Fame comes and goes, but sometimes an actor comes along with such charm and charisma that their star simply keeps rising. Though he first emerged in the public eye as a wrestler, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has grown to be one of the most famous and well-liked actors in a long time. The positive energy he exudes in real life translates to his on-screen roles, giving him a a quality of undeniable likability.
That is, if he’s given the right role to play. Because there’s no denying that what he offers is better suited for some movies than it is for others. He may be one of the biggest actors on the planet, but that doesn’t mean every movie has been a hit. Here are 10 movies The Rock ruined and 10 he saved.
20 Ruined: The Mummy Returns
It’s only natural that the first movie The Rock appeared in after making it as a wrestler wouldn’t see his finest performance. And it certainly didn’t.
However, his character is probably best known for the horrible CGI scorpion creation he turns into during the climax. And we can’t really put the blame for that on his shoulders.
19 Saved: The Rundown
The Rock’s first role outside of playing the Scorpion King would go much better. Though The Rundown, a film about an aspiring chef tasked with tracking down the son of a man he’s indebted to through a dangerous jungle, has ridiculous action scenes, Johnson’s no-nonsense attitude and normal guy persona makes it work.
In comparison to his later roles, it’s like John McClane in 1988 versus John McClane in 2007.
18 Ruined: The Scorpion King
You shouldn’t be too surprised to find this one on the list. Johnson’s character from The Mummy Returns received a spin-off/prequel to tell his tale.
And everything about it, from the action to Johnson’s performance, is completely generic. But this was his first starring role, so he was still developing his acting chops.
17 Saved: Fast Five
This franchise wasn’t too great before we got to the fifth entry, as the Rotten Tomatoes scores can attest to. Part of its newfound quality was the switch to heist-centric plots. Another part was the addition of Dwayne Johnson.
Johnson gave the roster a much-needed boost of charm, even though he was playing somewhat of a villain when his character debuted. There’s a reason his character recently received a spin-off.
16 Ruined: Doom
Doom has a lot of problems just like any video game movie. The game’s plot is pretty light. Portal to the underworld opens on Mars, horrific demons run rampant, slaying ensues. That alone means it isn’t suited to the cinematic format.
Johnson obviously doesn’t help matters. His character and performance are so one-note as a jerk marine that it’s absolutely no surprise when he becomes a villain in the third act.
15 Saved: Rampage
13 years after his first foray into video game movies, Johnson would return with something much better. Rampage is dumb, loud fun, as you would expect a movie based on a game about giant animals destroying towns to be.
And while most human characters here are forgettable or downright annoying (looking at you, Malin Akerman), Johnson brings an unexpected warmth. He genuinely cares about his gorilla friend George.
14 Ruined: Southland Tales
This 2006 semi sci-fi drama is a giant mess. It’s overstuffed with characters and has a plot way too confusing to try and explain here. So I won’t.
Props to Johnson for playing against his typecast though, even if it didn’t work. He plays an amnesiac action star who spends most of the movie nervously fidgeting.
13 Saved: Central Intelligence
The plot of this action-comedy is pretty forgettable (something about spies and stolen secrets? Or something?), but the chemistry between Johnson and Kevin Hart makes it worth watching.
Not only are their bodies humorously mismatched, but Hart’s ranting opposite Johnson’s larger than life charm makes for comedic gold. And the comedy behind this duo would be further explored in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
12 Ruined: Hercules
Honestly, it isn’t really Johnson’s performance here that is the negative aspect. It’s more of his persona. He’s played so many similar-looking characters in such modern settings that all I could think was, “That’s The Rock wearing a wig.”
He just doesn’t fit in an ancient Greek setting. But it doesn’t help that his natural charisma is completely wasted on an utterly bland movie.
11 Saved: Moana
To be fair, Moana didn’t need saving. It’s a Disney movie after all. But casting Johnson as the comedically arrogant Maui was a stroke of genius. He’s a larger than life character, so why not get a larger than life actor to match that bravado?
Opinions may differ on his singing abilities (I happen to love You’re Welcome), but Johnson perfectly encapsulates what makes Maui a fun character.
10 Ruined: Planet 51
Before Johnson became Disney royalty for voicing Maui, he took part in an entirely different animated movie. Where Moana was set in the past on Earth, Planet 51 was set in the future on an alien planet. And where Moana was a delight to watch, Planet 51 was an absolute bore.
There are many things about this movie that come off as flat and uncharismatic, including the voice over work.
9 Saved: Walking Tall
Johnson wasn’t a fully-fledged action star by the time this remake was released. It gave him a chance to flex his dramatic muscles as well as his regular ones. And he did a fairly decent job at it.
It focuses on a soldier returning home to find his town crime-infested. And then he decides to do something about it. It showed that, if he chose, Johnson could do something different.
8 Ruined: Empire State
Empire States is a straight-to-DVD release about two friends trying to rob an armored car and the NYPD officer (Johnson) who attempts to stop them.
Johnson’s performance is as one-note as that premise. Everything is bland and immediately forgettable, which is exactly why it was released straight-to-DVD in the first place.
7 Saved: Get Smart
Over the years, Johnson has been given several chances to show his comedic ability in addition to the action. And one of the first moments was in 2007’s Get Smart.
He plays the stereotypical super-agent against Steve Carell’s bumbling protagonist, and he does it well. Fans of the original TV show may have been surprised to find a wrestler could turn in a decent performance.
6 Ruined: Baywatch
But not every comedy The Rock has starred in has gone well. 2017’s Baywatch, which desperately wanted to be the next 21 Jump Street, was full of stale jokes that were more crude than actually funny.
Unfortunately, Johnson isn’t the caliber of actor that can elevate such a bad script. At least, not usually.
5 Saved: Fighting With My Family
Fighting With My Family, a biopic about wrestler Paige, is a smaller movie compared to what The Rock normally stars in. And it was critically praised for a number of reasons.
Not only did Johnson’s involvement lend the movie a bit of star power, but he played a version of himself. The movie itself is a love letter to where he came from, which his performance reflects.
4 Ruined: G.I. Joe: Retaliation
As if the first movie wasn’t bad enough, G.I. Joe: Retaliation moves from one action set piece to another without any semblance of plot structure.
And every character simply serves as a vessel to bring the audience to the next one. This means that every performance, including Johnson’s, is almost non-existent.
3 Saved: San Andreas
One can typically guess how a disaster movie is going to go. And San Andreas doesn’t do anything too unique in those regards. But the human quality is a bit more fleshed out here compared to others in the genre thanks to Dwayne Johnson.
He’s a helicopter pilot trying to bring his family back together during insurmountable destruction. And, surprisingly, you do care about his plight.
2 Ruined: The Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy is about a jerk hockey player made to be a tooth fairy in order to make up for being said jerk. And it is probably the worst movie Johnson has starred in thus far.
One would have to be a saint to ignore the abundance of bad tooth puns. It's so badly written that not even Johnson’s charisma could salvage the movie, though it doesn’t seem like he was trying too hard.
1 Saved: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
This shouldn’t have worked. The original Jumanji is beloved by many and none of them desired a sequel. And yet, it was an absolute hit.
As Johnson is a video game avatar embodied by a dorky teenager, he gets to play against everything we know him for, from his smolder to his unbelievable indestructibility. And you can tell he had heaps of fun doing so.