in search of a path and seeks to prove himself as a hero, Hercules is taken under the wing of gutsy satyr Philotes (voiced by DeVito).
Critics praised “Hercules” for infusing mythology and humour in a likable family film.
“Kids will love Hercules,” wrote film critic Carol Buckland for CNN. “It’s fast-paced, it’s funny, and it has a very positive message. Adults will enjoy it as well, thanks to its animated artistry and sly wit.”
In “Terms of Endearment” (1983) DeVito was Vernon Dalhart.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%
Summary: A drama with comedic notes, “Terms of Endearment” traces the lives of two women – Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma Greenaway (Debra Winger) – across three decades.
As they grapple with love and loss, Aurora finds herself pursued by various suitors, including Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson) and Vernon Dalhart (DeVito).
“Terms of Endearment” was reviewed as a fully realised drama that hit home with well-earned dramatic turns.
Variety reporter James Harwood wrote: “Brooks’ dialog is wonderful throughout and all the characters carry off their assignments beautifully, even down to Danny De Vito and Norman Bennett as MacLaine’s other suffering suitors.”
He played Deck Shifflet in the legal drama “The Rainmaker” (1997).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%
Summary: “The Rainmaker” is a drama centered around a plucky law-school graduate Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) who takes on a legal battle with an insurance company on behalf of a young woman (Claire Danes) whose son is battling cancer.
With the help of Deck Shifflet (DeVito) the two set up a practice and attempt to form a strong defence.
Critics praised “The Rainmaker” as an intelligent and nuanced legal drama with genuine heart.
As Jack Matthews wrote for the Los Angeles Times: “Coppola has infused ‘The Rainmaker’ with enough humour, character, honest emotion and storytelling style to make it one of the year’s most entertaining movies.”
On the other end of the spectrum, he was Wayne in the comedy “The Oh in Ohio” (2006).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%
Summary: In the comedy “The Oh in Ohio,” married couple Priscilla (Parker Posey) and Jack (Paul Rudd) experience sexual frustration in their marriage and seek satisfaction from other people.
As Jack takes interest in one of his students (Mischa Barton), Priscilla finds comfort in Wayne the pool guy (DeVito).
“The Oh in Ohio” was met with poor reception, with critics calling the comedy lifeless.
“The script, which was co-written by director Billy Kent, has the forced ‘raciness’ of a mid-’70s dinner-theatre sex comedy,” wrote critic Eleanor Ringel Cater for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He played Al in the romantic comedy “When in Rome” (2010).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 17%
Summary: In the romantic comedy “When in Rome,” Beth (Kristen Bell) swipes coins from a wishing fountain in Italy and finds herself being pursued by the very men who threw those coins in.
A few of her hopeful suitors include Gale (Dax Shepard), Antonio (Will Arnett), and Al (DeVito).
Critics felt that “When in Rome” failed to introduce anything new to the well-trodden romantic-comedy genre.
“‘When in Rome’ never delves deep into anything, but whisks us through the conventions of romantic comedies so quickly there’s barely time to groan,” wrote Sarah Sluis for Film Journal International.
DeVito had a small role in “The World’s Greatest Lover” (1977).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 15%
Summary: Set in the 1920s, “The World’s Greatest Lover” is a comedy about a movie producer (Dom DeLuise) who is looking to cast an actor to portray Rudolph Valentino. Eager to prove himself, amateur actor Rudy Valentine (Gene Wilder) auditions for the part.
DeVito appeared in a small role as the assistant director on the fictional movie set.
Critics wrote that “The World’s Greatest Lover” came across as too silly and lacked consistency.
“Despite Gene Wilder’s undeniable personality, his work as an actor results inferior when he’s directing himself,” wrote Jesús Fernández Santos for El Pais. “His parodies lose rhythm and the structure of the script at times results confusing.”
In “Hotel Noir” (2012) he appeared as Eugene Portland.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 13%
Summary: Set in 1950s Hollywood, “Hotel Noir” is a dramatic thriller about a detective who checks into a hotel to wait for his adversaries to catch up with him.
As various people come and go – like Hanna Click (Carla Gugino) and Eugene Portland (DeVito) – the story surrounding his fate begins to unravel.
“Hotel Noir” was met with raised eyebrows from critics, who were unsure how a film with such an impressive cast could yield a weak narrative.
Time Out critic David Fear wrote: “You never lose the nagging sense that you’re simply watching a high-school drama club’s production of ’40s fatalism chic.”
