Jim Carrey's 5 Best Roles and 5 Directors He Should Work with Now

March 14, 2013

Jim Carrey

This week, audiences will see if Jim Carrey is in rare form as a rival illusionist in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and they've gotten a promising glimpse at his surprising turn in Kick-Ass 2 as Colonel Stars and Stripes thanks to the first red band trailer. While this could be a turnaround for what has been a dull period in Carrey's long career, it's been awhile since he's been at the caliber that his glory days held in the 90s. Therefore, it's time to take a look back and pick the actor's five best roles. But rather than just living in the past, there are also several directors that Carrey needs to collaborate with to keep his career fresh.

First, let's take a look back at the eclectic, funny and sometimes dramatic career of Jim Carrey. Pretty much every role Carrey has taken has at least been an interesting choice, even if the results were less than stellar. From the movies The Number 23 to I Love You Phillip Morris and familiar comedies like Liar, Liar and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, he's been all over the board. But here's the five roles we think are the best work in Carrey's lengthy career in both comedy and drama:

#5. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Honestly, it was a tough choice to determine whether this spot should be filled with Liar Liar, but it's hard to ignore the breakthrough role that launched Jim Carrey's career to becoming the funniest actor of the 90s. In the end, Liar Liar is just an extension of Ace Ventura, but it seemed to restrict Carrey just a little bit whereas Ace Ventura allowed the actor to put on a slew of different voices, show off his infamous rubber face and introduce talking out of your ass (literally) to audiences everywhere. People still throw around "Allllll righty then!" and Ace Ventura is easily one of the most iconic and recognizable comedy characters of the past 20 years.

#4. Dumb & Dumber

Dumb & Dumber

Though Hollywood is obsessed with sequels nowadays, a comedy that is revered and successful enough to warrant a follow-up is relatively rare. As directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly prepare to spawn a sequel sometime down the road (hopefully), there's no denying that clueless and dimwitted Lloyd Christmas is Jim Carrey's best straight-up comedy role. With an awful bowl haircut and his real chipped tooth, Carrey makes Christmas one of the most lovable losers to grace the big screen, and it's his charm and charisma that keeps him from being absolutely annoying. "We landed on the moon!"

#3. The Truman Show

The Truman Show

Following a stream of comedies and over-the-top roles that started in 1994 with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and ended with Liar Liar in 1997 (not to mention Batman Forever and The Cable Guy letting him do something somewhat different in the middle), Carrey took a sharp turn toward the dramatic with The Truman Show. Of course, there are moments that allow Carrey to cut loose and let his wild comedic nature shine, but mostly, Carrey put on his dramatic pants, and they were sharp.

In what almost felt like a study in his life since becoming a big comedy star where he always seemed eager to entertain, the character of Truman Burbank is one who tragically is stuck being nothing but entertainment, though for him, it's real life. The film has become a poignant glimpse into the future of reality television, and it's Carrey's genuine performance and commanding screen presence that turned him into something more than just a comedian. Those final moments when Truman speaks to Ed Harris and leaves his artificial world always make me smile.

#2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

In what should have been an Oscar nominated turn, Carrey does the unimaginable by becoming an introverted, awkward, pathetic hopeless romantic. With very few moments of the Carrey audiences came to love in the 90s, the actor wows as Joel Barrish, a man struggling to hold on the memories of his once fledgling relationship with Clementine (Kate Winslet) as professional mind-wipers erase her. I think the performance is especially impressive given the frenetic nature of the narrative structure writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry present that Carrey keeps you engaged in a film that seems complicated, but it just a beautiful story of love and fate.

#1. Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon

Don't get me wrong, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is Jim Carrey's best film, but it does not contain his absolute best performance. Man on the Moon sees Carrey disappear into the role of comedian Andy Kaufman, a man ahead of his time. While working on the film, Carrey pulled a Kaufman-esque move by using method acting and staying in character as Andy Kaufman, even off the set. It's a meta element of the production given that the real Kaufman himself utilized that same technique when he would become the obnoxious lounge singer Tony Clifton.

