If you were to build a word cloud out of the ways people describe Seth Rogen, the largest-font words would be “stoner,” “schlubby,” and “man child.” None of those portrayals are wrong, exactly, but they don’t give Rogen enough credit as a writer, as an actor, as a producer, as an activist, and as the voice of Pumbaa. If he’s good enough for Beyoncé, he’s good enough for you. In honor of his new comedy An American Pickle (out today on HBO Max), the Uproxx staff has ranked Seth Rogen’s best movies.
We’re disappointed that we left out the Kung Fu Panda series, too.
10. Observe and Report
Alright, so it’s fair to say that this movie elicited strong, mixed reactions and, even among its supporters, uncomfortable laughter. Still, one had to admire how the movie ended up functioning as a blistering critique of toxic masculinity and everything that’s anti-woman in our society. And while there are plenty of disgusting happenings on display, there’s a slight satisfaction in seeing more of a Travis Bickle edge than Paul Blart vibe going on in this mall-cop movie. At least no one can accuse both Rogen and Anna Faris of not putting in a huge “A” for effort. Politically correct, it ain’t, but there’s a surprising amount of commentary to be had here, if one can stomach the content. – Kimberly Ricci
9. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Seth Rogen did not have a huge part in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He played a supporting character, Cal, who worked in the warehouse at the fake Best Buy where Steve Carell’s Andy was also employed. The character is also very much unlike ones Rogen would make famous later in his career. Cal is tatted-up and tough and confident around women, whereas his characters in Knocked Up and other movies are… not. It’s kind of weird, in hindsight. Not necessarily bad, just weird. I didn’t even recognize him at first.
None of this is a complaint. He stole scenes left and right from a cast that wasn’t exactly giving them away. I remember watching the movie in the theater and coming away with two thoughts: One, Paul Rudd is a likable guy; two, whoever played Cal should be in more movies. Very pleased to report I was correct on both fronts. They might have been the only things I was right about in 2005, but you can’t take them away from me now. — Brian Grubb
8. The Night Before
In a recent interview, Seth Rogen called An American Pickle “the most Jewish movie I’ve ever made, probably the most Jewish movie that almost anyone’s ever made.” What about The Night Before? Speaking as a Jew, that’s a very Jewish movie. A damn fine one, too. You have Rogen looking for the fabled Nutcracker Ball with his friends, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie (the always-welcome Lizzy Caplan and Jillian Bell have supporting roles), while wearing a Hanukkah-colored Star of David sweater nearly the entire time. It’s the kind of Festival of Lights representation you don’t see in most holiday movies not called Eight Crazy Nights. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, Michael Shannon plays a bearded weed dealer named Mr. Green who looks like every dirtbag you went to high school with. Seth Rogen getting high in a car with dirtbag Michael Shannon? The Night Before really is a holiday miracle. — Josh Kurp
7. Funny People
In my recent ranking of Happy Madison movies, I put Funny People number two (behind You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, a very good film) largely due to Adam Sandler’s arguably career-defining performance as standup comedian-turned-movie star George Simmons. I regrettably did not spend enough time praising Seth Rogen, who’s also fantastic as an up-and-coming comedian who befriends industry titan George and writes jokes for him. He channels his genuine feelings for Sandler (“It’s crazy. He’s right over there. Adam knows our names. That’s awesome,” he once said to Jonah Hill) into his performance, while also making Ira a distinct character from his real-world personality. Although they both share a love of masturbation jokes and, presumably, candid photos of Eminem (which he’ll email to Ray Romano, of course). — Josh Kurp
6. Knocked Up
Judd Apatow hit a home run here with jokes so realistic and funny (and realistically funny) that one can appreciate how well he mines the humor in unintended pregnancy. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl play off each other almost too well from polar-opposite-land, but somehow, they end up building an onscreen dynamic that’s warm-hearted, if not actually romantic. Not everything is roses for them, which is an entirely conceivable scenario that this movie managed to turn into entertainment. Yes, Heigl circled back later to call the movie sexist, while Rogen and Apatow stood their ground, and maybe her character was written to be a little too difficult. Still, this is actually a sweet movie full of humanity and flawed characters all around, both female and male. Rogen convincingly plays the inept boyfriend, but this film’s secret weapon happens to be Paul Rudd, all aghast and frustrated in life. Apatow + Rogen is always a winning combination, and the addition of Rudd makes this a devastatingly hilarious offering. – Kimberly Ricci
