Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson started his career as a professional wrestler with the WWE in a beloved 1996 to 2004 run that was studded with numerous great moments and catch phrases. However as early as 2003, Dwayne Johnson turned his focus to becoming a feature film leading man. Today in 2023, he is one of the top grossing actors of all time and a household name. In his ever-growing catalogue of films, what are the top five best Dwayne Johnson movies? We’ve turned to our sources to find out.
The Rock is often seen playing buff, intense characters racing through action-packed storylines. Many people don’t think this is such a hard role to play. A recent study reveals that almost six in 10 Americans think they have what it takes to be an action movie star. Fifty-seven percent of respondents would relish the opportunity to channel their inner Chris Hemsworth or Michelle Yeoh – with the right training and resources, of course. One in three (35%) cite action movies as a huge influence on their fitness goals, while another 57 percent say watching the right action flick leaves them feeling more motivated. However, maybe it’s the stunts that appeal to us, not the physical challenge, as fewer respondents (47%) think they could hold their own on competitive shows like “Wipeout!” or the classic series “Double Dare.”
Whether or not you want to lead the next big film, are movie critics the end all be all when it comes to a movies success? A new study suggests that even when critics pan a film, it can still be a major hit with fans. Critics’ reviews are often relied upon by moviegoers when it comes to deciding whether or not to take a trip down to the box office or watching movies on demand. As it turns out, those all-important reviews aren’t so important after all — a first-of-its-kind study finds that movie tastes are largely idiosyncratic, and quite often differ from the opinions of the “experts.”
The box office has been kind to Dwayne Johnson even when critics weren’t, as fans continue to line up for films starring The Rock. Let us know what you think are the best Dwayne Johnson movies in the comments below!
The List: Best Dwayne Johnson Movies, According to Film Experts
For an action star to be most well-known for his role in an animated feature is not without a certain amount of irony. Complex explains of his role in the major hit animated film “Moana”: “Dwayne Johnson is a shrewd businessman, constantly thinking about how to further his own personal brand. It’s not entirely unsurprising then that his savviest move—partnering with Disney and Lin Manuel-Miranda—resulted in a smashing success. Moana proved Johnson could carry a movie without leveraging his physical persona, instead deciding to lean into his natural charisma and talents as a performer while also actively subverting much of the persona he’s cultivated for himself over time. It’s a larger-than-life role, one that feels like the culmination of his entire professional career.”
Beloved by a generation of new fans, “Moana is just a great story overall. It’s about a young woman who feels drawn to the ocean and goes on an adventure after a selfish demigod named Maui steals the heart of Te Fiti. That demigod just so happens to be voiced by Dwayne Johnson himself. Personally, Moana holds a special place in my heart since my daughter and I have watched it so many times together. We’ve actually seen a lot of movies together, but Moana is the one that I never tire of, and it’s all because of the Rock, who actually has a great singing voice. As an animated Disney musical, Moana may not be your typical Dwayne Johnson movie, but The Rock is all over this movie. From the Polynesian backstory, to the fun vibe, to Dwayne Johnson’s personality, which shines through—Maui even gives the People’s eyebrow in his big musical number, ‘You’re Welcome’—Moana would be the quintessential Dwayne Johnson movie if not for the number one pick,” explains Cinema Blend.
The Wrap also adds, “Johnson plays a clever subversion of his typical on-screen persona in this fantastic Disney animated film as Maui, a hero whose reckless adventuring, and whose lifetime of coasting on charm, has actually doomed the world. It’s up to a young woman named Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) to find him, convince him to grow up, and ultimately save the day for him, typifying a new generation with a new kind of heroism. It’s gorgeously animated, incredibly funny, the songs are fantastic, and Johnson gives a wonderful performance as a dashing demigod.”
An early entry in The Rock’s film career as a leading actor, The Rundown was a commercial success. IGN writes, “The Rundown is one of Johnson’s earliest efforts after The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King jump-started his Hollywood career. And even more than a decade later, it remains the definitive action/comedy romp by which all his subsequent movies are judged. On paper, there’s nothing terribly unique about The Rundown, as it could just as easily have been the basis of a Schwarzenegger or Stallone vehicle 10 years prior. The movie casts Johnson as a fixer named Beck who is dispatched to Brazil to rein in his employer’s son (Seann William Scott). The Rundown’s appeal is all in its execution. Johnson himself shows a knack for playing a more intelligent, nuanced hero even as he blazes through the jungle and jumps from one set-piece to the next. The movie also thrives on the hilarious dynamic between Johnson and Scott, as well as Christopher Walken’s typically kooky and entertaining villain. Clearly, The Rock’s star power has only grown in the years since The Rundown. But no amount of Fast and Furious sequels can outdo the one movie that cemented him as one of Hollywood’s top action heros.”
— onthisdayfilm (@OnThisDayFilm) September 26, 2021
Screen Rant writes, “The Rundown stars Johnson as Beck, a bounty hunter who’s sent deep into the jungle to rescue his boss’ son, Travis Walker, played by Seann William Scott. It’s a rare example of an action comedy that delivers both action and comedy. Johnson’s hilarious on-screen chemistry with Scott elevates the formulaic plot. “
Complex also claims that, “It’s funny that Red Notice inspired this list because if Peter Berg’s The Rundown were to be made today, it’s the kind of mid-tier action movie that Netflix would distribute. Nevertheless, the 2003 action comedy serves as an inciting look at where Johnson’s career would eventually go. As a bounty hunter sent to Brazil to retrieve Seann William Scott, Johnson makes for a fantastic lead, effortlessly channeling the spirit of mismatched buddy comedies like Midnight Run. Sure, the movie doesn’t break any new ground, but not every action movie needs to break the wheel to be a good time.”