Carrey nails the comedic elements of Kaufman's unpredictable, innovative, strange and hilarious sense of humor, not to mention all of his mannerisms and speaking style. And when he becomes Tony Clifton, all bets are off. But aside from the lighter side of Kaufman that audiences saw on stage, Carrey also captures the darker emotional side of being a misunderstood comedic genius who passed away all too soon after a fight with cancer. The performance is funny, tragic, and Carrey doesn't just impersonate Kaufman; Jim Carrey is Andy Kaufman.

Over the past decade, film roles like Mr. Popper's Penguins, Yes Man, Fun with Dick and Jane and A Christmas Carol have been lackluster. Bruce Almighty, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I Love You Phillip Morris have been brighter spots, but not really at Carrey's full potential. It's not always necessarily his fault since he gives 110% in every role, but Carrey would benefit from working with filmmakers who can bolster his talent and give him the films he deserves. There have been rumblings that Carrey is very finnicky about his performances and difficult to work with, but that's actors for you. Here are the directors that Carrey should team up with sometime soon for a boost:

Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson

The director of Magnolia and Boogie Nights took Adam Sandler and let him deliver what seems to be his best performance (though Reign Over Me might give it a run for his money) in Punch Drunk Love. So maybe it's time for Jim Carrey to get serious again and spend some time with P. T. Anderson. The filmmaker also gave a boost to Burt Reynolds in the aforementioned porno biopic, brought Joaquin Phoenix back to the big screen in The Master after a career-spiraling turn acting out for a faux documentary, turned Tom Cruise into a chauvinist pig in Magnolia and gave Daniel Day-Lewis one of his three Oscars for There Will Be Blood. Of course, it takes Anderson awhile to get his projects together, and there's no telling when he might have a role that would be perfect for Carrey, but these two need to do something together.

Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow

The guy is one of the hottest comedy directors working today, so if Carrey wants to get back on the good side of big screen laughs, he needs to work with the filmmaker who helped turn Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen into big screen sensations. You may not know this, but Apatow co-wrote Fun with Dick and Jane, produced The Cable Guy, and also co-produced one of Carrey's early stand-up performances in 1991. Frankly, I'm not sure why he hasn't shacked up with the director and his usual suspects for some comedy fun. Hell, Adam Sandler got to join the crew for Funny People to make fun of himself, and a movie with lots of laughs but an emotional core and heart is exactly what would let Carrey shine. Maybe the two had a falling out years ago, and that's why they haven't collaborated, but this kind of reunion feels right.

Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman

The director of Juno, Thank You for Smoking, Up in the Air and Young Adult has become a master of blending drama and comedy into a singular story with characters that have substance and feel real and genuine, even if they're not easy to relate to. Reitman has proven that he can let comedians do more than just get laughs, especially with Patton Oswalt's performance in Young Adult and Michael Cera in Juno, so Carrey would really blossom in one of his films. Honestly, with Cameron Crowe's large absence from the big screen until We Bought a Zoo, Reitman felt like a kindred spirit and almost a perfect replacement for the gap left from Crowe's absence. Reitman's storytelling style, penchant for great soundtracks and more remind me of the director without feeling like he's trying to be Crowe, and that's great.

Adam McKay

Adam McKay

Again, the fact that this collaboration hasn't happened is mind blowing. Anchorman: The Legend Continues feels like it would have been the perfect opportunity for Carrey to shack up with Will Ferrell and his frequent collaborator Adam McKay. Much like Judd Apatow (who produces some of McKay's work), McKay is one of the most popular comedy directors working today and he has a whole pool of great comedic talent that Carrey should be working with. Perhaps the problem is that when Carrey is being funny, he's supposed to be the center of attention, and McKay's films are funny due to an ensemble of laughs from everyone involved, but whatever the reason this hasn't happened, someone needs to change that.

