Known most prominently for his extensive history in WWE, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is and always will be an unstoppable boulder rolling down the hill of mediocrity and into the valley of triumphant victory. Before his extremely successful career in WWE, Dwayne was a championship defensive end for the University of Miami. After going undrafted to the NFL in 1991, he began to take on his new name and persona: The Rock. As it turns out, this was just the beginning of the volcano for this rockstar, going on to become a globally known film presence following his rocky start in 2001’s The Mummy Returns. His appearance in film and WWE was simultaneous for about 5 more years but ultimately he set his sights on the rocky road that is the American film industry. During this time and all the way up to 2007, Dwayne was still being credited in films as “The Rock” or “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson”. After the people got used to his stony good looks and wicked charm, Dwayne Johnson was a recognizable enough name.
After 20 years in TV and movies, Dwayne has become so much more than what he was. Between all of the work he has been doing, Dwayne has founded his own luxury Tequila (Teremana), co-founded a production company (Seven Bucks Productions), as well as his very own exercise clothing line, and launched? “The Rock” earbuds in collaboration with Under Armour. This man is not only a rockstar on screen, he is a rock-solid innovator of business and pleasure. Dwayne has even teased his fans on his hugely popular Instagram account that he might run for president, where he also posts inspiration for life, work, and exercise. This may seem over-the-top silly but out of over 30,000 adults surveyed, 46% supported a presidential campaign for our action movie hero. What makes our guy so lovable? So many things but today we will talk about the many great appearances in film this man has made, starting from the bottom at number 10.
Disclaimer: since the Fast and the Furious series has taken off with no end in sight and launched Dwayne into superstardom, they will be omitted from the list in order to appreciate his other works of film before his big deal.
Getting our list going with a bit of a rocky start, Baywatch is a silly, fun action-comedy that takes its inspiration and just runs away with it. Plagued by big crime on their beautiful beaches, the exceedingly attractive and not-so-clever lifeguards of the bay decide to take matters into their own hands. Dwayne plays Mitch Buchannon, the ‘Captain’ of his squad of bods. While this film does its best to revive the original series, it doesn’t quite do it justice with its crude jokes and confused plot. Despite that, the cast of characters (including Zac Efron) have their moments of glory — mostly in the form of physical prowess as they show off how much they worked out for their roles — but struggle to convey they are trying to act stupid in their roles. Overall, this film is not necessarily recommended but has some fun themes if you’re a big fan of the Rock or Efron.
Director: Seth Gordon
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario
Runtime: 116 minutes
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Buy/Rent on Amazon
Carrying the most serious tone of any film on our list today, Snitch surprises viewers with our leading man’s dedication. 18-year-old Jason is set up by a friend and receives a mandatory 10-year prison sentence, but his divorced father John Matthews (Johnson) decides he will do anything to keep his son safe. Based on a true story, this movie’s aim is to raise awareness of one of the prison system’s flaws. While the film overall doesn’t break any new ground film-wise, the performance from Johnson is impressive and consistent. In probably his best dramatic performance, Dwayne’s character faces dangers like a drug cartel and major drug dealers threatening to end his life and leave his son stranded in prison. Opposite co-star Jon Bernthal, this is another movie on our list today that has a lot of potential, yet unfortunately falls flat a few too many times.
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bernthal
Runtime: 112 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Buy/Rent on Amazon
All-out corny fun for the whole family, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island delivers on everything you might expect from an unexpected sequel. In a sort of fan-fiction fusion piece, this film premise takes the more popular creative writings of Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gulliver’s Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc.) and combines it all to create a mish-mash of fun and excitement. Highlights of this film are our guy Dwayne being Dwayne, and a nice appearance from Michael Caine as the sassy and sarcastic grandfather. An important thing to remember before watching this movie: it’s a family and kids action movie. That being said, there are a few young stars in this film that didn’t go much farther afterward, and for good reason.
Getting past the corny first 30 minutes, this film is basically just a display of Dwayne’s many talents as he fights, sings, plays ukulele, gives surprising moments of sincerity, and does his peck dance for the world to see. There are also some surprisingly entertaining visual effects present in this film, which won’t go entirely unnoticed if you’re paying attention.
Director: Brad Peyton
Main Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine
Runtime: 94 minutes
IMDb Rating: 5.8
Buy/Rent on Amazon
A spinoff tale stemming from The Mummy series, The Scorpion King is a fun action/adventure film that expands upon the fictional universe. When an evil ruler of the city of Gomorrah vows to destroy the outlying tribes, a skilled warrior and assassin named Mathayus is forced to unite them against a common threat. Dwayne plays Mathayus, who is also interested because the evil leader threatens to destroy his homelands and the people who make them what they are. Though this film is based on the character from The Mummy Returns, this movie stands on its own and makes no attempts to piggyback on the charm of the original series. Due to this, the film gives everything that is expected from the cover: A studly and shimmering Dwayne Johnson giving it his all. As his next big movie after his cameo in The Mummy Returns, this film was instrumental to Johnson’s career and where he would go next.
Director: Chuck Russell
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan
Runtime: 92 minutes
IMDb Rating: 5.5
Buy/Rent on Amazon
Very loosely based on a true story, Pain & Gain is a darkly comedic tale of stupidity and the American dream. When three bodybuilders from Sun Gym decide they deserve what the rich and powerful guys have, they plan to get it by any means necessary. Directed by Michael Bay, this film is absolutely over the top in so many ways but delivers some laughs along the way. The film layout and style is similar to Baywatch but gives much more to work with. Starring Mark Wahlberg alongside our star of the hour, these two have some unexpected on-screen chemistry that definitely works. It does push the “True Story” theme a bit too much, considering it has been credited to be loosely based on true events and off a book called Pain & Gain: This is a true story — but I guess that’s the joke. As with all Michael Bay films of late, this movie has a sense of humor about itself that lightens the load, making it a fun one to sit back with some popcorn and simply enjoy the insanity.
