The road to movie stardom for Dwayne Johnson is one of the unlikeliest in recent memory. A third-generation professional wrestler known the world over as “The Rock,” Johnson nabbed a supporting role in 2001’s “The Mummy Returns” and made such an impression that he starred in a successful stand-alone film, “The Scorpion King,” the very next year.
As his film career progressed, it became evident that, despite his success in action films, Johnson had a distinct flair for comedy, which he began to show off in such films as “Be Cool” (2005), “Central Intelligence” (2016), “Moana” (2016) and in his biggest-grossing film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017).
However, Johnson is fully back in action hero-mode in his 2018 movie, “Rampage,” where he plays a primatologist whose beloved albino gorilla is being used in an experiment that turns him into a raging beast that threatens to destroy everything around him.
Let’s tour our photo gallery above of the Top 10 greatest movies that helped to turn Johnson into one of the world’s biggest stars.
10. GI JOE: RETALIATION (2013)
The second film in the “G.I. Joe” film series is a reboot of the first film, bringing in stars Johnson and Bruce Willis to pick up where Channing Tatum (seen briefly) left off. It’s Johnson in full military mode, and while the plot is nonsense, director John M. Chu does know how to film action sequences, which gives Johnson ample room to grab a gun and do one of the things he does best.
9. GET SMART (2008)
Anyone familiar with Johnson’s wrestling career as The Rock may remember that he originally started out as a heel, playing the bad guy in his early matches (his arrogant strut alone made you want to scream at him.) But Johnson has had very few occasions in his film career where he could resurrect that bad guy swagger, so seeing him turn evil and hold Anne Hathaway hostage has an extra-fun kick to it.
8. BE COOL (2005)
Based on Elmore Leonard‘s sequel to “Get Shorty,” “Be Cool” offers Johnson in one of his most unusual roles. As Elliott, a gay Samoan bodyguard, Johnson is clearly having a blast in this character part, and though may have been hired as muscle for the film’s bad guys, Elliott secretly wants to be an actor. So when Chili (John Travolta) gets him an audition for a part in a Nicole Kidman movie, for Elliott, all bets are off.
7. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (2016)
If you were pitched a Johnson/Kevin Hart action comedy which pairs a former high school dweeb turned CIA agent and a former BMOC who feels like he peaked in high school, you’d have a pretty good idea as to which actor played what character, right? And you’d be wrong. And it’s that role reversal that is at the heart of the laughs in “Central Intelligence,” with Johnson and Hart proving to be an expectedly hilarious comedy team.
6. THE SCORPION KING (2002)
The big question after The Rock (Johnson’s professional name at the time) garnered wide attention for his supporting turn in 2001’s “The Mummy Returns” was whether he and his character could sustain a film on their own. After the film became an worldwide hit, it was clear that the answer was yes. Though the film itself received mixed reviews, “The Scorpion King” was a key building block toward Johnson’s movie stardom.
5. JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (2017)
The sequel to the 1995 “Jumanji” focuses on four high schoolers who, while playing the video game, are whisked into the game’s jungle setting and inhabit the characters that they chose to represent them. Johnson and Hart are paired once again and are joined by Jack Black and Karen Gillan, who must win the game in order for the kids to return to real life. Having grossed over $400 million so far domestically, it’s the biggest hit of Johnson’s career.
4. SNITCH (2013)
Yes, there are guns ablazing in “Snitch,” but it’s the first Johnson action movie that is a primarily serious character film. After his son is arrested as the victim of a sting operation and is sent to prison thanks to minimum sentencing laws, his father (Johnson) steps in to offer to become a snitch and deliver a drug cartel higher-up in exchange for a reduced sentence for his son.
3. THE RUNDOWN (2003)
In his only second leading film role, Johnson surprised critics and audiences alike in displaying his flair for comedy in Peter Berg‘s “The Rundown.” Johnson plays Beck, a bounty hunter whose boss gives him one last assignment — to go to Brazil to retrieve his son Travis (Seann William Scott), but for Beck, Travis proves to be more than a handful.
2. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS series (2017, 2015, 2013, 2011)
Johnson appeared in the four most recent installments of “The Fast and the Furious” series — “Fast Five” (2011), “Fast & Furious 6” (2013), “Furious 7” (2015) and “The Fate of the Furious” (2017) — playing Luke Hobbs, who is a Diplomatic Security Services officer (DSS) first assigned to bring down Dom’s crew, but as he infiltrates the team, he feels more and more on board with their mission.
1. MOANA (2016)
For an actor whose facial expressions are famed, it’s ironic that Johnson’s best screen performance to date has been one where his real life face was not ever presented at all. As Maui, the preening demigod in Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated feature, Johnson exudes every bit of strutting confidence that he displayed as The Rock, only to be humbled whenever he has to deal with Moana, a teen warrior who needs Maui but who just won’t put up with his nonsense.