Over the last 25 years, actor Jim Carrey has amassed an impressive body of work that spans not only decades, but also mediums and genres. And most of the characters he portrays are so vivid and inventive it’s as if Carrey created them himself.
Today marks the opening day for his latest film The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and in honor of that and in celebration of a man who has tirelessly worked for a quarter of a century to make us laugh and think with his work, we’ve put together a list of Jim Carrey’s nine best film roles.
Read on below, in no particular order, about the nine best of Jim Carrey’s roles in film.
9. Liar, Liar as Fletcher Reede
It’s a far-fetched and over simplistic plot, sure. A kid makes a birthday wish, and all of a sudden his father is actually physically not able to lie anymore? But it’s not really the plot that makes this movie so fun to watch. It’s watching Carrey taking what happened to his character to such insane extremes. Even in the clip below, which is Hulu’s highest rated clip from this movie among its users, he takes the concept of something as simple as being able to just write down a lie and he takes it to such an absurdly grandiose level of humor that you can’t help but laugh and feel sorry for his character. Had this movie come out after Kill Bill, the Blue Pen scene would have been seen as a wacky, hilarious parody of Uma Thurman’s “wiggle your big toe” scene.
8. The Cable Guy as the Cable Guy
The genius of Carrey’s portrayal of the Cable Guy lies in his ability to make viewers both pity and loathe the character. Carrey’s a sensitive enough actor to show the Cable Guy’s vulnerabilities, especially his loneliness. But at the same time, much like he did with the Lloyd Christmas character in Dumb and Dumber, he was able to slowly let a more sinister, vindictive side of the Cable Guy character to come out.
7. The Majestic as Peter Appleton
Often highly praised as one of Carrey’s best dramatic roles, Carrey plays Peter Appleton, a Hollywood screenwriter who gets into an accident and loses all memory of who he is. A nearby small town takes him in, thinking that he is a long-lost member of their community. He starts a new life as the person the townspeople mistake him to be and he ends up changing their lives as much as they change his.
6. Batman Forever as Dr. Edward Nygma/the Riddler
Here’s a character you’re supposed to hate. He does evolve into the Riddler after all. But Carrey’s performance as Dr. Edward Nygma, the person that will later become the Riddler, a notorious villian in the Batman universe, is nuanced. Yes, he shows that Nygma has stalker-like obsessive tendencies when it comes to Bruce Wayne. But Carrey also portrays a sense of loneliness and a desperation to be accepted by the one person Nygma admires most. When watching Carrey’s performance it is no wonder that his work in this movie is often cited as one of the highlights of a Batman movie that otherwise got mixed reviews.
5. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective as Ace Ventura
The character of Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is the definition of zany. And slightly deranged. And…bird-like. According to an Inside The Actors’ Studio interview, Carrey based Ace Ventura’s voice, clothes, walk, hair and mannerisms on the behavior of birds. To base an entire performance on birds or any animal and to get such hilarious results as Carrey had is a mark of an original actor.
4. The Mask as Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask
Unlike the milquetoast Stanley Ipkiss that he portrays, Jim Carrey doesn’t need a mask to engage in loud, obnoxious, cartoonish slapstick behavior. Carrey’s known for his slapstick humor and outlandish characters, but his work in The Mask is probably his best in that category. What’s more impressive is that that Carrey was able to switch back and forth between such diametrically opposed personalities seamlessly and still produce two very different characters.
3. Dumb and Dumber as Lloyd Christmas
Dumb characters don’t always have to be innocent and sweet. Sometimes along with their empty-headed comments, bad decisions, and delusional optimism, cruelty and sinister intentions can lurk within them once a button is pushed. For Jim Carrey’s character, that button is a love-interest whom he chases throughout the movie, regardless of his best friend’s well being. In fact, in a fit of jealousy Carrey plays Lloyd as having a crazed, bitter, and yet absurdly funny anger towards his friend once it’s revealed that the friend is going on a date with Lloyd’s crush.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Joel Barish
Though Jim Carrey will probably always be known as the man with the rubber face, for his manically flexible facial expressions, in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/, as Joel Barish, Carrey is able to skillfully walk that fine line between comedy and drama. Though most of the film is more drama than comedy, Carrey knew how to make the most of a dry sense of humor to lighten up some of the dark themes of this movie.
1. The Truman Show as Truman Burbank
In The Truman Show, Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a sweet, naive man who is also (unknowingly) the subject of a life-long reality show. The movie deals with the aftermath of Burbank’s discovery that his world and all of the people he’s ever known are fake—and his confrontation with the man who created the show of which Burbank is the star.
Though the movie definitely has its humorous moments, moments in which a comedic actor like Carrey can really shine, it’s the more understated ones, where Carrey has to portray Burbank’s more serious demeanor and sadder emotions that really make an impression on audiences of this movie. In the clip below, Carrey deftly mixes a small amount of wacky humor within a much more wry scene to let Burbank’s showrunners know that he’s aware of the reality show’s existence and his role in it. It’s so well done, you can’t help but wonder halfway through it if, Burbank has just lost his marbles or if he’s still joking around.