Steve Carell is back in the Oscar race with “Beautiful Boy” for fall of 2018. Based on a pair of bestselling memoirs, it tells the harrowing true story of David Sheff‘s (Carell) desperate attempts to help his drug-addicted son, Nic (Timothee Chalamet). How does this performance fit in with the rest of the actor’s output? Let’s take a look back at 14 of his greatest films, ranked worst to best.
Carell first came to prominence as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” appearing as a regular cast member from 1999 to 2005. He left the nightly news satire to play bumbling boss Michael Scott in “The Office,” a role which brought him six Emmy nominations as Best Comedy Actor and a Golden Globe win in 2006 (he competed at the Emmys as a producer on the series in 2009, 2010, and 2011).
After supporting roles in such films as “Bruce Almighty” (2003), “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004), “Melinda and Melinda” (2004), and “Bewitched” (2005), Carell moved into leading man status playing a middle-aged man seeking to have sex for the first time in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005). He received wide critical acclaim the very next year for playing a gay Proust scholar in the Oscar-winning “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Carell became an Oscar nominee himself for playing eccentric billionaire John du Pont in Bennett Miller‘s true life sports drama “Foxcatcher” (2014). He reaped a Golden Globe bid the following year for playing a hot-headed hedge fund manager in “The Big Short” (2015), which reunited him with “Anchorman” director Adam McKay. He reaped further awards recognition at the Globes and SAG for “Battle of the Sexes” (2017), helmed by “Little Miss Sunshine” filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
The actor has three shots at nominations in 2018, with “Beautiful Boy,” “Welcome to Marwin,” and “Vice” all hitting theaters within weeks of each other. Tour our photo gallery of Carell’s best movie roles, and see if your favorite made the cut.
14. DAN IN REAL LIFE (2007)
Carell received some of his career best reviews for Peter Hedges’ comedic drama. He plays Dan Burns, a newspaper columnist and single father of three still getting over the death of his wife. While on a family vacation, he meets a beautiful woman (Juliette Binoche) in a bookstore, only to find out that she’s already in a relationship with someone: his brother Mitch (Dane Cook).
13. HOPE SPRINGS (2012)
Although it may appear light on the surface, this comedy from David Frankel is surprisingly frank about how much love can be lost in a long-lasting relationship. The film stars Meryl Streep as a housewife who hopes to reignite the spark in her marriage by signing her and her husband (Tommy Lee Jones) up for a week of intense counseling with Dr. Bernie Feld (Carell) at a coastal resort town in Maine.
12. CAFE SOCIETY (2016)
After a bit role in “Melina and Melinda” (2004), Carell reunited with Woody Allen as part of the main ensemble for his 1930s period comedy. The film centers on Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man who leaves New York for Hollywood and gets a job running errands for his uncle Phil Stern (Carell), a powerful talent agent. He instantly falls in love with Phil’s secretary Veronica (Kristen Stewart), unaware that she’s having an affair with her married boss.
11. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. (2011)
Before there was “Battle of the Sexes,” Carell and Emma Stone appeared in this multi-generational romantic comedy written by “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman. Carell stars as Cal, a middle-aged man whose life is changed when his wife (Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce. He seeks help from a newfound friend (Ryan Gosling) who’s skilled at picking up women, including Cal’s oldest daughter (Stone).
10. BEAUTIFUL BOY (2018)
Carell gives one of his best performances in this somber domestic drama. Based on a pair of bestselling memoirs, “Beautiful Boy” recounts the harrowing true story of how David Sheff (Carell) tried desperately to help his drug-addicted son, Nic (Timothee Chalamet). Director Felix Van Groeningen (“The Broken Circle Breakdown”) and screenwriter Luke Davies (“Lion”) jump back-and-forth through time to give insight into the recoveries and relapses that occur over several years.
9. DESPICABLE ME (2010)
Younger audiences probably know Carell best as the voice of evil mastermind Gru in this animated franchise. In the first installment, Gru and his little yellow Minions use a trio of orphan girls as pawns in a grand scheme, only to find his life profoundly changed by their love. The actor has returned for two sequels, as well as the spinoff entry “Minions.”
8. THE WAY, WAY BACK (2013)
This coming-of-age comedy from Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (“The Descendants”) centers on Duncan (Liam James), a shy 14-year-old on vacation with his mother (Toni Collette), her obnoxious boyfriend (Carell), and his daughter (Zoe Levin). Shy and unappreciated, he sparks up a friendship with the staff of a local water park and starts dating an outgoing girl (Annasophia Robb).
7. LAST FLAG FLYING (2017)
In this pseudo-sequel to “The Last Detail” (1973), Carell plays Larry “Doc” Shepherd, a former Navy Corpsman who reunites with his old buddies — former Marines Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranton) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) — thirty years after serving together in Vietnam. He asks the two to help him bury his son, who was killed in the Iraq War.
6. BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)
Carell reunited with his “Little Miss Sunshine” directors to recount the true story of a legendary tennis match nicknamed a “Battle of the Sexes.” He plays ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs, who challenged World number one Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) to a high stakes match. King, a feminist and closeted lesbian, was fighting for more than just the glory of winning: rather, this was about a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.
5. ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004)
Adam McKay’s absurdist comedy centers on Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), San Diego’s top-rated newsman in the male-dominated world of 1970s broadcasting. His status is threatened when a female anchorwoman (Christina Applegate) is hired at the station. Carell plays dim-witted but sweet-natured meteorologist Brick Tamland, a role he was well-prepared for after several seasons as a correspondent on “The Daily Show.”
4. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006)
By far one of Carell’s most popular titles, this road trip comedy from debut directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris was a huge hit at Sundance before lighting up the summer box office and winning Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) and Best Original Screenplay (Michael Arndt). The story centers on a dysfunctional family traveling cross-country in a VW bus on their way to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, where their youngest daughter (Supporting Actress contender Abigail Breslin) is a contestant. Carell plays Frank Ginsberg, a gay Proust scholar living with his sister (Toni Collette) following a suicide attempt.
3. FOXCATCHER (2014)
Carell received his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor for Bennett Miller’s truth-is-stranger-than-fiction sports drama. He plays John du Pont, an eccentric billionaire who convinces U.S. Olympic wrestling champions Mark and David Shultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) to join “Team Foxcatcher.” Things take a drastic turn, however, when du Pont kicks Mark out and murders David. “Foxcatcher” is a chilling true crime drama, anchored by naturalistic performances from its cast. Carell is truly a revelation, dialing back his usual comedic tendancies to play a terribly lonely, seriously messed-up man.
2. THE BIG SHORT (2015)
In a major change of pace from their usual collaborations, Carell reunited with “Anchorman” director Adam McKay for this comedic satire about the 2007-2008 financial crisis that triggered the housing bubble collapse. He plays Mark Baum (a character based on real-life investor Steven Eisman), the bombastic head of a hedge fund which invests millions of dollars into credit default swaps. Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt headline the large ensemble as various big money players.
1. THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2005)
Carell became a leading man with Judd Apatow’s hilarious sex comedy about a middle-aged man’s quest to finally lose his virginity. With the help of his friends (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Seth Rogan), he meets a single mother (Catherine Keener), but holds off on doing the deed in fear that she’ll leave him afterwards. Despite what its title suggests, this isn’t just a raunchy romp. Instead, it’s surprisingly touching and charming, thanks in large part to Carell’s empathetic performance.