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Every Chris Farley Movie Ranked Worst To Best

It seems like every generation has its share of bright lights from the entertainment world that burn out before their time. For those who came of age in the '90s, one such name looms particularly large: Chris Farley, the energetic actor and comedian who burst onto the scene as one of Saturday Night Live's Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Like John Belushi before him, Farley carved out a niche as a larger-than-life physical presence with a frenetic, almost manic energy. His unique genius, however, was the earnestness with which he approached every bit, whether as the halting host of his own talk show or as embittered motivational speaker Matt Foley, who lived (all together, now) in a van down by the river.

Unfortunately, Farley's personal demons caught up with him at the young age of 33, and his comedic star was snuffed out... but not before he, like other successful SNL cast members, made the leap to the big screen. From bit parts to buddy comedies, from police activity to political shenanigans, he brought the same hilarious intensity and sincerity to whatever cinematic character he embodied. Some of these films were more successful than others, but all remain as a moving picture monument to a comedic titan taken too soon.

Dirty Work was Chris Farley's last screen appearance ... unfortunately

When your character's main characteristic is that he has no nose, you've got your work cut out for you in terms of crafting a memorable presence in a movie. Fortunately for director Bob Saget and star Norm Macdonald, casting Chris Farley as Jimmy meant that he'd pop off the screen for more than his missing facial feature. As portrayed by Farley, Jimmy is a brash, braying presence who lost his nose a bite from an angry girlfriend and whose roommate's creepy antics convince Macdonald's Mitch that staying at Jimmy's place isn't the best idea.

Released six months after Farley's death, Dirty Work has the distinction of being the actor's final big-screen appearance, and in an uncredited role, no less. It has its moments for Farley fans, including his interactions with his nose-biting girlfriend, but was, overall, poorly received, with critics decrying its vulgarity and lack of real laughs. Box office receipts followed suit, capping out at $10 million domestically. It's gone on to a certain degree of cult status, but it serves primarily as a footnote in Chris Farley's filmography.

Airheads is a cult classic with a different kind of Chris Farley performance

Chris Farley made his mark playing lovable losers, so it's a trip seeing him portray an authority figure in this 1994 metalhead comedy. Not that anyone would consider Farley's Officer Wilson a model police officer, but compared to many of the actor's other roles, it's played fairly straight, especially in contrast to the goofiness of the Lone Rangers, the hapless band portrayed by leads Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler. In fact, Farley's peak moment in the film has him one-upping a gang of thugs who steal his badge by ripping out the leader's nipple ring. It's a rare moment of cool-headed badassery in an oeuvre otherwise dotted with pratfalls and vein-bulging tirades.

Airheads, meanwhile, is a lot of fun. While the film would be roundly scorned by critics and take in a paltry $5.7 million at the domestic box office, it's gone on to develop a healthy following, especially among the metal crowd thanks to appearances by genre icons like White Zombie and Lemmy Kilmister. It also set the stage for Adam Sandler's film career, immediately preceding, as it does, the now-enormous actor's first starring role... which we'll get back to later in this list.

Wayne's World was a hit with just a hint of Chris Farley

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Chris Farley's performance in Wayne's World — he plays a backstage security guard at an Alice Cooper concert who provides Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar with some key exposition regarding the movements of Frank Sharp, head of Sharp Records. In fact, one could argue that this is one of his stronger performances since, despite it being what amounts to a walk-on role that's so glaringly expository that it's meta-commented on a moment later by Mike Myers' character, the amount of physical comedy the actor injects into his dialogue manages to make it memorable. Still, it's one scene, with very little to it, so it ends up lower on our list.

That said, in general terms, Wayne's World is one of the better, funnier, and most successful movies in which Chris Farley has appeared. Surprising many people who thought an SNL skit about two slackers broadcasting public TV from a basement was not the foundation of box office gold, it raked in over $121 million at the box office, and still stands at the top of the pile of cinematic adaptations based on the venerable sketch show. It also reintroduced Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" into the popular consciousness, for which we all owe it a debt of gratitude. Wayne's World is minor Farley, but major fun, and holds up well decades later.

