Other Ryan Reynolds Movies You Should Watch After Free Guy

2021 is the year of deja vu. It has conquered our airwaves; it has twisted our headlines; and it has massively entrenched itself in multiplexes, where last year's movies are current entertainment. A relief? Sure. Numbing? That too. It's hard to shake the sense that we've already seen everything that theaters have to offer, given that we got our first glimpses of "Black Widow" and "F9" more than a year a half ago. 

So, in this strange season, what does it take to renew a moviegoer's excitement? How about Ryan Reynolds? Reynolds' "Free Guy" has been as delayed as often any tentpole picture, yet that didn't slow its roll at all. An October 2020 trailer netted 55 million views in under 24 hours, surpassing both its initial trailer and the teasers for many Marvel movies. Reynolds even dragged Deadpool into the "Free Guy" fold, using his winking, fourth-wall-breaking alter ego to sell a completely unrelated flick.

"Free Guy" seems to encapsulate Reynolds' appeal in microcosm. He is a comic lightening rod, an actor whose skill is less "making people laugh," and more about bringing laughs to dire moments. It's a talent he deploys in commercials, prestige dramas, and even voice-over work. It's also what's made Reynolds a reliable draw at the box office for years, and an actor whose familiarity is both inherently chaotic and wildly comforting. Here are 10 other films that highlight the actor's skill set.

Deadpool 2

To paraphrase Ben Franklin: In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool. The actor is as intrinsically linked to Wade Wilson as Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine, and is as characteristically glib in his portrayal as Robert Downey Jr. was playing Tony Stark. A list of essential Ryan Reynolds films must include a Merc with a Mouth movie and, for my money, it's "Deadpool 2" that represents not only the character's best on-screen appearance, but Reynolds' best hybrid of action and comedy to date. The reason? Director David Leitch.

Leitch, who cut his teeth as a stuntman before breaking through behind the camera with "John Wick," has created a tiny but mighty canon of explosive blockbusters which call the very purpose of the blockbuster film into question. "Hobbes & Shaw" frequently acknowledges its pointlessness. "Atomic Blonde" plays with meta concepts and the audience's complacency. He's an ideal fit for the fourth-wall breaking "Deadpool 2" and anchors its set pieces to Reynolds' tone-shifting talent — an early sequence goes from spry kung-fu fighting to devastating realism to Celine Dion jokes before the viewer can catch their breath. Simply put: "Deadpool 2" is awesome, and a must watch if you enjoyed "Free Guy" on any level.

Detective Pikachu

Full disclosure: I believe "Detective Pikachu" is one of this century's best family films, a treatise on male vulnerability disguised as light noir. But even the biggest "Detective Pikachu" skeptic would be hard pressed to argue that Rob Latterman's movie isn't a Ryan Reynolds showcase. It approaches "Robin Williams as Genie"-type levels of both ecstatic improv riffing and also out-of-left-field pathos. 

Seriously. When Pikachu isn't singing the Pokémon theme song, he's confessing his crushing loneliness. When he isn't calming Psyduck down with "Seinfeld" references, he's musing on fate and loss with Tim (Justice Smith). It's a big ask, not just of the character, but of Reynolds, and he makes it look easy. And the movie matches his energy, particularly in a Torterra Garden sequence that proves just as madcap and frightening as the rest of the film's spirited, shadow-soaked world building. For families who enjoyed "Free Guy," "Detective Pikachu" is an instant (and kid-safe) watch.

The Hitman's Bodyguard

To say there were low expectations for "The Hitman's Bodyguard" would be putting it mildly. Patrick Hughes' third feature entered a summer movie season where heavyweights such as "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and "Dunkirk" were duking it out for viewers and still earned $176 million worldwide. And though its recent sequel was rightfully derided, "The Hitman's Bodyguard" works because Ryan Reynolds plays well with his co-star — the one and only Samuel L. Jackson.

Better than "well," in fact. As the NSFW trailer – which has been streamed over three million times — proves, Jackson and Reynolds share an affinity for swearing, a predilection for physical comedy, and a sense of cool few others can touch. They both make "Hitman's Bodyguard" better than it ought to be, kicking and screaming their way through a threadbare plot that gives way to competent, sometimes thrilling, action scenes. It's not the best movie either actor has made, but it might be the most deliriously juvenile. If that sounds appealing, run — don't walk — to see it. On the other hand, if a more serious Ryan Reynolds buddy comedy is what you crave, look no further than...

Mississippi Grind

Any filmgoer who assumes Reynolds only traffics in action-comedies and rom-coms would do well to check out "Mississippi Grind" immediately. Why? Where to start? Not only is it the most riotously entertaining film that Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden ("Sugar", "Captain Marvel") have made to date, it's the bittersweet, spiritual successor to Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money" that you never knew you needed. 

A heady blend of a road movie and a modest gambling thriller, "Mississippi Grind" weaponizes Reynolds' care-free charm, casting him as a man so seemingly baggage-less that he could be mistaken for lucky. However, as several reversals of fortunes come to prove, that's nowhere near accurate. Watching Reynolds navigate those pitfalls is tremendous fun, but it's his relationship with Ben Mendelshon's Gerry that makes a lasting impression. 

Mendelshon is a master of control and understatement, and watching Reynolds crack through his unflappable façade to forge a deep and complicated friendship is one of cinema's most lowkey pleasures. It's the reason "Mississippi Grind' is one of A24's first film Twitter favorites, and it serves as proof that Reynolds can anchor almost any project he pleases. It isn't, however, the only one to do so.


A one-man or woman show is the ultimate test for an actor. There's no scene partner to play off of; the actor's physical instrument shoulders the story, amplifies its stakes, and is the only entry point for an audience. Not every performer can handle it. The ones who can should be commended accordingly. 

