1. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

IMDB Rating: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%

In this dynamic reimagining of Chris Van Allsburg’s famed children’s book, four high school students inadvertently step into an old video game, turning into characters played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. Stranded within the lush and wild world of Jumanji, the quartet must navigate through the game’s multiple hazards and challenges in order to return to the real world.

Why it’s a major performance:
Johnson plays Dr. Smolder Bravestone, an archaeologist and explorer who is the daring and virile avatar of a timid and lean high school nerd. It highlights his comedic range as his teenage counterpart’s insecurity and shock are subsumed within his muscular frame and heroic expertise. He executes this role with evident charm and humor, reinforcing his reputation as an appealing and versatile A-lister who can seamlessly meld adventure with comedy.

Moreover, this role gives Johnson the unique opportunity to imbue his larger-than-life character with an undercurrent of self-effacing comedy, acting against type as a diffident youth trapped in a formidable body. This performance displays Johnson’s knack for timing, physical comedy, and warmth, further cementing his image as a global action star with a light touch.

2. Fast Five (2011)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%

Fast Five is the fifth installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise where Dwayne Johnson first appears as the formidable Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent intruded with the task of capturing the franchise’s stalwarts, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew. The movie sees the gang in Rio de Janeiro pulling off a daring heist while being hotly pursued by Agent Hobbs creating a maelstrom of high-octane action and exhilarating car chases.

Why it’s a major performance:
This was Johnson’s first appearance in the mega-successful Fast and the Furious franchise and his portrayal of the relentless, hard-hitting and taciturn Luke Hobbs injected new life into the series. His physical extravagance and commanding screen presence added a new tempo to the franchise, setting a benchmark for future installments and essentially turning Johnson into a crucial part of the ensemble cast.

His debut in the franchise turned out to be a perfect match for his marquee action-star image and opened the gateway to established and newer audiences. It’s a testament to his ability to elevate and renew any franchise he dips his toes into, causing an uptick in box office results and breathing new life into the then decade-old series.

3. Moana (2016)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%

Moana is the Disney animated film about an intrepid teenage girl embarking on a daring adventure to save her people. Dwayne Johnson provides the voice to the demigod Maui, Moana’s initially reluctant guide on her quest. Combining the magic of Polynesian mythology and vibrant animation, Moana is an inspiring tale of heroism, adventure, and finding one’s identity.

Why it’s a major performance:
Johnson’s portrayal of Maui is a testament to his diversity as an actor. Although known for his action-packed roles, Dwayne Johnson exhibited his commendable talent in comedic timing and even singing, thus solidifying his standing in the entertainment industry. His animated vigor, natural charm, and athleticism fueled Maui’s larger-than-life persona.

Additionally, Johnson’s Polynesian heritage allowed him to lend authenticity to the character of Maui, a character deeply rooted in the Polynesian folklore. His performance was lauded for its genuine affection and energy that creates an emotionally layered character that audiences can relate to. Despite his character’s initial arrogance, Johnson infuses Maui with enough charm and humor that underpin his journey towards humility and growth, showing yet again his ability to create dynamic and multi-dimensional characters.

4. The Rundown (2003)

IMDB Rating: 6.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70%

In this action-comedy, Johnson plays a bounty hunter who is tasked with travelling to Brazil to retrieve his employer’s wayward son (Seann William Scott). Facing various villains and challenges in the pursuit, he must confront the dilemma of his chosen profession while navigating the unexpected adventures throughout his journey.

Why it’s a major performance:
The Rundown was one of Johnson’s first lead roles after he transitioned from professional wrestling to acting. Through his character, Johnson delves into the comedy-action genre, demonstrating both his impeccable action stunts and comedic chops. His endearing on-screen persona once again reinforces his natural capability to juggle between comedy and action, showcasing his versatility as an actor.

Furthermore, Johnson’s on-screen charisma is evident throughout the film, proving that he can carry a movie as the lead actor. Despite being relatively new to Hollywood during the time, he was praised for his performance which sustains the audience interest from start to finish. His role in The Rundown was a stepping stone towards becoming one of Hollywood’s leading action heroes and ultimately proved his potential as a star.

5. Walking Tall (2004)

IMDB Rating: 6.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26%

In this action-drama, Johnson takes on the role of Chris Vaughn, a former U.S. soldier who, after returning from military duty, aims to clean up his once idyllic hometown now overrun by crime and corruption. Armed with a four-foot-long 2×4 and moral righteousness, he takes a stand against the seemingly insurmountable adversities.

Why it’s a major performance:
In Walking Tall, Johnson showcased further his range as an actor. A departure from the outright comedic roles he previously took on, this film allowed Johnson to delve into more dramatic territory. The balance of physical strength and subtler emotional nuances manifested in his character resonated with audiences and garnered him critical praise.

