Jim Carrey is one of the most versatile and talented actors working in Hollywood. With an impressive career spanning over 20 years and over 30 films, he has proved that he is able to entertain audiences of all ages, acting in everything from animated children’s films and zany comedies, to more serious dramatic roles and even psychological dramas and thrillers.
The breadth of Carey’s ability as an actor is incredible, being exceptionally talented in both physical and slapstick comedy but also having the acting chops to portray deeply emotional and serious characters in more intense roles. Not only is Carrey a brilliant comic mind but a talented actor in all genres.
Below is a look at some of Jim Carrey’s best performances of his career.
10. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
One of Carrey’s earliest and most popular comedic characters was the zany yet loveable Ace Ventura. In Pet Detective Carrey plays a goofy private detective who specializes in finding lost pets. His big chance comes when he is hired to find Snowflake – the beloved mascot for the NFL team, the Miami Dolphins – who has been kidnapped by a disgruntled former player.
With danger at every turn, it is up to Ace to use his animal magnetism, sleuthing skills and masterful disguise abilities to get to the bottom of this case.
Carrey’s role as the goofy and manic Ace Ventura with his foolish slapstick antics, crazy costumes, boundless energy and array of impressions all showed us his amazing ability to create a memorable character which has lasted the test of time (with the success of this film leading to the reprisal of his role in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls). This breakthrough role for Carrey helped cement him as one of the most talented physical comedians working today.
9. The Mask (1994)
Hot on the heels of the success of Ace Ventura, Carrey steps into another zany role as The Mask. Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a boring man with a boring banker job. Stanley is a nice guy and but a pushover and he yearns for some excitement in his hum-drum life. One stormy night when Stanley is down on his luck he discovers a mysterious and magical wooden mask (which unbeknownst to him is contains the spirit of Loki – the Norse god of Mischief).
Upon putting on the mask, Stanley is transformed into everything he wants to be – an over-the-top cartoonish lothario with power, wit and confidence. Things go array however after Stanley’s alter ego The Mask attracts the attention of beautiful nightclub singer Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) and unfortunately the attention of her gangster associates.
After a violent run-in with these gangsters, small time crime boss, Dorian Tyrell (Peter Greene) plans to exact his revenge by harnessing the powers of the Mask for evil and kill Ipkiss. It is up to The Mask to use his quick wit and physical prowess to save himself and those around him.
Carrey’s character of The Mask allows him to take his well-established slapstick humor and zany antics to a literal cartoonish and over-the-top level. With his trademark neon-green skin, biting one-liners and huge toothy grin, this film again demonstrates Carrey’s physical comedy skills and amazing rubber-faced expressions.
8. The Majestic (2001)
The Majestic is one of Carrey’s less well-known performances but one of his most sentimental roles. In the film, Carrey plays Peter Appleton, an up-and-coming screenwriter who in the aftermath of World War II, is accused of being a communist for his membership to a Marxism-supporting college society, and is hunted down by the authorities.
In an attempt to escape the investigation, Peter has an accident and plunges his car off a bridge causing him sever memory loss. He awakens washed up on the shore of the small town of Lawson where the townspeople mistake him for a long-lost war veteran and darling of the town, Luke Trimble.
Riddled with confusion about who he truly is, Peter tries his best to remember his true identity all the while trying to maintain the badge of ‘local war hero’. As Peter’s memory slowly returns, he realizes just what is at stake, and the emotional weight of his case mistaken identity.
It is nice to see Carrey in a more emotional role that is almost devoid of comedy, as it allows him to showcase his real dramatic talent without having to rely solely on his physicality. Being set in the 1950s post-war era the film also allows an air of patriotism and nostalgia which is a welcome change of scenery for Carrey.
7. Liar, Liar (1997)
In this classic comedy favorite, Carrey plays successful yet unscrupulous lawyer, Fletcher Reede who has a penchant for bending the truth to win his client’s cases. As a highly successful attorney however, his personal life suffers – having a strained relationship with his ex-wife and becoming an absentee father to his young son, Max.
Feeling let down by his father, Max makes a desperate birthday wish for his father to tell ‘nothing but the truth’ for a whole day. As a man who is forced to use deception in his everyday career, suddenly, Fletcher’s professional and personal lives are thrown into disarray when he is unable to tell a lie.
In this performance Carrey brings his best physical and slapstick comedy to the table, stumbling around the courtroom (and all around town) like a madman and performing his trademark contorted facial expressions.
Although there is much humorous dialogue, the real comedy comes as Reede is literally at war with his body and his conscience as he struggles unsuccessfully to stop himself from ruining his professional reputation that he has worked so hard for. Among all the laughs, the film also offers a few life lessons about honesty, integrity and the importance of family relationships.
6. The Cable Guy (1996)
After his successful string of wacky comedies, Carrey takes on a more complex and darker character as eccentric cable TV installer Chip Douglas in The Cable Guy. After customer Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) hires a cable man to fix the television in the apartment, he soon gets more than he bargained for his strange cable guy attempts to develop a close friendship with him.
After Steven repeatedly declines Chip’s advances for companionship, Chip becomes more persistent, turning from a slightly annoying acquaintance to a full-blown stalker with unpredictable tendencies.
Carrey’s character of Chip in The Cable Guy is a departure from his other roles, relying more on his psychological characterization rather than his physical appearance. While many critics panned the film and were unreceptive to Carrey’s performance, the character of Chip is one of the more human he has played. Chip is eccentric, neurotic, high strung and even speaks with a lisp – despite his downfalls – all he really desires is love and acceptance.