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20 Greatest James Marsden Movie And TV Roles Ranked From Worst To Best

James Marsden has built an impressive career for himself, and he seems to be on an upswing with films such as "Sonic the Hedgehog" and TV shows like "Westworld." Not only does he have a ridiculously square jaw and classic movie star looks, but the roles he's played over the years also serve as a testament to his range and talent.

Marsden has played everything from regular guys to superheroes, princes, and even robots, yet he still manages to convince us in every role. Despite his acting career beginning much earlier, his big break was the role of Scott Summers (better known as Cyclops) in the "X-Men" films. Even though he didn't have his eyes to act with, Cyclops gained him much recognition.

He can sing, dance, and act, starring in musicals, comedies, and dramas alike. Plus, he's just so much fun to watch. Let's take a look at the best work this Versace model turned actor has done so far.

20. The Loft

The premise of "The Loft" is a bit sleazy, but the central mystery keeps you hooked through to the end. It revolves around five male best friends who decide to cheat on their wives by sharing a penthouse loft in a building that one of them designed. They will have a higher chance of not getting caught this way since no hotel charges will show up on their credit cards.

James Marsden plays one of the friends, Chris, who is a psychiatrist. Despite this looking like a great setup, the friends soon turn on each other when they discover a dead woman handcuffed to one of the beds.

While not Marsden's best film, he does turn in a gripping performance as the friends try to uncover which of them is a murderer. The movie is a remake of a 2008 Belgian film, which was a big hit in Europe, but the American version received poor reviews in the States. Yet, "The Loft" remains an interesting addition to Marsden's resume and is worth watching for the mystery alone.

19. The Stand

The miniseries "The Stand" began airing in December of 2020, which was timely since it deals with a virus that rips through humanity. Given the proximity to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this series is an intriguing watch and was finished just before the set would have been shut down.

We follow as the survivors form two groups, one led by Mother Abagail Freemantle (Whoopi Goldberg) and the other by Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård). James Marsden stars as Stu, a member of Freemantle's group who happens to be immune to the killer virus. When it is discovered that Flagg has supernatural abilities, things get even more complicated for the survivors.

This CBS show is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, which was originally released in 1978 after massive cuts that King made himself. In the 90s, King threw a bunch of what was cut back into the story to go along with his reputation as a horror writer. There was another miniseries that tackled this book in 1994, which showed the apocalypse. The new version begins afterward and tells the story of it through flashbacks.

18. Tour de Pharmacy

"Tour de Pharmacy" is a silly mockumentary about doping in the world of cycling. The point of this one is to be funny, and it succeeds. The film begins at the 1982 Tour de France where an Italian cyclist (Orlando Bloom) tries to grope a woman, which leads to a pileup and a fight. Afterwards, the police find evidence that the cyclists are using narcotics, but the five that didn't pay bribes to forgo drug testing are allowed to compete. They make a pact to help each other and take turns being in front to conserve energy.

In the end, only two competitors remain, Marty (Andy Samberg) and Adrian (Freddie Highmore), who is a woman in disguise. Throughout the race, BBC reporter Rex (James Marsden) rides alongside the competitors. Because of this, he is actually eligible to win — and he attempts to do so.

"Tour de Pharmacy" makes a wacky story out of a serious issue and is an interesting addition to Marsden's filmography. According to critic Nick Allen, "As a piece of entertainment that primarily aims to distract and delight, it's can't-pass-up goofiness."

17. Disturbing Behavior

One of James Marsden's most well-known early films, "Disturbing Behavior" was released in 1998. Despite being in his mid-20s at this point, the baby-faced actor plays high school senior Steve Clark, who is uprooted by his parents after his older brother commits suicide. Based on the good reviews of Cradle Bay Island, the family moves from Chicago in hopes of a better life. Soon, they encounter something sinister that has definite "The Stepford Wives" vibes. Steve befriends Gavin (Nick Stahl) and Rachel (Katie Holmes), who teach him about the Blue Ribbons, a group of students that are just too good to be true.

The film initially got some poor reviews but it does have a number of redeeming qualities, including Marsden's performance. Writing for The Fright File, critic Dustin Putman said: "The mystery of the story enthralls, the locations are unique and indelible, the music score by Mark Snow makes a vivid impression right from the opening credits sequences, and the characters' fight to hold onto the very things which make them who they are rings urgent and true."

16. The Box

Many of us heard a short story called "Button, Button" growing up. Maybe it was in English class, maybe not, but one thing is for sure — it's a super disturbing tale. This story, written by Richard Matheson, is what the film "The Box" from 2009 is based on. The movie follows a couple as they are faced with a financial opportunity that presents a moral dilemma. One morning, Norma (Cameron Diaz) finds a mysterious box at their front door, which has a large button under glass that you can't get to without a key.

