Ranking Every Jim Carrey Movie from Worst to Best

Jim Carrey is one of those performers who surpasses the idea of celebrity to reach that of institution. He is, more than an actor, an idea. There aren't simply movies that star Jim Carrey, but Jim Carrey movies — a concept you can identify without even giving it a moment's thought.

So what is a Jim Carrey movie? It involves facial contortions, character voices, and self-inflicted bodily harm. Perhaps the kingpin of the lot is Dumb & Dumber, the 1994 favorite whose long-awaited sequel hits theaters on Friday (after two decades of tireless quoting).

That said, Jim Carrey is hardly bound by this type... or, at least, he shouldn't be bound by it, as some of the finest works Carrey has delivered have been sensitive, soft-spoken, and dramatic. Of course, some of these serious turns have fallen flat (and hard), but that can be said for a handful of his comedies, too.

As such, I'm drawn to take a look at Carrey's films — comedic and dramatic, fantastic and abysmal — to assess which are the best and worst of the lot. In my roundup, I eschewed movies wherein Carrey played minor or insignificant roles, sticking only to those we'd call true Jim Carrey films: those in which his presence not only stands as important, but practically dominates the movie.

So take a look at this ranking of every Jim Carrey movie, ordered from worst to best!

Image: Universal Pictures


It’s a little-known entry, so I’ll give some context: Carrey plays a monogamous virgin cheats on his girlfriend with a vampire countess, becoming himself a lustful, blood-thirsty beast. There’s a reason why it’s little-known.

Image: The Samuel Goldwyn Company


…but the treachery of this entry is no secret. Carrey’s go at the horror/thriller genre is about as psychologically rich as a Fire Marshall Bill lecture.

Image: New Line Cinema


Admittedly, Carrey was the brightest spot in this abysmal Steve Carell comedy. Despite his general physical aptitude, his turn as a Criss Angel type was too poorly written to be funny.

Image: New Line Cinema


Maybe the Lemony Snicket series would have taken off today, in the era of Young Adult fiction adaptations… but a wicked and humorless Carrey was hardly what we’d call franchise material.

Image: Paramount Pictures


The worst of Carrey’s stardom-era comedies by a mile. What was envisioned as kooky and edgy came off rather disjointed and rambling. And just a note: natural nice guy Carrey is at his best when he’s playing nonthreatening lunatics.

Image: 20th Century Fox


Another unknown entry from his earlier days, but a far better and humbler turn than Once Bitten. Though the movie is kind of a mess, it at least gives an early look at Carrey’s vocal and facial range. Points off, though, for shooting all its comic action in the wide. Way to waste the most proficient physical comedians of the era!

Image: Rose & Ruby


We can blame this one less on Carrey’s inability to courier the film and more on Robert Zemeckis’ troubling obsession with uncanny valley animation. (Shudder)

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


This sociopolitically-charged comedy was one of the American public’s early indications that Carrey might be on the decline. He manages a few laughs, as per usual, but his casting as down-on-his-luck family man Dick suggested that Hollywood was no longer asking for the spry social deviants that made him a hit.

Image: Columbia Pictures


One of Carrey’s first attempts at straight drama… Admittedly, it was pretty bad straight drama, so it didn’t call for any terrific acting. This one is everybody’s fault.

Image: Warner Bros.


Carrey’s first big diversion, and an film that owes whatever positive connotations it might bear to him alone.

Image: Warner Bros.


Only slightly better than Carrey’s later Christmas fiasco, the Ron Howard concoction should have been a recipe for gold. But I’ll chalk Carrey’s lapsed comic timing to the rhythm of the prose and the nine tons of green makeup he had to lug around.

Image: Universal Pictures


Nobody wants to admit this, but this movie ain’t bad. It’s cute, it’s silly, it’s occasionally dim. It has one regrettable rapping scene. But Jim Carrey fumbles around with a rookery of penguins, and it’s just fine.

