If a millennial who wasn’t around in the ‘90s saw that viral video where Jim Carey points out how ridiculous media personalities and red carpet events and the fashion industry are, they might think he was a nutjob. And they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But they’d probably be surprised to hear that this was once the most popular movie star in the world. It’s true. He used to draw in massive box office numbers, because people wanted to see his insanely energetic performances and hear his unique delivery style. The guy was a huge star. These are his 10 greatest movies.
10. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Jim Carrey has a very specific reason for rarely doing sequel and that is that he doesn’t like to play the same character for too long. See, unlike a lot of comedy actors these days like Seth Rogen and Kevin Hart, Jim Carrey doesn’t just play the same character in every movie. He’s more like Mike Myers and Sacha Baron Cohen in that his characters are all very distinctive from one another. If you look at Lloyd Christmas, Ace Ventura, Truman Burbank – they’re all very distinctive and different characters from one another. That’s what made this project the perfect fit for him. Count Olaf is a bad actor who constantly adopts different personas and personalities, so it gave Carrey a whole new performing angle. He got to play a bunch of different characters in the same movie, and yet they are all being played by the character that he was actually playing, who was supposed to be a bad actor. So, Carrey was a good actor playing a bad actor playing a series of different roles. It was a challenge that he nobly accepted and tackled with style. Meryl Streep’s role in the movie is fantastic, too, but no one can steal this from Carrey. He’s the real star here.
9. Kick-Ass 2
This is actually not a great movie. Jeff Wadlow took what Matthew Vaughn had done three years earlier and gave it a sucky sequel. None of the sharp wit and clever, subversive storytelling of the original was there. Instead, the script tried way, way too hard to shock its audience, including a scene where a guy tries to rape a woman and then can’t get it up, which really comes off as desperate and lazy. Instead of writing jokes, Wadlow wrote rape scenes. It’s an interesting approach to comedy. So, all in all, it’s joe a good movie. However, on the plus side, Jim Carrey’s role in it as vigilante team leader Colonel Stars and Stripes is brilliant and, as usual, he nails every single line and steals every scene he’s in, although he has denounced the movie for its use of violence for humor. He made the whole movie and seemed to enjoy it then, but all of a sudden had a change of heart about it in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre and refused to promote it. Now that it’s five years later and the dust has settled, we can just appreciate Carrey’s performance as the baseball bat wielding badass.
8. The Truman Show
“Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!” This science fiction dramedy, which tells the story of a regular guy who starts to suspect that his entire life is a TV show, has an incredible premise. But an incredible premise is only worth anything if the script does it justice. Luckily, writer Andrew Niccol, in fine form here, does not squander his fantastic, juicy, rich, Rod Serling inspired premise. And Jim Carrey doesn’t squander the opportunity to blend his crazy comedic style with some more serious and existential acting. He’s so convincing that the movie has spawned its own psychological disorder. This searing social satire has been studied for its themes and allegories and parallels involving reality TV, which of course only makes it more and more relevant as each year passes, as well as virtual reality, existentialism, religion, and philosophy. It’s a very deep movie, and fortunately, with Carrey in the lead role, there is also a lot of room for comedy and laughs in there. Not a lot of these kinds of freaky deaky, paranoia inducing, Philip K. Dick style movies manage to also be funny, but this one does.
7. Yes Man
When Jim Carrey takes a role in a wacky, zany, ludicrous comedy movie with a high concept premise, there is usually a strong underlying lesson that we can learn from it. Whether that message is that you shouldn’t lie to your kids (or at all, really) or that you shouldn’t take God for granted, there is often a point being made under all the absurdity. This later career effort from the actor, based on the memoir of the same name by Danny Wallace, is no different. In this movie, he goes to a self help course where he learns to agree to every single opportunity that comes his way, no matter how ridiculous or time consuming it may sound. So, he ends up getting a mail order bride and learning how to fly a plane and jumping off a bridge and jetting off to some town in Nebraska with a girl he hardly knows. That’s a pretty good lesson to learn. Don’t go and buy a wife and bungee over a river, but at least get out of the house and try new things. That’s the message. And that’s just the concept. There’s also a wonderful love story at the center of all of that.
6. The Mask
In 1994, Jim Carrey starred in three hugely popular and successful movies that turned him from a little known TV supporting player to the biggest movie star in the world, at least in the comedy genre. This was one of those movies. It cost only $23 million to produce and then went on to gross over $350 million at the worldwide box office. Suffice it to say, everyone in Hollywood wanted to be in the Jim Carrey business. It’s technically a comic book movie, but unsurprisingly, it’s more of a Jim Carrey comedy that anything you might find in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe. Just like he does with all of his projects, Carrey commands attention and makes both the character and the project his own. The attitudes towards Jim Carrey are encapsulated in the fact that he was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Razzie Award – you either love the guy or hate him, but there’s much more of the former than the latter. Carrey wasn’t the only star that was born from this movie – it also established Cameron Diaz as one of the foremost leading ladies on the A list. It’s a very important movie in Hollywood history – it gave us two of the biggest stars of all time!