Both she and her husband Arthur (James Marsden) receive bad news at their workplaces before they are visited by a mysterious man (Frank Langella), who arrives to explain the details of the box. He gives them the key and tells them that if they push the button within 24 hours, they will receive $1 million, and a stranger will die. Marsden turns in an emotional performance as he struggles with the ramifications of the decision. This film is a thought-provoking and creepy ride that forces viewers to question what they would do given the same opportunity.

15. Robot & Frank

Frank Langella and James Marsden reunited three years after "The Box" to make "Robot & Frank." In this film, Langella plays Frank, a mostly-retired burglar, and Marsden is his son, Hunter. Frank has dementia, and because he needs help with caretaking, Hunter gives his father a robot to help out. But instead of just completing these tasks, Frank soon realizes that the robot can help him revive his burglary career.

This sci-fi film features a robot who becomes sentient but remains funny instead of sinister. The robot becoming self aware is less frightening and more endearing. Marsden delivers a solid performance and it is fun seeing the two actors interact in a way completely different from "The Box." It's a unique movie that delighted many film critics. "Unclassifiable and unpredictable, this interesting movie scripted by former TV writer Christopher D. Ford and directed by first-time filmmaker Jake Schreier has a low-key charm," said Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.

14. 27 Dresses

An often-overlooked romcom, "27 Dresses" features some big names in James Marsden, who plays Kevin, and Katherine Heigl, who plays Jane. Jane is the definition of "Always a bridesmaid, but never a bride," having been in a staggering 27 weddings. When her boss and crush (Edward Burns) falls for her sister (Malin Akerman), she ends up helping them plan their wedding, despite knowing that her sister manipulated him by pretending to be someone she's not.

Jane encounters Kevin, who initially keeps the fact that he's a wedding journalist from her, but she soon finds out that he writes her favorite column. He decides to write a story on how she's been a bridesmaid so often, under the guise of covering her sister's wedding. While at times predictable, "27 Dresses" is an enjoyable romcom with plenty of fun moments. Heigl and Marsden singing all the wrong lyrics to "Bennie and the Jets" is one of the best parts of the movie. The two have great chemistry, which makes the movie work.

13. Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road

By far one of the coolest things about 2002's "Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road" is its connection to "Back to the Future." Both films were written by Bob Gale, with this one being solo and "Back to the Future" being in conjunction with director Robert Zemeckis. Gale also directs here, and the premise is intriguing.

Neal (James Marsden) has always wanted to be an artist, but his father wants him to go to Oxford instead. When Neal meets a man named O.W. Grant (Gary Oldman), he gets granted one wish. Neal wishes for answers and embarks on a journey on the fictional Interstate 60, where he follows the photographs of a woman (Amy Smart) who may be the one for him.

Along the way, "Back to the Future" alums Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd show up. According to Aaron Widmar at The News Wheel, "If Frank Capra were making films in the 21st century, they'd arguably resemble 'Interstate 60.' There isn't a scene that passes without a character sharing a profoundly striking thought about human nature or an interaction possessing rich metaphoric significance."

12. 30 Rock

Created by Tina Fey, "30 Rock" enjoyed a successful seven-year run from 2006 to 2013. She stars as Liz Lemon, the head writer of a comedy show titled "TGS with Tracy Jordan" (Tracy Morgan). It follows her as she tries to deal with the temperamental star while also keeping her personal life in check. Fey based much of the behind-the-scenes drama on her experience as a head writer on "Saturday Night Live."

"30 Rock" was already an established show when James Marsden came aboard in Season 6. He plays a goofy man named Criss Chros, who Liz falls for. Marsden stars in a total of 13 episodes and is the answer to Liz's troubled love life. He describes the character as "a dope, but a loveable one. He has his gourmet hotdog truck, [and] nothing ruffles his feathers, whereas Liz overthinks everything." This role is one of Marsden's most enjoyable to watch, and he makes for a great addition to the cast in the last two seasons.

11. Mrs. America

2020's "Mrs. America" is an intriguing miniseries about ratifying The Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA. Set in the 1970s, this historical drama takes on the issue of women trying to be heard in the male-dominated political arena. The subjects don't just center on politics but relate to other issues during this time as well, such as harassment and minority rights. We follow Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), the controversial conservative activist who spoke out against the ERA and the feminist movement. James Marsden stars as Phil Crane, a Republican representative from Illinois.

