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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

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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
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Knockaround Guys

Knockaround Guys (2001)

We’re really starting below the bottom of the barrel with this fish-out-of-water mobster tale, never quite as punchy as it could be, nor as surprising. But here’s a disquieting fact: In a cast that includes John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, Seth Green and Tom Noonan, Diesel is the most intense performer onscreen.

9
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, The Pacifier
Movies

The Pacifier (2005)

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.

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8
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Guardians of the Galaxy
Movies, Action and adventure

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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.

7
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Pitch Black
Movies, Science fiction

Pitch Black (2000)

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.

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6
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Fast & Furious
Movies

The Fast and Furious movies (2001-15)

Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is best appreciated over the entire series, as simple traits come into view. For all his prowess behind the wheel, the guy would clearly rather be in the backyard, grilling. Every movie gives him an instantly quotable catchphrase (“This time, it ain’t just about being fast,” he mutters in the new film). And he’s always in a wife-beater T-shirt, even at his own wedding.

5
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Strays

Strays (1997)

Did you know that Diesel actually launched his career as a writer, director, producer, star and composer? After crafting the 1995 short “Multi-Facial,” Vin upped the ante for this bona-fide feature debut about a drug dealer trying to make good. It’s a scrappy little indie, one that debuted at Sundance with plenty of signs of promise.

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4
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Find Me Guilty
Movies

Find Me Guilty (2006)

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.

3
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Saving Private Ryan
Movies, Drama

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

No less a personage than Steven Spielberg was knocked out by Diesel’s short film “Multi-Facial,” and made it a point to accommodate the rising young actor in his monumental war movie. Diesel’s Private Caparzo is transfixing in his brief screen time, making the film ever that more universal in its band-of-brothers appeal.

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1
The best and worst Vin Diesel movies, Boiler Room
Movies, Thriller

Boiler Room (2000)

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.

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