Perhaps not even Jim Carrey himself could have imagined that, after receiving nothing but boos in his youth, he would grow up to become one of the most acclaimed comedians of his time. The Canadian actor came a long way since his beginnings in the stand-up comedy scene. At first, his celebrity impersonations wowed audiences, but when he decided to detach himself from that and present original material of his own, the public didn’t initially stick with him. But that was not the end of the road for Carrey, as in 1990 he made his first major leap into late-night sketch shows, landing a spot on In Living Color to play a number of characters.
His second major breakthrough would come in 1994, with the premiere of the comedy Ace Ventura. From that movie on, Carrey continued to star in blockbusters, opening to excellent reception from audiences and critics, for which he is still remembered today, such as The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, and Liar Liar. Yet, his success in the comedy genre was not enough for him, and before long, Carrey was already experimenting with other genres. In 2000, he portrayed the evil and histrionic Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which required him to go through a major transformation process with the help of the make-up team.
Still, the parts that earned him his biggest nominations and accolades were definitely in dramatic films. Throughout his career, Carrey has been nominated for numerous awards and has even won two Golden Globes for his outstanding dramatic performances. Therefore, in this article, we are going to review the best dramatic movies of this iconic actor, ranked.
8 The Number 23
By 2007, Joel Schumacher would once again team up with Jim Carrey, whom he had already directed in the 1995 movie Batman Forever, on The Number 23. The psychological film dives into the already known enigma surrounding said number, that is coincidentally present in several historical events. In the movie, Carrey plays a dual role as Walter Sparrow and Detective Fingerling. Sparrow is a family man dedicated to animal control, who finds a mysterious book devoted to the number 23, starring Detective Fingerling, a man Walter identifies with. Throughout the film, the audience witnesses the main character spiral into absolute madness, and is met with quite a few twists and turns in his and his family’s story. While Carrey’s performance was pretty convincing, critical reception was not so good, reaping a very poor score on Rotten Tomatoes. A large part of this score was, according to critics, due to Schumacher’s direction.
7 Simon Birch
This 1998 film, inspired by John Irving’s novel A Prayer for Owen Meany, features a minor appearance by Jim Carrey at the beginning and the end. Simon Birch follows the story of Simon, a boy born with Morquio Syndrome, a very particular sense of humor, and the certainty that he was going to one day be a hero. Despite being teased by some of his schoolmates, Simon was a happy child and spent his days with Joe, another boy also teased in the village for not knowing who his real father was. The story, narrated from the memories of a grown-up Joe, played by Carrey, is centered on the adventures of these two friends in their search for Joe’s biological father. In addition, the actor’s involvement as the narrator manages to convey, to a great extent, the legacy that Simon passed on to him and the importance that this boy had in his life.
6 The Majestic
Could a successful Hollywood screenwriter have been a missing World War II hero and not remember it? That is, among a few other things, the plot of The Majestic, a 2002 film directed by Frank Darabont. In it, Carrey plays Peter Appleton, a screenwriter who happens to be in the midst of his rise to fame when he is hit with political accusations that completely destroy his career. Trying to escape his problems, Peter drives his car until he loses control and crashes, losing consciousness and his memory in the process. When he wakes up, he finds himself in an unfamiliar town, where everyone seems to know him as Luke Trimble, a war fighter who had disappeared several years earlier. This reappearance brings a bit of illusion back to the town, though it is somewhat forced, and sets Appleton to the difficult task of attempting to uncover the truth about his life. While this film did not earn rave reviews from critics, it is fondly remembered by the audience, and Carrey outdoes himself in the lead role.
5 Man on the Moon
Man on the Moon is a 1999 film inspired by the life of Andy Kaufman, an American actor and comedian who died in May 1984. The film, which featured a stellar cast consisting of Jim Carrey in the lead role and Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, and Courtney Love in supporting roles, recounts the story of Andy and a few of his failures in the nightclubs, since the performances he offered were not the ones the audience wanted to see. An interesting thing about this movie is that, throughout the four months of filming, the actor got so deep into Kaufman’s character that he never stepped out of the role, per Vanity Fair. He even asked to be referred to as Andy on set.
4 Peggy Sue Got Married
This 1986 movie was one of Jim Carrey’s first films, and he shared the cast with Nicolas Cage, who was also in the early years of his career. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Peggy Sue Got Married tells the story of Peggy Sue, a woman who, in 1985, is about to divorce her unfaithful husband. In the midst of this situation, the woman attends a high school reunion party, and while being crowned queen of the evening, she faints. When she awakes, Peggy discovers that she is in 1960, still in school and living with her parents, so she seizes the opportunity to make amends for her mistakes and build the life that will make her happy in the future. Carrey plays Walter Getz, who, despite being a secondary character, still managed to make the audience laugh.
3 I Love You Phillip Morris
I Love You Phillip Morris is another movie in which Jim Carrey played a person who actually existed in real life. In this 2009 comedy-drama, the actor takes on the role of Steven Jay Russell, an American swindler who became notorious for his scams and multiple attempts to escape prison. Steven was living an undesirable life married to Debbie (portrayed by Leslie Mann) until he openly declared himself gay and set out to live the luxurious, hard-partying life he had always dreamed of. However, this lifestyle proves to be too expensive, and in order to support it, Steven pulls more than one scam, ending up in prison. There, he meets his one true love, an inmate named Phillip Morris portrayed by the brilliant Ewan McGregor. The movie traces the love affair between these characters from their very first meeting and the way it was affected by Steven’s subsequent cons and breaks from prison. This film received very good reviews, and provided Carrey with a very interesting role that was quite a departure from the ones he had been playing at the time.
2 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
If there’s one thing this movie taught the audience, it’s that erasing shared memories doesn’t wipe away feelings, and that sometimes our hearts are stronger than science. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim Carrey is Joel, and he first meets Clementine (played by the brilliant Kate Winslet) at a railroad station. The two connect instantly, but it is later revealed that they were actually once a couple, and after a huge fight, Clementine called in a specialist to erase Joel from her memory. The man, ravaged by the situation, decides to undergo the process of memory erasure as well. The movie essentially unfolds within Joel’s memories, as the audience is able to navigate his relationship with Clementine, from the most recent memories, which are chaotic and distressing, to the first ones, in which the couple was completely in love. This film is thought-provoking on all levels, emphasizing on the importance of learning from both successes and mistakes as a way to create a better future.
1 The Truman Show
The Truman Show is Jim Carrey’s best dramatic performance, and the movie was such an influence that it even originated the Truman Syndrome. With an excellent reception from critics and audiences alike, this 1998 production instilled a fear that hadn’t existed before: the fear of being observed. Truman Burbank is a charismatic man with a perfect life — just too perfect to be real. Unbeknownst to him, he is the star of a television show that has the world on edge. His entire life happens to be filmed 24/7, and every social interaction he has, from his wife to his best friend, involves actors. In an attempt to provide genuine, unpretentious content, Truman has been unknowingly watched by millions of people since he was in his mother’s womb, and though he always wanted to leave town, whenever he came close to doing so, someone would stop him. But everything changes when, after a light bulb falls from the sky, Truman discovers that some things around him don’t make sense, and begins a journey towards uncovering the truth. Both this movie and Carrey in his leading role were nominated for a great number of awards. Among them: Carrey won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and director Peter Weird was awarded The David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction at the BAFTA Film Awards.
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