15 Movies That Prove Versatility in John C. Reilly as a Character Actor

8. Terri, Mr. Fitzgerald

When depressed and obese teen, Terri (Jacob Wysocki) starts to give up on life, caring less and less about school work and his personal appearance until Mr. Fitzgerald, (John C. Reilly) intervenes and starts weekly counseling sessions with the outcasts of the school.

Reilly’s performance alongside Wysocki’s creates a subtle comedy that allows the characters to be seen outside their roles of the school. Terri’s naïve but ultimately wise perspective is aided by the guidance of Mr. Fitzgerald. Reilly acts as a spring board for the other characters to flourish off of.


7. Gangs of New York, Happy Jack Mulraney

Set mainly during the late 19th century in New York, Gangs of New York is centered around the two major problems in New York at the time: The Civil War and Irish Immigration. With a star studded cast and Scorsese behind the camera it is worth the three and a half hour running time.

John C. Reilly playing Happy Jack Mulraney, a corrupt city constable, is a role for Reilly that does not take any comedy, but still develops the story and preforms a role important to any time, corruption in authority.


6. Step Brothers, Dale Doback

The second film on this list staring the duo of John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell also directed by Adam McKay, Step Brothers follows two adult men who still live with their parents and are stuck in adolescence. When Brennan’s (Will Ferrell) Mom meets Dale’s (John C. Reilly) Dad at a business conference and hit it off they both don’t tell the other that their sons are still living with them at forty. When their relationship goes well enough to move in together the two men are also forced to start living together.

The comedic chemistry between Reilly and Ferrell is easily felt in the film, both when the two hate each other and also when they realize they are meant to be best friends. One of the strongest aspects to the strength of Reilly as an actor is his ability to make whomever he is working with really shine.


5. Boogie Nights, Reed Rothchild


Set in the 1970’s porn scene, the film follows the main character of Dirk Diggle (Mark Wahlberg) as he is introduced into a tight knit group in the porn industry.

John C. Reilly’s character, Reed Rothchild is an actor in the group and quickly befriends Dirk, with their common interests in martial arts and Star Wars. Reilly’s fantastic dramatic performance in the film is perpetuated by the believability of the character. The film spans over a few decades, starting with Reilly and Wahlberg as wide eyed kids that fell into something great and ends with the sobering reality of addiction and the movement of time.


4. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Tucker Van Dyke

Reilly Tucker Van Dyke, Gilbert Grapes (Johnny Depp) best friend in a small American town. The film is centered around Gilbert and his troubles, but uses Reilly’s character for comedic relief throughout.

The film really plays on the American small town and Reilly’s character is the epitome of that. Tucker Van Dyke’s enthusiasm for the franchise, Burger Barn, building a location in the town is the most excitement he has in the film, reciting the business practices and mottos to Gilbert at the grand opening, showing Reilly’s ability to become a character.


3. Magnolia, Officer Jim Kurring


A Paul Thomas Anderson film (the second on this list) about multiple narratives that seemingly don’t have anything to do with each other all unwind to show the ways in which so many of them are related.

John C. Reilly’s Character, Officer Jim Kurring, finds a victim of homicide at an apartment complex, but is quickly distracted by a woman (Melora Walters) who he takes an interest in, and hesitantly asks on a date. This film only further develops Reilly’s ability to play the inept and failed person, who seeks out simplicity, and usually just wants the love of a woman.


2. Walk Hard, The Dewy Cox Story, Dewy Cox

Walk Hard The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

The epitome of rockumentary parody, Walk Hard follows the life of America’s favorite musician Dewy Cox. Parodying everyone from Johnny Cash, Elvis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson.

Reilly starts the role of Dewy Cox while the character is thirteen, leaving Reilly towering over his peers. He then lives out the life of every musician that a film has ever been made about. Reilly excels in this role blending over the top comedy with his over dramatic antidotes not leaving a reference untouched.


1. We Need to Talk About Kevin, Franklin

When Eva (Tilda Swinton) and her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) find out that they are expecting a child Franklin is ecstatic but Eva cannot hide her fear of a child stealing her freedom from herself or anyone close to her. The film switches from the past to the present throughout, only hinting that something went horribly wrong.

Reilly plays a very serious role in this film that revolves around the love for his wife and son, but also at his anger at his wife for not accepting and openly loving their son. His performance is ardent and adds to Swinton’s performance tragically elegantly.