Few comedic actors are as universally loved as Steve Carell. He took the world by storm over the past two decades making a name for himself in sketch comedy shows such as The Dana Carvey Show and Saturday Night Live in 1996. He has proven himself not only as a bankable comedic actor but also has standout dramatic chops as well. With the release of Irresistable, a political satire written and directed by The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, set to release on VOD on June 26, we wanted to take a look back at Carell’s filmography and rank his best performances.
Frank Ginsberg – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Carell’s first mainstream dramatic role is one I have never seen, so I could not include it on this list. However after everything I’ve read and heard, this would easily place in the top 5.
Evan Baxter – Bruce Almighty (2003)
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his minor support role in this Jim Carrey flick, as this standout scene likely launched Carell’s mainstream career.
10. Maxwell Smart – Get Smart (2008)
Here Carell is paired with Anne Hathoway in a remake of the 1960’s TV comedy series of the same name. The pairing provide plenty of laughs in this spy-genre spoof, as Carell’s aloof Maxwell Smart stumbles his way into being a hero/master spy. While this isn’t on the same level as his more memorable performances, the fact that it earned $230 million dollars on an $80 million budget shows audiences enjoyed it well enough.
9. Phil Foster – Date Night (2010)
We see Carell paired with SNL legend Tina Fey, and they prove they can be just as hilarious together as they are individually. They play a married couple out on a date night trying to spice up their mundane married-with-children life; hijinx ensue and we get a hilarious crime comedy as they get a little more than they bargained for. Here Carell shines as he becomes a fish-out-of-water trying to protect his wife in the criminal underground.
8. Trent Ramsey – The Way Way Back (2013)
The jerk boyfriend of the lead character’s mother, Trent is one of Carell’s most unlikeable characters. Considering Carell is typically the most charismatic and likeable character in his films, Trent as a verbally abusive antagonistic jerk reflects how versatile Carell can be when he isn’t being typecast as the funny guy.
7. Felonious Gru – Despicable Me 1-3 (2010, 2013, 2017)
Gru isn’t Carell’s only voice acting role, but it is certainly his best. Here he plays the aspiring villain mastermind, who, despite his best efforts, has a big heart. The film series is equally enjoyable for both children and adults and mostly is a result of Carell’s Russian-accented reluctant hero. His turn as Gru proves he can pull of voice acting roles just as well as he can live action.
6. Dan Burns – Dan In real Life (2007)
In one of Carell’s earlier dramatic turns, Dan Burns is a widower struggling to father his three daughters. He has become skeptical of finding love again when bickering at a family retreat leads him to a local bookstore where his faith in love is restored. Though his comedic chops take a backseat, Carell’s natural charisma shines through. Romantic dramaties aren’t his normal vehicle, but we get to see him at his most loveable.
5. Cal Weaver – Crazy Stupid Love (2011)
While romantic comedies aren’t what Carell is most known for, here he is able to show off how endearing and uplifting he can be and transforming into a depressed alcoholic all without sacrificing his hilarious timing. A victim of an extra-marital affair, Cal is transformed from a typical boring dad into a true ladies man after he meets Ryan Gosling’s suave pick-up artist Jacob Palmer. Carell is able to prove he can hold his own as a true romantic lead. I have probably rewatched this film more than any other on this list, and most of that is due to Carell and his chemistry opposite Gosling.
4. Brick Tamland – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Carell shines in the comedic ensemble alongside Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, David Koechner and the late Fred Willard. While not a star yet, this was truly a star making turn for Carell, and a great audition for his most famous role which he landed the following year. Anchorman has solidified itself as one of the funniest and most quoteable films of all the 21st century. Carell with his relatively limited screen time still has people still complaining about “LOUD NOISES” and confessing their love for lamps. And don’t forget that line about bears.
3. John du Pont – Foxcatcher (2014)
In this biographical sports drama, Carell plays a paranoid schizophrenic Olympic wrestling coach who was arrested for murder. He truly transforms himself as he is hardly recognizable both physically and emotionally. This role stands as his best dramatic turn yet, and earned him his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
2. Andy Stitzer – 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Premiering the same year as Little Miss Sunshine and the final entry on our list, Steve Carell had a very busy and very successful 2005. He plays Andy, an unassuming, kindhearted middle aged man who accidentally reveals his longstanding virginity to his coworkers and they make it their mission to help him finally pop his cherry. As raunchy as it is hilarious, Carell is in his element, and as seen in the clip below-mind the language-he turns Kelly Clarkson into a substitute expletive which is as funny and ridiculous as it sounds.
1. Michael Scott – The Office (2005-2013)
Was there ever any question? Though Steve Carell has proved himself a versatile actor with an extensive filmography, he will forever be synonymous with Michael Scott, regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. Carell is the heart and soul of the The Office, and it is made obvious by the shows drastic decline in quality after his departure in season 7. The insensitive, annoying, cringe-inducing, yet infinitely hilarious and loveable Michael Scott is played to perfection by Carell. His chemistry with each and every series regular is unmatched, and a parade of comedic legends (Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Ed Helms, and Catherine Tate) could never replace the Michael Klump sized hole in the ensemble.
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