Some The Rock roles are more The Rock than others. To celebrate the release of Rampage, which features one of the most The Rock roles of all time, SYFY WIRE is rounding up the most characteristic The Rock performances in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's box-office-busting career.
But what defines Rockness? It's that fine line Johnson rides between "badass" and "lovable brother figure." If his comedic timing makes you laugh, his muscles perform inhuman feats, and he can squeeze some familial love into the mix all within the same movie, then it's the perfect role for The Rock. He's the good guy, the savior, an alarmingly large all-American hero.
Because we all know that The Rock often plays a very certain character, one that is reflective of his personality: Big guy with a heart of gold performs impossible feats to save the day, making you laugh and possibly cry along the way, all while wearing a tight T-shirt. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Johnson said he wants everyone to walk out of his movies feeling elated and like they can take on the world. That's exactly what these 10 roles we've listed here accomplish — but some roles are more The Rock than others.
Here are the top 10 The Rock roles ranked by just how The Rock they really are.
Agent 23, Get Smart (2008)
The only reason Agent 23 makes it onto this list is because he starts out as a heart-of-gold guy. He's the cool guy and the only agent at the film's CIA-stylized government agency CONTROL who's nice to Steve Carell's Max Smart at the beginning of the film, even going so far as to team up with Max and protect him from bullies (Terry Crews and David Koechner, for what it's worth).
Eventually, though, we learn that Agent 23 is working for the bad guys, the terrorist organization KAOS. It's only through his characteristic dumb luck that Max and his female counterpart Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) are able to stop Agent 23 and KAOS' plot to kill the President of the United States (James Caan) by blowing up Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
Playing the heel in wrestling or bad guy in movies has never suited Johnson, especially when thinking about Get Smart in the context of his other roles on this list. But it's still enough of a "The Rock" role to make the list in the first place. Johnson quips with the best of them, stands up for the little guy, and staples a piece of paper to Koechner's face. You can't help but be disappointed when you learn he was a baddie all along.
Paul Doyle, Pain & Gain (2013)
Pain & Gain was a strange blip in both Johnson and director Michael Bay's careers and, admittedly, a strange blip on this list. Johnson's Paul Doyle is a muscle-headed, cocaine-addicted dummy who gets dragged (again) into a life of crime by Mark Wahlberg but, eventually, comes out the other side after finding God. Before Doyle is arrested and rolls over in court, though, he returns momentarily to a life of living large and snorting coke off strippers' abs.
Pain & Gain makes this list because of how it portrayed Johnson's physical prowess and his surprising chops as a slightly more serious (but still funny, of course) actor. Yeah, The Rock is a comically large human being, but big people feel pain, too (to steal a line from Get Smart), but he's the hero of his own criminal world in this movie — even if he wimps out in the end.
Luke Hobbs, Fast and Furious franchise (2011-present)
Hobbs doesn't have so much a "heart of gold" as he does a heart concerned with justice and the law and everything Dominic Toretto's (Vin Diesel) family isn't always concerned with. But Johnson's developing role in four of the eight (and counting) Fast and Furious films — Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious Seven, The Fate of the Furious — and his character's upcoming spin-off with Jason Statham's Shaw proves just how well-suited Johnson is to playing a hard-pressed government agent.
More than anything, though, Johnson's time with the Fast and Furious franchise has defined his position as one of Hollywood's best-loved action stars. Need an unstoppable force to take on your immovable object? The Rock is your dude. He'll even throw some well-timed jokes and charming smiles in just to mix things up and keep fans coming back for more every time.
Spencer, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
The problem with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, as it applies to the intangible quality that is The Rockness, is that Johnson is playing a video game character inhabited by the consciousness of a socially awkward teenage dweeb. Spencer (Alex Wolff) has to learn how to live up to The Rock's level of confidence and capability and watching the Rock — a patented piece of Grade-A American beefcake and a box office juggernaut — play off a scrawny teenager’s insecurities is comedy gold.
It's the fact that The Rock’s character is so uncertain of his abilities that drags the Jumanji sequel back from the top of this list. It's funny to watch The Rock try not to cry because he's so freaked out, but it’s not as The Rock as The Rock can get.
Jack Bruno, Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
Race to Witch Mountain marked the end of Johnson's brief run as Disney's family-friendly action hero in the mid-to-late 2000s. After this badly received reboot, 20th Century Fox snatched Johnson up for Tooth Fairy (2010), which we will not delve into here past mentioning it and moving on.
