Iconic Roles is a look at some of the best performances in film and television by actors and actresses.
Often considered one of the sexiest men alive, 53-year-old Paul Rudd is currently living a second youth. Or he might still secretly still be in his twenties since it appears time doesn’t affect him at all. While in recent years he delivered memorable performances on the big screen, Rudd surged to popularity thanks to his role as Mike in the fan-favorite sitcom Friends, where his character was involved in one of the most romantic — and sometimes eccentric — love stories on the show.
In his latest effort, Rudd will resume the role as Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, along with his on-screen partner and Lost alum Evangeline Lilly in the 31st movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Peyton Reed-directed Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. The upcoming third installment in the Ant-Man series will officially kick off Phase 5 of MCU.
Here is a closer look at the best Paul Rudd movies.
Lt. Wally Worthington in The Cider House Rules (1999)
While Rudd spent most of his career in comedy-related projects, he proved more than once that he could do drama too. One of his first memorable performances went down in Lasse Hallström’s The Cider House Rules, a critically-appreciated drama that scored seven Oscar nominations.
Lt. Wally Worthington and his fiancée (Charlize Theron) reach out to Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) for an abortion. They befriend Homer (Tobey Maguire), a young man raised in an orphanage who wants to see the outside world. When Wally is called for duty as a pilot in World War II, the relationship between his fiancée and Homer becomes more than a mere friendship.
Brian Fantana in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Fans who want to see Rudd’s comical potential at its finest must watch Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (and The 40-Year-Old Virgin immediately after it). Adam McKay’s star-studded directorial debut featured some comedy royalty in Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, and David Koechner, with Rudd proving that he deserves a place among the best in what is often regarded as one of the 2000s best comedies.
Donning a praise-deserving mustache that gives him plenty of success with the ladies, Brian Fantana is part of the local San Diego news team. Their team faces an unexpected challenge when a new female co-anchor (Christina Applegate) makes her appearance. Rudd reprised the character in 2013’s equally successful sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Mr. Anderson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
No one better than Stephen Chbosky could have adapted The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the 1999 coming-of-age novel penned by Chbosky himself on a sensitive teenager dealing with depression. Charlie (Logan Lerman) struggles to find his place in the world during his freshman year of high school, pouring his soul into long letters. One of the few who understand Charlie’s struggle is Mr. Anderson (Rudd), a thoughtful English teacher who helps Charlie overcome his tribulations and open himself to the world.
In one of Rudd’s most appreciated performances, the New Jersey actor ranged from comical to dramatic moments effortlessly, in spite of his minimal screen time. “We accept the love we think we deserve” is a line for the ages. The cast included Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Joan Cusack, among others.
Scott Lang/Ant-Man in the MCU (2015-ongoing)
One of the biggest MCU successes is turning some of the less popular comic-book superheroes into blockbuster stars. Rudd’s Ant-Man is the perfect example. Lang quickly became a fan-favorite MCU hero from the moment he stole the superpowered suit that could shrink his size to a microscopic level. Most of all, fans loved Lang’s redemption arc, from a petty thief (pardon, a cat burglar) to the man who saves the universe.
After returning in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, Ant-Man had a pivotal role in helping the Avengers to find a way to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. The upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania will be the fifth MCU appearance for Rudd’s character. Critics have well-received Rudd’s Ant-Man and fans simply love him, proof is that both Ant-Man-focused movies have grossed more than $500 million at the box office.
Gary Grooberson in Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
After establishing himself as an actor who generally does well in blockbusters, Rudd was called to do his part in an attempt to relive the Ghostbusters franchise. Rudd’s Mr. Grooberson is a summer school teacher who was a kid when the “Manhattan Crossrip” occurred. Once he moves to Summerville to study its unique earthquakes, strange things start to happen to him, including a bizarre encounter with little, poofy white creatures while grocery shopping. Long-term fans have generally appreciated Jason Reitman’s homage to the legacy of his late father, Ivan, one of the proponents of Ghostbusters‘ success.