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The Best Jason Bateman Movies You Have to Watch

Those who know Jason Bateman best likely know him as a TV actor. Between his comedic work on Arrested Development and his more dramatic turn on Netflix hits Ozark, Bateman has spent decades proving that he’s one of the most versatile actors on the small screen. There’s plenty to admire in his small-screen work, but Bateman has also cultivated an excellent career in movies, even as he’s become one of TV’s biggest and brightest stars.

Bateman definitely specializes in a certain type of guy. He often plays normal, fairly conservative people who are appalled or surprised by the actions of the stronger personalities around him. What makes him great, though, is that Bateman can twist that energy in a million different ways. He can use it in the service of quiet dramas, or in the craziest of comedies. Bateman definitely has a very particular energy, but what makes these roles his best are the ways he uses that energy to his advantage.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in Game Night.
Warner Bros.

Game Night (2018)

Game Night
66 %
r 100m
Genre Mystery, Comedy, Crime
Stars Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler
Directed by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Jason Bateman may never make another movie as good as Game Night, but many comedians never make one movie this good. Bateman leads an incredible ensemble cast through the movie, which tells the story of six friends who inadvertently find themselves involved in a much more high-stakes game night than the one they imagined. Bateman has several incredible scenes throughout, including one in which he bleeds all over a neighbor’s dog. Game Night is one of the funniest comedies of the 2010s, and Bateman and Rachel McAdams, who plays his wife, are the anchors that make the whole thing work.

The Gift (2015)

The Gift
77 %
r 108m
Genre Thriller, Mystery, Drama
Stars Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Directed by Joel Edgerton
Bateman rose to prominence as a comedian, but he’s proven throughout his career that he’s capable of delivering more dramatic performances. In The Gift, Bateman plays Simon, a normal, married man, who runs into Gordo, an old acquaintance he hasn’t seen in years. After the two run into one another, Simon’s life begins to unravel, and when his wife learns what happened between Simon and Gordo, she begins to question their entire relationship. The Gift is a taut, suspenseful thriller about a mild-mannered man who faces a long-due comeuppance, and Bateman is perfect for that kind of role.

Juno (2007)

81 %
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Elliot Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner
Directed by Jason Reitman
In Juno, Bateman gives the kind of performance very few actors are capable of giving. He’s one half of the couple that’s planning to adopt Juno’s baby, but while his wife, played marvelously by Jennifer Garner, is filled with anxious anticipation over the arrival of their child, Bateman’s Mark initially seems to be much more laid back. Mark and Juno start hanging out, and what starts as a meeting of the minds eventually becomes something vaguely predatory. Bateman plays both halves of the character beautifully, and you realize that he’s much more bad husband than cool guy.

Hancock (2008)

49 %
Genre Fantasy, Action
Stars Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman
Directed by Peter Berg
Hancock is the kind of deranged superhero movie that would never get made today, but made total sense in 2008. The film stars Will Smith as the titular character, a superpowered hero who is also a drunk and frequently causes bigger problems than the ones he solved. Bateman co-stars as the film’s normal guy, a PR specialist who works with Hancock to help rehabilitate his image. The movie takes some strange turns from there, but Bateman remains the film’s straight man. He’s just a regular guy in a world of superheroes, trying to make enough money to retire in peace.

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible Bosses
57 %
Genre Comedy, Crime
Stars Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis
Directed by Seth Gordon
On top of being a great comedic presence, Bateman is also an excellent comedic collaborator, which is why Horrible Bosses works so well. Bateman stars alongside Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as three employees who hate the people they work under, and concoct elaborate plans to rid themselves of those bosses for good. The movie is best when Bateman is working off of his numerous scene partners, and the comedy is allowed to flow freely. Horrible Bosses is one of the defining comedies of its era, and that’s because it’s hilarious from its first moment to its last.

Up in the Air (2009)

Up in the Air
83 %
Genre Drama, Romance
Stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Directed by Jason Reitman
Few actors can move as seamlessly between lead and supporting performances as Jason Bateman, and that’s in part because he can seem like a normal guy. In Up in the Air, Bateman continued his collaboration with Juno director Jason Bateman by taking on a small role as George Clooney’s boss. Clooney plays a man who travels the country to fire people for companies that don’t want to do it themselves. As his boss, Bateman has a few crucial scenes in which he plays a comedic role that turns tragic in his final moments. It’s not a major part, but it’s enough for Bateman to stand out in a great ensemble.

Zootopia (2016)

78 %
Genre Animation, Adventure, Family, Comedy
Stars Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Bateman has delivered plenty of great live-action performances, but one of his best performances comes as a sly fox in Zootopia who’s trying to prove that he’s more than the usual stereotypes that foxes are tagged with. Bateman’s Nick teams up with a plucky cop to uncover a conspiracy at the heart of the seemingly utopic society that they both live in. Zootopia has some big ideas on its mind, but those ideas mostly deliver in part because Bateman provides such an acerbic presence at the film’s center. He’s witty, wry, and has a heart, even if it’s protected by layers of sarcasm.

Bad Words (2013)

Bad Words
57 %
Genre Comedy
Stars Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand
Directed by Jason Bateman
Bateman’s work in front of the camera has defined his career, but he can also be a pretty great director. Bateman both starred in and directed Bad Words, which takes an absurd setup and turns it into something strangely compelling. In the movie, Bateman stars as an adult who is, through a loophole in the rules, enter in and win a local spelling bee. As he ascends toward the national championship, his profile rises, and he eventually becomes friendly with a teenage competitor who is feeling incredible pressure to win the whole thing.

This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

This Is Where I Leave You
44 %
Genre Drama, Comedy
Stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda
Directed by Shawn Levy
Another of his more successful dramatic turns, Bateman is one of the leads of This is Where I Leave You, the 2014 dramedy about a family who comes together for a week in the wake of their patriarch’s death. The all-star cast also includes Adam Driver and Tina Fey, and everyone gets plenty of great work to do. Ultimately, as he so often is, it’s Bateman who provides a steady center throughout the film. This is Where I Leave You is heartfelt and emotional, and although Bateman’s work isn’t the showiest in the film, it might just be the best.

The Change-Up (2011)

The Change-Up
39 %
Genre Comedy
Stars Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann
Directed by David Dobkin
Although it wasn’t very well-reviewed, The Change-Up features two comedy stars doing great work whenever they bounce off of one another. Bateman stars alongside Ryan Reynolds, and the two are leading very different lives. As is often the case, Bateman plays the straight man, living with a wife and three children, while Reynolds plays the more adventurous bachelor. The two switch bodies, though, and that’s when Bateman gets to have some real fun as he begins playing a version of Reynolds. Reynolds can be just as compelling as Bateman, and it’s this mad-cap energy that gives the film its ultimate verve.

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