In honour of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s birthday, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the best performance over the years. They haven’t all been hits, but he’s done enough over the years to show he has range, blockbuster status and staying power. Here is my top ten list:
10. Central Intelligence (2016) as Bob Stone
Dwayne Johnson is no stranger to comedy and in 2016 he teamed up with Kevin Hart to bring one of the funniest films in his filmography. Johnson plays a formerly unpopular and overweight goofball who is now a buff, cool, handsome goofball who still happens to be enamoured with the jock from high school, who happens to be half his size. Great chemistry with Hart and a good comedic performance by Johnson.
9. Be Cool (2005) as Elliot Wilhelm
Dwayne Johnson was still more commonly known as The Rock and came off the back of a few tough guy roles before he starred as well dressed and sometimes flamboyantly homosexual wannabe actor (although still the muscle) alongside Vince Vaughn, John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Be Cool. Quite a shift from what he was doing and more known for, but he took a gamble and it paid off. Setting the mark early in his career that he’s not just the strong action star but he has the charisma and likeability to pull off less conventional roles.
8. Walking Tall (2004) as Chris Vaughn
Playing the more stoic straight man alongside the comedic relief that is Johnny Knoxville, Johnson was the classic tortured good guy in a small town who in unable to be corrupted. This is exactly the type of film people wanted from him and although it wasn’t a huge commercial success (it wasn’t a bomb either, to be fair) but it did wonders for his rising star in Hollywood.
7. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) as Spencer / Dr. Bravestone
Johnson partnered up with Kevin Hart again, and the added comedic brilliance in the shape of Jack Black, and yet he held his own. His performance reinforced the claim that he has enough comedic timing, action star quality and overall commercial appeal to lead a big blockbuster movie, and technically a sequel to a beloved classic that some questioned the need for and whether it would work. It definitely did.
6. Ballers (2015 – 2019) as Spencer Strasmore
Johnson didn’t shy away from TV and recognised that in this golden age of television, it can solidify your star power. Starring and executive producing the very successful HBO hit Ballers was a great move for him career wise and allowed him to explore a character that was learning his limitations and coming to grips with his own mortality, while venturing into a cut-throat business side of the sport he is now retired from.
5. The Rundown (2003) as Beck
Ask anyone what Dwayne Johnson’s first big hit was and they’ll rightfully tell you it’s The Rundown. Paired as the muscle alongside another famous comedic actor in Sean William Scott, Johnson proved he could be a leading man, while playing off the chemistry he unmistakably has with just about everyone. Still one of my favourite Dwayne Johnson films.
4. Pain & Gain (2013) as Paul Doyle
Johnson must have known he star was quickly on the rise when Michael Bay came calling. 2013 was a big year for Johnson as he had five movies released, but it’s his performance in Pain & Gain as an ex-convict and Christian bodybuilder alongside Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie that really stands out above the rest. The Rock was busy, but we wasn’t just doing everything. He was picking some good roles, too.
3. Moana (2016) as Maui
From around 2007 to 2010, Johnson paid his dues in Hollywood, starring as the lead in kids’ films such as The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, Tooth Fairy, Planet 51 and even an episode of Hannah Montana. But the tide turned when he became a true action star and starred in some blockbuster franchises. However, he always wanted to appear in an animated Disney film and couldn’t resist a chance to be part of a funny, wholesome movie that really displayed his singing ability.
2. Faster (2010) as Driver
Hands down my favourite Dwayne Johnson film and highly recommended if you haven’t seen it yet. He is the most badass character in the entire film and simply won’t die. Revenge is his motivator and he has no mercy. He also says very little in the entire film but commands the attention whenever he is on screen. This film was a major shift from his usual charismatic, fast-talking antics, relying a lot on his facial expressions and body language. What a performance.
1. WWF/WWE (1997 – present) as Rocky Maivia / The Rock
His first real onscreen persona and one that transcended media, most evident by the fact that people still call him The Rock despite him wanting to be known as Dwayne Johnson. Being a half black/half Samoan third generation wrestler was enough to give him a good start but in order to build his career as The People’s Champion, he had to create an in-ring persona that can connect with thousands of attendees and the millions (AND MILLIONS) of viewers at home. Starting as Rocky Maivia and then simply The Rock, Johnson engraved his name in WWE history as he became the hottest superstar and a big reason the “Attitude Era” of the WWE was such a success. His catchphrases, finishing moves, eyebrow raises, trash-talking and presence both in the ring and backstage is a big part of why he got so many opportunities and why he is so successful today.
What is your favourite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson performance? Also, remember that time he had a song with Wyclef Jean?! What a wild time.
The Rock is a massive superstar in every sense of the word. Happy Birthday, People’s Champ.