One of the most recognizable names in comedy, Jim Carrey, has flailed, skipped, and flipped his way into millions of hearts around the world through his wide range of physical comedy skills, impressions, total transformations, dramatic film surprises, and undying commitment to entertainment. In a somewhat recent documentary (Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond) released about Carrey and his role in Man on the Moon as Andy Kaufman, he shared a revelation with the film crew that shook him from his sleep in his early career:
“The audience wants to be free from concern”
From that moment on, Carrey would embody the character who was free from concern, giving the audience what he believed they wanted. Born and raised in Ontario Canada to Percy and Kathleen Carrey, Jim started his impressions and performative nature at a very young age, inspired by greats such as Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleeson, Jimmy Stewart, Andy Kaufman, Art Carney, Jerry Lewis, and (as he has stated many times before) his father, Percy Carrey. Despite Jim and Percy’s wacky, outrageous demeanor, life was not easy for the Carrey family. As his mother Kathleen struggled with mental illness, Percy was financially responsible for the family of 6, so when he lost his accountant job, the family was forced to live in a car. Jim (almost 15 years later), driven by his fathers’ failure, wrote himself a check for $10 million for “acting services rendered,” and gave himself three years to fulfill this goal. Three years later on Thanksgiving 1994, Jim received his paycheck for his role in Dumb and Dumber: $10 million. Carrey had achieved the seemingly impossible: he manifested his own chosen destiny. Now, we will attempt the seemingly impossible: ranking the top 10 Jim Carrey movies of his career.
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
In a live-action remake of the classic childhood Christmas film, Jim Carrey jumps into the role of The Grinch with boisterous splendor. To fully became the Grinch, striving for absolute perfection in his performance was of utmost importance to Carrey, so much so that his makeup artist on set (who he worked with for many hours a day) had to take a mental health hiatus until he was begged by Carrey and director Ron Howard to return to set. Incredibly quotable and endlessly entertaining, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a movie for the whole family; boasting a rockstar cast and an unforgettable narration by Anthony Hopkins, this adaptation is cemented in our hearts as one of the best Christmas movies of all time.
9. Liar Liar (1997)
In one of many films that Carrey used as a personal playground, Liar Liar follows a lawyer on the fast track to success who is also a father with a steadily deteriorating relationship with his family. Don’t let the summary fool you, this movie is full of Carrey antics, which all starts when his son makes a wish on his birthday that his dad won’t tell a lie for just one day. Torn apart by his lucrative career of lies and his responsibility as a father, he struggles through the longest day of his life, where he quite literally cannot lie.
8. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
In his breakout role, Jim Carrey becomes Ace Ventura! Pet Detective. Shocking audiences around the globe with his cartoon-like performance, Carrey thrives and shines in possibly his most characteristic role. Similar to Anthony Hopkins’ role as Hannibal Lecter, which was inspired by animal traits (a tarantula and a crocodile), Carrey shaped Ace Ventura by personifying a tropical bird within his character, Hopkins and Carrey would later share sentiment over dinner about their similar methods.
7. The Mask (1994)
In The Mask, Carrey gets a chance to play an actual cartoon character, allowing him the freedom to exercise his rubber-like facial expressions and a wild conglomeration of voices inspired by old-timey cartoons. This film was Jim’s second big deal after Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, where he started to seamlessly roll into stardom. Unfortunately (jumping back to Carrey’s personal life), his father Percy Carrey passed away in September 1994, three weeks before the release of this film. Jim put the $10 million check in his fathers’ pocket, where it was buried with him. This film is an incredible display of Carrey’s prowess, showcasing all of his wackiest, rehearsed characters that he would bounce off of his father as a young man.
6. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)
In the second and final installment of the Ace Ventura shenanigans, Carrey takes this fearless and exuberant character to the next level and then beyond. Adding to his impressive list of 6 films released within two years (1994-1995), you can’t even notice the slightest sign of wear and tear as Jim powers through with glorious frivolity and distinguished risibility. This film has become a staple in the comedy genre, as it is still referenced and quoted actively in pop culture to this day.
5. Man on the Moon (1999)
In one of his more serious roles, Carrey dives headfirst into the role of anti-comedy “song and dance man” – Andy Kaufman. In the best interests of the film, Carrey went in deep. A beautiful and memorable ode to Kaufman helmed by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest director Milos Forman, Carrey re-lived all of the absurdist’s most popular moments in pop culture as if they were happening for the first time. Jim had always looked up to Andy, attributing some of his real-life meta-antics (such as his rudely drunk guy performance on the Arsenio Hall show) to the late and great showman. Many actors on set who knew Kaufman personally claimed that he lived through Jim Carrey for the filming of this incredible biopic.
4. Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Filmed and completed during his acting marathon, Carrey is joined by the very successful dramatic actor Jeff Daniels in an absolutely ridiculous and out-of-norm (for Daniels) performance as two well-intentioned imbeciles who just want to do right. When Lloyd (Carrey) intercepts a briefcase left behind by a woman he drives to the airport, he and his friend Harry (Daniels) go on an unnecessarily difficult journey halfway across the country in hopes to win her heart and return her briefcase, but the adventure escalates when they discover the contents of said luggage. This film was a very close runner-up on our list of the best comedy movies of all time.
3. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)
This incredibly powerful and reality-bending documentary chronicles the filming and acting processes behind the film Man on the Moon, where Carrey delves deeply into his own psyche years after his spiritual and mental separation from the “character” of Jim Carrey and into the characters Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton. Throughout this film, we see hours and hours of behind the scenes footage on set, where Carrey (Kaufman) loses his perception of self and even experiences visceral, tear-jerking moments with the real people who were close to Kaufman. This film is the best place to learn about Jim Carrey as an actor, a character, and a vessel, all of which become ambiguously melded together in a somewhat melancholic showing of sheer talent and wavering identity.
2. The Truman Show (1998)
In what many would claim to be his best work, The Truman Show is an endearing exhibit of Carrey’s acting skills. Presented in an almost gradient-like fashion, Carrey smoothly expands his characters’ emotional spectrum as the film’s tension progresses. As his character, Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman, lives through his day to day life, he begins to notice that the world is watching him — quite literally. After following up on the paranoid suspicions he has built up throughout his life, Truman begins to challenge the status quo, which results in a confusing and life-altering series of events that turns him into the man that everyone wanted him to be.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
In a conceptual tour de force film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a cinematic masterpiece in which genre, narrative, and the very concept of memory is challenged. Joel (Carrey) is on a train for his usual commute when he meets Clementine (Kate Winslet), a quirky, overtly forward individual, who makes outrageous statements that catch our protagonist’s ear. When their relationship gets nasty, they individually seek out the help of an experimental memory-removal clinic that reminds them exactly why they belong together. Most notable about this film is Carrey’s personality in this role; as stated in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, each of his characters in every film were “…the absolute manifestation of my consciousness at that time.” When he went into greater detail, he explains that the director met with Carrey a year before the film and said to him “You’re so broken, I love this. Please don’t get well,” further proving his will and commitment to entertainment and the audience.
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