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

After saving John Travolta's career with Pulp Fiction and most recently making Christoph Waltz a household name, maybe it's time for Carrey to get gritty and bloody with someone who is a brilliant writer and director. Hell, Tarantino just found a solid role for Jonah Hill in Django Unchained. It's a brief appearance, but it shows that he's open to some big name comedy talent for certain roles. It'd be great if Carrey could get some kind of twisted villain role or just an opportunity to become a great character in Tarantino's universe. Especially when it comes to Tarantino's more recent films, having a larger than life personality has helped immensely, and if he could have a role similar to Leonardo DiCaprio's Calvin Candie or even Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine, that would be something to behold.

So there you have it. Jim Carrey has been one of my favorite actors since his fame skyrocketed in the 90s and it's been frustrating watching him fall into roles that he brings to life rather well, but within movies that are just not up to par. Again, this isn't all his fault, but something has to give in order to get Carrey back to the once thriving level of success and quality he once possessed so many years ago. It doesn't look like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will help much (though I won't find out for sure until this weekend), but maybe Kick-Ass 2 is a step in the right direction. What do you think about Jim Carrey's career?

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Feat



No THE CABLE GUY makes me sad.

DAVIDPD on Mar 14, 2013


OH, i do wanna see a movie with Apatow and Carrey. Funny people could be a great movie if Judd bring real comedy gold stars from the past

TOONFED on Mar 14, 2013


That would be an interesting movie. A bunch of aging fictitious stand up comics put together kind of like the aging action stars in The Expendables, but with an Apatow plot. Carey could be the central character and then you could have guys like Don Rickles on the old age end of the spectrum and Dane Cook on the young side. Throw in Eddie Murphy...just because he's capable and for some reason still likable. Classic SNL alum like Bill Murray, Martin Short, Steve Martin and Mike Meyers to round out the cast. Make it about something like a support group for alcohol and addiction or even these guys trying to create a new breed of comedy for themselves through a Jackass style of reality television (or other random trial and error comedy experiments). As long as it had some heart and wasn't just a showcase for the actors themselves and cheesy like the Expendables....I would love to see that movie. I've also always wanted to see Jim Carrey and Robin Williams in a movie together. That needs to happen.

Aero027 on Mar 15, 2013


The Mask???!! :'(

THEBATMAN on Mar 14, 2013


So good. If you ever wondered what Jim Carrey with superpowers would be like...

si1ver on Mar 15, 2013


The Mask is my favorite, by a nose. What could have been a train wreck of a movie is a great homage to cartoons, with an incredible performance by Carrey,fun effects, and a nice,beautiful turn by a pre-anorexic Cameron Diaz.

kitano0 on Mar 15, 2013


I agree with almost everything said in this article I have always said Man on the Moon was his finest work, so under rated.

Guy who comments on things on Mar 14, 2013


I watched Man on the Moon and Jim Carrey is no where to be seen. I expected Jim Carrey, instead i saw Tony Clifton and Andy Kaufman.

Andy Freshwater on Mar 15, 2013


Exactly. Very few actors can completely disappear into a role like this. The only other that comes to mind is DDL.

Morvidus on Mar 15, 2013


Not to discredit Carrey, because I agree, it was an amazing performance by him, but it may have just been the perfect role for him. I don't think he's capable of disappearing into any role like Day Lewis is. In his other drama's like Truman Show, The Majestic, Eternal Sunshine, and 23 he's just playing a subdued version of himself and while he's good, nothing really stands out aside from the fact that he's good at toning down his humor. He's the opposite of George Clooney. Both are gifted actors but Carrey doing drama is just Jim Carrey being serious, whereas when Clooney does comedy it comes across as Clooney trying to be funny. In both cases the actors are capable and It works but it just never feels quite right. Carey's best performances are comedy related, which is why Man on the Moon was perfect for him. It was a serious movie about being funny.

Aero027 on Mar 15, 2013


Clooney was very funny in "Oh Brother...." and "Burn After Reading" , IMHO

kitano0 on Mar 15, 2013



Cody W on Mar 17, 2013


What about the Grinch?

Zade_92 on Mar 14, 2013


lol so much hate for that movie. I like it though. Shout out to my boy Kevin Pereira!

si1ver on Mar 14, 2013


I agree with all the directorial choices aside from Adam McKay, who I don't usually find funny (note: humor is subjective, so I understand that others DO find him funny). I'd prefer him working with Wes Anderson instead, see how that would work out heh... Great article, really well written!!!

