Paul Rudd Is Always Great—But Here Are His Greatest Hits
Paul Rudd is a pillar of the internet’s most beloved actors, and rightfully so. From playing characters like privileged but hilarious Bobby Newport on Parks and Recreation to winning all of our hearts as Phoebe’s husband Mike on Friends, Rudd has always had a distinct sense of deadpan humor and charming charisma unique only to him. And with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, it only felt fitting to look back on some of Rudd’s most memorable performances on film.
10. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Many would argue that aside from the standalone Ant-Man movies, Rudd’s best performance as everyone’s lovable Scott Lang was probably in Avengers: Endgame. I disagree. Captain America: Civil War was the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foray into the convergence of its biggest franchises. It was a grand time: heroes meeting each other, the Sokovia Accords, sides were being drawn, and #TeamCap and #TeamIronMan were trending for weeks on end. Of the large ensemble cast, Rudd’s Ant-Man stood out quite literally for transforming into a giant version of himself during the Avengers’ airport showdown, and well, for the comedic relief he brought into the film. The film also marks the first time we witness Scott Lang’s love for Captain America. Rudd himself likens his experience on the Avengers films to his time on Friends.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight, the actor shared: “You know, it’s the one experience I could say felt a little similar [to The Avengers franchise] where I kind of joined this group …you know, it’s like I get to act in scenes with some iconic characters and actors in The Avengers and it felt a little bit like that.”
9) This Is The End (2013)
2013’s This is The End is among the past decade’s many apocalypse movies but was marked for its countless celebrity cameos. Paul Rudd was no exception. Although only briefly appearing as himself for one quick scene, it was enough to leave audiences pointing at their screens and shouting, “IT’S PAUL RUDD!”
8) The Anchorman Movies (2004, 2013)
If this were a ranking based on Rudd’s most hilarious performances, the Anchorman movies would definitely win hands-down. He played newscaster Brian Fantana in both films, who is, of course, best known for his love of colognes—sixty percent of the time, they work every time!
7) I Love You, Man (2009)
I Love You, Man was a staple of the 2010’s buddy-cop “bromantic” comedy films. It follows Rudd alongside Jason Segel as a friendless man looking for someone to be the best man at his upcoming wedding. The movie marks Rudd’s third collaboration with Segel and honestly, it’s 2023. They need to make another one and revive this genre.
Segel most recently shared his love for Rudd in an interview with The Washington Post, saying, “If the ship was going down, we [him and Rudd] were going down together. It was a really joyful collaboration. When something is going well with an actor currently, I think to myself, ‘Gosh, it’s like when I was acting with Rudd.’”
6) The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
The Fundamentals of Caring is one of Rudd’s more recent poignant performances. The road trip film follows him as a retired writer who, after a personal tragedy involving his estranged wife, becomes a caregiver to a disabled teen. Filmed impressively in only 26 days, the movie was nominated for several film festival awards and is both smartly funny and heartwarming. It also features stellar performances from Selena Gomez, Craig Roberts, and Jennifer Ehle.
5) The Cider House Rules (1999)
Who could ever forget The Cider House Rules? The award-winning film that managed to bag two Oscars featured a star-studded cast that not only included Rudd but also Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, J.K. Simmons, and for all my fellow Succession fans out there, a young Kieran Culkin. In the film based on the John Irving novel of the same name, Rudd plays Wally, a pilot who is mostly away during the movie’s course but returns as a paraplegic.
4) Ant-Man (2015)
Before Ant-Man, it was a little difficult visualizing Paul Rudd as a superhero. And then, 2015 came along, and we were introduced to Scott Lang. A former master thief who’s just looking to hold down a job to provide for his daughter after a stint in prison, Lang crosses paths with scientist Hank Pym. The latter sees something in Lang and chooses him to don his coveted Ant-Man suit.
During Quantumania’s press tour, Rudd describes his run as Scott Lang as the most sensible trajectory for him in terms of taking on superhero roles: “I thought if I were ever going to be cast as a superhero, something like Ant-Man would make sense. This is not someone who’s really born with any kind of superhuman ability. He’s just a regular person.”
3) Clueless (1995)
As if! 1995’s Clueless remains among the ‘90s most iconic and recognizable films to this day. From Alicia Silverstone’s chic outfits to countless scenes which have had countless homages through the years, Clueless is one of the most important teen comedies to have ever been made—and it has Paul Rudd in it.
He stars opposite Silverstone (who plays Cher) as her ex-stepbrother turned boyfriend (by the end of the film) Josh—we know how it sounds, and yes, it’s one of the film’s aspects that have probably aged like milk—who like Cher’s father, dreams of becoming a lawyer. In the film, Josh stays with Cher and her father during his college break to learn more from him, all while calling out Cher for her superficiality and immaturity. If this all sounds a little too familiar, it’s because the movie is a loose adaptation of Emma, and honestly, this is another genre we need to bring back: teen comedy movies based on classic literature.
2) The Little Prince (2015)
The Little Prince is arguably one of the most beloved stories in all of literature and the world could not have asked for a better adaptation than the Mark Osborne-led film back in 2015. In it, a young girl with an ambitious and driven mother who dreams of having her enroll in a prestigious academy, finds friendship in their peculiar but kind neighbor. The elderly man was an aviator who tells the little girl the story of whom he called the Little Prince, a boy who lived out in space.
Inspired and determined, the girl sets out to meet the Prince herself only to discover that the once hopeful young boy grew up to become a disgruntled and disillusioned adult named Mr. Prince (played by Rudd), who has now forgotten his childhood. Like its beloved source material, the adaptation is a beautiful tribute to the dreams we had in our youth, love, and believing in the very best in people.
1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of the 2010s most beloved young adult novels. It tells the story of a young teen named Charlie through a series of letters that he writes wherein he narrates his first year in high school in a quiet suburb out in Pittsburgh. Rudd plays Mr. Anderson in its 2012 film adaptation, one of Charlie’s teachers whom he is quite close to. Anderson gives Charlie books to read for him to write essays about (writers and their former high school English teachers, huh?) and ultimately delivers one of the novel and film’s most important lines: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
(featured image: Karwai Tang/WireImage via Getty)
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