With the recent release of a solid Ferrell film in Eurovision, Ferrell filmography became worth reviewing. He has been making good to great films for quite some time with bad ones peppered in for seasoning. His films seem (as easily as anyone’s) to consists of three quality tiers. So here they are with the film’s release date.
Disclaimer: We are not talking all movies Ferrell appeared in, but those that he was a main actor in that has his special brand of improv comedy. They seem to make themselves pretty clear.
Tier 1: Could be your favorite comedy of all time…
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
The Other Guys (2010)
Tier 2: This probably made you laugh, and you may have even watched it more than once…
Kicking and Screaming (2005)
Blades of Glory (2007)
Anchorman 2 (2013)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
Tier 3: You might not have even seen it AKA The Price of Greatness
Land of the Lost (2009)
The Campaign (2012)
Casa de mi Padre (2012)
Get Hard (2015)
Daddy’s Home (2015)
The House (2017)
Daddy’s Home 2 (2017)
Holmes & Watson (2018)
A few things stand out to me.
- Ferrell, as much as I love him, in the movies that are uniquely his, may be the best example of a slow decline in the quality of his films. His first movie, Anchorman, is probably considered his best, and from there it is almost a linear downhill, with a few exceptions. This is especially clear if you look at his films from Tier to Tier rather than a movie to movie basis. There is overlap, nothing is perfect, but each Tier seems to accumulate tranches of years in which he was making film.
- I didn’t include Elf because it didn’t fit the type of comedy that people most closely associate with a Ferrell film, i.e. it is too scripted. However, if you do include it, it would easily slide into Tier 1 and was released in 2003. It would only add to the trends already displayed.
- The Other Guys may not belong in Tier 1, and would be up for debate. However, it seems like all of the other films fit easily into place. Let me know if/how you’d move them around in the comments.
- His good movies have great bones. The plot in movies like The Other Guys and Talladega Nights are solid, and if taken seriously and rewritten, could become an actual drama. Maybe that is true for any comedy, but it feels worth saying because of the degree of absurdity that Ferrell takes them.
- There is such a large floor to ceiling differential in the quality of a Ferrell film. I will admit that I haven’t even seen some of the movies in the Third Tier, but I don’t need to in order to know how bad they are. Compare that to the brilliance of the four in Tier 1 that are all must-see comedies that could potentially be your all-time favorite. And they age so well. The ridiculous quotes that may have only made you smile upon initial viewing, will make you double over as you find ways to quote them with friends and this phenomena only grows over time.
Amongst many directors, actors, and writers who have a large differential in good to bad films they have made, Ferrell’s filmography seems noteworthy because it clearly highlights the pitfalls of brilliance and the chances it needs to flourish. Ferrell is not everyone’s cup of humor, but I think most would recognize he is an important contributor to the field. And even he, of legendary comedy fame, would go out on some very thin branches for the sake of his movies. When anyone does that (comedy or otherwise), some of them hold, and greatness is achieved, but some snap, and we get Holmes & Watson.
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