When it comes to effortless charisma and wry wit, it's hard to top Canadian charmer Ryan Reynolds. But even though the Vancouver-born actor is mostly unchallenged in those categories, it took a while for him to take off as a bonafide movie star. Reynolds' most notable early role was as a co-lead on ABC's '90s sitcom Two Guys and a Girl (which garnered him ample Jim Carrey comparisons), but his transition to the big screen wasn't an instant home run.
After a decade of hit-or-miss comedies, Reynolds tried his hand at the superhero game. After 2011's Green Lantern fizzled, he'd eventually hit the bullseye with 2016's Deadpool (which was actually his second time playing the "Merc with a Mouth" after X-Men Origins: Wolverine), marking the perfect use of Reynolds' naughty humor and comic delivery.
We've worked up a quick Top 10 films list here, highlighting Ryan Reynolds' best movies and performances. From dramas to rom-coms to high-octane action flicks, these are Reynolds' greatest cinematic outings.
10. Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Where to Watch: Rent on Amazon and most platforms.
Director: Adam Brooks
In a rom-com that plays slightly like CBS' How I Met Your Mother, Ryan Reynolds portrays a father who recounts the stories of his past romantic relationships to his ten-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin), including how he ended up marrying her mother, to help explain his impending divorce. Also starring Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, and Elizabeth Banks, this film is a refreshing, clever dramedy about finding love.
9. Adventureland (2009)
Director: Greg Mottola
Written and directed by Superbad's Greg Mottola and loosely based on the theme park in upstate New York, Adventureland is a comedy about summertime park workers in 1987. Reynolds is in a supporting role here, as the Fun Zone's older maintenance man, but it's still a great use of him in an ensemble (while also winking at previous "big fish in a small pond" roles he'd played in Waiting and Van Wilder). Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star, along with Reynolds, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Martin Starr.
8. The Proposal (2009)
Director: Anne Fletcher
From Step Up and 27 Dresses' Anne Fletcher, 2009's The Proposal was like a charisma explosion. Reynolds and Sandra Bullock starred in this rom-com hit about a female executive who wrangles her assistant into acting like her fiancé so she's not deported to Canada. Reynolds' and Bullocks' chemistry was off-the-charts here, both with impeccable comedic timing and the extraordinary ability to play off one another. Also starring Malin Åkerman, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, and Betty White.
7. Buried (2010)
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Claustrophobic thriller Buried, from 2010, was another risky departure for Reynolds. It paid off though, working with very little to unleash a ton of tension. As an American truck driver in Iraq, kidnapped and buried alive in a coffin with only a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glow-sticks, pen, pencil, and a mobile phone. Reynolds delivered a frantic, nerve-wracking performance as a man desperate to survive this real-time crucible of a thriller movie.
6. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Director: David Leitch
Though Deadpool 2 wasn't the lightning-in-a-bottle delight that the first film was, it was still a ferociously funny outing, at many times crasser and gorier than the original movie. Short-ish on plot, Deadpool 2 featured Reynolds' sassy superhero reeling from a tragedy and trying to rebuild his life with a surrogate family of supers – namely Josh Brolin's future warrior Cable, Zazie Beetz's "luck isn't a superpower" Domino, and Julian Dennison's pyrokinetic Russell (whom Deadpool is intent on saving from a heel turn).
This movie also offered a post-credits scene with Hugh Jackman, which is now worth watching again due to the announcment that Wolverine will be in Deadpool 3.
5. Free Guy (2021)
Director: Shawn Levy
For Free Guy, which emerged after several pandemic delays to a healthy box office haul, Ryan Reynolds delivered a riotously fun performance in an eye-popping, imaginative environment as an NPC in a GTA-style MMO who gains sentience and falls for a real world player character. With a catchy concept and sweet, self-aware humor, Free Guy proved that Reynolds could deliver a big hit with an original character. Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, and Taika Waititi also star.
4. Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Director: Rob Letterman
Ryan Reynolds lent his warm whimsey to the world of Pokemon, voicing Detective Pikachu in 2019 adventure-mystery Pokemon Detective Pikachu. Co-starring Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, and Bill Nighy, Detective Pikachu was a rare delight within the realm of video game movies, thanks largely to Reynolds' appeal (and facial-motion capture) as the coffee-obsessed sleuth, in an endearingly comedic performance that’s closer to his subversive Deadpool schtick than you’d expect from a Pokemon movie.
3. The Adam Project (2022)
Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix
Director: Shawn Levy
Stranger Things and Free Guy director Shawn Levy landed a slick, futuristic family romp that captured the spirit of ‘80s sci-fi with Netflix's The Adam Project. Reynolds plays a pilot from a dystopian future who travels back in time to uncover the truth behind his wife's disappearance, only to wind up in the wrong year where he meets his younger 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell). A thoughtful mash-up of films like Back to the Future, The Last Starfighter, and more, The Adam Project also stars Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, and Zoe Saldaña. For more like this, take a look at our guide to the best sci-fi movies on Netflix.
2. Mississippi Grind (2015)
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
One of the smaller films on this list, Mississippi Grind, from (eventual) Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, features Reynolds and co-star Ben Mendelsohn in a drama about a gambling addict on a road trip to a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans who's convinced that his newfound friend (Reynolds) is a good-luck charm. Together, Reynolds and Mendelsohn create a tragicomedy character study for the ages.
1. Deadpool (2016)
Director: Tim Miller
Ryan Reynolds finally found the role he was born to play. Fans were woefully teased with the Reynolds/Deadpool casting back in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine where Reynolds first played mercenary Wade Wilson (who was robbed of his ability to speak and snark in the third act). Tim Miller's Deadpool, however, got everything right and all at once the perfection of this actor/IP paring was made evident. Deadpool was a comedy-action triumph, filled with awesome one-liners, stylish action, and heaps of fun fan service. We can forget about his role in the X-Men movies for now.
Where to Watch: Rentable on Amazon and most platforms.
Director: Marjane Satrapi
One of Ryan Reynolds' most interesting projects from the last decade was 2014's The Voices, in which he played a factory worker with mental health issues, Jerry, who imagines his pets (also voiced by Reynolds) are talking to him. Normally, movies featuring talking animals are family fare but in this black comedy big swing, Jerry's detachment from reality leads to multiple murders. Reynolds excelled as the lead here, helping elevate this very dark, bizarre tale. Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick co-star.
Upcoming Ryan Reynolds Movies
Ryan Reynolds is continuing to make movies with a few known upcoming films in the works. Most notably, Deadpool 3 has been confirmed and will feature Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
- Imaginary Friends (2024)
- Deadpool 3 (2024)
- Clue (TBA)
Matt Fowler is a freelance entertainment writer/critic, covering TV news, reviews, interviews and features on IGN for 13+ years.