The real Crane was important in the conservative movement against the ERA. Phyllis was a guest on his show both in the miniseries and in real life. The cast presents an interesting look at the history and historical figures of the time. According to NPR, "The re-creation of the aesthetic of the period is gorgeous and feels truthful, looking like the 1970s rather than a send-up of the 1970s. Across nine episodes, it never feels dull, even though it does sometimes feel a bit speechy."

10. The Butler

Lee Daniels' "The Butler" is based on the true story of Eugene Allen, who was a butler in the White House from 1952 to 1986. This film features an all-star cast, including Forest Whitaker as Allen, Oprah Winfrey as his wife, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, and Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although Matthew McConaughey was slated to play John F. Kennedy, James Marsden replaced him in the role.

In an interview with Vulture, Marsden said he was intent on getting the part right — including the iconic accent. "I immersed myself in whatever book I could read," he revealed. "I listened to his speeches over and over again, because the first thing that popped up in my mind was, 'Don't screw up the accent!' So I had my sights set on that."

Director Lee Daniels was clear in his reasoning behind choosing Marsden. "The man loves to do his homework — and he did so much homework," he told Out magazine. "He came in and did a perfect impression of John [Kennedy], but I told him, 'OK, now you say the speech how you would say it.' I picked him because I think he embodies the youthful side of Kennedy that gave so many people hope."

9. 2 Guns

Although "2 Guns" received some mixed reviews, it is a worthwhile movie if you're into crazy plots. It follows two undercover members of a narcotics group. One of them is a DEA agent named Bobby (Denzel Washington), and the other is a Naval Intelligence Agent named Stig (Mark Wahlberg). The problem comes in that neither knows that the other is undercover, so when Bobby goes along with Stig's idea to rob a bank, he intends to bust both Stig and his boss. In the meantime, Stig receives orders to kill Bobby.

James Marsden plays Quince, Stig's superior. He orders his death when he fails to kill Bobby. The story is twisty and dark and it keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the true motives of the main characters. It's a different role for Marsden, but he is in good company and plays off his co-stars well. According to critic Odie Henderson, "'2 Guns' works because it's essentially several riffs on familiar material. Cliché is not a bad thing if it's done right. Like a good jazz improvisation, '2 Guns' leads to the same place but not the way you may expect."

8. Dead to Me

The Netflix series "Dead to Me" centers around the subject of grief. It follows two women, Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini), who bond in a support group. Jen says her husband was killed in a hit-and-run accident and Judy claims her fiancé died from a heart attack. The two form a deep relationship, but the mystery comes in when we realize that neither woman is being completely truthful.

Originally only supposed to appear in one season, James Marsden is now set to continue on throughout the series. He plays twins Ben and Steve, who couldn't be more different from each other, which is a true testament to Marsden's ability as an actor according to creator Liz Feldman. "The truth is [Marsden] is the inspiration for Ben," Feldman told Entertainment Weekly. "Because in real life, James Marsden is a sweetheart. He is truly a wonderful human being. The fact that he was playing this total a**hole in Season 1, it shows what range he has because he is not that person at all."

7. The Best of Me

James Marsden returned for another adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel in 2014, this time playing the guy who gets the girl (he wasn't so lucky in 2004's "The Notebook," in which he lost out to Ryan Gosling). "The Best of Me" stars Marsden as Dawson Cole, who reunites with his high school sweetheart Amanda Collier-Reynolds (Michelle Monaghan) many years after their adolescent romance. When the two run into each other 20 years later at a funeral in their hometown, the sparks fly. The bittersweet romance has a twist ending, but the journey is full of love.

There are parallels between how this story is told and "The Notebook,” as it alternates between periods of time. Even though the plot develops into something rather predictable, the film offers a great look at Marsden's romantic side. Fans of the actor will appreciate this one despite its lack of originality.

6. Sonic the Hedgehog

If you're old enough to remember the original video game, nostalgia will no doubt play a big part in your enjoyment of 2020's "Sonic the Hedgehog." The film fleshes out Sonic's backstory, explaining how he came to Earth and lived in isolation to keep himself safe. He pretends that Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are his friends as he watches movies with them from outside their window.

When Sonic uses his powers of speed too much, he causes a town-wide blackout, gaining the attention of Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). As he is pursued by Robotnik, he decides to enact his escape plan and use his travel rings to go to the mushroom planet. When he spooks Tom, the rings are transported to San Francisco and the two must embark on a journey to retrieve them, all while trying to keep out of Robotnik's clutches.

"Sonic the Hedgehog" is one of those films that is great for both adults and kids to watch together, and the same can be said of 2022's "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." Marsden is just as good in the sequel, turning in a fabulous performance despite the fact that he's acting opposite a CGI character most of the time.

