The American actor and comedian Jim Carrey is one of the most curious Hollywood stars in the contemporary industry, having experienced enormous commercial success and contrasting difficulty under the glare of the harsh limelight. Still, without the influence of Carrey in the 1990s American zeitgeist, the landscape of modern comedy may not have looked quite as vibrant as it does today.
Recognised as the beloved face of funny in the ‘90s comedy scene, Carrey’s style exuded a near-cocksure American bravado, wearing his eccentricity as a badge of honour as he took the decade by storm. Extending his popularity beyond national boundaries, starring in the likes of The Mask, Dumb and Dumber and even as the sadistic Riddler in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, Carrey quickly became a commercial sensation.
A keen performer from the early age of 15, Carrey’s career on stage and screen was consolidated whilst his career was still in its infancy, touring comedy clubs in his teenage years to hone his impression-laden performances. Deciding to move to Hollywood at the age of 21, Carrey became a regular at The Comedy Store on Sunset Strip, California, a slot that would eventually land him in the lead role for the fateful NBC sitcom, The Duck Factory.
Ever since, Carrey has attracted a multitude of fans from across the world, attracting commercial opportunities whilst earning critical acclaim after collaborations with the likes of Ron Howard, Ben Stiller, Miloš Forman, Peter Weir, Ana Lily Amirpour and even Francis Ford Coppola.
Jim Carrey’s 10 best movies:
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Ron Howard, 2000)
Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Dr. Seuss novel How the Grinch Stole Christmas is far from the greatest Christmas movie of all time, or indeed the best of the director’s career, but still, the film is carried by Carrey’s wild central performance. Playing the titular festive humbug, Carrey donned extensive makeup for the role, even having to undergo CIA training to withstand the hours under prosthetics, and made the Grinch role his eccentric own.
Outlandish, hilarious and surreal, Carrey’s performance elevates some rather by-the-book screenwriting and makes How the Grinch Stole Christmas an annual Christmas treat.
9. Dumb and Dumber (Peter Farrelly, 1994)
As Carrey made his rise to industry prominence in the 1990s, it was 1994 in particular that saw the actor’s dominance, releasing three of his most successful movies of all time. For our money, the worst of these great movies was Peter Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber, a popular tale among a selective group of comedy fans that told the story of two foolish friends who set out on a cross-country adventure to return someone’s lost luggage.
Whilst Carrey may be known for his in-your-face comedy, Dumb and Dumber may prove a little too loud for some, even if, for others, it may be their favourite of the actor’s 1994 triple-bill.
8. Bruce Almighty (Tom Shadyac, 2003)
As well as an excellent comedian, Carrey was also a talented dramatic actor, with Tom Shadyac’s 2003 movie Bruce Almighty being the first film on this list to prove this beyond doubt. An inventive concept that was later copied by numerous movie studios, Shadyac’s film tells the story of a whiny news reporter who is given the chance to play God after experiencing personal hardship.
Helping to tie together an impressive ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, Steve Carell and Philip Baker Hall, this Christianity-inspired film is a neat and tidy drama, excellently steered by Shadyac and screenwriters Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe and Steve Oedekerk.
7. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (Tom Shadyac, 1994)
The second film of Carrey’s 1994 trio, Carrey’s role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective may be his most visually iconic, with the quiff and Hawaiian shirt of the title character becoming a fancy dress favourite. In the movie, Carrey plays a goofy pet detective who goes on the search for the missing mascot of the Miami Dolphins, experiencing various hijinks across the way before getting caught up with some unexpected criminal activity.
What makes his performance that little more impressive is that Carrey is working essentially on his own here, working the camera like a live audience, with few star names to back him up, aside from the Friends star Courteney Cox.
6. Liar Liar (Tom Shadyac, 1997)
A little like his later aforementioned success Bruce Almighty (which was also helmed by director Tom Shadyac), 1997s Liar Liar relies on one central high concept. Playing Fletcher Reede, a lawyer and a pathological liar, Carrey’s character discovers that he has to make some drastically different life choices when he inexplicably cannot physically lie for 24 whole hours, making way for a hilarious comedy and genuinely heartwarming drama.
With a supporting cast that includes Justin Cooper, Cary Elwes, Jennifer Tilly and Maura Tierney, Liar Liar is a surprising ensemble success that not enough people discuss among Carrey’s very best.
5. The Cable Guy (Ben Stiller, 1996)
Talk about underrated Jim Carrey flicks. Ben Stiller’s 1996 comedy The Cable Guy may be Carrey’s most unsung movie, with its subversive humour standing the test of time better than more commercially popular movies, Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura. Released toward the end of the ‘90s, Carrey stars as an eccentric, maniacal ‘cable guy’ who strikes an unlikely friendship with an unsuspecting client (played by Matthew Broderick).
Penned by the one-time screenwriter Lou Holtz Jr., The Cable Guy is a truly surreal piece of comedy that makes the most of Carrey as a dramatic actor as well as an eccentric screen icon.
4. The Mask (Chuck Russell, 1994)
The final film of Carrey’s 1994 trio on our list, Chuck Russell’s The Mask might just be the actor’s best-ever comedy. Synthesising Carrey’s acting style with a live-action-animated hybrid was a stroke of genius by all involved, with the actor taking the role of bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss, whose life is turned upside down when he discovers a mystical green mask that transforms him into a swaggering cartoon character.
Creatively inventive and timelessly funny, The Mask shows Carrey at his very best, helping co-star Cameron Diaz to shine in her very first movie role.
3. The Man on the Moon (Miloš Forman, 1999)
Our picks for the top three films of Jim Carrey’s career suggest that the actor best known for his comedy is actually a far better dramatic performer. The first signs that he was a serious actor came in the late 1990s, earning a Golden Globe for his depiction of the real-life comedian Andy Kaufman in Miloš Forman’s 1999 movie The Man on the Moon, a film that follows the life and career of the idiosyncratic American star.
Delivering a unique performance that mimicked Kaufman’s characteristics to a remarkable degree of accuracy, Carrey surprised the industry, even if he was robbed of an Academy Award nomination. The method-acting madness of Carrey can be seen on full show in the fascinating 2017 documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Whilst Carrey’s career was dominated by comedies and light forays into family entertainment, his filmography is also peppered with a number of surprising genre picks. One such pick was the remarkable Michel Gondry romance Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a melancholy drama that chronicles the beginning, middle and end of a heartfelt relationship as well as the mind-altering procedure both lovers go through after their separation, forcing them to forget their entanglement.
Such a beautiful story required two specific, otherworldly actors to take on the material, making the casting of Carrey utterly perfect for this tender piece of independent cinema. Appearing beside an equally brilliant Kate Winslet, Carrey produces a spellbinding performance.
1. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)
It’s only when you go back through Carrey’s filmography that you begin to consider just how celebrated the Hollywood star is, with his most impressive performance being the 1998 masterpiece The Truman Show by director Peter Weir. Born into reality TV from birth, the story follows Carrey as Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman living a fake reality that has been constructed for television entertainment.
The three-time Oscar-nominated movie was robbed of an adapted screenplay win for Andrew Niccol, with the film’s elegant story being the easiest vehicle for Carrey to jump in and steer. As something of a larger-than-life star in and of himself, Carrey was the perfect choice to play Truman, with the actor shining as an authentic reality TV star whilst also eliciting empathy effortlessly.
There is no film that better balances Carrey’s capabilities as a performer, proving to Hollywood critics and audiences alike why he remains such a beloved industry icon.
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Jim Carrey’s 10 best movies
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