Moreover, Johnson’s leading role in Walking Tall is further proof of his ability to consistently deliver charismatic and compelling performances. His portrayal of an everyman standing up against crime taps into the classic hero trope but manages to feel fresh due to his earnest and grounded rendition. His action sequences were impactful and his acting engages the viewers throughout every scene.

6. Central Intelligence (2016)

IMDB Rating: 6.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70%

In this action-comedy, Johnson stars as a one-time bullied geek Bob Stone, who grew up into a lethal CIA agent and gets in touch with his former high school buddy, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) – now an accountant – for a “top-secret mission”. Calvin finds himself entwined in Bob’s world of international espionage loaded with shootouts, double-crosses, and rogue agents.

Why it’s a major performance:
Central Intelligence is one of Johnson’s most memorable comedic roles to date. Johnson’s ingenious ability to toggle between the adult agent with the heart of a bullied kid, and a proficient CIA operative, reflects his remarkable range as an actor. Johnson shines in his role and his magnetic chemistry with Kevin Hart steals the show, leading to more collaborations between the two actors in later years.

Furthermore, Johnson earns plaudits for a performance that relies heavily on comedic quirk and physical humor. His ability to convey Bob’s lingering high school trauma and buffoonish adorability amidst action-packed sequences testifies to his multifaceted talent. This role cements him as a versatile action star who can effortlessly weave comedy into his performances.

7. The Scorpion King (2002)

IMDB Rating: 5.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 41%

In this spin-off from The Mummy franchise, Johnson emerges as the titular Scorpion King, a legendary warrior who sold his soul to the god Anubis for power. The movie traces the king’s journey from being a mercenary to his subsequent kingdom, warring against an evil ruler attempting to eliminate the nomadic people of the desert.

Why it’s a major performance:
While it is not the most critically acclaimed in Johnson’s filmography, The Scorpion King counts as one of his major performances due to it being his first leading role in a major blockbuster. His portrayal of the legendary Egyptian figure helped establish his credentials as a bona fide action star, capable of commanding audience attention with his physical prowess and charisma.

Furthermore, while raw in his acting capabilities at this early stage in his career, Johnson’s remarkable dedication to the physicality of the role and his charm that shines through the wooden dialogue proved that he had the potential to helm major Hollywood projects. The Scorpion King served as a building block in establishing his movie star status and paving the way for his future roles.

8. San Andreas (2015)

IMDB Rating: 6.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%

In San Andreas, Johnson stars as Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter-rescue pilot who with his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue their daughter (Alexandra Daddario), after a massive earthquake hits California.

Why it’s a major performance:
Johnson’s turn as Ray Gaines places him firmly in the bracket of quintessential movie heroes. His commanding screen presence gives credence to his character, which otherwise could have trudged into the arena of clichés. Johnson delivers a performance of immense physicality, showcasing his action-hero credentials yet again.

Moreover, in a film dominated by special effects, Johnson’s role as the solid emotional grounding was much appreciated. His performance creates a sense of authenticity and realism that counters the film’s inherent excessiveness. Despite leaning heavily into the disaster film tropes, Johnson’s depiction of a heroic father figure adds a human dimension that resonates with audiences.

9. Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

IMDB Rating: 5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%

Johnson plays Jack Bruno, a Las Vegas cab driver who unwittingly becomes part of an extraterrestrial adventure when he encounters two aliens disguised as teenagers. Together, they must thwart alien hunters and reach Witch Mountain to save both their world and Earth.

Why it’s a major performance:
Race to Witch Mountain expanded Johnson’s repertoire into family-friendly films. As Jack Bruno, he smoothly transitions into a tough yet caring guardian figure, demonstrating his versatility as an actor. His charisma and charm bring an extra layer of appeal to his character, making this adventure flick enjoyable both for kids and adults.

Furthermore, Johnson’s on-screen chemistry with the young actors adds a heartwarming element to the movie. Despite the film’s science fiction themes and action sequences, Johnson manages to channel a good-hearted everyman quality alongside his physical prowess, showcasing his ability to deliver grounded performances amid fantastical narratives.

10. Skyscraper (2018)

IMDB Rating: 5.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 48%

Set in Hong Kong, Skyscraper sees Johnson as a former FBI hostage rescue team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Sawyer, who now assesses security for skyscrapers. When he’s framed for setting the safest building in the world ablaze, he has to clear his name and rescue his family who are trapped inside the burning building.

Why it’s a major performance:
Skyscraper sees Johnson in a desperate, high-stakes situation that pushes him to his physical and emotional limits. His believable depiction of the panic, fear, and determination of a man seeking to rescue his family, along with his adrenaline-soaked stunts, maintained the suspense throughout the film, making it an exciting watch.

Moreover, Skyscraper puts Johnson’s acting range to the test by adding a layer of vulnerability to his character. Despite his physically daunting appearance, Johnson’s character is an amputee trying to outrun his past, allowing him to explore the nuances of a character beset by physical and psychological trauma. This film further cements his status as an action superstar who can draw audiences into his performances.