Johnson has starred in several R-rated action movies, but his best efforts seem to be in family films. Insider writes, “The role is everything Johnson wants to get across when in a movie. He play off his tough rep, shows he can do comedy, and is vulnerable. He captures it all here and gives a multi-layered performance that by the end you hate to see fade away once the kids leave the Jumanji game.”
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” seems to have made its mark with fans. According to Collider, “Let’s take a quick break from The Fast and the Furious to take a trip into the jungle, baby. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a film that was ridiculed as an unnecessary cash-grab and an unasked for adaptation when it was first announced. What came of it, however, was a pleasantly surprising action movie that paid homage to the late Robin Williams while also modernizing the Jumanji mythology and using contemporary video game culture to make some heartfelt social commentary. All of that resonated with audiences as the Sony picture has grossed nearly $921 million worldwide in only about two months of release. You might expect Johnson to shoulder the story of Jumanji, especially when you learn that his character is named Dr. Smolder Bravestone, but I’m happy to report that Johnson is but one excellent performance in an ensemble of perfectly cast actors.”
Movie Web adds, “Dwayne Johnson is at his very best when he gets to combine his impressive physicality with his charming wit and humor. For comedy-adventure film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the superstar did just that with his memorable and entertaining portrayal of ironic avatar Dr. Xander ‘Smolder’ Bravestone. This new edition of the Jumanji franchise (once made popular by the late, great Robin Williams) follows a group of teenagers who find themselves trapped in the infamous game and replicated as a group of adult avatars who must complete quests in order to get home. Co-starring Hollywood heavy hitters Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan, the film was released to rave reviews and grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide.”
Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart have had many successful action-comedy pairings, and “Central Intelligence” was one of their first such outings together. According to Collider, “With Johnson being at least a foot taller than Hart, the physical comedy is obvious, hilarious, and ripe for storytelling. All of this makes Central Intelligence an easy sell before we even get to the plot. It’s also a pairing that will bear fruit in their future as Johnson and Hart reunite for one of their best movies ever; more on that in a bit. And the fact that both Johnson and Hart are willing to poke fun at themselves in order to get the most laughs and best performances possible means that you’ve got two heavy-hitting comedic actors at the top of their game giving it their all.”
Complex claims, “Of the many joys in Central Intelligence, many come from the execution of its otherwise simple premise. Kevin Hart and Johnson leverage their megawatt star power and turn in another fun play on the buddy comedy, albeit one that’s not afraid to wear its (Kevin) heart on its sleeve. Infused with action and laughs aplenty, the duo manages to channel the spirit of beloved cinematic comedic twosomes while having something more intelligent to say about old age and how we look back on our perceived glory days. Oh, and did I mention it’s just a blast to watch?”
Cinema Blend also writes, “‘Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson.’ That was the tagline to 2016’s Central Intelligence. And, well, that’s just what we got. Bringing the unlikely duo of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson together for the first time was this buddy comedy that might not have made everybody laugh, but it certainly made enough people laugh that it scored bank at the box office. Starting off as an overweight loser who becomes a CIA agent later in life, Central Intelligence is further proof that Dwayne Johnson doesn’t take himself too seriously. In fact, Kevin Hart plays the straight man in this movie, and Dwayne Johnson actually plays the goof. It’s not the most original movie in the world, but it’s fun enough that it can be watched over and over again. Plus, you can tell that the Rock is really having a good time in this one, and when Dwayne Johnson has a good time, it’s infectious.”
Some of our sources listed the entire “Fast & Furious” franchise as a single entry on their lists, but when we took a closer look, it was “Fast Five” that was most frequently cited as the best of the lot. EW writes, “It took a very fast five seconds for me to decide what No. 1 would be. Confession: I’ve seen Fast Five approximately 100 times. And that’s for good reason, considering it’s the greatest action movie of all time (yeah, I said it). The fifth Fast & Furious film was a game-changer for the franchise, shifting away from street racing, uniting the previous casts, and bringing in new blood with Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, who gets an epic introduction. And the last third is must-watch with a Johnson and Diesel showdown, a safe destroying the streets of Rio de Janiero, and the ‘Danza Kuduro’ tuned closing montage.”
Considered a fan favorite character, Luke Hobbs is a major character success for Johnson. Game Rant explains, “Dwayne Johnson’s Hollywood career can be divided into two: pre and post-Fast Five. Released in 2011, Fast Five introduced Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, an agent looking to put Dominic Toretto behind bars. In the franchise’s universe, Hobbs proves to be a great foil for Dom, a person who can match the protagonist in terms of dedication and power; on-screen, Johnson very much feels like Vin Diesel’s equal. For FastFive, the franchise ditches any pretense of realism and just becomes a full-blown cartoon; in fact, there is even Wonder Woman in it.”
As stated above, some sources consider Fast Five to be the launch of Johnson’s recognition as a true leading actor. “A shifting focus for the fifth installment of The Fast and Furious franchise helped reinvigorate the franchise and propelled—like a shot of nitrous oxide—the series to bold new heights. The other critical component was the addition of Johnson’s Agent Hobbs; the pitch-perfect casting provided quite a foil for Vin Diesel to act against and managed to snag the actor as his action career began its rampant ascendancy. Fast Five and Johnson are inextricably linked; it’s almost impossible to tell if one would work without the other,” writes Complex.
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