Written By Nick Doll and David Kozlowski
With Daddy’s Home 2 now in theaters, ’tis the season of Will Ferrell. In celebration of Ferrell’s latest comedy, today we will be ranking both Ferrell’s Top 5 Best Movies as well as his Top 5 Best Characters from film.
Ferrell got his start on Saturday Night Live, playing a number of memorable characters from his take on Robert Goulet, to a killer impression of Harry Caray, regular appearance hosting SNL’s parody of Celebrity Jeopardy as Alex Trebek, a cheerleader named Craig alongside Cheri Oteris’ Arianna, a club dancer alongside Chris Kattan, one of a pair of hot tub lovers, and of course, a pivotal parody of George W. Bush.
Leaving the show in 2002, Ferrell has gone on to become the most famous SNL graduate of the 21st century, starring in countless films, all the while creating a number of new characters that are just as memorable as the ones from SNL, only now with the ability to carry the weight of a feature film (mostly… mostly…). While peers such as Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, and Amy Poehler have gone on to appear in several movies, have had their own TV shows, and produced many others, none have the sheer star power of Will Ferrell, who is quite good at getting butts into seats with his unique brand of silly, goofy, and often stupid comedy, with a focus on the man-child.
Ferrell has also had moderate success in a few more dramatic films, but this type of stupid, yet remarkably brilliant comedy has defined his career. He can play aggressive or sweet. Confident or cowardly. Loud or… well, loud. So, let’s take a look at the best of Will Ferrell!
Will Ferrell’s Top 5 Movies
Written by David Kozlowski
5. Step Brothers (2008)
For everyone who’s had a sibling that was a complete and total bastard, Step Brothers was made specifically for you. This film is essentially a horrifying character-study of two grown men who act like complete assholes to one another, often taken to such extremes that it’s hard to watch (there’s a sequence that involves a drum set and a specific set of body-parts… like I said, hard to watch). And yet, despite the unending stream of profanity and dirty tricks, these two become friends… and that’s when the sh*t really hits the fan.
Ferrell and his co-star, John C. Reilly, channel their worst infantile tendencies through most of the film (let’s assume this isn’t who they truly are, deep down). At times the comedy goes beyond absurd into full-on surreal, which strains credulity when everything else in this movie wants to convey some kind of recognizable reality. Step Brothers comes across as mean-spirited and bitter more often than not, but damned if it isn’t incredibly funny too. If you’re a Ferrell fan, you need to see this movie… but maybe just the one time (and then turn on Elf, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself).
4. The LEGO Movie (2014)
Most Will Ferrell movies have one thing in common: a lot of heart, but not much soul. The LEGO Movie isn’t really even Ferrell’s film, but his presence and influence permeates every single moment of the comedy. This is a movie about childhood creativity and imagination, but it’s also about growing up and accepting responsibility. Sounds like a “message” film, right? Hardly. The LEGO Movie is wall-to-wall insanity, which includes the definitive Hollywood Batman, and a cast of ridiculous characters engaged in a string of non-stop gags. The LEGO Movie is incredibly funny, until it gets deadly serious.
Obviously, The LEGO Movie is an animated film, but it’s also book-ended with live-action sequences, which remind the audience that this is a story playing-out inside one little boy’s basement as much as within his imagination. Ferrell plays the evil President/Lord Business, who is also connected to the boy in the real-world (I won’t say how, it would spoil the greatness of this movie for anyone who somehow hasn’t seen it yet). This movie pokes fun a pop-culture with its superhero, sci-fi, and historical characters, but it’s really an allegory about the sad, rigidity of the adult world. Ferrell brings his typical manic qualities to the animated sequences, but in the live-action section he’s very much human. The ending of this film is genius and honest and sincere… It’s one of Ferrell’s most understated roles (as a human… as a LEGO character he’s completely nuts).
3. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
The city of San Diego doesn’t get a lot of run in the movies, but it will forever be known as the home of Ron Burgundy, the scotch-swilling, blowhard-king of local TV legend. Anchorman is both a send-up of the male-dominated, 1970s broadcast news and an opportunity for Ferrell to engage in his trademark buffoonery, which includes a truly inspired “gang fight” between rival San Diego news teams.
Ferrell stars as Burgundy, but his supporting cast, which includes Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, and Steve Carrell nearly steal the show. While the premise is brilliant, the film lags at times and feels like an overstretched SNL skit (it kinda is) — including a bunch of Ferrell’s all-time best, cringe-worthy moments. Anchorman is simple, dumb fun; best enjoyed by powering-down your brain for the duration, which is also a great definition of Ron Burgundy himself, and I’m sure he’d appreciate the non-compliment.
2. Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2006)
If there’s one truism in Will Ferrell’s movie career it’s that all of his characters are dopey idiots with a heart of fool’s gold. Ferrell plays Ricky Bobby, a NASCAR racing legend, who lives the life of a driver 24-7, right down to the KFC and 2-liter Cokes on the dinner table. Bobby is an unapologetic redneck, loudmouth, but he’s also a loving father and husband.
It’s the kind of complete role immersion that has defined Ferrell’s career. The movie is equal parts parody and homage — his portrayal of Bobby is at times so authentically absurd that it’s impossible to listen to with actual driver interview and keep a straight face. It’s impossible to say whether or not Talladega Nights helped or harmed NASCAR as a sport, but it certainly embraced its more surreal nature.
1. Elf (2003)
Hollywood has a great tradition of holiday films (Miracle on 34th St., It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story). It’s one of the great silly, sappy movie genres, which many folks look forward to around this time each year. However, while many of these films tend to focus on everyday folks enjoying (or enduring) time spent with family, there’s the alternative holiday films that explore the odder side of Christmas, including Will Ferrell’s strangest, yet most compelling role yet.
Jon Favreau’s Elf turned the camera around to explore workplace conditions at the North Pole. Santa’s workshop is a strange, factory environment that combines toy-making magic with daily quotas, and it’s also the home to a misfit human who is raised by Santa’s elves. For Will Ferrell, this was an opportunity to lean into his childish nature and extract one of the sweetest and most earnest roles in his career. Elf was an instant classic upon it’s release, and it’s mandatory viewing in my family each year.
Will Ferrell’s Top 5 Characters
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