James Franco movies: 15 greatest films, ranked worst to best, include ‘127 Hours,’ ‘The Disaster Artist,’ ‘Milk’

Season 2 of “The Deuce” is now debuting on HBO. The series stars James Franco, who also produces the program and directs some episodes. He has developed a pretty notable resume since he first came to audience’s attention on the low rated but highly acclaimed TV series “Freaks and Geeks.”

A year after that NBC show ended, Franco found fame in a highly praised TV biography of James Dean for which he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy award. That success led Franco to a film career which has run the gamut from superhero blockbusters to Oscar nominated prestige films.

It hasn’t all been a smooth ride for Franco though. In 2010 he should have been at the peak of his profession since he had just received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for the film “127 Hours.” Unfortunately for Franco, he agreed to act as co-host of the ceremony with Anne Hathaway. The duo had little experience in hosting live television and were uniformly criticized for their efforts and thought to lack the comedic skills and spontaneity usually brought to the show by the stand-up comics and TV hosts who usually take the job.

Franco bounced back quickly, though. He threw himself into higher education studying such topics as writing and filmmaking in various graduate programs. At once he was enrolled in as many as four graduate school degree programs, including a PhD. program. His acting career continued on at a high level too and just this year he won his second Golden Globe for the film “The Disaster Artist.”

To celebrate a new season of “The Deuce,” Gold Derby asks you to take a photo gallery tour of his 15 greatest film performances, ranked worst to best.

15. EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)
This film was based on a memoir that became quite popular as a book and was featured in depth on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” It tells the story of a woman who divorces her husband and embarks on a voyage of discovery. She goes to Italy to eat fine food, India to pray and find spiritual enlightenment and then ultimately falls in love in Bali. Julia Roberts took the lead role in the film. Franco plays the first man the lead character has an affair with while she is getting divorced.

Franco stars as a circus performer in turn of the century Kansas. He specializes in magic and aviation tricks but is of a bit dubious morality. While flying in a hot air balloon he is sucked into a tornado and ends up in the Land of Oz where he is thought to be a wizard. This film acts as a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz” with Franco playing an early incarnation of the wizard who meets Glinda the Good Witch played by Michelle Williams. He also spurns the love of another young woman turning her into The Wicked Witch of the West.

13. CITY BY THE SEA (2002)
After his portrayal of the title character “James Dean” in a television biopic, Franco burst into movie screens in a number of films one of them was this one where he got to work with A-List acting talents like Robert De Niro and Frances McDormand. De Niro plays a New York City police officer who is estranged from his drug addicted son. Franco becomes involved in a drug related murder, and De Niro eventually is persuaded to try and help his troubled son.

Franco has expressed some dissatisfaction with his appearance in this historical romance claiming he was unfulfilled having to portray a traditional romantic hero and aspired to more complicated roles. The film is a lush romance between an heir to the British throne and an Irish princess during a time of unrest between the two countries. The story is more of a legend that has been passed down thru generations and retold in various ways and is not considered historical fact.

11. PALO ALTO (2013)
During Franco’s infamous graduate school days (where he was at one time involved in about four different college advanced degree programs) he studied creative writing and published this collection of short stories which he dedicated to his classmates at Brooklyn College. Gia Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, adapted some of the stories into this film in which Franco starred. Franco plays a soccer coach who has an unhealthy infatuation with one of his students.

10. HOWL (2010)
This film is a biopic of Alan Ginsberg who was an acclaimed poet and writer. His work was classified as being part of “The Beat Generation” which became a part of American culture in the fifties following WWII. The writers and their product were highly controversial something Franco has often seemed to court in his work. “Howl” is an unusual film told in a strange style. Franco gives a bold performance in that he seems to have put aside all desire to be likable and is at times somewhat irritating and bizarre in the film.

9. THIS IS THE END (2013)
Franco and his friends played versions of themselves in this comedy. The film takes place as Franco’s fictional house where a party is being held. Various disasters suddenly take place including an earthquake and something that sucks people into the sky. The actors then set out to survive the disaster.

8. SPIDER-MAN (2002)
As with most superhero characters, “Spider-Man” has been remade and recast and released in various series each with multiple sequels. Other than a television series in the seventies this was surprisingly the first film to dramatize the popular comic book character. Franco had auditioned for the lead role but was ultimately cast his Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man’s alter ego) best friend and son of the film’s chief villain the Green Goblin.

Franco had a supporting role as a military officer in this film from “Crash” Oscar winner Paul Haggis. The film tells the story of a couple searching for their son who has just returned from the Iraq war. Tommy Lee Jones secured a surprise unpredicted Oscar nomination for the film as Best Actor. The Valley of Elah is a place from the Bible where David was believed to have killed Goliath.

Franco reteamed with his former co-star from the television series “Freaks and Geeks” for this stoner comedy about a pothead and his drug dealer who get involved in a large mess after witnessing a murder. Franco plays the drug dealer in the film. He received his second Golden Globe nomination for the film as Best Comedy/Musical Actor.

The “Planet of the Apes” films have been one of the most successful franchises ever. The original 1968 film was based on a novel of the same name which told the story of astronauts who crash land on a planet where apes are verbal and dominate the society and humans are mute and live in the wild. The film spawned four sequels in the following years. Franco starred in the first of a new series of films made in the 2000’s. Franco plays a scientist doing brain research trying to save his father from Alzheimer’s Disease who inadvertently gives a chimpanzee the power of human thought.

Franco won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award and National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor for this film from the writer of “Kids.” The film tells the story of four college girls who rob a restaurant and then use the money to go on spring break in Florida. Franco plays a drug dealer and rapper with whom the four young women become involved.

Franco directed and starred in this film about another film called “The Room.” “The Room” developed sort of a cult following as perhaps the worst film ever made. Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, a frustrated European actor living in Los Angeles who is unable to get a break as an actor. He decides to make his own film which results in “The Room.”

2. MILK (2008)
Franco won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor for this biopic about Harvey Milk (portrayed by Sean Penn in an Oscar winning Best Actor role). Milk was a pioneering crusader in the gay rights movement who eventually was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Franco is quite appealing and charismatic as Milk’s onetime boyfriend Scott Smith. Franco is particularly memorable during the scene when he first meets a drunken Milk in a New York City subway.

1. 127 HOURS (2010)
Franco received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor for this true story of an avid hiker and outdoorsman who slips and falls while in a Utah canyon and gets his arm stuck under a boulder. He is stuck there for days becoming increasingly dehydrated and delusional until he makes the bold decision to cut his own arm off in order to escape. The brutal but ultimately uplifting film also brought Franco nominations from BAFTA, the Golden Globes and SAG.

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