He’s an ageless actor known for playing the every man who has been a staple of the Hollywood scene from the 90s to today. From comedies to dramas and even the world of superheroics Paul Rudd has brought many memorable characters to the screen and sometimes even steals the show from his costars in the process. Rudd returns to the big screen this weekend as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man in “Ant-Man and The Wasp” so I felt it was the perfect time to pay tribute to the roles that helped him earn a public following and eventually help him become the ultimate go to comic relief actor in the business. So let’s take a look at the best moments of this hilarious and charismatic actor’s career so far. These are my picks for the Top 10 Paul Rudd Movie Performances.
For this list I’m looking at roles Paul Rudd has had on the big screen no matter how big or small. However, I will be ignoring any television performances or any roles where he is meant to play himself unless those roles are meant to be a parody of his own personality. Voice roles are also fair game as are any roles that cross over from or to television as long as they’ve been featured in a theatrical movie. Whether it’s a cameo, a starring role, a supporting role or otherwise as long as Rudd appears in a movie as a fictional character it was considered. These performances were put together based on their popularity and iconic status as well as the quality of Rudd’s actual performance and their impact in making him a household name. The more they stand out and the more memorable they are the better. As with almost every list I also included my own personal bias as well.
What is your favorite Paul Rudd performance? Let me know in the comments below and look for my review of this actor’s latest film, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” this weekend. On with the list!
10. Darren, “Sausage Party”
Let’s start with the one and only voice role on this list from Rudd, an unlikable brat of a human from the 2016 adult animated feature “Sausage Party”. Don’t be surprised if you didn’t realize Rudd was even in this movie because his part is relatively small, but it’s an important role nonetheless as he plays one of the most prominent human characters in the film, Darren. As the manager of the store where the anthropomorphic food items are sold Darren is an acne covered and foul mouthed young adult who “hates his f*^#ing job” and eventually becomes the literal puppet of the film’s main antagonist, an actual Douche. While Rudd has few lines in the film he makes each one count with a quirky accent and perfectly accentuated swears that drive home the immaturity of his character. Like many of his roles, it’s a small performance that shines above even the larger roles in the movie and it should be no surprise for fans to hear him in the film seeing as he is good friends with the movie’s star and creator Seth Rogan.
9. Chuck aka Kunu, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”
A cameo appearance in the 2008 romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, Chuck, who also goes by his surfer name Kunu, is an air-headed surfer who befriends main character Peter and tries to help him through his breakup. A stereotypical surfer dude, Rudd embraces the role and personality fully to give us a mildly pretentious yet carefree man who can’t even determine his own age, although he’s in his 40s by estimate. With a mind that wanders from topic to topic, his attempts at wisdom and advice for Peter only come off as confusing and nonsensical and don’t help Peter through anything he has to deal with during his attempt to move on from a lost love. Chuck is classic Paul Rudd at his best showing off the actor’s comedic range and ability to charm even with the most random of roles and personalities. Rudd looks the part and steals the show, as he tends to do, without completely overshadowing the stars. He’s just icing on the cake that was one of the best comedies of the late 2000s.
8. Josh Lucas, “Clueless”
One of Paul Rudd’s earliest big screen performances, “Clueless” pushed this good looking ageless actor into the spotlight and made him a heartthrob of the 90s for women everywhere, even if this particular big screen appearance involved a strange romance between former siblings. Rudd plays Josh Lucas, the lead male in “Clueless” who is the ex-stepbrother of Alicia Silverstone’s Cher. Initially smug and judgmental of his ex-sibling, Rudd evolves over the course of the movie and eventually Josh and Cher end up a couple. This role introduced many cinema buffs to the character tropes Rudd was born to play as Lucas was not afraid to call out Cher on her superficial lifestyle and tell it like it is. In the years since Rudd has made it a gimmick of his to add this trait to many of his characters, but this is where it all began. Despite being the most prominent male in a cast of high profile women of the decade, Rudd manages to stand out without bringing down his female counterparts in any way. “Clueless” eventually spawned a spinoff television series with new actors, but the original film remains a cult classic of the 90s and Rudd’s role is a highlight figure of male sensibilities in a female driven coming-of-age flick.
