Jack Black is a man of many faces, voices, and genres. He’s been in all sorts of comedies, from raunchy, adult focused ones to kid friendly ones. He’s been in drama, action, and even animation, crushing it every single time. Black is a true delight on screen and this Friday he stars in Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a movie that looks crazy, but one I am excited for because of Black and his co-star, Cate Blanchett. So in honor of that, here are my picks for the best Jack Black movies.
This list is based on Black’s performance and the quality of the movie.
5 – PO in KUNG-FU PANDA (Mark Osborne & John Stevenson, 2008)
This isn’t necessarily for just the first film, but more for the entire trilogy. That’s right, the Kung-Fu Panda series is a true trilogy and it is a good trilogy. Every film is a joy to watch and visually impeccable, with some slick martial arts action. Black voices Po, an overweight Panda who has been chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy, even though nobody believes he is the chosen one. Black brings Po to life, changing his voice up a little bit to give Po a unique personality that is perfect for the story. He’s funny, sweet, and naive when it comes to fulfilling the prophecy, but must learn to believe in himself and those around him to accomplish the goal. The Kung-Fu Panda trilogy is a true delight for all ages.
4 – CARL DENHAM in KING KONG (Peter Jackson, 2005)
With King Kong, Jack Black showed us a side he had yet to venture in: drama. He showed flashes of his dramatic side in previous films, but was always considered a comedic actor. But being cast in Peter Jackson’s excellent remake of the epic classic, Black was able to show that he was more than a comedy actor and that he could do anything. As the tarnished filmmaker obsessed with trying to get his film made, regardless of how many crew members die, Black showed more physicality and dramatic chops than ever before in his career. This is the performance that paved the way for Black as a leading dramatic actor and solidified himself as one of Hollywood’s most diverse actors.
3 – JEFF PORTNOY in TROPIC THUNDER (Ben Stiller, 2008)
Tropic Thunder is one of the great comedies of the 2000’s. This is a delirious and hilarious satire about the insanity of Hollywood and the people who work in it. This is easily the best work of Ben Stiller’s career, and it is led by an outstanding ensemble. Behind the shredded Stiller and Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (still one of my favorite nominations ever), some people might forget about the utter brilliance of Black as Jeff Portnoy, a drug addicted comedy actor who is going through withdrawals after a bat steals the last of his stash. Black has some of the best one-liners in the movie and does some really funny physical work, too. Tropic Thunder is a movie who’s success rides on the ensemble and Black is a key part of this stellar cast.
2 – BARRY JUDD in HIGH FIDELITY (Stephen Frears, 2000)
High Fidelity is an all-timer for me and arguably my favorite movie on this list. Stephen Frears’ comedy about a record store owner (John Cusack, at an all-time best) going through a life crises after a break-up is a movie I can watch over and over again and find something new every time. I would consider this to be Black’s breakout performance. A supporting character actor before, with small roles in Mars Attacks! and Enemy of the State, this was the performance where you noticed Black and remembered him. As one of the record store employees, Barry is a man filled with musical knowledge, obsessed with making lists, and one who hates posers. He can also sing pretty good, too. Black is an absolute scene stealer in Frears masterpiece.
1 – DEWEY FINN in SCHOOL OF ROCK (Richard Linklater, 2003)
With School of Rock, director Richard Linklater fleshed out everything that is great about Jack Black. At this point in Black’s career, Black had been pegged as more of the funny, heavy friend role (see High Fidelity above). But in School of Rock, Black showed a sensitive side that we had never seen. A more dramatic side that showed Black’s Dewey Finn as a desperate, sad loser who finds new life when he pretends to be his roommate and gets a job as a substitute teacher at a prep school, teaching the kids the history of rock ‘n’ roll rather than the history of America. Black is the backbone of this movie, as he perfectly meshes with the children, while also giving us an emotionally rounded character. Black also shows off his musical talent, which is truly spectacular. School of Rock is a charming, funny, sweet, great movie featuring a career best performance from Black.