- John C. Reilly is a versatile actor who excels in both serious dramas and goofy comedies, never being typecast into one genre.
- Reilly’s collaborations with director Adam McKay, such as Step Brothers and Talladega Nights, have become pop culture favorites.
- Reilly’s performances in films like The Sisters Brothers and Magnolia showcase his ability to blend humor with melancholy in unique and interesting ways.
For 34 years, John C. Reilly has been a warm presence in some of the best films ever made. Despite the actor’s distinct voice, Reilly has never been typecast or pigeonholed into a genre, instead having a healthy mix of serious dramas and some of the goofiest comedies ever put on film. Reilly feels just as at home in the nonsensical world of Tim and Eric, as he does in the dark grounded one of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin.
The Academy Award nominee has had a vast career with iconic performances on both TV and Broadway, but some of his best work has come from movies, as he has worked with some of the best living directors, and has continued to make interesting decisions. He also has an incredible singing voice, which the best of his movies use to either dramatic or comedic effect. Many of John C. Reilly’s films are hard to compare because of how different they are, but a few stand out as being the top of the pack.
10 Step Brothers (2008)
As Dale Doback
- Release Date
- July 25, 2008
- Sony , Columbia Pictures
John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell form one of the best comedy duos to emerge from the 21st century, and their work with filmmaker Adam McKay brings out the best in all three artists. Step Brothers was a box-office hit upon release, but its reputation has only grown in the years since its release, as the quotes from the film have made their way into the pop culture vocabulary. A hilarious and absurd comedy about failing to grow up, Step Brothers isn’t the best work from this team, but it is still a hilarious and endlessly rewatchable satire.
Reilly is also credited with the story for Step Brothers, his only film writing credit.
9 The Sisters Brothers (2018)
As Eli Sisters
While Reilly can be effortlessly hilarious, his best work as an actor often comes with its fair share of melancholy, as is the case with Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers. The neo-Western stars Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as a pair of assassin brothers in 1950s Oregon. The film is a brutal and realistic look at the Wild West, but through that realism, it gains a twisted humor. Reilly and Phoenix make a terrific pair, using their ultra-specific personas to craft a new breed of Western. The Sisters Brothers is a slow burn, and not for everyone, but it is one of the more interesting and unique films in Reilly’s filmography.
8 Magnolia (1999)
As Officer Jim Kurring
Going back to the director’s first film, Hard Eight, to a cameo in his most recent, Licorice Pizza, John C. Reilly has had a long relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson. Like Reilly, Anderson can seamlessly blend humor with human pathos, and their work together on Magnolia is some of the best from both artists. The film is a massive ensemble piece, but Reilly serves as the heart of the movie, as a cop desperate for love and just an ounce of respect. For a three-hour drama about death and loneliness, Magnolia is a richly rewarding experience and one that knows exactly how to use Reilly’s charms.
Ranking Every John C. Reilly Character In A Paul Thomas Anderson Movie
John C. Reilly played major roles in Paul Thomas Anderson’s first three movies and recently reunited with the director for Licorice Pizza.
7 Chicago (2002)
As Amos Hart
Despite delivering acclaimed performances for over three decades, Reilly’s only Oscar nomination came in 2003, for his supporting role in the film adaptation of Chicago. As Amos Hart, Reilly delivers a nuanced and heartbreaking performance as a sadsack husband, who may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but has a heart of gold. Reilly has an incredible singing voice, and while he gets to sing in many of his comedies, Chicago is the only film that gives him a showstopping, and gut-wrenching song with “Mister Cellophane”. Not a perfect movie musical, but Rob Marshall’s adaptation has an incredible cast and great renditions of classic songs.
6 The Lobster (2015)
As Lisping Man
- Release Date
- October 16, 2015
- Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthiomos is one of the more interesting voices to emerge in recent filmmaking, and his English-language debut film, The Lobster, is a delightfully strange dark comedy about relationships and social pressures. The film’s strange sense of humor is perfect for Reilly as he plays a pathetic man, whose only defining trait is his lisp. It is a purposefully uncomfortable film, and one that is designed to put off many viewers, but for those who share the sense of humor, The Lobster is a triumphant satire.
The Lobster is now available to stream on Max
5 The Thin Red Line (1998)
As Sgt. Storm
Releasing the same year as Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line is a much more ethereal and meditative look at World War II and the damage it did to the people and the land it touched. The film has a massive cast of A-listers, and in the original script, Reilly’s Sgt. Storm was one of the lead characters. However, like many roles in the film, Reilly’s part was severely cut down, as Terrance Mallic rediscovered the movie during editing. Nonetheless, Reilly is terrific in the scenes that did make it to the screen, and the movie is one of the most mature and thoughtful war films ever made.
7 The Thin Red Line Actors Whose Roles Were Cut
The Thin Red Line features one of the most impressive Hollywood ensembles of the 1990s, but several actors’ performances were reduced or cut entirely.
4 Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2006)
As Cal Naughton Jr.
Blending McKay’s biting satire, Will Ferrell’s manchild persona, and Reilly’s good-natured doofus role, Talladega Nights is the perfect mix of what makes these men funny, crafting one of the best comedies of the 2000s. Talladega Nights is more than just a sports comedy, it is a quintessential spoof of Bush’s America, a perfect time capsule for the culture that produced it, and the best film of McKay’s career. Reilly has never been funnier than he is as Cal Naughton Jr., and his chemistry with Ferrell is even better here than in Step Brothers.
3 A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
The final film of legendary filmmaker Robert Altman, A Prairie Home Companion is a touching comedy about the last performance of an old-fashioned radio show before it is bought and shut down. Reilly, along with Woody Harrelson, plays half of a country singing duo, who frequent the radio show. The pair fight, joke around and cause havoc behind the scenes. Like most of Altman’s work, the magic of A Prairie Home Companion comes from its rich world of characters, and Reilly makes a terrific addition to this fitting final film from a master.
2 Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
As Dewey Cox
Reilly is often put into supporting roles, or ensemble pieces where there are multiple protagonists. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is the rare exception where he was able to lead a studio comedy, and while it was a financial failure upon release, it has held up and is one of the best spoof movies ever. Telling the fake true story of singer Dewey Cox, Walk Hard is a parody of the music biopic, that has somehow become more biting and relevant since it came out. Walk Hard is a perfect star vehicle for the actor and a comedy that is as funny the first time as it is the 30th.
1 Boogie Nights (1997)
As Reed Rothchild
- Release Date
- October 31, 1997
- John C. Reilly , Don Cheadle , Julianne Moore , Heather Graham , Mark Wahlberg , William H. Macy , burt reynolds , Philip Seymour Hoffman
- 155 minutes
- New Line Cinema
Neither John C. Reilly nor Paul Thomas Anderson may ever top the magic that is Boogie Nights, but they shouldn’t be expected to do so. Boogie Nights is an adrenaline rush of comedy, sex, raw emotion, and nostalgia wrapped inside one of the best movie soundtracks ever assembled. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg are a surprisingly fitting duo, as the two play off each other like raunchier and more grounded versions of the Step Brothers‘ characters. The film has been talked to death, but for good reason, as it is one of the most fun movies ever made and John C. Reilly‘s best.