Face Of Stone, Heart Of Butter: 10 Greatest John C Reilly Roles

His face looks like it is made from stone, and he has a heart made from soft butter. It’s John C Reilly. The one the only. For me, these are his best 10.

10. The River Wild (1994) as Terry

The first role I remember seeing Reilly in was a film that I was weirdly made to watch for an English assignment. Now I think about it I believe my teacher just couldn’t be bothered anymore……….. Anyway, in a cast including heavyweights Kevin Bacon, Meryl Streep and David Strathairn it was the largely unknown Reilly as the put upon and vulnerable criminal caught in Bacon’s enigmatic gravity that stood out to me.

John C Reilly River Wild

9. Cedar Rapids (2011) as Dean Ziegler

Only Reilly could take an obnoxious, slovenly, arrogant, tit such as insurance salesman Dean Ziegler and make him so bloody loveable. While this was another movie career step for Ed Helms on his way to stardom, it was Reilly who stole the limelight and rightly so.

"If I were pre engaged I'd be pre-porking anything with a pulse"

“If I were pre engaged I’d be pre-porking anything with a pulse”

8. Step Brothers (2008) as Dale Doback

While it was always evident that Reilly had a natural comic talent it was the trio of Talladega Nights, Walk Hard and Step Brothers that showcased his true goofball. To be fair, his face was built for deadpan. Step Brothers is arguably the weakest of the three but belongs on the list for the performance he got out of Ferrell.

John C Reilly Step Brothers

7. Talladega Nights (2006) as Carl Naughton Jr.

The first of the Reilly comedy triple home run and the first time I had seen someone outshine Will Ferrell in a comedy. Provided the heart and warmth to Ferrell’s….well…..we all know what Ferrell does. Proof: who else can say “we go together like cocaine and waffles” and make you go “awwwwwwwww”. In fact come to think of it Ferrell was the weakest of all the major characters after Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amy Adams and Leslie Bibb.

John+C+Reilly Talladega Nights

6. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) as Dewey Cox

And, for me, the best of the trio. Also the first front and centre comedic role for Reilly which could have fallen flat. Parody movies can go one of two ways: Airplane; or Soul Plane. But in his role as a parody of Joaquim Phoenix’s Johnny Cash performance he brings his usual warmth and charm along with his natural comedic timing and goofy face to bring home a performance warmer and funnier than anything Ferrell has done since 2007.

John C Reilly Dewey Cox

5. Wreck It Ralph (2013) as Ralph

You know you’ve made it big when you get your own animated blockbuster. The animators behind Ralph waited for the cast to be confirmed and voices to be recorded so they could base the characters designs on their respective actors. And you can see plenty of Reilly in Ralph, complete with his big square head and clumsy boulder hands. His gravely melancholic voice is also perfect for the wannabe hero. Wreck It Ralph 2 will clean up at the box office.

wreck-it-ralph Reilly


4. Hard Eight (1996) as John

Career launching role for Reilly and one that sparked a glorious working relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson. First noteable lead performance that sees him do what he does best, playing the loveable loser you just want to put your arm around. All he wants to do is make an honest woman of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cocktail waitress-cum-hooker. But life is never that simple. A beautifully understated performance that put a spotlight on Reilly as one for the future.

hard eight

3. We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) as Franklin

While Reilly is by no means the best thing about Lynne Ramsey’s earth shattering family drama, his performance as the naive father who is incapable of seeing the monster that his son becomes is still fantastic. That it is the fourth best performance in the movie should give you some idea of just how good this film is. Was my 2011 Movie of the Year for good reason.


2. Magnolia (1999) as Officer Jim Kurring

Along with Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C Reilly was for a time Paul Thomas Anderson’s (what’s with all the triple barrel names for crying out loud) go to guy. In Magnolia he got to put all of his lonely, loveable, heartbreak into one great performance as the bungling, religious, LAPD officer looking for love, and in one fantastic, nailbiting, scene his gun.  Along with that scene also shares the World’s most awkward first date with super tweaked out coke-head Melora Walters. In my opinion his role in Magnolia was topped only by his previous role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s seminal porno-pic…………

John C Reilly Magnolia

1. Boogie Nights (1997) as Reed Rothchild

This may have been a star making role for Markie Mark, but it was Reilly for me as the comic foil to Whalberg’s dark souled anti-hero that stood out and stole the film. As always he brought heart to a film about the most dysfunctional of family dynamics and whenever the film strayed towards a black hole he shone some light to stop it getting too heavy. Scene of note: the pissing contest between Reed and Eddie at the poolside bar the first time they meet. It’s a film, in large part because of Reilly, that I have now seen more times than I care to imagine and one I will undoubtedly see many more.

John C Reilly Boogie Nights

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