Greg dinskisk on Mar 14, 2013


Wes Anderson was exactly who I thought of while reading this article.

grimjob on Mar 14, 2013


It seems like all big comedic stars eventually fall as their brand of novel comedy turns stale. Sandler is a good example of this...but Sandler is still clipping along (arguably, he may have surpassed Carey in popularity and box office take as of late) for two reasons. One is is his own production comedy that caters to a juvenile niche audience, but more importantly its that Sandler has bolstered his career with both quality dramas and ensemble comedies that take a step away (a small step) from his usual brand of comedy. I believe this is a big part of the reason Carey has faltered over the past decade. He hasn't been willing to be a part of an ensemble cast where he would have other comedic actors to push and inspire him. (Instead he's stepped into Eddie Murphy territory with cheesy kids films). Will Ferrell is a good example of a comedian who needs ensembles from time to time. He's proven that he can carry a film on his own but he's also shown that he can bomb a film when not with the right talent (Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro). Carey needs to start doing ensemble comedies or he's going to disappear into obscurity and most likely have to rebuild his image in the indies. I think Carey's future is going to be resting on Burt Wonderstone, arguably his first tandem/ensemble comedy with another big name comedian. The fact that its with Steve Carrel makes it even better because Carrel picked up the comedy slack when Carey faltered (the transition ironically taking place with Bruce Almighty). Carrel's brand of humor is similar to Careys in that its kind of goofy with heart. They both started out on television. Carrel's first big role was in an ensemble, and he's making a career out of sharing the screen with other big name comedians, a path that is sure to guarantee him success. Ultimate dream would be that these two would become a comedy duo like Walter Mathau and Jack Lemon that I could watch for the rest of my life.

Aero027 on Mar 14, 2013


The real difference being that Carrey is an improvisational genius with a truly good heart, and Sandler having contempt for his audience and the art of movie making in general. Sandler is lucky to have his "juvenile niche audience", for sure.

kitano0 on Mar 15, 2013


Terrence Malick.

Timothy Zila on Mar 14, 2013


Chris Nolan

si1ver on Mar 14, 2013


HAH!!!!!! I can see it now.. "You are a flower of formidable health, destined to flourish unlike much else. The clouds float away, not unlike apathy." "YEAH!!!! EHHEHEHEHHE!"

Greg dinskisk on Mar 15, 2013


Carrey's performance in The Cable Guy was brilliant. His character in the movie is a classic example of how humans can be heavily influenced by the environment they grow up in.

Andy Freshwater on Mar 14, 2013


I really liked him Lemony Snicket. I think he should work with Woody Allen.

Davide Coppola on Mar 15, 2013


I am optimistic for Loomis Fargo. I saw Wonderstone last night and walked out of the theatre but carrey was easily the best part of the movie. I wouldn't hae been opposed to just watching Buscemi dance around in that letterman jacket for an an hour and 40 though. Hillarious

EZWIDERZ on Mar 15, 2013


LOL, really? Ace Ventura is one of his best roles? I hated the first movie, but didn't mind the second movie. I would have had his role in Liar Liar come in at #5 because that movie was the first hint that we got of him being good in an equal parts dramatic role as well as his usual comedic shtick that I thought worked great for the interactions he had with his kid in the movie. Liar Liar alone is way better than both the Ace Ventura movies combined (including that terrible direct-to-video one minus Jim Carrey).

Jon on Mar 15, 2013


Me, myself & irene?

3thumbsup on Mar 15, 2013


I forgot about that. It's a good one, it at least deserves a mention in the post above.

$45974493 on Mar 15, 2013


I remember reading something about Chris Nolan's Howard Hughes project, he thought it was the best thing he had personally written, but it had to be shelved because The Aviator and other projects. Carrey was set to star as Hughes. I hope someday that project will make it's way back.

John on Mar 15, 2013


What about The Dead Pool?

$126191 on Mar 15, 2013

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