In arguably making the most successful transition from professional wrestler to major movie star, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has delivered an impressive on-screen career across the last dozen years, since his first foray as leading actor.
A man of immense strength and physical prowess, it would ultimately be the charm and dedication of this multi-talented force that would help him transition from merely ‘The Rock’ to ‘Dwayne Johnson.’ He has set himself apart from other big, brutish men. He is now known across many platforms, having starred in action, comedy, drama and family films, while still returning to the ring with WWE. He has assumed some iconic roles in the action world, recited some witty and absurd pieces of dialogue in his time, and of course, delivered many a fierce punch.
What’s more notable, however, is his diversity. Sure, Johnson won’t ever be confused for an Academy-Award winning actor, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t proven his talent in a variety of ways on screen. He has shown he isn’t simply some piece of meat, though granted, those are a fair number of his roles. Still, he has taken up acting duties in dramas, as well as assuming smaller, supporting parts in other ensemble films. He has worked with A-list talent and directors across the board, staying new and fresh while challenging himself along the way. It was in 2003 that The Rock first got top billed in a film, and he’s come quite a long way since then. With that, let’s take a look back at his top 12 cinematic moments.
12. The Other Guys (2010)
Alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Johnson plays a larger-than-life cop that always catches the bad guy and looks good doing it. Except, in The Other Guys, these two cops aren’t going to be the heroes. In order to allow for the awkward, desk-relegated officers played by Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell to get their time, something needs to be done with Johnson and Jackson. Well, Johnson’s character takes care of that, when atop a skyscraper in pursuit of villains, he brazenly states they can easily jump down. ‘Aim for the bushes,’ he says, as the pair vault from the building, killing them both instantly in hysterical fashion.
11. Doom (2005)
Doom, by just about any calculation, was a pretty awful movie, and Johnson himself even made fun of it after the fact. But the beloved video game still got the best lead it could for its cinematic translation, with the muscled, no-nonsense Johnson as Sarge. The most entertaining part, of course, was one that Johnson boasted about during his press tour: the BFG. This massive weapon from video game lore (which stands for ‘Big F***ing Gun) made its way to the movie, as possibly the only gun that could make The Rock look modest. It just seemed like he was beaming every time he held it, and it’s hard to envision anyone else taking it up.
10. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
Amid his foray into more family oriented fare, Johnson assumed the role of the fatherly hero in Journey 2: the Mysterious Island (coincidentally taking over a role started by Brendan Fraser). Between running from creatures and discovering a strange new world, Johnson offers dating advice to a young Josh Hutcherson. The first two tips are sage and respectful, while the third and final piece of information is ridiculous and amazing. He talks of the ‘peck pop,’ saying the women love this, and proceeds to flex his pecs to a hysterical end. It’s a move he would repeat during the press tour, much to the delight of female fans.
9. Get Smart (2008)
Johnson saw his profile rise with a role in Get Smart, the charming remake of the classic TV show starring big names such as Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway and Alan Arkin. Johnson assumed the role of a double crosser Agent 23, facing off against Carell’s Maxwell Smart in a thrilling ending. Taking a tip from Agent 99, Carell, while locked in a battle with Johnson and the clock ticking, plants a big wet kiss on his lips, startling him just enough to gain the edge. The Carell-Johnson smooch was a hilarious conclusion to a worthy action comedy, adding an unforgettable moment to his film collection.
8. Walking Tall (2004)
In his second major movie role, Johnson was the lead in the remake of Walking Tall, a tale about a man returning home from war to find his small town ravaged by gambling and corruption. It featured some worthy drama and action and plenty of blood, but it was before the third act finale that things got gleefully fun. It was following a savage beating that Johnson pleads to his fellow community members about the need to change things. In the speech, which is action-movie cheesy and thus guiltily enjoyable, Johnson proudly declares, ‘People in this town used to walk tall.’ Well done.
