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Do you smell what 'The Rock' is filming? 7 essential Dwayne Johnson action movies you have to watch

We've been smelling what The Rock's been cooking in the action hero department for years. 

By Phil Pirrello & Tara Bennett
Fast Five Therock

The year 2022 marks the 20th year anniversary of when WWE Superstar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson entered Hollywood's action movie genre, with his starring turn in 2002's The Scorpion King. This spin-off from the seemingly-always popular The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser puts The Rock front and center of an action epic full of wobbly CG that is easily overlooked thanks to the the actor's effortless screen presence.

Audiences have been happily following Johnson's big screen exploits from the ring to the big screen for decades, the last few years of which have seen him become either one of, or the, biggest movie star in the world.

WrestleMania will stream live on Peacock Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3 at 8/7c. The Raw After WrestleMania will air live on USA on Monday, April 4 at 8/7c. In celebration, we're arching our eyebrows and revisiting some of the best action movies on Dwayne Johnson's impressive resume.  

1. The Scorpion King (2002) 

Dwayne Johnson in The Scorpion King

Still known as The Rock back in 2002, the WWE icon with acting ambitions made such an impact with his tiny bit of screen time in The Mummy Returns that he, and his character, were given their own prequel. Following in the big ‘ole footprints of body-builder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Scorpion King allowed The Rock to lean into his strengths and find his style on camera without being overly chatty. On the action side, Johnson got to wear lots of leather, do dual-handed flippy things with weapons and fight a myriad of enemies while a lot of fire burned around him, or on their swords. A solid start for the action maven in the making.

2. The Rundown (2004)

The Rundown Trailer Still

Two years after The Scorpion King, Johnson got to play a contemporary action hero role in The Rundown, which is about a “retrieval expert” going out on one last gig. At first glance, Johnson’s character of Beck seems better suited to a more grizzled, world-weary actor who looks a lot closer to retirement age, because there’s no debating that even in a nice suit, Johnson looks like a baby in this flick. However, he does well playing the straight man bounty hunter against Seann William Scott’s entitled rich kid, while still proving his skills knocking heads in seedy bars in the jungles of Brazil. Plus, he gets to work with whips and has a stand-off against Christopher Walken’s weirdo bad guy, Cornelius Hatcher.

3. Fast Five (2011)

Johnson kick-punched his way firmly into action hero territory with the fifth Fast & Furious movie, which is considered by many fans to be the best of the series. This is the movie that led to The Rock being labeled "franchise Viagra," because his scene-stealing role as Special Agent Hobbs (who often challenges Vin Diesel's Dom to meme-making "testosterone offs") revitalized the series to be more than just car chases. Fast Five turned the "family" into anti-hero criminals-turned-squad-of-superhero-do-gooder drivers. Director Justin Lin's action is as over-the-top as Vin's performance is subtle, but damn it if his approach to the material doesn't turn Johnson into a movie star. 

4. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Yes, this is the movie where a moving cargo plane sneezes a car and fireball out of its nose. And we can't get enough of it.

Fast & Furious is that rare action movie that takes a kitchen sink to its story and succeeds without that approach being more of a bug than a feature. Justin Lin returns to execute with his impeccable crew the closet thing these movies have gotten to being James Bond films starring exotic, gravity-defying cars, as Hobbs teams up with the crew he was first charged with taking down in order to take down bigger and worse threats to their Coronas and familial Tokyo Drift-ing lifestyle. Fast 6 impresses outside the driver's seat as well, with solid, fist-pumping fight scenes in between all the epic car-fu stunts. Johnson and his endless charisma tractor beams audiences in to enjoy the explosive ride, one of the best popcorn entertainment blockbusters ever made.  

5. Rampage (2018)

Rampage Therock

In this Brad Peyton-directed adaptation of the beloved video game franchise of the same, Johnson starts dipping into brainy but brawny territory playing Davis, a primatologist and former US Army Special Forces soldier. 

As a wild-life eco warrior, Okoye helped save an albino gorilla named George from poachers and then raised him in captivity. When George is exposed to a pathogen that makes him grow to a crazy size with a very bad attitude, Okoye has to save his friend from being put down and wiping out cities in the middle of his path of destruction. Essentially a King Kong/Godzilla movie where the humans are truly the worst, Johnson gets to show his compassionate side and his beefy arms fighting mutated wolves, crocodiles, and even George.

6. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw  (2019)

Hobbs and Shaw

After joining the Fast & Furious franchise family in 2011’s Fast Five, Johnson’s Luke Hobbs gets his own spin-off adventure.

Here, Johnson pairs up, “Odd Couple”-style, with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw to bicker/fight their way through the baddies trying to take down M16 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby). The film is all alpha male energy, with increasingly ridiculous close fighting and epic scale action sequences as they try to outrun a genetically-enhanced Brixton (Idris Elba), who calls himself “Black Superman”. To do that, Hobbs takes them to his home island of Samoa, where Johnson gets to put his own personal ancestry on film, including the Samoan Haka as a war dance.

This welcomed touch adds some unique flavor to this typically testosterone filled adventure. Plus, there’s lots and lots of slow motion blowing up of things, and who doesn’t enjoy that in this genre?

7. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2019) 


Arguably the pinnacle film to date that mixes all of Johnson’s many talents, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle lets the actor showcase his muscles, acting chops and comedic skills with the very best results. Johnson is essentially playing the dual role of the perfect physical specimen of a videogame hero avatar, Dr. Xander "Smolder" Bravestone, that’s being internally operated by nerdy/neurotic teen Spencer Gilpin.

As such, he gets to possess his typical action-hero physique while portraying the crippling insecurities of a teen boy who doesn’t trust his own strengths yet. Johnson plays both sides of the character with true skill, volleying off the winning ensemble of Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan. Together, they all hit the right comedic and action beats together with Johnson doing any extra heavy-lifting needed to sell the final boss battle insanity in the final act.