Something about the american movie industry changed in the mid-to-late 2000s. Maybe it was the oncoming beast known as streaming, maybe it was the writers' strike, or maybe it was our culture at large. The erosion of the mono-culture. Our collective thought process on what makes a movie star a "star," the idea of who could lead a movie romantically/action-wise changed, and the ways in which people consumed movies changed drastically. All those changes took place while the film industry was utterly overhauled.
Ostensibly, none of what I just wrote involved Seth Rogen, but in reality, Rogen is a prime example of a new age megastar. I was growing up in Redford, MI, at the time Seth Rogen rose to prominence. I remember being 11-years-old and having been inspired to be a comedian of any sort (a dream I still harbor with me to this day) because of Seth Rogen. It wasn't his performances, of which he didn't have many leading roles in 2007, it was learning how much he had written and how young he was when he did it (and being a 17-year-old stand-up) that blew me away.
And now looking back nearly 13 years later, I'm shocked at how Rogen has withstood the scrutiny of father time. Beyond having immense movie success, this Canadian born performer carries a great deal of cache in the USA. He's batting nearly .1000 in terms of likability. He influences the political views of millions and helped change the global perception of cannabis. Seth Rogen transitioned behind the camera effortlessly and nabbed a part in Disney's "The Lion King," proving once again how easily castable Rogen is based on his uniquely lovable voice.
I honestly may have had Rogen underrated in terms of comedic careers, especially when you liken him to greats I've ranked like Jim Carrey. I will be upholding, yet again, the rules/stipulations/arbitrariness of my previous lists.
15. "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (2008) Metacritic Score: 56/100. Box Office: $39,462,600Giphy
Written & Directed by Kevin Smith.
This is your average, run-of-the-mill, use-our-place-of-work-as-a-porn-studio-comedy. Kevin Smith talked about this movie in his Q&A Special "Burn in Hell" and says it was the first time in his career he realized he was chasing trends, more or less. He was gong where the puck was, not where the puck was gonna be. As an audience member it's easy to see how he felt that way. Seth Rogen was not quite the star he would go on to be, and paired with the sub-par script by Smith, you can see why the box office results were so unfortunate. Though about this movie I will say, it has Jason Mewes. Always bonus points for Jason Mewes.
14. "Observe and Report" (2009) Metacritic Score: 54/100. Box Office: $28,995,400
Written & Directed by Jody Hill.
Proving that box office receipts are not that big a factor in ranking Seth Rogen's career because, spoiler alert, he's hardly raking in "Avengers" money. This movie was a peach of a comedy that was completely overshadowed by the Kevin James Summer Blockbuster Franchise "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." Well, actually, it turns out "Paul Blart" may have been a thief, according to Seth Rogen when he broke down his most iconic roles for GQ. This movie suffers from Ray Liotta and Anna Farris being too much of it without being given enough funny things to do. However, Michael Peña and Jesse Plemmons help the equilibrium.
Bonus points for the middle-finger scene.
13. "Sausage Party" (2016) Metacritic Score: 66/100. Box Office: $103,388,200
Directed by Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon. Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Ari Shaffir, & Kyle Hunter. Additional Story by Jonah Hill.
Looking on BoxOfficeMojo.com you'll see that Rogen's highest grossing films are all animated ... and those aren't the ones to make this list *looks at the critical reception of "Lion King" with shame*. "Sausage Party" was a long-rumored passion project of Rogen and his creative partner, and best friend, Evan Goldberg. It has an all-star cast with this premise: What if we smoked a big sack of weed, watched "Toy Story," and wrote a script. I know this won't sit well with some of you reading, but I implore you to give this movie another try before the animation is simply too outdated & creepy to enjoy.
12. "Long Shot" (2019) Metacritic Score: 67/100. Box Office: $30,316,300Giphy
Directed by Jonathan Levine. Written by Dan Sterling & Liz Hannah.
"Long Shot" deservedly takes the crown of "Most Recent Movie on the List." The award is in the mail. I initially thought the plot of a babysitter falling in love with the, um, babysit-ee(?), was abrasive and weird. Instead it was funny — weird — but surprisingly heartfelt. This doesn't showcase the best of either Theron or Rogen, but it shows they had some chemistry for sure.
11. "Neighbors" (2014) Metacritic Score: 68/100. Box Office: $162,539,000Giphy
Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Written by Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O'Brien.
I'll tell you who surprised me the most in this movie: Zac Efron and Rose Byrne. I had no clue they could be this funny. What I wasn't prepared for was why this movie needed a 'meh' sequel. When one tries to split the hairs of the careers of comedic giants, making bad sequels has to mean something. "Neighbors" is witty, well-cast, and without too much fat. Ultimately, what kept it out of the top 10 was the fact that Seth Rogen isn't the best part of this movie, and similar to "Dumb & Dumber," the unnecessary franchising of the movie will not go unpunished.
Bonus points for Dave De Franco.