5. Westworld

HBO's "Westworld" draws inspiration from Michael Crichton's 1973 film of the same name starring Yul Brynner. It follows a similar premise of a Wild West theme park containing human-like robots, or hosts. The guests aren't just anyone, but people who are wealthy enough to gain admittance. They are free to engage in whatever activity they like as the robots are unable to harm humans. In Season 3, the setting expanded from the park and into the real world.

James Marsden stars as Teddy, a host/robot of Westworld who is loyal to the show's hero-turned-villain Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). In terms of playing a host, Marsden told Good Morning America, "The robots on the show are more human in many ways than the humans are, and we explore what it means to be human. We're holding a big mirror to ourselves."

Teddy made a shock return in Season 4, a pleasant surprise for fans of Marsden's character. As for what to expect, Marsden said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "The themes of exploring human urges of violence and things like that are going to continue." Marsden shows an impressive range here, making us feel deeply for the tragic Teddy.

4. The Notebook

2004's "The Notebook" thrust Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams into the spotlight with their performances as star-crossed lovers Noah and Allie. Their love story is told in flashbacks as the older Noah reads their tale to Allie, who now has dementia. James Marsden plays Lon, a wealthy suitor of Allie who falls for her during the time that she is separated from Noah. The two get engaged, but then Allie finds her way back to Noah, who she thought had forgotten about her. Given the build-up that Noah and Allie got as a couple, we want to root for them, and the ending is very satisfying.

Marsden didn't expect the movie to become such a big hit when he was making it. People loved it so much that fans would often stop him on the street to complain about his character coming between the lovebirds. As far as he is concerned, Lon was just another guy who fell in love with Allie and he didn't deserve all the hate. "I thought he was a good guy," the actor said during an appearance on Good Morning America, adding that "the chemistry between Ryan and Rachel" was a real "testament to the movie."

3. X-Men

Fans of Marvel's X-Men were super excited to see their favorite mutants brought to life on the big screen in the early '00s. The first "X-Men" movie follows the iconic superhero group as they grow with the additions of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin). They are brought in to meet Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) for their own safety by Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden). Soon, they must battle Magneto (Ian McKellen), who is after Rogue to help him turn regular people into mutants. Marsden played Cyclops in four films, starting with "X-Men" in 2000. He reprised the role in "X-Men 2," "X-Men: The Last Stand," and came back for "X-Men: Days of Future Past" in 2014.

Since Cyclops has laser-like eyes that are controlled by a special visor, we don't get to see Marsden's eyes, and this was hard for the actor. "The biggest challenge was that the audience and other actors [can't] see your eyes," Marsden told Collider. "[That] definitely was a handicap in bringing a persona to the character, and an energy to the character." The fact that Cyclops is something of a "Boy Scout" character, as Marsden put it, was another challenge, but he managed to make him serious without being a total bore. The actor gives a committed performance in challenging circumstances, and the "X-Men" movies wouldn't have been the same without him.

2. Enchanted

2007's "Enchanted" begins like an animated Disney movie with would-be princess Giselle (Amy Adams) longing for true love's kiss. She soon gets attacked by a troll and is saved by a handsome prince named Edward (James Marsden). Unfortunately, Edward's evil stepmother Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) doesn't want to lose her power, so she sends Giselle to the real, non-animated world on the day of their wedding.

Giselle soon realizes that life is much different here than back home — people aren't always kind, and knowing someone for one day may not be enough to get married. She finds a nice but cynical man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) who decides to help her, but he is dating Nancy (Idina Menzel). Edward comes to find her and Giselle must make a choice about where her future lies, as she has developed feelings for Robert. Marsden is endlessly endearing as the naïve and bumbling prince. His duet with Adams, "True Love's Kiss," showcases his beautiful voice.

1. Hairspray

James Marsden is at his best in the 2007 big screen remake of "Hairspray." It centers around Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), a teenager with her heart set on dancing in the ensemble of "The Corny Collins Show," hosted by Corny (James Marsden). Her mother (John Travolta) is worried about her being rejected, while her father (Christopher Walken) encourages her to follow her dreams. She wins a place on the show and soon shakes things up by encouraging integration, which Corny is all for, but the show's manager (Michelle Pfeiffer) is not. Tracy soon gains the attention of Link Larkin, played by Zac Efron.

One of the highlights here is that Marsden gets the chance to sing. His character is also super likable. With a Civil Rights backdrop, this fantastic musical has substance and plenty of heart. Even though he's in a supporting role, Marsden shines with his vocals, and you can tell he's having a blast. "I would finish a day on 'Hairspray' and I wouldn't want to go home," he told Box Office Mojo. "I would want to stay there and watch the numbers that I wasn't in. I know it sounds cheesy but it was a real labor of love."