7. Peter Klaven, “I Love You, Man”
Romantic comedies are going to be a theme here so get used to that. The 2009 film “I Love You, Man” is one of Rudd’s most recent such films as he portrays Peter Klaven, a dorky real estate agent who finds himself in search of a best man after he proposes to his girlfriend. The third collaboration between Rudd and Jason Segel (who starred in the aforementioned “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) Rudd takes the lead here while Segel plays Syndey, the man Rudd eventually forms a bromance with before the wedding. The two actors work off each other well, as good friends should, and Rudd’s take on an average geeky man in need of a friend is totally believable as is his willingness to come out of his shell for an equally dorky male friend. The movie’s core premise focuses on the bond that grown men share over similar interests and personalities and it’s because of Rudd and Segel that “I Love You, Man” became the first great bromance movie of a generation. Rudd helps show the world that being who you are isn’t just a cliché for picking up girls. It also applies to bonding with a friend and sometimes you never really know when a person you click with might come along.
6. Andy, “Wet Hot American Summer”
A role that has since been adapted to a television show on Netflix and one of Rudd’s most brutally unlikable roles by design, Andy from 2001’s “Wet Hot American Summer” is built to be kind of a dick. As a satire of the summer camp movie subgenre, “Wet Hot American Summer” includes many comedic takes on stereotypical roles but Rudd’s is an immediate standout as a judgmental, moody, ignorant and foul-mouthed lifeguard who would rather smooch the ladies than save a kid from potentially drowning. Rudd goes full on douchebag for this role endowing Andy with a smug attitude that somehow works to his advantage as a womanizer and doesn’t get him fired in the process. His only concern is himself and his next sexual conquest and Rudd does everything he can to make Andy as unlikable and nasty as humanly possible. While Rudd has made a career portraying sarcastic characters unafraid to tell it like it is, here he takes a different road and is just annoying and self-righteous for his own sake offering nothing to the world around, but that’s why we love watching him. He’s a character you love to hate, and Rudd chews every scene he can to make sure we know we’re not supposed to find anything redeemable in this self-centered creep.
5. Danny Donahue, “Role Models”
A role that helped Rudd go viral with his “vente” rant in a coffee shop, “Role Models” stars Rudd as Danny Donahue an angry middle-aged man and energy drink salesman whose abrasive personality leads him to be assigned community service as a role model for a pair of kids. Rudd helped write the film and like Andy from “Wet Hot American Summer” starts off by giving us a pretentious self-righteous man who has a problem with the world. His sarcasm cuts like a knife and his passive aggressive take on the character is enough to make you cringe while also respecting him for saying what others won’t. Politically incorrect without being too over the top, Danny is one half of a great comedy duo, along with Sean Williams Scott’s Wheeler, that drive home this underrated 2008 comedy. As Danny evolves in the film to a more respectable person we also see him bond with the child he is meant to guide and eventually the character becomes a pretty neat Larper too. While by this point in his career this kind of performance was nothing new for Rudd, this was a case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as Rudd’s long history with sarcastic in-your-face characters comes fill circle in a man we can both hate and relate to at the same time.
