The Very Best Of

10 best live-action movies with Jonah Hill

The 10 most successful live-action movies featuring Jonah Hill
With Mid90s, first-time director Jonah Hill gets to show what he has learned from the likes of Judd Apatow, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Jonah Hill will not be 35 until this year’s penultimate day of autumn. His calendar youth hides behind his vast, ornate acting experience, to say nothing of the brains he has surely picked.

This Friday, his first crack at directing a full-length feature will have its widespread release. With Mid90s, the authoritative Rotten Tomatoes states Hill is embarking on “an auspicious new career.”

To quantify that promise, critics have combined for 91 percent approval on the coming-of-age tale. Meanwhile, 96 percent of polled prospective viewers are interested in watching Mid90s.

As with a sports campaign, the afterward score matters most. But those lofty projections reaffirm a career enriched with winning projects manned by Judd Apatow, Martin Scorsese and Quintin Tarantino.

For the majority of his silver-screen endeavors before the camera, Hill has had large and small roles in hardware-caliber films. Between 2004’s I Heart Huckabees and 2016’s War Dogs, he performed in 31 live-action movies.

Of those 31, 18 garnered 60 percent or better on both the critical and audience scales on Rotten Tomatoes. A dozen achieved joint 70-plus percentages. Five made the American Film Institute’s exclusive list of the year’s top movies.

Whether he made a comic-relief cameo (Django Unchained) or served as an acting/writing/producing Swiss Army knife (21 Jump Street), Hill warrants a share in the glory. Moreover, each film is bound to have informed the shape he has taken in his new capacity.

Now is his first chance to transform and translate everything he has absorbed from these 10 gems. Rankings are based on a combination of a film’s Rotten Tomatoes scores and its major ensemble accolades.

10. This Is the End
The American Comedy Awards crowned this project 2014’s funniest motion picture and doled out nominations to several outstanding cast members. For his part, Hill was one of four individual actors representing the film as an ACA candidate.

Meanwhile, the Saturns put it on their ballot for the year’s best horror film. How is that for versatility and finding a way to slake multiple tastes?

While the awards did not get much more prestigious, the broad appeal transcended professional and lay critics alike. Among the scribes, This Is the End fetched 83 percent favorability while audiences endorsed it 71 percent.

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Hill stole a side story in this Apatow-produced Jason Segel vehicle as Aldous Snow’s anxious, adoring fan.

Neither he nor the movie fetched many trophies, apart from the Internet Film Critic Society’s title of 2008’s best comedy. But the movie did generate nonallergenic 84 critical and 76 audience pleasure percentages.

8. 21 Jump Street
Another IFCS winner, this adaptation of a Fox program from Hill’s childhood was up for more in 2012. Both the Critics Choice and People’s Choice panels considered it for the same title of best comedic movie.

Not surprisingly, the de facto Rotten Tomatoes equivalents of those panels gauge 85 and 82 percent enjoyment, respectively.

7. 22 Jump Street
Though slightly down in audience approval (77 percent), 22 Jump Street sustained or built on its predecessors’ achievements. In the 2014-15 cycle, the sequel matched the original’s Critics Choice nomination and prevailed as the People’s Choice favorite comedy.

As a bonus, Hill and co-star Channing Tatum were considered for the title of favorite movie duo. Their production as a whole was also up for best movie overall.

6. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Released in 2005, Apatow’s directorial debut was the second movie to cast Hill, who played Trish’s (Catherine Keener) customer.

It was only one minute-long shift, but he emitted a comically awkward vibe in the time he had. Every second counted toward a project that attained an 84 percent Tomatometer, 85 percent audience score and a spot on the AFI’s 2006 list.

5. Superbad
Building his relationship with Apatow, Hill rebounded from the previous year’s mixed-reviewed Accepted with this starring role. While it fetched no major accolades, 2007’s Superbad got identical 87 percent scores on Rotten Tomatoes’ critical and viewer scales.

4. Knocked Up
With a supporting part, Hill performed in yet another Apatow hit unleashed in the summer of 2007. By the next winter, it was among the AFI’s movies of the year and won the People’s Choice title of favorite comedy.

Reflecting that hardware, 89 percent of critical and 83 percent of audience reviews were favorable. The screenplay Hill helped bring to life was also nominated for a Gold Derby Award.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street
For the third year in a row, Hill was part of an Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated project. For the second time in that span, his supporting role drew nominations to match the movie’s nods for best motion picture.

Selected as 2013’s best comedy by the IFCS, The Wolf of Wall Street subsequently made the 2014 AFI list. And as one other testament to Hill’s performance reaping team rewards, the Critics Choice academy nominated the film for best motion picture and best acting ensemble.

Curiously, with 78 percent critical and 82 percent audience approval, this film scored lower than the others listed here. Nonetheless, the volume and magnitude of the accolades are self-explanatory and all but unmatched.

That is except for the two other Oscar- and Golden Globe-caliber movies with some of Hill’s fingerprints.

2. Django Unchained
Like his first go-round with Apatow, Hill’s role in this Tarantino product was brief but noteworthy. Though naturally overshadowed by Jamie Foxx, future Wolf co-star Leonardo DiCaprio and many others, he was still entitled to savor the collective success.

To wit: 87 percent favorability among critics and 91 percent among paying moviegoers. In the 2012-13 award season, the screenplay won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Critics Choice and a Saturn.

In the best-picture category, Django Unchained was nominated by each of those academies. It was also one of the AFI and National Board of Review’s choices for 2012’s top films.

1. Moneyball
This dramatic telling of the 2002 Oakland Athletics’ innovative team-assembling strategy holds the highest critical approval of any live-action Hill movie. Not far behind that 94 percent tally is an 86 percent audience approval rating.

A member of 2012’s AFI list, Moneyball was also a People’s Choice nominee for favorite drama. The Critics’ Choice panel bestowed the best adapted screenplay award and a nomination for best picture.

Most tellingly, the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs also considered it for the year’s best film overall. Individually, for playing Peter Brand, Hill was up for recognition as a supporting actor by those three panels plus the Screen Actors Guild.

Al Daniel

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