The 7 Best Paul Rudd Roles
Paul Rudd is likable. There is no better single word to describe him. He may not be lauded for range, but only because he likes to shoot comedies so much. As films like Perks of Being a Wallflower show, he is perfectly capable in dramas. But his ability to draw a comedic audience is nearly unmatched. His likeability is almost to the detriment of some of his roles. You may find yourself rooting for even his dumbest and most inconsiderate characters because of the warm Midwestern actor underneath the character. Comedy or otherwise — but mostly comedy — here are his best roles to date.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Plain and simple, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is Jason Segel’s magnum opus. Both writer and star of the film, he deserves much praise for making an undeniably funny but affecting film. His character Peter Bretter is dumped by his celebrity girlfriend, the titular Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). To cope, he takes a vacation to Hawaii. Once there, however, he finds Sarah and her new boyfriend, rockstar Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) are also staying at the hotel. Rudd gives one of the funniest bit performances in the whole film as Chuck, a well-meaning surf instructor who is far from the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Clueless is perhaps the best film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. If not, it is assuredly the most fun. Based on her novel Emma, the eponymous character is supplanted by Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone). Austen’s original setting of a small 19th century English village is exchanged for Beverly Hills in the 1990s. The character dynamics, however, are very much the same. Ever the haphazard matchmaker for others, Cher is mostly disinterested in finding love for herself. Rudd, for his part, plays Josh Lucas, Cher’s ex-stepbrother and the only person in her life who cares about her enough to call her out for her missteps. It is a great role in a great film.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (2015), Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (2017)
The Wet Hot American Summer expanded universe is dumb. David Wain and Michael Showalter developed it as such. Set in 1981, one would expect many of the jokes to be based on the silliest tendencies of the 80s as a decade. Not so, as the film — and its subsequent series — tend to lean into bizarre absurdity over anything else. With comic actors who are way too old to be playing high school summer camp counselors, there is much to enjoy in the Wet Hot American Summer Films. Namely Rudd’s character, Andy, the perennial bad boy who whines more than he cracks wise.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin remains one of Judd Apatow’s best films, if not the very best, in spite of it being his directorial debut. Steve Carell — co-writer of the film — plays Andy Stitzer, a lonely tech store employee. When his coworkers (Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, and Gerry Bednob) discover he is still a virgin, they do their best to help him. Their help results in a lot of lows and few highs, but he begins to develop relationships with each of them, as well as an intriguing woman named Trish (Catherine Keener). As usual, Rudd delivers a wholly funny and enjoyable performance.
Ant-Man (2015), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Taking on the role of a superhero would have surprised Rudd fans a decade ago. Many were used to him playing the comedic character and punchline. Putting Rudd at the center of a mass-market picture was a bit of a risk on the part of the powers that be at Marvel. Two films — so far — and more than a billion dollars at the box office later, it turned out to be a good one. Rudd for his part is good as ever, breaking up the monotony by blending the role of a superhero with the fool with a winning personality character that audiences have come to expect from him.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
It is hard to overstate the cultural power of the Anchorman movies. A decade and a half later, a quick scroll through an internet comment section will likely yield a reference to the original film. Something about Will Ferrell’s performance as Ron Burgundy, the absurd and misogynistic 1970s broadcast news reporter has continued to be a draw to audiences. His co-stars deserve plenty of credit as well. Rounding out Burgundy’s news team are Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), “Champ” Kind (David Koechner), Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), and Brian Fantana (Rudd). Without them, Ferrell would have no one to work off of in the fast-and-loose style of comedy utilized in the films.
Parks and Recreation (2009 to 2015)
The now-beloved sitcom got off to a rocky start with its first couple of seasons. The show struggled to find its individual voice, feeling like a remake of The Office above anything else. With the arrival of Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, the show began to figure out where it should go. Paul Rudd’s recurring character Bobby Newport was a welcome addition as well. Bobby is the dimwitted heir to a local but massive candy company. He arrives on the scene as protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)’s biggest competition in the race for city council member. He leads this race in spite of his substantial ineptitude due to the sizeable popularity of his family’s company. It’s simply more of what Rudd does best: giving a performance of a dumb but loveable character.
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