Image: 20th Century Fox


I expect some heat for placing his star-making role so low on the list, but I challenge anyone to argue that it holds up. Yes, it spotlighted his hilarious lunacy for the first time in earnest, but it’s an effectively plotless, shameless, idiotic bout of nonsense.

Image: Warner Bros.


There’s really no difference between Bruce Almighty and the film to follow; though released five years apart, they both belong to Carrey’s uninspired phase of relative competence. “You’re good at yelling and jumping and flapping around under duress,” said Hollywood. “Do that.”

Image: Universal Pictures


See the Bruce Almighty slide for my assessment of Yes Man. The only reason I rate this one higher is because it doesn’t get too weighted down in a convoluted mythology, however ridiculous that is to say.

Image: Warner Bros.


You might call this a cult classic, though it probably doesn’t deserve such a superlative. Still, Carrey’s musical sci-fi sex comedy is, at the very least, an interesting advent, and he ain’t bad in it (though he’s hardly the scene-stealer that Jeff Goldblum is).

Image: Vestron Pictures


The better of Carrey’s two Dr. Seuss vehicles by far, though a testament to how much of the actor’s comedy lies in his face. Just about anyone with a tenacious voice could have played Horton as well as Carrey does here.

Image: 20th Century Fox


The best of Carrey’s “decent” films, I’d say (though still not what I’d call a good one). What separates The Mask from its fellow 1994 release Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is that Carrey is actually playing to a story and a genuine character. Even though “the Mask” is the star of the show, he’s rather funny as nebbish Stanley Ipkiss, too.

Image: New Line Cinema


And here we are: the beginning of the stretch of Carrey’s true successes. I watched Liar Liar in a hotel recently (which seems like the optimal place for viewing of such a movie), to be reminded with great surprise of just how hilarious he is in this manic, silly, obscenely simple movie. True story.

Image: Universal Pictures


So much better than its predecessor that they might as well be deemed separate series. The highlight, of course: Carrey squeezing his way out the backside of a mechanical rhino. But his subtle verbal comedy does wonders too.

Image: Warner Bros.


Dumb & Dumber is the kind of movie that I’d be willing to accept is either much worse or much better than I actually think it is on any given day. Though Jeff Daniels is no slouch, Carrey owns the film with his own nuanced interpretation of what it means to be this incredibly stupid.

Image: New Line Cinema


Please stop shouting, this movie is sensational. As a piece of satire, it’s effective. As a thriller, less so. As a venue for the ravings of a barrel-chested weirdo (seriously, he looks rather strapping in this film!), it is quite hilarious. The Cable Guy operates on a few more levels than most of Carrey’s ’90s comedies do, and he plays them all with aplomb.

Image: Columbia Pictures


A recent and under-seen bout of comic and dramatic genius from Carrey, I Love You Philip Morris is a rare coupling of his zaniest conceivable intonations and aptitude for heartrending drama. Find it if you haven’t seen it!

Image: Roadside Attractions


“That doesn’t seem funny! Why isn’t he being funny?” cried America upon catching glimpse of the first trailers for 1998’s The Truman Show. We may not have been ready for dramatic Carrey then, but he dramatic Carrey was certainly ready for this tremendous picture.

Image: Paramount Pictures


I won’t argue that Man on the Moon isn’t a bit lopsided, or occasionally lacking direction. But it is a special movie that works as two character pieces in one: first, of Andy Kaufman (of course). And second, of Carrey, a comedian who we can see in Kaufman, who we can access through this role (in a meta touch that is appropriate for the theme), and who we can really find ourselves feeling for through his turn as a pop culture icon with a confusing, sad story.

Image: Universal Pictures


Even without silly facial expressions or wacky voices, this is truly Carrey’s finest performance, and easily the greatest movie he has ever been in. A magnificent script and a fantastic turn by co-lead Kate Winslet only helped to highlight just how talented and original this actor has always been, and how we shouldn’t just relegate him to piercing screeches… no matter how funny those may be.

Image: Focus Features