10. "The Interview" (2014) Metacritic Score: 52/100. Box Office: $6,748,200
When a meeting could've been an email.Giphy
Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. Written by Dan Sterling, Seth Rogen, & Evan Goldberg.
Picture this: It's 2014 and life is going well. There isn't a White Supremacist in the White House and North Korea rarely occupies time in your mind. Then, Sony is hacked. Your friends can't even play their PS3's online! *gasps*
Seriously, though, somehow this movie was the thing that made NK decide they could govern our entertainment. This movie makes light of the 'supreme' ruler of NK, and then bases the entire plot around his assassination. The politics surrounding this movie cloud everyone's judgment of it. This was the first BIG Netflix movie. They acquired the rights after Sony didn't want to distribute it because of you know, the whole Hollywood disrupting controversy, and all. What needs to be said is that this movie is funny, but definitely never lived up to its *outrageous* hype. I think the crucial flaw in this movie is that Franco is left to be the weird, unruly TV host, and Rogen is the mild-mannered straight guy (to use a comedy term). That chemistry paid off incredibly in another few projects of theirs, but it didn't work as well here.
9. "Disaster Artist" (2017) Metacritic Score: 76/100. Box Office: $20,738,500Giphy
Directed by James Franco. Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, based on book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.
With every big comedy lead we inevitably enter this kind of territory. The point where movies are high on the list because they are damn good films — not because the actor I'm ranking is the sole reason the movie works. Moreover, those 'damn good movies' tend to air more on the side of dramedy. "The Disaster Artist" hits all those qualities whilst still being effortlessly hilarious due to Franco's outstanding portrayal of Tommy Wiseau. I'm not a scholar of "The Room," so I'm not sure how accurate Seth Rogen's portrayal of Sandy is, or if the guy even existed, but I'm sure that this movie is among my favorites from a loaded 2017 class of movies.
8. "Steve Jobs" (2015) Metacritic Score: 82/100. Box Office: $18,399,700
Directed by Danny Boyle. Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on book by Walter Isaacson.
Few people are ever lucky enough to allow the great scribe Aaron Sorkin to give them words to say (one could say only "A Few Good Men, get the chance). Even fewer get to play some of the most influential people in modern history. The fewest combine the two. Make no mistake, "Steve Jobs" is Michael Fassbender's movie to lose. It doesn't rely upon Rogen as Steve Wozniak, but it's crucial that Rogen doesn't phone anything in. The way Boyle directs this film leaves no room for pretenders. Rogen delivers in one of the more impactful scenes of the movie.
p.s. I can't believe this was so snubbed in the Awards Season.
7. "50/50" (2011) Metacritic Score: 72/100. Box Office: $40,290,900Giphy
Directed by Jonathan Levine. Written by Will Reiser.
Cancer sucks man, and it's hard to wrap your head around — no matter how cancer is affecting you, it's always futile and confusing. "50/50" approaches the subject in a way I'm not sure I had seen before ... and maybe sense. Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a subtle, lived-in performance as Adam, a guy dealing with his diagnosis. Seth Rogen plays his best friend Kyle, as they navigate life's new geography. I think Rogen's tweet says it best:
Bonus points for this scene always making me cry.
6. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) Metacritic Score: 73/100. Box Office: $153,843,600
Directed by Judd Apatow. Written by Judd Apatow & Steve Carell.
This was the toughest Top 5 omission I have ever had to make while ranking anything. Alone, in a vacuum, this movie is funny enough to be on any Top 5 list — maybe even a Top 3 — about comedies ever made. *catches breath*
Capital 'B' EXCEPT, Rogen plays Cal, a lowly store worker. He's a peripheral lead who steals scenes every chance he gets, but this is clearly Carell's movie. Actually, to make a point, I'd point out that Apatow is brilliant in that he allows for so many scene steal-ers to begin with. In any Apatow flick a bit character is likely to light up the screen, and Rogen is hardly the only funny supporting character in "40-Year-Old Virgin." What this movie did do was solidify Rogen and Apatow's film relationship, furthering the connection made early in Rogen's TV career.
5. "Knocked Up" (2007) Metacritic Score: 85/100. Box Office: $194,826,700Giphy
Written & Directed by Judd Apatow.
Finally we arrive at the film that changed it all for Rogen. This was his shot at being a romantic, and frankly a movie, lead. Paired with Katherine Heigl, hot off "Grey's Anatomy" fame, "Knocked Up" may be Rogen's most successful live-action movie ever (are we counting "Lion King" as animated? Idk anymore...) made, commercially and critically speaking. This movie really showed Rogen's potential for chemistry with a scene partner in a way he never had a chance to showcase before.
Bonus points for Rogen getting along with Heigl, apparently that's not an easy thing to do on set.
Bonus bonus points for the immaculate special features on this Blu-Ray including a fake 'Making Of' that shows off plenty of people trying to be the lead for this movie that is simply delightful.
4. "Funny People" (2009) Metacritic Score: 60/100. Box Office: $62,629,200
Written & Directed by Judd Apatow.