DeVito was Grover Cleaver in “Screwed” (2000).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 13%
Summary: The broad comedy “Screwed” features Willard Fillmore (Norm MacDonald) as a chauffeur who tries to get back at his boss Mrs. Crock (Elaine Stritch) by stealing her treasured dog.
When things get out of hand, the police suspect that Willard himself has been kidnapped. In an attempt to throw off the police, Willard asks for mortician Grover Cleaver (DeVito) to help him find a dead body that can pass as him.
Critics felt that the low production value of “Screwed” made it feel like a second-rate television movie more than a feature film.
Despite giving a negative review, critic Stephen Holden was at least won over by DeVito’s performance in the film. “Danny DeVito is the only cast member who succeeds in making something out of the movie’s nothing of a screenplay,” Holden wrote for the New York Times.
In “Renaissance Man” (1994) the actor played Bill Rago.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 12%
Summary: In the comedy “Renaissance Man,” DeVito stars as Bill Rago, a new teacher who tries to connect with the soldiers in his literacy class who have been deemed unteachable.
Tasked with only six weeks to teach them English and literature, Rago does his best to inspire his unconventional students.
“Renaissance Man” was received as a pandering comedy with manipulative messaging by a majority of critics.
However, The Washington Post critic Hal Hinson found a sliver of redemption in the film by praising DeVito’s involvement.
“As strange as it sounds, DeVito’s performance is about the only aspect of the film that isn’t wholly fraudulent, if only because his typical feisty abrasiveness protects him from sinking to the level of Marshall’s mawkishness,” wrote Hinson.
He played Max Fairbanks in “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” (2001).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 10%
Summary: Based on a novel, the crime comedy “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” tells the story of Kevin Caffery (Martin Lawrence), a thief who attempts to break into the mansion of Max Fairbanks (DeVito).
After Max calls the police on Kevin and personally affronts him, Kevin vows to stop at nothing to get back at the billionaire.
Critics largely panned “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” as incoherent, humorless, and forgettable.
“The film isn’t just lightweight, it’s weightless,” wrote Movie Metropolis critic John Puccio. “You don’t forget it two minutes later; you forget it before it’s over.”
DeVito was Buddy Hall in “Deck the Halls” (2006).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 6%
Summary: In the comedy “Deck the Halls,” the holiday season falls upon a suburban neighbourhood, inciting an unexpected decoration battle between neighbours Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick) and Buddy Hall (DeVito).
As the escalating antics get out of hand, jealousy and rage get the better of the two men and threaten to spoil their Christmas cheer.
Any pleasure critics derived from the film was wrought from unintentional humour, with many critics calling “Deck the Halls” messy and overstuffed holiday fare.
“‘My stupidity astounds me!’ chortles Danny DeVito in ‘Deck the Halls,’ a line that pretty much sums up this tale of warring neighbours with very different ideas about celebrating Christmas,” joked Neil Smith in his review for the BBC.
He played Stedman in the comedy “Head Office” (1986).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 0%
Summary: The satirical black comedy “Head Office” focuses on Jack Issel (Judge Reinhold), a recent graduate from business school who stakes his claim within a large industrial company.
As he climbs the corporate ladder he shakes hands and butts heads with Jane (Jane Seymour), Helms (Eddie Albert), and Stedman (DeVito).
The comedy “Head Office” was raked through the coals by film critics who called it empty and lazily written.
“The structure here is a bit like ’50s social comedies but there’s no satirical force, just chutzpah and energy,” wrote Michael Wilmington for the Los Angeles Times. “The movie confuses iconoclasm with wit, and bile with guts; it’s mostly thin and mean-spirited.”
“Look Who’s Talking Now” (1993) earned also a 0%.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 0%
Summary: The third instalment in the “Look Who’s Talking” series, this comedy centres around two dogs with the ability to talk: Rocks (DeVito) and Daphne (Diane Keaton).
The two canines have to take action when the lives of their owners (John Travolta and Kirstie Alley) are put in danger.
Critics felt “Look Who’s Talking Now” was an unnecessary sequel with low-brow humour from a franchise that already wrung out its potential in earlier films.
“Most of the way this is pretty cheesy stuff, too stupid for adults and too vulgar for children,” wrote Chris Hicks for the Deseret News. “And it’s even worse when it goes for cheap sentiment.”
- A petition is circulating for Danny DeVito to play Wolverine – and people are enthusiastically signing it
- There’s a secret shrine devoted to Danny DeVito hidden in a bathroom of a New York college, but the school shut it down
- A teen took a cardboard cut out of Danny DeVito to prom, so DeVito made a cardboard cut out of her