James Franco’s humble beginning in the cult television show Freaks and Geeks (which doesn’t appear on this list only because it was, in fact, a television show and not a movie) has led to an incredible acting, writing and directing career. A well-established actor, James Franco tends to fly under the radar when it comes to the depth and strength of his acting work. The media tends to focus on his constant studies and literary achievements, all of which are impressive, however we thought we’d take a look at the top 10 James Franco movies.
10. Never Been Kissed
A sentimental favourite from the 1990s, this was actually James Franco’s film debut. Definitely a very ‘debut’ role as well, as Franco played the ‘friend of’ the most popular guy in school. If you’re anything like me, you won’t have realised who he was at the time so here’s a clip of his character (apologies for the poor quality, hard to find anything before 2000 in HD on youtube!)
9. Date Night
Only so low on the list because of the short screen time, James Franco plays the guy who Steve Carell is mistaken for. Can’t say much else if you haven’t seen the movie, however the scene with Franco and Mila Kunis (yes, they play an insatiably attractive criminal couple) is one of the most entertaining ‘pop in’ scenes of all time.
8. Pineapple Express
Playing the role of Saul Silver, this is by far the best comedic role Franco has ever played (including everything you’ve seen on Funny or Die). Franco plays Saul Silver, who is best described as a massive stoner. Despite the shallow first appearance for Franco, even in a comedy he adds an extra something to the character, earning rave reviews from the New York Times and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Would, however, definitely not be recommended to anyone who is squeamish about drugs or drug-related jokes.
7. Spiderman 2
Critically acclaimed as the best of the franchise, Spiderman 2 was a chance for Franco to develop the role of Harry Osborn further and show the range that this character gave him. Difficult to give a synopsis of this without giving away significant parts of the first movie, but definitely a must see for James Franco fans.
6. Whatever It Takes
Another 1990s throwback, Whatever It Takes was in line with the other teen movies of the 90s (although, yes, it was technically released in 2000). James Franco again plays the popular jock, however this time he is one of the main characters. Typical teenage romantic comedy, however with unexpected wit, this movie was actually based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac.
In this 2008 film, James Franco plays Scott Smith, the lover of Harvey Milk. For most actors it would prove difficult playing a standout role alongside another actor as brilliant as Sean Penn, but in this role Franco is both convincing and authentic. Enough so that rumors he himself is gay heightened after the release of the film. An incredibly moving true story.
4. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
An unlikely hit, James Franco is incredible in the prequel to The Planet of the Apes. Posing ethical and moral questions in a familiar story, an interesting addition to the original – a feat that has been tried before and has failed before. Franco again shines, with the dedication and complexity he brings to every performance.
3. James Dean
Although not made for cinema release, this is one of Franco’s finest performances and also one of the most highly regarded critically. As the title suggests, this was a biopic of James Dean, showing many significant events in his life. Though an obvious choice for the physical likeness, Franco not only plays a convincing part but brings his own quality to the role without detracting from the portrayal of a legend. A bit of trivia – to prepare for the role Franco went from being a non-smoker to smoking to being a two-pack-a-day smoker, as well as isolating himself from friends and family.
The original Spiderman, whilst some say weaker than the movies that follow, was still a huge box office and critical success. This earns its spot higher on the list than the 2nd of the set, as it is essential viewing to understand the following, and to see the way in which Franco can develop a character throughout all three films.
1. 127 hours
It takes incredible acting talent to have an audience hooked on watching your own personal struggle, and 127 hours made it clear that James Franco possesses that skill. If you’re unfamiliar with the (true) story, Franco plays a mountain climber who becomes trapped, alone, for you guessed it – 127 hours. The story details the ways he found the courage to survive and eventually free himself from the ordeal.
If you’re a fan of James Franco, it’s definitely worth checking out As ever, feel free to leave any thoughts/omissions/differences in opinion in the comments section below about this post on James Franco Movies.