As it turns out, Ryan Reynolds is one such actor, and "Buried" is the proof. An exercise in nerve-shredding tension, Rodrigo Cortes' spare horror-thriller finds Reynolds playing an American truck driver who wakes up in a wooden coffin mere moments into the movie's first reel. He must then use a smattering of mysteriously provided items to try and escape. Cortes shot his debut film over 16 grueling days and Reynolds is on record as having suffered intense claustrophobia during all of them; it shows on screen. Simply put, this is not the kind of work major movie stars have to do, and when A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio or Adrian Brody step up to these sorts of challenges, they usually win awards. 

Reynolds was not so lucky. "Buried" remains criminally underseen, and while anyone who considers themselves a fan of Reynolds should check it out post-haste, those who aren't warm to the actor might really benefit from screening it. It's the rare, laugh-free Ryan Reynolds film — and it works.

The Voices

Ryan Reynolds remains a box-office draw because he's singular: The Canadian actor is Tom Hanks by way of Jim Carrey but also ripped, a good guy whose mean streak is simultaneously endearing and dangerous. Because that collection of traits is so idiosyncratic, we tend to know what to expect from a Ryan Reynolds vehicle. That is not true of "The Voices."

What is "The Voices"? Wikipedia claims it's about "a mentally unhinged factory worker who must decide whether to listen to his talking cat and become a killer, or follow his dog's advice to keep striving for normalcy." That barely scratches the surface of Marjane Satrapi's feature. It doesn't note that Reynolds plays the cat and the dog, effectively arguing with himself for two hours straight, illustrating the full depths of his range. It doesn't note that Straapi is the award-winning creator of "Persepolis," both the film and graphic novel. 

Above all, it doesn't note that "Voices" careens from black comedy to horror and back again, milking its high-concept premise for maximum shock value. "The Voices" is an inverse Ryan Reynolds vehicle, one that challenges audiences to see beyond the limits of the actor's boundless appeal and buy into a vicious plot in which laughs are a chaser, not the main feature. It's a test worth taking.

Smokin' Aces

"Smokin' Aces" is Joe Carnahan's spin on a Ryan Reynolds movie: an action film that plumbs the inherent ridiculousness of the genre, only to reveal a buried, bruised heart in its final moments. Before that? It's knocking off A-listers left and right; it's conscripting Chris Pine into his most insane performance; and it's plumbing the inherent schadenfreude of watching Jeremy Piven suffer for laughs. 

If this all sounds like typical Ryan Reynolds fare, then surprise! The actor's not the film's top star, often ceding screen time to Pine, Andy Garcia, and his frequent scene partner, Ray Liotta. It's as if Reynolds' id was a guiding light for Carnahan. It's the both the movie's gain, and all of cinema's; "Aces" is hardly any of its stars' best movies, but its colorful, specific, and full of top-notch actors. There are far worse movies to watch.

Safe House

Let's get this out of the way: "Safe House" is not a great film. It's more commendable than good, the sort of serviceable action film that TNT daytime is made of. Why, then, does it make this list? For two reasons. First: in Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, the film has endlessly combustible leads whose every decision makes the screen singe. I can't remember a single plot detail from "Safe House," but I do remember its scintillating stare-downs and the randomly long monologues delivered with steely verve. Given how much wattage Washington and Reynolds bring to the film, "Safe House" serves as an argument for the enduring power of movie stars. In that way, it's worth watching.

Second:  "Safe House" isn't the first average movie to have a truly great fight scene, but the disparity between third-act fight and the rest of the film is notable. For the three plus minutes that Reynolds and Joel Kinnaman are bloodying each other, it's easy to imagine how great "Safe House" could have been. Action fanatics owe this sequence its due. 

The Nines

On its surface, "The Nines" plays like a creative-muscle flexing: writer and director John August — a Tony winner for Broadway's "Red" and a frequent Tim Burton collaborator — decides to go full gonzo and create an anthology film that blends "The Truman Show" and David Lynch. 

In retrospect, however, the movie's a wild curio. It features tons of notable actors pre-fame, most notably Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer. There's a chance it'll play like a period piece to some viewers, given its strong mid-'00s vibes. And it features one of Reynolds' most expansive acting showcases, letting him play a trio of roles revolving around the concept of false identities. The actor would return to that well for "Free Guy" (albeit in a more family-friendly fashion), but seeing that film's themes filtered through a darker lens makes "The Nines" well worth your time. 

Blade: Trinity

Full disclosure: This isn't an endorsement of "Blade: Trinity" as a movie. It is, however, a co-sign of "Blade: Trinity" as a cultural experience, which is as rich and gleeful a deep dive as exists in comic book moviedom. The capstone of New Line's MCU progenitor is hardly as goofy as its behind-the-scenes antics, which include Wesley Snipes referring to himself as Blade off-screen and trying to choke out director David Goyer.

Most notably, there's this anecdote Patton Oswalt (who appears in the film) shared with The A.V. Club about he and Ryan Reynolds' scenes together: "A lot of the lines that Ryan Reynolds has were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him to say and then cut to Wesley's face not doing anything because that's all we could get from him. It was kind of funny. We were like, 'What are the worst jokes and puns that we can say to this guy?' And then it would just be his face going, 'Mmm.' ... It's so, so dumb."

That misfit energy creeps into the finished product, mostly through Oswalt and Reynolds. And that glib streak laid the foundation for almost every action-comedy Reynolds would go on to make in the 17 years following it. In that sense, "Blade: Trinity" is seminal; in another, it's so far from seminal that it's actually kind of special.