Will Ferrell’s Top 5 Characters
Written by Nick Doll
There may be a little bit of overlap, as one of Ferrell’s best characters is absolutely allowed to come from one of his best movies. That being said, some of his best characters could come from a bad movie, as here I will be looking solely at the character and not judging any films as a whole. Besides, part of the fun in examining his best characters is including smaller roles and cameos among the starring, career defining characters that we know and love Will Ferrell from.
5. Chazz Reinhold, Wedding Crashers (2005)
A small role, but perhaps one of Will Ferrell’s most quotable ones. In Wedding Crashers, John (Owen Wilson) checks in with the man who inspired him and his best friend Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) to try the art of crashing weddings to bed attractive women. What John finds is a man in his pajamas, wielding nun-chucks, now crashing funerals and living in his mother’s house. In fact, John shows up just as Chazz is dismissing an attractive woman, way outside Ferrell’s league, telling John, “Yeah, her boyfriend just died. Dude died in a hang-gliding accident! What an idiot!”
It’s one of Ferrell’s most hilarious roles, ranking lower on the list because of it’s brevity, which in the case of this role is also a blessing. I don’t think we’d want to spend an entire movie with Chazz, but a few minutes is welcome, in an otherwise overrated movie. There’s nothing quite like watching Chazz yell at his mom for meatloaf for his guest, all the while informing John, “What is she doing back there? I never know what she’s doing!”
These quotes may not read as hilarious, but that is part of the magic of Will Ferrell; his inflection and ability to shout in a comedic manner can bring great humor to otherwise pedestrian dialogue.
4. Mustafa, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) & Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Another small role in what certainly would not qualify as an actual Will Ferrell movie.
Did you forget Will Ferell was in the Austin Powers franchise? I almost did! That’s not to say the role is forgettable, but it is the one on this list that goes back the farthest, as Ferrell appeared in second Austin Powers film, The Spy Who Shagged me in 1999, while he was still on SNL.
In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, poor Mustafa is dropped into a pit of death when Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) isn’t happy with his results, with the flip of a supervillain’s switch that plunges Mustafa’s chair into a fiery pit. Surviving the fall, and the flames, Mustafa cries out for help in only a way Ferrell can. All the comedy comes from Ferrell’s voice, no visual humor here as we watch Dr. Evil and his team listen to the drama below, as Mustafa is overjoyed when someone opens the door to “rescue him.” Things quickly turn as Mustafa realizes his would be rescuer is there to finish the job:
“You shot me!… You shot me right in the arm!”
Mustafa’s tragedy does not end there, as when Austin Powers (also Mike Myers) travels back in time in The Spy Who Shagged Me, he again encounters Dr. Evil’s henchman, who give you even the most sensitive information if you ask him any question three times, that is, if you don’t start a new line of questioning. Mustafa takes a tumble off a cliff, again allowing Ferrell’s voice to provide all the comedy, declaring he has broken legs. Of course he checks each one — yup, they’re both broken — to more delightful shouts: one of Ferrell’s strengths.
3. Jacobim Mugatu, Zoolander (2001) & Zoolander 2 (2016)
This is Ferrell’s most delightfully weird character on the list, even more of an oddball than Ron Burgundy, with his ridiculous haircut and plan to hypnotize Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) so he will assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister.
Though he too is a pawn, this time instead of playing a supervillain’s henchman, Ferrell gets to play the supervillain, who also seems to be obsessed with Zoolander’s biggest rival, Hansel (Owen Wilson), who is “so hot right now.” Ferrell may also be playing his smartest character, in a world just as stupid and ridiculous as that from Anchorman or Austin Powers. After all, though he arranges a fashion show called “derelicte,” with clothes inspired by the homeless, he is the only one to realize Zoolander always delivers the same look and is able to differentiate a model from an actual building. Though Mugatu isn’t as stupid as the average Will Ferrell character (I still wouldn’t call him smart), his sheer ridiculousness and willingness to take it over-the-top still makes Mugatu a character deserving of this list.
Ferrell is also Zoolander 2’s only redeeming aspect. Though it takes the film long enough to get to him, nearly every scene with Mugatu is a delight, with Ferrell and director Ben Stiller taking the character into even wackier territory than before, with more outlandish costumes, a very silly escape from fashion prison, and the film’s funniest scene where he again dresses like a child from our nightmares in order to fatten up Derek’s child, Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold).
2. Ron Burgundy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burdgundy (2004) & Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2014)
I mean, what can be said about Ferrell’s signature character, Ron Burgundy, that hasn’t been said already? He may not be my favorite Will Ferrell character, but he is certainly the most defining one, basically cementing Will Ferrell’s stardom.
I would rank him as the least intelligent character on this list, an impressive feat, leading to most the character’s humor. It is a combination of Burgundy being successful, yet an idiot, arrogant, and absolutely sexist that makes Burgundy the most memorable and career defining character in Ferrell’s repertoire. Burgundy gets to have the best shouting matches, engages in the most physical in scenes such as the news team rumble, and reminds his dog that he can’t speak Spanish, all the while delivering the news with a certain level of professionalism… or not.
His collaboration creating the character with Adam McKay opened the door for more classic Will Ferrell characters (that didn’t make my list), including Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights, Brennan Huff from Step Brothers, and Allen Gamble from The Other Guys, along with many other characters that share Rob Burgundy’s traits, but come from working with other directors.
And though Achorman 2: The Legend Continues was a dud, even the commercials Ferrell did for the film and other brands in character as Ron Burgundy are pretty hilarious.
I still quote Ron Burgundy thirteen years later, and I’m sure I’ll let one last quote slip when I’m on my death bed.
1. Frank “The Tank” Ricard, Old School (2003)
The world of Old School is the one most set in reality on this list. Sure, the film is full of ridiculous characters and situations, but in this world a fall off a cliff would kill you (assuming you don’t have a cinder block attached to your you-know-what), the fashion industry is not part of a giant conspiracy (as far as we know), and falling into a bear exhibit at the zoo would not end in anyone being saved by a dog that can talk to bears.
Still, Ferrell still gets to be the silliest and most stupid character in Old School with the biggest laughs, playing Frank “The Tank” Ricard, legendary from his drinking days, but trying to lay off alcohol at the request of his new wife. Of course, this promise quickly falls to the wayside after the first party he attends at his friend Mitch’s (Luke Wilson) new house just outside campus. He tries to object the offer of hitting a beer bong at first, explaining he has, “a pretty nice little Saturday” planned for the next day, where he and his wife will be going to Home Depot and “maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond” if they’ll have enough time. But, “once it hits your lips, it’s so good,” and he again earns the title Frank the Tank, destroying his marriage in the process.
Ferrell gets to go streaking, tackle pledges, threaten a pledge’s wife, referee a KY Jelly wrestling match, honor his boy Blue at Blue’s funeral by singing “Dust in the Wind,” tranquilize himself and ruin a child’s birthday party, and win a debate against James Carville in the film’s finale. Oh, and he botches a jump though a ring of fire in a mascot’s costume. All scenarios showcase Will Ferrell at his best and most hilarious, making Frank his best role to date!
What are your favorite Will Ferrell films and/or characters? I know we missed a lot; it’s hard to narrow Ferrell’s career to five characters and five movies, but what do you feel like we missed? Or, what do you think doesn’t belong on the list? Let’s have a discussion in the comment section below!
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Will Ferrell’s Top 5 Movies
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