In Race to Witch Mountain, Jack is a reluctant hero, a getaway car driver who gets pulled into a government scheme involving two superpowered alien siblings, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig), an astrophysicist (Carla Gugino), and armored alien assassins called Siphons.
The movie is forgettable. But pairing Johnson with kids is always a safe bet, even if Jack was a bit more serious than our 2018 view of Johnson; he plays the role of the protector well. Plus, there are few things more entertaining than watching a large man get his butt handed to him, both physically and verbally, by a couple of skinny alien kids on a mission.
Joe Kingman, The Game Plan (2007)
What a time to be alive. After a couple well-received guest-star stints on the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana and Cory in the House, Disney snatched The Rock up to play Joe Kingman, a self-obsessed star NFL quarterback who discovers he has an eight-year-old, ballet-loving daughter (Madison Pettis). Very few people would probably describe The Game Plan as a "good movie," but, man, if it doesn't make you feel something to watch a tiny, tutu-clad little girl win over her estranged father and a team of comically large NFL players, then you probably don't have a heart.
The Game Plan established Johnson as a easy-to-love, family-friendly comedic presence while still tapping into his sports background. No, The Game Plan will not be remembered as a cinematic masterpiece; but the image of the "freakishly large" Johnson pirouetting across a stage while dressed as a giant tree will stick with you forever.
Bob Stone, Central Intelligence (2016)
While Central Intelligence, which threw comedian Kevin Hart into the mix alongside Johnson, was met with a pretty lukewarm reception from audiences, you can never go wrong with slapping The Rock into a tight T-shirt and making his character almost alarmingly upbeat. Johnson usually plays the effortlessly cool dude, so casting him as a former fat kid who grew up to surpass everyone's expectations was a nice change-up.
The Rock's comedy chops were on full display for Central Intelligence, especially when playing off Hart's humor, and his unrelenting positivity is only surpassed by how believable he is as a government agent. Central Intelligence combines the best parts of Hobbs (Fast and Furious) and The Rock's more classically lovable characters, making Bob an almost-perfect Rock role.
Davis Okoye, Rampage (2018)
This is the movie we're all here for right now and the point in our list where the ranking starts to get a little murky — these final three are peak The Rockness.
Rampage is a fantastically fun romp through scientific impossibility and The Rock working alongside his best friend, George the albino silverback gorilla, to take down a 30-foot flying wolf named Ralph and a jaw-droppingly large crocodile (supposedly) named Lizzie on the mean streets of Chicago. There are rocket launchers, there are helicopters and crashing airplanes, there are hints that Johnson's David Okoye is a former black ops agent who just so happened to later take up primatology.
In the film, The Rock prefers the company of animals to people but is, of course, perfectly charming. He takes it upon himself to save the world, all the while fighting for his friend's life and cleaning up other people's messes. Thank you, The Rock.
Raymond Gaines, San Andreas (2015)
Wow. San Andreas, y'all. Did you know they're planning a sequel? Because they are. When the infamous San Andreas Fault along California's coast finally blows and unleashes a catastrophic earthquake, search-and-rescue helicopter pilot Raymond Gaines (Johnson) is forced to team up with his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) to save their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) from certain death.
Raymond is essentially a superhero with, yes, a heart of gold; he saves people for a living, wants nothing more than to protect his beloved daughter, and can apparently breathe underwater if the film's penultimate scene is to be believed. The man is an unstoppable force made of love and light, all wrapped up in a too-tight T-shirt. The only thing that can beat his role in San Andreas for pure The Rockness is...
Michael Buchannon, Baywatch (2017)
You heard it here: the 2017 remake of Baywatch is freaking gold. It's also the Rockiest Rock performance of his career. Yes, it's stupid, yes, it's incredible, yes, it will leave you smiling and rolling your eyes. Johnson's Mitch Buchannon, the predecessor to David Hasselhoff's head lifeguard on the original series also named Mitch Buchannon, exudes charm, confidence, and a can-do attitude at all times. Basically, The Rock is playing himself in Baywatch… he just wears more flip-flops.
As the head lifeguard amongst a crew of equally attractive, equally upbeat and capable lifeguards, Mitch plays the role of big brother and protector of everyone who steps foot on his beach. Even when you don't believe in yourself, Mitch believes in you.
All of this on top of one of the best meta jokes in recent movie history — Mitch referring to Zac Efron's character, a Ryan Lochte parody, as "High School Musical." The jokes are never-ending, the action is fun, and The Rock is superhumanly incorruptible, making this his most The Rock performance of all time... for now.