4. David, “40-Year-Old Virgin”
Another case of Paul Rudd stealing the show, this 2005 comedy gave us one of the actor’s most memorable characters in David a foul-mouthed friend of the movie’s titular virgin, Steve Carell’s Andy. One of several quirky friends of the lead, David might be an everyman on the outside but once you get him going he’s a crazy, witty and mouthy man with a pretty messed up perspective of love. Over the course of the movie we see him deteriorate to a mental breakdown on the job with hilarious results. One of several films to feature Rudd alongside Seth Rogan, both actors brought us one of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie as they trade insults back and forth while playing a videogame. Rumors say that the “you know how I know you’re gay” exchange was all adlibbed but even if it was scripted the two sell it phenomenally. Also points to Paul Rudd for wearing a shirt featuring himself in that scene. In the end this was a highlight performance that stands out from an ensemble cast of one of the best comedies of the last two decades that helped Paul Rudd find a new fanbase after co-starring in another ensemble film the year prior called “Anchorman”. It also solidified Rudd as an inseparable part of Seth Rogan’s ragtag group of modern comedy film greats which he is still a part of to this day.
3. Pete, “Knocked Up” and “This is Forty”
A few years after “40-Year-Old Virgin”, Rudd teamed up with Rogen and company again for a film that was originally meant to be a sequel to the former movie but ended up being its own project entirely. “Knocked Up”, like many comedy pictures Rudd has appeared in, is one of the better comedies of the last 15 years or so and features Rudd as Pete, a roommate of the laid-back Ben Stone, played by Rogen. Pete is one of the most relatable “every man” characters Rudd has ever put to film who seems to have lost his faith in life in his older age. The character is both hilarious and depressingly real and is so enjoyable a spinoff movie called “This is Forty” put Pete front end center to explore his midlife crisis more completely. Pete is honest with himself and his friends in a way that makes you laugh but also makes you realize he’s not necessarily wrong in his darker realizations about life. Subtly lampooning the wise-best-friend trope of other romantic comedies Pete is as inspiring as he is hilarious and the character even gives Paul Rudd a chance to debut his impressive talent for impressions. While he seems to have fallen into a rut, Pete isn’t depressing or unlikable he’s just real and that’s why we love him.
2. Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe
The role and film that inspired this list with a sequel out this weekend, Paul Rudd became nothing short of iconic to yet another generation of moviegoers in the 2010s when he put on the suit and shrunk down to insect size for the first time in 2015’s “Ant-Man”. As Scott Lang, Rudd is a professional thief trying to turn his life around after finally being released from prison. A Robin Hood like character, Lang is eventually recruited by Hank Pym to become the new Ant-Man and stop a ruthless businessman from misusing the Pym Particle technology that makes the suit work. Rudd appeared again as the MCU’s tiniest hero in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” where, you guessed it, he stole nearly every scene he was in and added some much-needed comic relief to the action epic. Rudd gives Lang a relatable charm and presents him as a family man just trying to do what’s right. He didn’t choose to be a hero, and let’s face it his particular set of skills as a thief aren’t necessarily in the best interest of those around him, but in the end he owns his opportunity to do something good with that talent and helps save the world. Ant-Man has since become one of many fan favorites in the MCU bringing Rudd’s stardom to a level he never achieved in simply comedies.
1. Brian Fontana, the “Anchorman” Movies
If you didn’t know who Paul Rudd was in the 1990s you knew who he was after this 2004 comedy took the world by storm and became an instant classic. The original “Anchorman” and its sequel have Rudd as field reporter Brian Fontana, a womanizer and “the stylish one of the group” in a cast of modern comedy greats all playing different members of a news team led by Will Ferrill’s Ron Burgundy. Rudd has some of the best lines in the film from nonchalantly nicknaming his male anatomy to his mathematically incorrect “60% of the time it works every time” statement and is one of several standout characters from this goofy comedy. In fact, he’s probably only behind Burgandy and Steve Carrell’s Brick Tamland in terms of fan love. Fontana brings together some of the best aspects of Rudd, ditching the every man persona in favor of a self-righteous egomaniac who is able to stand out in a crowded ensemble group with great timing and spectacular delivery. While I’ve said this a lot about different roles on this list, this was the one that truly made Rudd a mainstream star. This uncompromisingly rude and mustachioed example of male chauvinism still remains the role most knew Rudd for first and foremost and if it weren’t for this performance Rudd may have never found his way into many of the film featured on this list today.