10 Best John Ritter Roles
Throughout the years, Hollywood has produced a myriad of comedic actors. Legends like Chris Farley, Jim Carrey, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin and more have all made audiences keel over with laughter. Some of these men displayed a dry sense of humor with a biting wit. Others were absurdist’s, commenting on the world around them in a funny way. Others, still, would bend, break stretch and push themselves to the very limit, simply to put smiles on people’s faces. One man, perhaps more than any other, has given his body to audiences via a string of physical comedy roles. Like many comedic actors, however, this man could play dramatic at the drop of a hat, as well. His name was John Ritter and, though he is no longer with us, his spirit remains…and is probably tripping over a couch somewhere.
After first finding the national spotlight in his role as a perpetual bachelor Jack Tripper in the sitcom Three’s Company, Ritter enjoyed a long and robust career in both film and television. Ritter was never afraid to make himself the butt of the joke, as long as he got laughs. He always did. Three might be company. It might be even be a crowd. But John Ritter was always welcome to come and knock on our door. These are the 10 Best John Ritter Roles.
10) L. Frank Baum – The Dreamer of Oz (1990)
The Dreamer of Oz is one of Ritter’s lesser-known roles, but it’s such a testament to both Ritter and the character he portrayed. The Dreamer of Oz is a docudrama that tells the story of L. Frank Baum, the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Though suffering many setbacks and rejections, Baum believed in the world that he created and he fought for his story until it became one of the most well-known and well-loved stories in literature. Ritter gave Baum an ‘everyman’ feel that made audiences cheer even more for the true Wizard of Oz. Plus, bonus anecdotal points: Baum’s wife in the film was played by Annette O’Toole, who was also Ritter’s love interest in Stephen King’s IT. So if you want more of Ben and Beverly, check out The Dreamer of Oz.
9) Vaughan Cunningham – Sling Blade (1996)
Ritter played the coolly-named Vaughan Cunningham in this 1996 film starring Billy Bob Thornton. While Billy Bob played the main character, an intellectually disabled man named Karl Childers, it was Ritter who quite possibly stole the show. In the film, Vaughan is a closeted gay man in rural Arkansas. He compares his plight with that of Childers, noting they are both treated differently because of who they are. It’s actually a pretty heartbreaking role. Audiences want Childers to have a happy ending, of course. But they also want Vaughan Cunningham to live happily-ever-after as well.
8) Bob Chipeska- Bad Santa (2003)
Some might argue that Ritter is at his best when he’s at his absolute worst. Ritter is a great bad guy, and he certainly plays one in the 2003 film Bad Santa, starring his old friend Billy Bob Thornton. This time, instead of comforting Thornton’s character, Ritter is out to expose him for the hard-drinking, offensive brute that, to be honest, he totally is. Chipeska is a stuffy, prudish mall manager that want nothing more than for Thornton’s Santa to be thrown out on his ample butt. Ritter does a great job here being the straight-man to Billy Bob’s Santa and the chemistry between the two is palpable.
7) Roy Knable – Stay Tuned (1992)
Stay Tuned is a really weird f*ckin’ movie. It tells the story of salesman Roy Knable (played by Ritter) and his wife Helen. Both Roy and Helen are TV addicts but life begins to imitate art when Roy makes a proverbial deal with the devil and he and Helen find themselves trapped in a hellish gauntlet of television shows. They must survive everything each show throws at them if they ever want to make it back to the real world. This was a perfect avenue for Ritter to display his physical comedy chops, and he does so in grand fashion. He even returns to the sitcom world that made him famous which, for Roy, was the scariest part of the whole movie! Stay Tuned is everything one expects from a dark comedy starring John Ritter. It’s perfect.
6) Ted Buchanan – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)
When John Ritter showed up in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, things seemed a little off. You couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but you felt the same unease that Buffy did as Ted (played by Ritter) began courting her mother. Ritter does a great job portraying the always-hated role of “Mom’s New Boyfriend,” but his villainy extends far beyond trying to be Buffy’s friend, not her dad. Again, when Ritter gets to be the bad guy, he’s even more awesome than usual and this episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is just further proof of that.
5) Warren – Bride of Chucky (1998)
Speaking of bad guys, when you’re in a Chucky movie but are still the worst character in the film, you know you’re doing something right. That’s what happened when John Ritter signed on to play Katherine Heigl’s uncle in Bride of Chucky. Heigl played Jade, an annoying heroine who unknowingly takes Chucky and his bride Tiffany on a cross-country adventure. Unfortunately for Jade, Warren is a police chief determined to keep her away from her star-crossed lover. Warren attempts to frame Jade’s boyfriend but, in doing so, he crosses paths with Chucky and Tiffany. The results are…not awesome for Warren. This is a small role, but Ritter does such a good job of being a dick in this film, that he totally upstages Chucky in his own movie!
4) Paul Hennessy – 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (2005)
This was a hard one. When John Ritter returned to the world of sitcoms in 2005, it was like he had never left. This time, instead of playing the totally straight but quirky Jack Tripper, Ritter played Paul, the patriarch of the Hennessy family, comprised of Cate (Katey Sagal), Bridget (Kaley Cuoco) and Kerry (Amy Davidson). What began as a simple, yet enjoyable comedy about an overprotective dad watching his two daughters grow up, turned serious after the real-life passing of John Ritter, due to a sudden aortic dissection. Before his death, though, Ritter reminded the world just how funny he was. He went out with laughter, as the old saying goes, and we couldn’t think of a better sendoff for the man who put smiles on millions of faces throughout his life.
3) Ben Hanscom – IT (1990)
John Ritter may have succumbed to Chucky, but he handed Pennywise his ass back in 1990. In IT, Ritter played the adult-version of Ben Hanscom, one of the seven children who defeated the evil entity known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (played by Tim Curry). IT was a 2-part mini-series based on the Stephen King book. The first half told the children’s story, while the latter half focused on the adults. Ritter, as Ben Hanscom, was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise somewhat dull second half of the film. He brought a levity to the proceedings and didn’t even crack one joke. Instead, he brought the fight to Pennywise and proved that he was the only true clown in TV Land.
2) Ben Healy – Problem Child 1 & 2 (1990)
1990 was a busy year for John Ritter. In addition to fighting Pennywise, Ritter came face-to-face with, perhaps, an even more evil entity known as Junior. Junior was a redheaded orphan boy who Ritter’s character, Ben Healy, and his wife adopted. Since the name of the movie is Problem Child, you can probably assume that problems arose and shenanigans ensued. Problem Child and its sequel were the perfect avenues for Ritter to once again display his physical comedy, as well as his huge heart. His chemistry with Michael Oliver, the boy who portrayed Junior, was heartwarming. Even more heartwarming is the fact that Ritter met his real-life wife during the filming of this movie. They were together until the day he died and, since then, she has continued to tell stories of how special a human being John Ritter really was.
1) Jack Tripper- Three’s Company (1977)
This was the role that made John Ritter famous. In Three’s Company, Ritter played a character named Jack Tripper (who tripped a lot…get it?). Tripper was the BFF and roommate of Janet and Chrissy. The three lived together and experienced all of the hilarity that comes with one super straight guy living with two super-hot women. Yes, Three’s Company was a kitschy sitcom, but John Ritter shined and, in doing so, showed the world how much comedy and how much heart he was capable of delivering.