There are a few films on this list that prove Rogen has dramatic range but it’s this buddy comedy which leans a bit dark in places — blame the cancer diagnosis — that perfectly melds his comedic timing with a genuine sensitivity we rarely see from him on screen. Seth Rogen plays Kyle, the best friend of Adam (an also terrific Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a guy who’s just been dealt a sh*tty hand. He’s got cancer, he needs to undergo chemo, and his weed-smoking, pick-up artist friend is the only one he can count on to get him through it. Though Rogen lends the movie its lighter moments, he’s also, somewhat surprisingly, the heart of this thing too, playing a dude woefully out of his element, just trying to hold onto a semblance of normalcy for the friend he loves. — Jessica Toomer
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started writing Superbad when they were 13 years old — Rogen was originally going to play Seth, the part that eventually went to Jonah Hill, until he aged out of the role. Instead, he portrayed Officer Michaels, the woefully inept cop who shares most of his scenes with Bill Hader’s Officer Slater. Leaving aside the real-world implications of playing goofy cops who allow a white teen to break the law multiple times over, Rogen and Hader are very funny individually, and extra funny as scene partners in Superbad, one of Rogen’s most personal and deeply felt comedies.
It’s a shame they haven’t worked together more. I’m not saying there should be a Superbad 2, but if there was a Superbad 2, hypothetically of course, I’d love to see what Seth and Evan (Michael Cera) are up to as adults, and check in with former-Officers Michaels and Slater after they quit the force to make fake IDs for the next generation of McLovins. Anything to get Rogen and Hader to work together again. — Josh Kurp
I’m inconsolable over the injustice that kept Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising from making this ranking but I recognize that maybe the world isn’t ready for a feminist commentary on Greek life packaged in a Seth Rogen bro-comedy casing. That said, the original entry in this potential franchise is still the best. Not only is Rogen at the top of comedic game playing a husband and father who wages war on the fraternity next door, but the film also proves that he might be the best scene partner in the business right now. Seriously, this dude has chemistry with everyone from Zac Efron to Rose Byrne to Dave Franco to… you get it. Rogen makes everyone funnier which is the highest compliment I assume a comedic actor can be paid. But he’s also great at sacrificing his body for an airbag gag that always lands. — Jessica Toomer
2. Pineapple Express
As the first weed-focused film to exceed $100 million globally, this project might be the ultimate aspirational film for stoner-moviemakers to mimic for decades to come. Seth Rogen’s process server is perfectly matched with James Franco’s drug dealer, which is truly nuts when one considers that they actually swapped their planned roles just prior to filming. The real appeal of this film, however, can be found in all of its glorious excess. The conspiracy angle, the nasty slushy mishap and high-octane car chase, the high-drama relationship with Amber Heard’s character, and my god, Danny McBride’s weirdo refusing to die. It’s simulaneously balls-to-the-wall chaos and impeccably crafted, and guess what? Pineapple Express represents a brand of stoner comedy that not even Matthew McConaughey could achieve. Yep, I went there. – Kimberly Ricci
1. This Is the End
This Is the End is somehow about four movies at once. It’s a stoner hangout comedy about dudes bonding through adversity. It’s an apocalyptic nightmare that features a well-hung demon. It’s a heavily meta commentary on celebrity and celebrity culture in which all the actors play semi-fictionalized version of themselves, some more fictionalization than other, and yes, this is where we mention Michael Cera as Michael Cera as a coke-tooting maniac. It’s a movie where — spoilers, I guess — Channing Tatum ends up as Danny McBride’s leashed slave. There is a lot going on in This Is the End. It probably shouldn’t work. That’s why it’s so amazing that it does.
It’s not a perfect movie. It feels a little slapped together in places, like they were hitting bits and lining them up in a plot-related order, but who cares? They are very good bits. The fake homemade Pineapple Express 2 is probably the funniest movie trailer you’ll ever see. Danny McBride is completely unhinged. It’s fun. It’s a fun movie. And it resonates extra hard right now because we’re all stuck in our houses right now, too. There’s not much of difference between a pandemic and a well-endowed murderous flaming demon, if you really get down to it. Something to consider. — Brian Grubb