Wayne's World 2 briefly showcased Chris Farley's gift for physical comedy

The sequel to the surprise hit Mike Myers/Dana Carvey vehicle that brought their slacker public access TV personae to the big screen gave us a second Chris Farley character within the Wayne's World universe, which opens up a whole can of existential worms that's better left unexplored. That said, it's a fun turn for Farley, who features as Milton, a friend of the titular character and his sidekick. Milton is introduced with a very '90s-angst rant about how everything is great even though he hates his life, and goes on to join the roadie crew for Waynestock, the music festival Wayne and Garth throw in their hometown of Aurora. Although his screen time is brief, Farley does get in some great moments, including a particularly funny take on a scene from An Officer and a Gentleman during a roadie training sequence and the opportunity to drop some ownage on Christopher Walken during the film's climax.

Despite receiving overall positive reviews, Wayne's World 2 didn't quite blow up the box office, taking in less than half of the money garnered by its predecessor. Still, it's a fun, albeit minor, slice of Chris Farley onscreen buffoonery that demonstrates how much the actor could make even small roles shine.

Coneheads offered a glimpse at a world in which Chris Farley wasn't the wackiest resident

Before there was Third Rock from the Sun, the gold standard for fish-out-of-water aliens living undetected on Earth was set by the Coneheads, a classic Saturday Night Live creation that was resurrected at the movies in 1993. In a role that highlighted his heartfelt side rather than his gift for physical comedy, Farley plays Ronnie, a young auto mechanic who becomes the love interest of the youngest Conehead, Connie. Weirdly, the usually outlandish Farley plays more of a straight man to the bizarre antics of the Coneheads, dealing with the parental protectiveness of Dan Aykroyd's Beldar and attempting to navigate very human experiences like teenage make-out sessions and prom with a partner who's not of this world. Eventually, Ronnie helps the Coneheads escape detection, and goes on to be accepted by Beldar... but not before receiving the alien's 55 words of advice.

Coneheads was not well received by critics, and its $21 million box office take stalled what seemed like a lot of momentum for adapting SNL skits into feature films after the success of Wayne's World. Still, it's an endearing performance by Farley, so often the most over-the-top performer in any scene, but here the very human foil to a cast of particularly extra extraterrestrials.

Almost Heroes was Chris Farley's final leading role, and not the most fitting farewell

While Dirty Work would be the last film released in which Farley appeared, Almost Heroes was the final flick to feature him in a leading role. Here, he plays Bartholomew Hunt, a rude and crude frontiersman who teams up with Matthew Perry's foppish Leslie Edwards in a race to beat Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean. It's quickly revealed, however, that Hunt's wilderness bona fides aren't what they've been cracked up to be, offering up plenty of opportunities for Farley to bull-in-a-China-shop his way through various misadventures, including encounters with Native Americans and a particularly harrowing trip up a tree to an eagle's nest. Along the way, polar opposites Hunt and Edwards find common ground, and Hunt discovers a confidence he never knew he had.

Almost Heroes has its bright points, including fairly decent chemistry between Farley and Perry, but it's most certainly the least-loved of the movies in which Farley played a major role. It was savaged by critics, with most pegging it as full of gags that tried too hard, although few blamed Farley for its failures. Audiences, likewise, rejected the film, as it careened to a meager $6.1 million at the box office. It's something a sad period on the end of the sentence that was Chris Farley's career, but features enough of the actor's classic shenanigans to merit a watch for Farley fans.

Billy Madison busts out as the best of Chris Farley's supporting roles

Now, we're cooking with gas. Billy Madison features what's probably Chris Farley's best-remembered supporting gig, as the bus driver for the school Adam Sandler's Billy attends. In what is a very small and, surprisingly, uncredited role, Farley still makes an impression by showcasing several comedic dimensions, from his barely-bottled anger at the students he has to drive to his hapless braggadocio in attempting to sell Sandler on his romantic conquests. That it all wraps up with what amounts to a sexual encounter with a giant penguin tells you everything you need to know about Farley's off-the-wall presence in this movie.