5. The Cable Guy
This is possibly the darkest movie that Jim Carrey has ever made. It was directed brilliantly by Ben Stiller and tells the story of a brooding and disturbed cable guy who installs extra cable channels for a newly single man played by Matthew Broderick and subsequently becomes dangerously obsessed with him. Cue medieval battles and prostitutes and karaoke and breaking and entering and kidnapping and all kinds of crazy stuff. The movie was not as big of a box office hit as it deserved to be, but it has come to be duly considered as a cult classic. The strong chemistry between Broderick and Carrey – with the former being the straight man to the latter’s outrageous antics – makes them one of the most darkly hilarious screen duos of all time, anchoring the movie in a very real place. Carrey was so funny in this movie that the other actors couldn’t keep it together. If you watch that scene in the bathroom where he beats up Owen Wilson, you can see Wilson trying hard not to laugh and failing. The same could easily be said for the audience, the whole way through. If you like dark comedy, this is the Jim Carrey movie for you.
4. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
This was Jim Carrey’s first big starring role and one of his all time wackiest characters. We can see his background in sketch comedy come through as each absurd setup segues into the next. One minute, Ace will be wrestling with a shark, and the next, he will be jokingly confessing to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in a police station. Carrey is known for playing around with his characters and improvising new lines and situations when he’s on the set, but he rarely actually sits down to contribute to the screenplay at the scripting stage. However, on this occasion, he was there from the very beginning, making sure that the plot and the scenes and the progression would all do this absurd and beautiful comic creation justice in his big screen debut. The movie was a hysterical hit that made Jim Carrey a star. This is yet another brilliant, beloved, classic comedy that went on to have a sequel that was far less brilliant, far less beloved, and nowhere near classic. Luckily, Carrey learned the lesson from that sequel that he should not do many sequels in his career. Apart from a couple of minor missteps, he has made good on that promise.
3. Liar Liar
Jim Carrey is the master of making high concept comedies work. There will be a premise that’s ridiculous and pretty much impossible to pull off – like a lawyer whose son’s birthday wish prevents him from telling a lie for one whole day – and Carrey’s performance will be just as ridiculous and over the top, and the two converge into a great movie. You see Carrey’s character Fletcher go genuinely insane as he realizes that he can’t lie, and he yells, “I CAN’T LIE!” and beats himself up in a men’s room with such conviction that he sells the whole thing. The actor plays every truth riddled monologue so perfectly, like when he gets pulled over by the cops and rattles off the list of traffic offenses he committed: “Here goes: I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at the intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and speeding!” All of this would be pointless if Fletcher didn’t learn a lesson from it, but he does! He learns to spend time with his son and tell the truth – it’s a lesson that we could all stand to learn.
2. Bruce Almighty
By the time that Jim Carrey took the lead role in this religiously themed comedy that went on to gross an unprecedented amount of nearly $500 million at the worldwide box office, it was pretty clear that audiences across the globe were in love with him. All you had to do to have a hit on your hands was give him the powers of God and watch the hilarity unfold. That’s why Tom Shadyac decided to do just that and gave us this gem. Morgan Freeman is perfectly cast as the Lord and Jennifer Aniston gives a compelling and surprisingly emotional performance as the female lead, but there’s no mistaking this as anything but a Jim Carrey movie. The movie starts off as a series of a hilarious sight gags like literally throwing a lasso around the Moon and pulling it closer (a James Stewart reference) and Carey’s seven fingered hand and the Yahweh prayer email service, but the movie only becomes truly interesting when it begins to play around with the consequences of Bruce’s actions. It’s a cautionary tale. It mainly cautions God and people with God’s abilities, but a lot of the messages apply across the board. It’s a great movie.
1. Dumb and Dumber
This hilarious road trip comedy doesn’t just take the title of funniest Jim Carrey movie – it might just be the funniest movie ever made. This is the Farrelly brothers at their finest and it’s sold by the strong chemistry shared by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. It works as a series of hysterical gags – a combination of slapstick sight gags and witty dialogue (just little touches like “a John Deere letter” that add a laugh out loud moment to what would’ve otherwise been a relatively laugh free monologue) – operating within a genuinely engaging and compelling narrative. It’s basically a Coen brothers crime story that’s been disrupted by the two dumbest people on Earth. It’s just fantastic. It’s a prime example of how using grossout humor and slapstick gags doesn’t no necessarily mean that your movie can’t be smartly written. So many comics and writers and filmmakers have tried to replicate the style of comedy on display here and it’s never been able to work as well. This movie stands as an important document in the history of comedy. It’s just a shame that the belated 2014 sequel didn’t come anywhere near living up to the legacy of its now classic predecessor.