Between Knocked Up and Superbad, Seth Rogen helped shape a new era of comedy, and he’s delivered just so powerful dramatic performances too.
Seth Rogen has been the go-to comedy actor for stoner comedies ever since the mid-2000s, and in that time, he's been the face of some truly iconic movies and instant classics. After starring in stand-up comedy at a young age, Rogen made his screen debut with the Judd Apatow-produced cult teen comedy series Freaks and Geeks, and it was the foundation of his whole career. It was on the set of the cult series where he met several actors who he would collaborate with for decades, such as Jason Segel, and, of course, Apatow (who directed Rogen in his most famous movies).
Rogen's raunchy humor changed the comedy landscape in films like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and while his unbelievable improv skills border on showing off, he's a great screenwriter too. The comedian has penned several of his films, including Superbad and Pineapple Express, and he's even writing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie reboot. While Rogen might not be the greatest actor, he undisputedly shaped a new era of comedy, and there has only been a few comedy actors as influential as him since. However, Rogen's best movies are not only 2000s and 2010s comedies, but some Oscar-caliber films too.
Surprisingly, Steve Jobs failed to impress at the Box Office (earning over $34.4 million via Box Office Mojo). However, its failure could be chalked up to bad marketing, as the release has strong performances across the board, including Rogen's portrayal of Steve Wozniak. While its historical accuracy has been called into question and Aaron Sorkin's thought-provoking movie uses razor-sharp dialogue to replaces Rogen's typical vulgar jokes with technical jargon, it's still effective. Rogen proved with Steve Jobs that he has more range than just his comedy acting. He even met with Wozniak to learn his speaking habits and movements (via GQ).
The Disaster Artist is another outrageous comedy, but it's also a risky art film about the making of The Room, considered to be the worst film ever made, and its theatrical writer/director/star, Tommy Wiseau. Rogen plays Sandy Schklair, the impressively patient script supervisor. Although it was another low-performing movie at the Box Office (earning over $29 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo), that's because it appeals to a niche audience, as general audiences haven't seen The Room. It was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at The Oscars and won a Golden Globe for Best Actor. And as The Disaster Artist is a true story, it's easy to watch without even knowing what The Room is.
Not only did Rogen star in This Is the End, but he co-wrote and directed it with longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg. The movie follows Rogen, Jonah Hill, and other famous actors in their circle playing exaggerated versions of themselves during the apocalypse. The 2013 release is so many things at once; a hilarious and unique approach to dystopian and apocalyptic movies, and one of the first of many 2010s movies that embrace being self-aware and meta. The film's best sequence sees Rogen and Franco direct Pineapple Express 2 when they're bored, though some might have preferred that film over a meta-post-apocalyptic comedy based on Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse.
One of Rogen's most notable is a homage to what he loves most. Pineapple Express follows the close relationship between a stoner and his dealer, which leads to an over-the-top criminal conspiracy full of hilariously explosive action. The 2008 release is the biggest cult hit in Rogen's filmography, as it wasn't quite as commercially or critically successful as other Apatow-produced movies, but there's more of a demand for a sequel to Pineapple Express than any other. The only thing that keeps Rogen's writing from being timeless is the whole plot is based on the fact that marijuana is illegal, but it was legalized in California in 2016 (via LA Times).
2008 was the biggest year in Rogen's career, as he starred in several major comedies and had three different voice-only roles in animated movies. Kung Fu Panda is by far the most impressive and holds such a legacy that Kung Fu Panda 4 is so highly anticipated. There's a reason why Rogen is cast in so many animated films, as he has such a distinctive and animated voice, and his performance as Mantis in the franchise is the best showcase of his voice-acting talent. Along with an all-around great voice cast, Kung Fu Panda has an excellent animation style, and its quality has been consistent with the sequels too.
While Rogen had blink-and-you'll-miss-it roles in both Donnie Darko and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, his first major role was Cal, an electronics store employee, in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Rogen is part of a great supporting cast, and his scenes with Paul Rudd are particularly noteworthy, showing the actor's incredible improv skills for the first time. It also unveiled his chemistry with other performers, with the classic and very real waxing scene being case and point. The movie ultimately established Rogen's stoner comedy style, along with his iconic laugh, and it was a huge Box Office hit, making $177 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo).
Knocked Up follows Ben (Rogen), who is afraid of commitment until a woman with whom he had a one-night stand reveals she is pregnant with his child. While The 40-Year-Old Virgin was a hit, Knocked Up was an even bigger success, making over $200 million (via Box Office Mojo), which is almost unheard of for both a mid-budget comedy and a first-time lead actor. The movie has a bigger and better ensemble cast, and it even spawned a spin-off, This Is 40 (though Rogen was absent and it didn't live up to Knocked Up). Apatow is developing a threequel, This Is 50 (via Collider), which will hopefully see Rogen return.
Steven Spielberg is having his best decade, at least when it comes to Rotten Tomatoes, and his latest, The Fabelmans, is a terrific semi-autobiographical movie and a love letter to cinema. It sees Rogen in another Oscar-caliber movie and gives a performance that's deserving of a nomination itself. The actor plays Bennie Loewy, Sammy's fun-loving uncle, and he's the beating heart of the coming-of-age drama. The Best Picture contender has been praised to no end and has the potential to be Rogen's best-ever movie, but only time will tell, as it's still very new and Rogen has classics that hold up after 15-20 years.
Between trying to buy alcohol with fake IDs, growing up at the same time as the internet, and worrying about getting into college, Superbad is one of the best movies that defines being a teenager in the 2000s. According to Rogen, Superbad took over a decade to get made because studios couldn't wrap their heads around how it would make money. However, it made $170 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo), has become a classic coming-of-age movie, and while some of it might seem a little outrageous, it's so relatable. It's another movie in Rogen's filmography that he co-wrote too.
Although it didn't do huge numbers like the 2000s comedies, 50/50 was still modestly successful, and it's way more powerful and hard-hitting than anything Rogen has ever done. 50/50 shows an honest and authentic portrayal of a cancer patient going through chemotherapy. The 2011 movie still has Rogen's typical raunchy humor, but it perfectly balances drama and comedy, and has a surprisingly emotional and resonating performance from Rogen. With Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's great chemistry also helping to elevate scenes, it's not surprising to see that it accrued a massive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
MORE: How The Scenes With Two Seth Rogens In An American Pickle Were Shot
Currently splitting his time between Madrid and Chicago, Stephen Barker has been a staff writer at Screen Rant since 2020. Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a bachelor’s degree in Film, Television, and Cultural Studies in 2014, he has written for numerous movie and music websites. Visit Stephen’s personal blog, Quaranste, where he writes about guilty pleasure movies, his latest musical discoveries, and how he stays creative during global pandemics.