I honestly would like to refer you to my Adam Sandler Rankings (the Sandlerst) to read my thoughts about the film there. "Funny People" is so close to unassailable greatness that it can be frustrating. In short, the movie isn't. However, Rogen's performance feels so real. I can't tell if it's Judd downloading all his early career anxiety onto a character, Rogen addressing his insecurities through 'Ira Weiner,' or both. Either way I wish I could've jumper through the silver screen and lived in this world. A world where Jason Schwartzmen and Jonah Hill live together is somewhere I desperately want to be.
3. "This Is The End" (2013) 67/100. Metacritic Score: 67/100. Box Office: $111,710,700Giphy
Written & Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, with additional material by Jason Stone.
A comedy Hall-Of-Fame worthy cast all playing fictionalized versions of themselves (with high concentrations of their worst personality traits) in an apocalypse scenario. What more could you ask for? Hermoine?? You got it.
Where this movie succeeds is it's tongue-in-cheek approach to the modern idea of celebrity in general. Jay acts as the conduit for the audience in a way, but get this, he's also a celebrity. Morality, friendship, loyalty, and a shit ton of celebrity cameos — that's the "This Is The End" pitch. That pitch simply isn't enough if you can't genuinely feel the relationships of the people on camera. Their friendship feels palpable and thus the movie succeeds.
Bonus points for this being the directorial debut of Seth & Evan.
2. "Superbad" (2007) Metacritic Score: 76/100. Box Office: $159,067,400
Directed by Greg Mottola. Written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg.
"Superbad" is in the running for funniest movie of the century. If it featured Rogen more prominently as a performer we may be looking at a '1a/1b' situation as opposed to a standard ranking. For the uninfomred, Rogen and Goldberg wrote this movie in their teens and had been wanting to make it forever. That's why the characters are named Seth and Evan.
Michael Cera took Evan from a simple character who was meant to simply reflect how outrageous Seth was to a toally unique, incredibly hilarious place. Truly within Cera, and the breakout star Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin), is how this movie separates itself from the pack of high school comedies that the general public would be eager to lump it in with.
Bill Hader's addition to the cast feels like team stacking in the NBA. That's like when the Miami Heat added Ray Allen back in the day. Jonah Hill and Cera were so spectacular in this movie that they've been trying to break the mold of it their entire career's since. In a lot of ways "Superbad" reminds me of an album. They say a band/musical act's first album is always their entire life in the making. Every project after that only gets a few years of development, but this one marinated in the minds of soon to be comedy legends, almost to perfection.
1. "Pineapple Express" (2008) Metacritic Score: 64/100. Box Office: $109,602,500Giphy
Directed by David Gordon Green. Written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, with additional story by Judd Apatow.
It's a good thing Rogen never wanted to shed the pothead schtick, because "Pineapple Express" would have never allowed it. In order for this film to work a lot of expectations had to be subverted. In 2008 the general audience may have expected Franco to be the non-dealer and for Rogen to be the campy stoner, if you had heard of him at all. Second, at the beginning of the second act of the film, there is some heavy violence. From there on out, the movie pulls few punches, which a "stoner-comedy" would not have been expected to do.
We get iconic bit performances and line deliveries sprinkled throughout the movie, one of the most underrated aspects of the movie is the direction. This feels like a gritty action movie. Nothing is phoned in at any point in "Pineapple Express," and if anything was the whole would suffer for it. The crime lord Ted has facilities that make him feel powerful (kudos to the production design and location team). Rogen and Goldberg clearly outline a well structured plot, that only aides the comedy has the second act builds up to the explosive climax.
This is the (as my friend Demetrius called it) perfect stoner movie. Funny, action-packed, and about friendship. In my mind, that could describe the perfect movie in general. Thanks to Rogen's determination and brilliance, Franco's best performance of all-time, and for the supporting cast led by the unforgettable Danny McBride as Red, "Pineapple Express" doesn't settle for being a pothead midnight cult classic — instead I recognize this movie as High Art.
Bonus points for Rogen talking about the underground weed farm used in the movie in an audition years before the film came out.
Super bonus points for the legendary use of "Paper Planes" in the trailer.
"Take This Waltz" (2011) Metacritic Score: 68/100. Box Office: $1,435,700
Written & Directed by Sarah Polley
In summary, this movie is sad. I saw it when I was younger on VOD and it was totally mis-marketed, but it's touching and bleak. Michelle Williams is outstanding.
"The Night Before" (2015) Metacritic Score: 58/100. Box Office: $44,583,600
Full disclosure, I never saw this movie. Maybe that speaks to an inherent bad quality, or maybe it speaks to me being lazy. I've been advised that this is funny, though, and that I should watch (I will). If anything it had a shot at spots 15-13, at most.
"Freaks and Geeks" (1999-2000)
One of the best shows that never got a second season, ever. So much talent on-screen and behind the camera with the likes of Apatow and Paul Feig running the show (metaphorically speaking, I'm not sure of the actual show runner). Martin Starr is a revelation in "Freaks" and Shia Labeouf has an episode arc.
Bonus points for being set in Michigan!
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