You know him as the lunkhead driving muscle cars out of airplanes in the Fast and Furious movies. Yet to his fans, Vin Diesel has carved out a diverse career with plenty of range. He might have some crazy ideas about the Oscars that are due to him (like Furious 7 winning an Oscar), but if Diesel should one day be up at the podium shedding a tear of gratitude, it won’t be a surprise (at least to us). We count down his 10 best performances.
10 Vin Diesel movies that prove he can actually act
The Fast and Furious star is smarter than you realize—and has the roles to prove it
In what’s become an expected move by action stars, this kid-friendly comedy casts Diesel as a Navy SEAL whose latest mission involves him infiltrating the home of five adorably rambunctious kids. Vin’s been better elsewhere, but his tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, parodying his own gruff persona, was a welcome sign of humor.
You’re playing a walking tree, and the entirety of your dialogue consists of three repeated words: “I am Groot.” Diesel correctly saw this as an actor’s challenge and threw himself into the comic role with relish. His multiple readings of the line were emotionally varied and communicated plenty to the other Guardians.
Before this film evolved into the ridiculous Riddick franchise, it was simply a satisfying sci-fi thriller starring Diesel as an ultradangerous criminal forced to cooperate with a space crew stranded on a desert planet. Even behind his glowing contact lenses and shades (Riddick has surgically-assisted night vision), Diesel conveyed gruff, Hawksian charm.
5. Strays (1997)
A successful lunge for gravity, Diesel’s turn as real-life Mafioso Giacomo “Jackie” DiNorscio—a man who would rather stand trial rather than rat out his associates—revealed a complex sense of swagger and insecurity. Credit is due to legendary director Sidney Lumet, who saw in the action star a malleable talent.
Somewhat forgotten in the wave of turn-of-the-millennium indies, this terrific NYC drama foreshadows The Wolf of Wall Street in its focus on louche, corner-cutting stock brokers (and was inspired by Jordan Belfort as well). Cool and commanding, Diesel stands out in a deep cast, especially during a frenetic scene of deal-closing.