|image by James Caws|
Yesterday, there was a mini-Vince Vaughn movie marathon on TV. It got me to thinking about him and his career. He's been making movies for over 20 years and that is nothing to sneeze at. I've been acutely aware of his career with his and Jon Favreau's breakout film Swingers. I found that there is something strangely relatable to a number of his films. It might be the fact that he is only a few years older than me. It could be that he has the coolness that the average man wishes they had. Or it could be that he seems like a genuinely relatable guy that you sit down and have a beer with.
Regardless, I reflected on his film career and decided to break down his ten best movies.
These are not all movies in which he stars. Sometimes his screen time is limited. The following movies are ranked not according to the specific quality of his performance but on the overall quality of the movie. Often the two things are linked.
And there a number of films of his that I haven't seen where I heard were excellent, like Riot in Cell Block 99 or Dragged Across Concrete. This list is based only on the films of his I have seen.
10. Four Christmases
The movie has many flaws and it never quiet makes it to the level that it needs to be. But what holds this thing together is Vaughn's performance. He absolutely commits to every situation, like the utter terror when he is about to be punched in the face by a child or his absolute certitude in lines like "Honey, haircuts don't lie." He carries the ball all the way into the end zone.
9. Return to Paradise
I don't think I could watch this movie again. It wasn't because it was bad, but that it was so upsetting to watch. In the movie, Vaughn's character must decide whether he will accept a prison sentence in a foreign country, which is the only way to save the life of his friend played by Joaquim Phoenix. The movie takes some truly harrowing emotional turns that stick with you in a very unpleasant way. I recognize that this was the intent of the film makers, so I acknowledge it here on this list.
8. Fighting With My Family
Vaughn takes a supporting role as a talent scout for the WWE. There is a maturing element to his performance here. It is not as showy as some of his earlier parts. There is a quiet mean, mentorship that you only find out later is tough love. He makes sure to ground his aloofness in actual care. He perfectly facilitates the main character's transformation from the beginning to the end.
7. Wedding Crashers
This movie would be much higher on the list if it wasn't a bit too long. This movie has so many funny moments that it is hard to recount them all here. It is hysterical to watch Vaughn move from his typical cocky ladies' man into a man trapped and hunted. To be sure the movie is on the vulgar side, but it ultimately moves the characters into a place of growth. His chemistry with Owen Wilson and Isla Fisher is fantastic.
Vaughn's part in this movie is very small. But the movie itself is excellent. It does a great job of giving you and emotional investment in the modest dreams of the title college student so that you want to cheer his name along with the crowd in the final game.
This is a very underrated film directed and Favraeu. Not only is the movie completely quotable, but Vaughn's character has an unhinged, wild side to him that is at times likable, but sometimes takes a dark turn. In fact, as the movie goes on Vaughn's Ricky Slade gets so dark that you are tempted to write him off completely. But Vaughn's performance keeps him just on the right side of endearing to make sure that you stick with him until the end.
4. Couples Retreat
Like Wedding Crashers, this one is a bit too long, but also like Wedding Crashers, the funny moments are too many to count. This is a film that is helped by having an incredibly good cast that all bring the right elements of chemistry to this group dynamic. Besides being hysterical, the movie is also incredibly relatable. Within the 4 couples, we can find dynamics in marriages and friendships that will have some aspects that are familiar to the audience. I also love how this movie marks a very clear point in Vaughn's film trajectory from ladies' man to family man.
This movie is pure silliness and it that is perfect. There is no depth here. There is no deeper meaning other than the desire to make the audience laugh. Whenever this movie is on TV, I end up watching it because I know that I'm going to have a good time. It is over-the-top and cartoonish and it absolutely works, with lines that I still quote to this day. It also has one of my favorite film jokes of all time: "Allow me the pleasure of introducing you to: Blade! Laser!... Blazer!"
I encountered this movie at just the right time in my life, when I was a young, single guy in college. This movie struck a chord in a way that few movies do because it harmonizes with something true in your real-life experience. It captures the depression of heart-break, the agony of being single, and bond that good buddies have where they may fight but they have each other's backs. It's roughness is part of its charm and Vaughn became a well-deserved star after this film.
1. Hacksaw Ridge
Vaughn only has a supporting role here, but he is excellent. As Sgt. Howell, he is a commanding presence who belittles and berates his men, whipping them into shape from carefree boys into well-trained soldiers. He is tough-as-nails, but he is able to show a paternal side when needs be. While Vaughn is not the center of the film, he certainly adds to the overall quality of this masterful war movie by Mel Gibson. The movie is harrowing, exciting, heartbreaking, and uplifting. And Vaughn's "man's man" quality as an actor is perfect in this role.