7. Snitch (2013)
Following a stint of family-oriented comedies, Johnson returned to more serious fare with The Snitch. In fact, it is among (if not the most) his more serious role he has undertaken. Based on a true story, Johnson portrays John Matthews, the father of a son who gets caught up bad luck, bad judgment, and bureaucratic laws dealing with drugs. He goes undercover with the DEA to save his son and find bigger fish in a film that isn’t as action-heavy as it would have you believe. In this layered role, which doesn’t focus on Johnson being necessarily a tough guy, the most impressive scene comes when he shares the screen with Susan Sarandon’s savvy D.A in a tense, emotional back and forth.
6. Southland Tales (2006)
In a departure from the norm, Johnson stars alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore and others, in this dramatic and comedic sci-fi thriller. Well, it is a complex and strange movie, a vision by writer and director Richard Kelly, that didn’t do at all well, but Johnson shines in one particularly moment to be sure. He can deliver laughs, he can hit bad guys, and wait, he can also dance! A well-dressed Johnson takes to the floor with Gellar for a showcase that proves he is as nimble as he is powerful.
5. Be Cool (2005)
In another different role, Johnson is a gay Samoan body guard in Be Cool, the long-awaited and poorly-received sequel to Get Shorty. In fact, just about everything lets down in this film other than Johnson. In trying to prove his worth to John Travolta, Johnson proceeds to perform a lengthy monologue, only it’s a dialogue from Bring It On, between two fighting characters. It’s awkward and hysterical, and Johnson holds nothing back. He also shines again when we watch video of him singing a county song, ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take my Man.’ Johnson is definitely not afraid to look ridiculous on camera.
4. The Mummy Returns (2001)
In the sequel to the infectiously fun and ridiculous caper starring Brendan Fraser, The Rock assumes the role of one of the villains, the fabled Scorpion King. We see him in an early flashback as a warrior who makes a pact with forces of evil; his life is saved, but such a reward turns into a curse. It’s not until a dramatic finale that the Rock reemerges as a spectacularly-realized CGI creature: half man, half scorpion. Before the big battle there is a moment where The Rock clearly gives ‘the people’s eyebrow’ in his signature move as he attacks. His short time on screen in this role was worthy enough to garner a spinoff.
3. The Rundown (2003)
The Rundown was Johnson’s first major role; on this poster read ‘The Rock,’ as this was before anyone in the mainstream movie going public knew who Dwayne Johnson really was. He plays basically hired muscle, and is sent to retrieve Seann William Scott from a jungle. While trying to take him home however, the pair gets literally caught up in a trap, hung up from their legs. Things get worse when a monkey happens on them and proceeds to start humping The Rock. Welcome to Hollywood!
2. Pain and Gain (2013)
In Michael Bay’s movie adaptation of a group of compiled articles from 1999 which depict extortion, murder, pain and kidnapping, Johnson takes on the roll of a bodybuilder who used to be an avid drug user, but has now found new peace when he turned to Christianity. Recruited by Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), who is hired by the owner of Sun Gym and is asked to promote for the gym and to make it more “fitness-based”, Johnson is bribed into participating in the kidnapping of a new rich “crooked” gym member. With a series of turn of events, Johnson portrays his role as a rather “meat-head” bodybuilder to perfection.
1. Fast Five (2011)
This is arguably one of the most anticipated scenes in Johnson’s career, and features probably one of his greatest and most enjoyable characters. Bringing him into the Fast franchise was a great idea to add life and muscle to what were already meaty and high value action films. He would play Hobbs, a law enforcement officer set on bringing in the gang led by Vin Diesel. In one of the film’s best sequences, the two bulky men face off for a frenetic fistfight. Despite a very noticeable height different, Diesel gets the best of the Rock after many punches landed. Still, it’s a scene everyone wanted to watch, and he would of course return for two more films in the franchise. He’s not afraid to look silly, or even lose a fight.