Director: Michael Bay
Main Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie
Runtime: 129 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Watch on Amazon Prime
Very accurately based on a true story, Fighting with my Family gets into subject matter that Johnson can really get behind: W.W.E. Wrestling. Besides his own self-starring action flicks that he produced (Rampage, Skyscraper, Jumanji, Baywatch), this was his first experience producing a film that was near and dear to Mr. Rock’s heart. A tight-knit, oddball wrestling family out of Norwich, England aspires to join the W.W.E., but when only Paige — the youngest daughter — gets chosen at a recruiting event, the family encounters tests of separation and jealousy. Though we don’t see a whole lot of our Rock in this film, his presence is undeniably principal as he serves as a guide to our misguided main character.
Since this is a true story, it’s no wonder that Johnson wanted this film to be made and this story to be told, considering he was really there in that time to help Paige and be the biggest man he has ever been: The Rock. This is the only role today where Johnson gets to show his roots to those who are unfamiliar with W.W.E., while also showing the world what the world of wrestling is all about. If you happen to have a Hulu subscription, this is one of the best movies on Hulu right now.
Director: Stephen Merchant
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn
Runtime: 108 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Watch on Hulu
In the second — and not quite as good — installment of the revived and rejuvenated Jumanji films, Jumanji: The Next Level brings all the same fun and action it did before but with some new, familiar faces. The game has changed and the landscape is glitchy, causing all kinds of problems for our crew of friends and heroes but there’s still only one thing to do: Save the world. In some ways, this movie makes some interesting comments about the world of gaming that we are currently in. The reason I say this is that the whole plot of this movie is because of the main character Spencer (Alex Wolff), who goes back into the game in order to become Bravestone once again. Who wouldn’t? To be strong, charming, and confident is any young man’s dream, all of which Dwayne Johnson is on an everyday basis.
In this film, Johnson is actually inhabited by Spencer’s Grandpa who is played by Danny DeVito. This means that Johnson had to do a loose impression of DeVito on screen, which didn’t really work great for me. The mannerisms of an older and sour man were spot on, but the speech he chose to take on was a bit distracting from the fun parts of the film. Either way, he still entertained throughout the film being the big lovable guy we know him to be.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart
Runtime: 123 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Buy on Amazon
In one of his earliest and very underrated films, The Rundown is an awesome buddy action comedy that delivers exactly what it promises. Like most Johnson films, this movie is a bit corny and over-the-top but entertains the socks off of unsuspecting audiences. Johnson plays Beck, a bounty hunter and “collector” who wants to be done with his life of violence and move on to start his own restaurant. His last job sends him to Brazil, where he must capture and return his boss’s son, played by Sean William Scott. Turns out, there’s a lot of political and social unrest in this little village of Brazil, where Beck gets caught up in being the hero once again. Throughout the movie, Beck continually says, “I don’t like guns”, which is great foreshadowing for an epic showdown finale that absolutely happens.
Johnson is a strong and funny presence in this movie, which showed producers of that time that he was ready for more screen time in a similar fashion. Other than being a pivotal step in his career, this movie has a surprisingly impressive cast including Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken as the bad guy. The chemistry between all of them is obvious, making this a great choice for our list today.
Director: Peter Berg
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Christopher Walken
Runtime: 104 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Buy/Rent on Amazon
The Jumanji story is back for the first time in years, thanks to our leading man. In what was once a dark tale of family resentment and tragedy, this new addition to the universe is catered to a new generation of kids who spend arguably too much time playing video games. Similar to the original plot, a group of kids are sucked into a video game with only one way out: Finish the game. Provided with three lives this time, our characters have a lot more freedom to be wacky and careless with each other, which is exactly what is great about this movie.
Despite it being another over-the-top action/adventure movie, this one has some of the best performances in any movie on our list today. Plus, that’s what The Rock does best and we love him for it. Johnson plays Dr. Xander Bravestone, a muscly and charming archaeologist that literally uses a special power called ‘smolder’ against his enemies. This is a hilarious and meta way for Johnson to portray himself in a film, not only referencing himself as the big, buff, charming man he is but also to hark back to his W.W.E. days with the eyebrow smolder.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Main Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart
Runtime: 119 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.9
Buy/Rent on Amazon
The greatest and undisputed best Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson movie is Moana, which is actually an animated movie from Pixar that was received with overwhelming approval. The story is about a young Polynesian woman named Moana, who is the daughter of the chief of an ancient island. Plagued by a curse because of the Demigod Maui and his mischief, Moana is called to the ocean — and by the ocean — to seek him out and correct the error of his ways. Maui (if you’re unfamiliar with Pacific Island mythology) is a demigod with a magical fish hook, giving him the power to shapeshift into any animal.
Johnson voices for Maui, who is a stubborn and self-righteous character convinced he has done no wrong. In the film, Johnson’s voice acting is off the charts good as he gives life to his character and becomes Maui. He even has some singing parts — since this movie has a handful of those — which are equally pleasant and surprising, reminding us what a multi-talented man he is. With help from the successfully enchanting and charming animation from Pixar, Johnson’s character is definitely his best, showing that you don’t have to show your face or rock-hard biceps to give an incredible performance. If you have a Disney+ subscription this is a great movie to watch.
Director(s): Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
Main Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House
Runtime: 107 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Watch on Disney+
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