Critics middled on Billy Madison, with some embracing its lowbrow, askew humor, while others called it pedestrian, or even "execrable." Yikes. The '90s were an era in which audiences leaned into lowbrow comedy, however, and the response to the film was positive enough to establish Adam Sandler, in his first leading role as a cinematic force with which to be reckoned. The Farley factor isn't through the roof given his limited screen time, but it's definitely up there in terms of showcasing what the actor could do when given the chance to get weird.

Beverly Hills Ninja strikes a balance between Chris Farley's best qualities

Before there was Kung Fu Panda, Sony Pictures offered up another story of an unlikely martial arts master and his quest to find his mojo. What's more, Beverly Hills Ninja stands as the only film with Chris Farley's name in the marquee spot on the poster. Here, the actor stars as Haru, abandoned as a child and adopted by a clan of ninjas, but not what one would call prime punch-and-kick material, physically speaking. When an American woman comes to his clan's temple seeking assistance, however, Haru must decamp for Beverly Hills (trailed by his much more to-type brother, Gobei) to solve a murder mystery. Along the way, he finds love and his inner ninja master.

It's kind of a boilerplate story, and critics were not kind, but Beverly Hills Ninja did pretty well with audiences, and that's entirely owed to Farley's performance, which stands as one of his best. Haru is, of course, clumsy and unskilled, leading to lots of opportunities for physical comedy, but he also possesses a naive sweetness that played well thanks to the star's inherent earnestness. It's a loud, goofy, clownish turn, but that's exactly what Chris Farley did best, and it's great to see him get the chance to showcase it in a leading role.

Black Sheep just misses fully recapturing Chris Farley and David Spade's magic

Chris Farley and David Spade had already proven to be a potent comic team by the time Black Sheep rolled around (more on that in a minute), so pairing the duo up for another turn seemed like a no-brainer. While it's certainly the lesser of the two films featuring these two SNL alums, it still stands as some of Farley's best work. In his element as the ne'er-do-well "black sheep" brother of a politician running for the governorship of Washington, the actor gets plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his gift for physical comedy, whether he's being hooked to a plane as it takes off, falling from a flagpole, or getting the wrong end of an encounter with a runaway fridge.

Unlike the Spade/Farley team-up that preceded it, Black Sheep stumbled a bit out of the gate: It had a troubled production featuring conflict between Spade and director Penelope Spheeris, and reviews were pretty rough. It managed to garner a cult following, however, and still stands as an example of Farley at the peak of his cinematic powers, bouncing off the exasperated straight man played by Spade in highly entertaining fashion.

Tommy Boy is Chris Farley at his maniacal best

If you only watch one Chris Farley movie, let it be this one. Tommy Boy paired Farley with his SNL co-star David Spade in a buddy/road comedy that features some of the actor's best bits, and the perfect embodiment of the archetype that was his stock in trade. He stars as Tommy Callahan, a seven-year college student who's forced to step up when his father, an auto parts mogul, passes away. Accompanied by his father's neurotic assistant, played by Spade, Tommy must embark on a road trip to salvage his legacy and ward off the corporate malfeasance of his stepbrother Paul, played by Rob Lowe.

Once again, critics weren't kind, but the film did decently at the box office and positively blew up on home video, becoming a cult classic and remaining the pinnacle of Chris Farley's cinematic output. He's on comic fire, wrestling with out-of-control life preservers, spewing through insane sales pitches, and singing the song that everybody was quoting in 1995, "Fat Guy in a Little Coat." Spade, meanwhile, proves a perfect foil, a straight man whose uptight antics add fuel to the funny. Not content to rest on its slapstick laurels, however, Tommy Boy also offers us some of that trademark Chris Farley sincerity, as he finds his voice as a salesman and thwarts some really nefarious doings by Lowe's Paul.

Tommy Boy is how Chris Farley should be remembered: Hilarious, yes, but heartfelt enough to leave an impression long after the laughs have faded.