Before he even set foot on a film set, Dwayne Johnson was creating great characters in the wrestling ring, perhaps none better than his eyebrow-raising, People’s Elbowing “The Rock.” He was so naturally likable that the cocky villain quickly turned into a beloved anti-hero. Everybody smelled what the Rock was cooking.
Johnson carried that never-ending charisma to the big screen, where he’s been able to craft an impressive group of indelible movie characters. Next up for the grappler-turned-superstar is the action film “Red Notice” (streaming now on Netflix), in which Johnson plays an FBI profiler who has to team with an international art thief (Ryan Reynolds) to nab one of Interpol’s most wanted criminals (Gal Gadot).
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There are more onscreen personas to come: Next year, Johnson re-teams with frequent co-star Kevin Hart – playing Krypto the Superdog to Hart’s Ace the Bat-hound – for the animated comedy “DC League of Super-Pets” (May 20) and then makes his live-action superhero debut as the title protagonist of “Black Adam” (July 29).
While we wait for those, let’s see how Johnson’s “Red Notice” character ranks among his best and worst movie roles. (No straight-to-video releases or uncredited cameos are counted. But we saw you there in “Jem and the Holograms,” DJ!)
30. Sarge (‘Doom,’ 2005)
An action-packed video-game adaptation may have seemed like a good idea at the time. We’re giving The Rock a mulligan for this one.
29. Chuck Baker (‘Planet 51,’ 2009)
In hindsight, it’s really weird seeing Johnson voice a white NASA astronaut stuck on an alien planet. They did give the spaceman the actor’s famous cocked eyebrow, so … win?
28. Derek Thompson (‘Tooth Fairy,’ 2010)
Goonish hockey enforcer doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy, gets wings as his punishment and receives a stern talking-to from Julie Andrews.
27. Hank (‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,’ 2012)
The mission: to break some codes and save an old man on a wondrous island. What actually ensues along the way: battles with killer eels, campfire songs and Johnson bouncing berries off his flexing pectorals.
26. Mathayus (‘The Scorpion King,’ 2002)
After the brief intro in “The Mummy 2,” Johnson rocks his first starring role as an Egyptian ruler rising to power. Not the epitome of acting at that point, but he jumps through fire and flings a sword like nobody’s business.
25. Chris Vaughn (‘Walking Tall,’ 2004)
No frills and all butt-kicking await when a Special Forces soldier returns to clean up his small town with some no-nonsense justice. His weapon of choice: a mighty piece of lumber.
24. Mitch Buchannon (‘Baywatch,’ 2017)
The movie’s a big miss, but Johnson’s modern version of the old David Hasselhoff beach cop gets some good lines and banters mightily with Zac Efron while carrying fridges.
23. Jack Bruno (‘Race to Witch Mountain,’ 2009)
The ex-con cabbie’s next fare is one for the ages when he helps two alien teenagers with superpowers get to their spaceship and avoid a secret government crew.
22. Sean Porter (‘Gridiron Gang,’ 2006)
Johnson takes the field as the guru of a football squad comprised of juvenile delinquents in need of a second chance. When his troubled yet talented athletes don’t make the most of it, Coach puts on the pads himself to lay the smack down, in a teaching way.
21. Hercules (‘Hercules,’ 2014)
He picks up a horse with a dude on it and throws them. A horse. With a dude on it. Enough said.
20. Christopher Danson (‘The Other Guys,’ 2010)
Along with Samuel L. Jackson, he’s one of the NYPD’s finest and cockiest – though they get, well, an early retirement.
19. Driver (‘Faster,’ 2010)
Cops and crooks both have a mission to take down this one-man army bent on taking down everyone involved with his brother’s murder. Like the Terminator but with a really cool Chevelle.
18. Ray Gaines (‘San Andreas,’ 2015)
It’s the The Rock vs. a rocking earthquake when the Big One hits California and his helicopter rescue pilot braves certain doom (plus a ton of falling buildings) to save his daughter and estranged wife.
17. John Matthews (‘Snitch,’ 2013)
They say snitches get stitches, but it’s the devoted dad who doles out the hurting to a bunch of bad guys in an effort to get his kid out of trouble with the government and a Mexican drug cartel.
