Dwayne Johnson is a modern day icon. Last year, he set a record for acting earnings in any year with $124M. His movies have grossed almost $10B at the global box office and that total will continue to climb. In the next year alone, he will star in a “Fast & Furious” spin-off and a “Jumanji” sequel. He is as big of a global star as anyone in Hollywood and has proven to be a reliable box office draw.
The entertainer has turned his start as a professional wrestler into more than anyone could have imagined. Today, in honor of his 47th birthday, we are counting down the top 10 movies of his career.
“Pain & Gain” (2013)
dir. Michael Bay
An argument could be made that Michael Bay, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson are the three people most responsible for the latest fare in contemporary action filmmaking. Johnson and Wahlberg are two of the genre’s biggest stars and Bay is one of its most successful producers. The results of trio teaming up are at least bankable if nothing else. The film follows a trio of bodybuilders who find themselves caught in a criminal scheme gone wrong. Though Bay’s instincts keep the movie from being more, it is entertaining enough to crack the list.
dir: Ric Roman Waugh
“Snitch” saw Johnson take on the almost video game proportions that have now come to define his career. He plays a father undercover for the DEA, who works to free his son from prison after he is set up in a drug deal. It’s a gritty, adrenalin-fueled outing and is emblematic of the work many closely identify Johnson with. The film is anomalous for its total lack of international box office, which sets it apart from just about everything else on this list.
“San Andreas” (2015)
dir: Brad Peyton
Disaster movies are often, for lack of a better word, a disaster. This one, however, manages not to be. It’s largely thanks to Johnson’s ability to seem just credible enough as he tries to save the day. The actor would go on to tackle variations of this archetype in movies like “Rampage” and “Skyscraper,” but “San Andreas” feels like the most thrilling of the lot thus far. The film is also one of Johnson’s most financially successful, earning $474M at the global box office.
“Fast Five” (2011)
dir: Justin Lin
Whatever audiences think of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, this is the movie that set it on a new course. Johnson’s addition to the cast breathed life into a property that had been struggling with actors the likes of Bow Wow and Lucas Black. The inspired choice to bring in Johnson added the wattage that brought the franchise to its current high-flying, high-octane and high-dollar status.
“Get Smart” (2008)
dir: Peter Segal
By this point, it was becoming clear that Johnson was going to be a true star. But his effort’s in this Peter Segal film really helped show off his range. This lighter, family-fare gave Johnson a chance to show off his ability to star in films for all ages. He plays Agent 23 in the feature-length film adaptation of the 1960s television comedy “Get Smart.” Acting alongside Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell, the film showed Johnson had the ‘do it all’ talent, which would eventually land him among Hollywood’s most elite stars.
“The Rundown” (2003)
dir: Peter Berg
This was Johnson’s first time taking on leading man status and he certainly held his own. The film was the start of what audiences now know Johnson for. Opposite Seann William Scott, the movie relied on now familiar notes of physical comedy having to do with Johnson’s size and stature. The only element surprising here was exactly how much star-potential Johnson could truly carry.
“Central Intelligence” (2016)
dir: Rawson Marshall Thurber
The buddy cop formula is beyond a dead horse. “48 Hours,” “Lethal Weapon,” “21 Jump Street,” “Bad Boys,” “Training Day” and so many more make up a genre that has seen everything from comedic legends to action heroes. “Central Intelligence” was walking on well-tilled soil when Johnson and Kevin Hart teamed up to try their hand at the quasi-genre. The mismatched duo works brilliantly, which is not the only entry on the list starring the pair. The movie itself is a fairly average effort, but Johnson and Hart are about as good as it gets playing off one another.
“Furious 7” (2015)
dir: James Wan
This film marks the best entry in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. In many ways, the film represented a culmination of the efforts before and an indication of what would come next. Johnson’s screen time is relatively limited for plot purposes, but when he is on screen, he is electric. By this point, audiences didn’t need any reminder Johnson is perhaps one of the greatest action stars of our time, but if they did, this was the ticket. The James Wan-directed film showed there might still be plenty left to explore with this series. The film is also the most financially successful of the franchise and Johnson’s career with $1.5B at the global box office.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017)
dir: Jake Kasdan
On paper, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle“ looked like a franchise revival no one asked for. It was easy to assume this was just Sony reaching for a familiar property to make a quick dollar. In reality, however, this was a genuinely fun movie-going experience for many. Once audiences shook off the nostalgia for the Robin Williams iteration, the movie was able to please its way to nearly $1B at the global box office. Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Kevin Hart combined to offer a level of entertainment rarely afforded to reboots.
dir: Ron Clements and John Musker
“Moana“ is a special entry in the Disney canon. The film represented a tremendous step forward for representation in animation with its Polynesian roots and Maui backdrop. With the help of music from Lin Manuel Miranda and Johnson voicing a larger than life character, “Moana” is a thriving and joyous feat of storytelling. The dazzling animation and unconventional plot only serve to enhance the magic.