When it comes to physical comedy and impressions and dramatic film shocks, Jim Carrey’s name is synonymous with flailing, stumbling, and flinging his way into the hearts of millions of people across the world. One of Jim Carrey’s most memorable revelations in a recent documentary (Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond) about his early career as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon was the revelation he had with the film crew.
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“The audience desires a sense of security.”
For the rest of his career, Carrey would play the character that was unafraid to give the audience exactly what they desired. When Jim Carrey was a kid growing up in Ontario, Canada, the son of Percy and Kathleen Carrey, he began doing impressions and other forms of performance that were heavily influenced by the likes of Dick Van Dyke and Jackie Gleeson and Jimmy Stewart as well as Andy Kaufman and Art Carney and Jerry Lewis. No matter how outrageous Jim and Percy were, life was not always easy for the Carreys. Percy was financially responsible for the family of six as his mother Kathleen battled mental illness, so when he lost his accountant job, they were forced to live in a car. Almost 15 years later, Jim signed himself a cheque for $10 million for “acting services rendered” and set a three-year deadline for achieving this goal. On Thanksgiving 1994, three years after his film performance in Dumb and Dumber was completed, Jim received his $10 million payout. To achieve what seemed unattainable, Carrey had fulfilled his destiny. This time, we’ll take on the seemingly insurmountable challenge: Here are Jim Carrey’s top ten films from his illustrious career.
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Jim Carrey takes on the role of The Grinch in the live-action version of the beloved Christmas classic. So important was Jim Carrey’s portrayal as the Grinch that his makeup artist had to take a mental health leave of absence from the production until Carrey and director Ron Howard persuaded him that he should return to work. With an all-star ensemble and a narration by Anthony Hopkins that will live on in our memories as one of the best Christmas movies ever, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a film for the whole family.
9. Liar Liar (1997)
One of many films in which Carrey indulged in self-indulgence, Liar Liar centers on a young lawyer who is also the father of a young child and whose connection with his own family is progressively disintegrating. Despite its brief plot summary, this Carrey comedy is jam-packed with his trademark antics, which begin when his son makes a birthday wish that he won’t have to deal with his father lying to him again. Torn between his lucrative employment as a liar and his role as a father, he fights through the longest day of his life because he can’t lie.
8. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
Jim Carrey plays Ace Ventura in his breakthrough role. The Pet Detective. To audiences throughout the world, Carrey’s cartoon-like performance was shocking. In this part, he thrives and excels. A tropical bird inspired Carrey’s Ace Ventura persona in the same way that Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter drew inspiration from a tarantula and crocodile in his performance. Hopkins and Carrey discussed their similar approaches over dinner.
7. The Mask (1994)
Carrey gets to portray a cartoon character in The Mask, which gives him the flexibility to use his rubbery facial expressions and a jumble of voices influenced by old-timey cartoons in their performances. After the success of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, this was Jim’s second major break into prominence. As it happened, Carrey’s father Percy Carrey passed away just three weeks before the film’s release date in September 1994. In order to be buried with his father, Jim tucked the $10 million check into his father’s pocket. As a young man, Carrey would bounce off his father’s zaniest, most prepared personas in this film, and it shows off all of it in a spectacular way.
6. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)
Carrey takes Ace Ventura to a whole new level in the second and last episode of the Ace Ventura antics. After six films in two years (1994-1995), Jim is still going strong, showing no signs of fatigue or lack of enthusiasm for the material or his role in it. Even now, this film is frequently cited and referenced in popular culture because of its influence on the comedy genre.
5. Man on the Moon (1999)
Carrey takes on the role of Andy Kaufman, the anti-comedy “song and dance man,” in one of his more serious appearances. Carrey went all-in for the sake of the picture. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest director Milos Forman directed a gorgeous and memorable ode to Kaufman, in which Carrey re-lived all of the absurdist’s most popular events in pop culture as if they were happening for the first time. When it came to real-life meta-antics, Jim always looked up to Andy, and he even credited the late, great showman for some of his own antics (such as his rudely drunk guy performance on Arsenio Hall). For this remarkable biography, many performers on set who knew Kaufman personally remarked that he lived through Jim Carrey.
4. Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Actor Jeff Daniels and comedian Jim Carrey star in an out-of-the-blue performance as a pair of well-intentioned imbeciles who just want to do the right thing in a film made during Carrey’s acting marathon. The adventure begins when Lloyd (Carrey) finds a briefcase that belonged to the woman he was driving to the airport, and he and his friend Harry (Daniels) set out to win her affection and return the bag. However, when they find out what was in the briefcase, things get much more interesting. A close second on our selection of the greatest comedy films of all time.
3. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)
In this very compelling and reality-bending Netflix documentary and one of the best movies on Netflix, Jim Carrey goes deeply into his own psyche and the roles Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton, years after his spiritual and mental separation from the “character” of Jim Carrey. Carrey (Kaufman) loses his sense of self throughout the film and even has visceral, tear-jerking moments with genuine people who were close to Kaufman in the behind-the-scenes footage on location. Jim Carrey as an actor, a character, and a vessel are all intertwined and ambiguously blended together in this picture, which showcases Carrey’s incredible brilliance and confusing identity.
2. The Truman Show (1998)
Carrey’s acting prowess is on display in The Truman Show, which many consider to be his best work and one of the best Hulu offerings. Carrey’s characters’ emotional ranges gradually widen as the film’s tension rises, creating an almost gradient-like effect. Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman, begins to perceive that the world is watching him — quite literally — as he goes about his business. In the wake of his obsessive thoughts, Truman begins to challenge the existing quo, which leads to an eventful and life-changing set of events that transform him into the man everyone wanted him to be.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Cinematic genius Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind challenges genre, narrative, and memory itself in a conceptual tour de force. On a train ride to work, Joel (Carrey) meets Clementine (Kate Winslet), a quirky, bluntly upfront person who makes absurd statements that attract our protagonist’s attention. A memory-removal clinic helps them remember why they’re meant to be together when things get tense in their relationship. In Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Carrey noted that each of his roles in every film were “…the total incarnation of my consciousness at that time,” and this film is no different. A year before the film’s release, Carrey visited with the director who told him, “You’re so damaged, I love this.” Another example of his dedication to entertainment and the audience is his plea, “Please don’t get well.”