16. Beck (‘The Rundown,’ 2003)
Johnson’s bounty hunter walks into a nightclub and past Arnold Schwarzenegger, who passes the action-movie baton of sorts with two words: “Have fun.” BALLER.
15. John Hartley (‘Red Notice,’ 2021)
From breaking out of a prison to fighting a bull to seeking lost Nazi loot, The Rock goes globetrotting as an FBI profiler (inspired to get into law enforcement due to his crook dad) dealing with international thieves hunting one of Cleopatra’s priceless eggs.
14. Agent 23 (‘Get Smart,’ 2008)
The top secret agent of CONTROL is a role model for clumsy wannabe Steve Carell, though by the end, Agent 23 is the one throwing an explosive situation into total KAOS.
13. Boxer Santaros (‘Southland Tales,’ 2006)
Richard Kelly’s oddball pre-apocalyptic sci-fi satire/fantasy put Johnson in the interesting role of an amnesiac action-movie star with a powerful congressman father-in-law.
12. Elliot Wilhelm (‘Be Cool,’ 2005)
Johnson showed his stuff opposite a bunch of A-listers (John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel) as the “Get Short” sequel’s gay Samoan bodyguard and aspiring actor who gets a kick out of singing country music and checking himself out in tight blue pants.
11. Davis Okoye (‘Rampage,’ 2018)
No one else in Hollywood could pull off staring down a crocodile the size of a football field or tag-teaming with a gigantic gorilla.
10. Will Sawyer (‘Skyscraper,’ 2018)
Johnson channels Bruce Willis’ John McClane (“Die Hard”) to play a dude who scales a high-tech, 240-story mega-building to save his family. On a prosthetic leg, no less!
9. Paul Doyle (‘Pain & Gain,’ 2013)
Every major character is bonkers and/or on drugs, and kudos to Johnson for his wacked-out criminal Christian cokehead bodybuilder.
8. Joe Kingman (‘The Game Plan,’ 2007)
The highlight of Johnson’s family-friendly period, when he played a pro quarterback with a heart of gold and a surprise daughter. No deflation shenanigans here.
7. Dwayne Johnson (‘Fighting With My Family,’ 2019)
He wasn’t known as “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment” for nothing. The Rock channels his old trash-talking persona and adds some sage wisdom for a couple of British youngsters (Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden) wanting advice on how to break into the wrestling business.
6. Frank Wolff (‘Jungle Cruise,’ 2021)
Whether he’s swinging through the forest Tarzan-style, tussling with a tiger or serenading Blunt, Johnson wears the role of a jokey, two-fisted riverboat captain exceedingly well. But the lovably deadpan Frank also has lived quite an interesting life along the Amazon, and Johnson brings the gravitas as well as the oversized charm.
5. Dr. Smolder Bravestone (‘Jumanji’ movies, 2017 and 2019)
Now, this is acting: Johnson played a nerdy, insecure high-school kid playing a ripped, macho video-game guy in “Welcome to the Jungle.” With main characters switching up avatars in “The Next Level,” he now does his best impression of a grouchy old New Jersey man, with mixed results. Neurotic teen Rock is always funnier.
4. Bob Stone (‘Central Intelligence,’ 2016)
He has great one-liners and can take out guys four at a time. But arguably the best thing about him is, for most of the movie, you don’t know if he’s really a nice guy obsessed with guns, cinnamon pancakes, unicorns and saving the world or if there are other shenanigans afoot.
3. Roadblock (‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ 2013)
Makes sense: An action figure playing an action figure. Johnson put the toy/comics/cartoons franchise on his large shoulders playing the machine-gunning Cobra hater.
2. Maui (‘Moana,’ 2016)
An island girl may get the title treatment, but Johnson’s larger-than-life demigod is integral to her coming-of-age journey, rules as the Disney-approved comic relief and also is quite the singer. You’re welcome, indeed.
1. Luke Hobbs (‘Fast & Furious’ series, 2011-present)
The only person who probably looks more like an actual superhero than Vin Diesel, Johnson brought new life to the franchise beginning in “Fast Five” with his heavily armed federal agent. And the spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” unleashed Hobbs and frenemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) on a mission that involved tackling a supervillain and playing tug-of-war with a helicopter. With that kind of swag, the big guy can save our world anytime.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Red Notice’: Dwayne Johnson’s best and worst movie roles, ranked