The 10 Best Ryan Reynolds Characters

The 10 Best Ryan Reynolds Performances

These days, Ryan Reynolds is on top of the world.  He is the star of Deadpool, one of the most successful, most critically respected franchises ever.  Not only that, but he has a wonderful family and is married to the equally talented, Blake Lively.  He is one of the most consistently funny actors in Hollywood.  Most people remember Ryan Reynolds from all the way back in Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place.  Others knew him even further back in Fifteen.  Still, there isn’t a movie lover out there that isn’t familiar with his always entertaining filmography.

The legendary story about his efforts to bring Deadpool to the screen is amazing.  He starred as Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but the consensus is that that film ruined everything that Deadpool is supposed to be.  Years later, a leak of Deadpool test footage instantly greenlit the new franchise. The two movies we have gotten since are pretty outstanding.    In an environment where superhero movies are a dime-a-dozen, Ryan Reynolds is headlining the one that really breaks the mold.  With Reynolds riding high these days, it makes sense to go back and revisit the 10 best performances of his career.  The man is so much more than the Merc with the Mouth.

10 – Monty in Waiting… (2005)

In this ensemble comedy showcasing all the ins and outs of the restaurant industry, Ryan Reynolds hilariously plays Monty.  He is always the smartest man in the room, or at least he thinks he is.   The poor schlub has been waiting tables for far too long.  He is bringing a new hire under his wing to show him how Shenaniganz operates.  Monty always has a comeback, always has a solution, and can trade quips with his coworkers in delightfully vulgar fencing matches. Justin Long is the heart of the film, as the young man feeling trapped and not sure he wants to be stuck as a waiter.  But it is Reynolds that literally shows up in every scene to remind us not to take anything too seriously.

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9 – Mike Connell in Adventureland (2008)

This is the one film on the list where Ryan Reynolds is a supporting player.  Adventureland is a coming of age story where James, a clueless virgin played by Jesse Eisenberg, takes a job at the local amusement park.  He had lived the blissful college life but now his parents can no longer support him. While employed, he hilariously interacts with many customers and co-workers, and the film is a hoot.  Ryan Reynolds arrives as Mike, the older coworker who emits the been there, done that vibe. He is everything James isn’t. Where James is mousy looking, Mike looks like Ryan Reynolds.  James is idealist while Mike is the cynic. Kristen Stewart’s Em is the object of James’s desires. She is the sexual plaything of Mike. This is a more subdued performance by Reynolds but it really provides the perfect counterbalance in Greg Mottola’s exceptional comedy.

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8 – Chris Brander in Just Friends (2005)

Early on in this outrageous comedy, Ryan Reynolds is in a fat suit, playing the schmo who is in love with his best friend.  Of course, this leads to humiliation, he moves away from home and turns into the Lothario/Adonis archetype that Reynolds fits better than almost anyone.  Events bring him back to his hometown with the insane Anna Faris ingenue in tow. The movie that follows packs the comedic punch as the California playboy tries to deal with the simple life of New Jersey, and constantly failing at trying to impress his old flame.  Nearly everything is funny, especially his scenes with his brother, played by Chris Marquette. Just Friends is just pure comedy, with a Farrelly brothers aura for all the extremes the film attempts.  Ryan Reynolds has never been more Ryan Reynolds-y.

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7 – Andrew Paxton in The Proposal (2009)

Acting alongside Sandra Bullock is not an easy task.  She is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood, male or female.  So, when Ryan Reynolds was cast opposite her, he had his work cut out for him.  Well, he pulled it off. This story about a cantankerous, Canadian executive faking an engagement to her assistant in order to achieve citizenship is wonderful.  Plain & simple. Bullock plays Margaret, first as a harsh cynic, but after experiencing the sweetness of Andrew and his family, her walls begin to crumble. Reynolds is not just his usual hysterical self, which he certainly is.  The interactions he has with Margaret, his father, his ex, and his grandmother show real depth, emotion, and poignancy.

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6 – Gary/Gavin/Gabriel in The Nines (2007)

This film is not quite as accessible as the other films on the list. To explain it is to spoil a very unique film by John August.  It follows Ryan Reynolds across three overlapping stories where he is haunted by the number nine, trying to square the odd occurrences in his life, and trying not to break down psychologically.  Obviously, that is a vague description, but it is intentionally so. The point is that Reynolds plays these troubled, scared, and paranoid men to perfection. His performances are what keep this films head above water because the film’s secrets are better when they are secret.  Revelations bring the film to a confusing, somewhat corny conclusion. Reynolds makes the journey worth it.

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5 – Van Wilder in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002)

Van Wilder is the chuckle-fest that put Ryan Reynolds on the map.  It isn’t the height of great comedy, but it provided us with the Ryan Reynolds persona that Hollywood has come to love.  Though, the story about a perpetual college student known for throwing the best parties is funny enough.  Tara Reid plays the reporter out to interview the elusive Wilder to find out why he is so revered on campus.  The movie has all the comic beats you would expect. The sexual humor, the gross-out humor, the racial humor (Kal Penn is great as Van’s protege, Taj), it all works.  Reynolds’ style of humor is tailor-made for a movie like this, so props to Director Walt Becker for recognizing his star’s strengths and getting the most out of it.

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4 – Will Hayes in Definitely, Maybe (2008)

Another full-blown romantic comedy, but one so well done, and with so much heart, that it almost slips into romantic drama.  The premise is that Ryan Reynolds is a single father, putting his daughter down for the night. Maya (Abigail Breslin) wants to know about how her parents met, and story time devolves into a guessing game.  Reynolds decides to tell her about the three loves in his life, Emily, Summer, and April (Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher). What follows is a wonderful adventure through the uncertainties of love.  

There are no harsh cliches or forced melodrama. What there is are great performances, especially Reynolds, because he has to exhibit a Will that all these strong women will fall for. A few of these scenes will really strike a chord.  Just wait until a special novel of Jane Eyre shows up.  The waterworks will start flowing.

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3 – Paul Conroy in Buried (2010)

In what may be his most perfectly dramatic role, this film is an amazing experiment.  Ryan Reynolds plays a trucking contractor in Iraq who wakes up in a coffin. With only a lighter and a cellphone to accompany him, he figures he must have been kidnapped.  Director Rodrigo Cortes does an amazing job by never leaving the confines of the crypt. Buried is an incredibly claustrophobic exercise, but without Ryan Reynolds’ fearful and desperate performance, it couldn’t have worked.  As the oxygen gets low and hope runs out, the movie is just devastatingly wonderful.  You believe Paul Conroy’s despair 100%.

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2 – Jerry in The Voices (2014)

The trailers for The Voices did not do it justice at all.   They made the film seem like a goofy comedy where a man’s pets talk to him.  Well, Jerry’s pets do talk to him, but that is because he is a violent psychopath who is off his medication.  This film is an extraordinary blending of genres. Most of it is black comedy. But there is decent romance, and even some graphically upsetting thriller in there.  Ryan Reynolds navigates the story as a shy, naive man, a crazy killer, and a sweet romantic. Each version of Jerry, all depending on the level of his paranoia and dosage, is magnetic.  This is as black a black comedy can get, and Reynolds owns it perfectly.

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1 – Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Deadpool (2016), and Deadpool 2 (2018)

Big surprise!  Honestly, could any other role be his best?  Few actors or actresses pull off a role like this that will forever be their legacy.  Harrison Ford has two with Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Orson Welles will always be Citizen Kane.  Anthony Hopkins will always be Hannibal Lecter. Just as impressively, Ryan Reynolds will always be Deadpool.  

The fourth-wall breaking, subversive vulgarian that took Marvel comics by storm in the 90s fits him like a glove.  Reynolds has always been a sarcastic, irreverent comedian. To watch a sarcastic irreverent character poke fun at his own movie, and his own genre is just a joy to behold.  Yes, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is included because his early scenes as the character are actually fun.  That is until Stryker turns him into that blasphemous monstrosity.  At least now, Deadpool has the ability to skewer that misfire so well.

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Bonus – Man in A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo Ryan Reynolds has in Seth MacFarlane’s comic western is hilarious.  Liam Neeson’s villain makes an example of a random bar patron, and it just happens to be Reynolds.  Imagine, Reynolds woke up, arrived on set, got in costume and makeup, only to be shot in under 5 seconds of screen time.  Hilarious.

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