The Rise and Fall (and Rise?) of Vince Vaughn

The funny, deeply underrated actor is making a comeback. And we're so here for it.

Brace yourselves, because you’re about to feel ancient—like pre-historic, serving pure Jurassic World realness ancient. Wedding Crashers, the bro-tastic buddy comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, turns 10 today. We told you things were about to get old and crusty.

The film, which has a 75 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is one of Vince’s better flicks and debuted in 2005, when the tall drink of water was A-list. But if you look at the facts, Vince’s career is tragically uneven: great, less great, Sucksville, getting better, yikes, and YAAAAS. Thankfully, with a strong showing in True Detective, it looks like things are on the upswing again. (Finally!)

  • Swingers (1996)

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    Rise: This quintessential Vince film represents the actor at his best. He’s cool, hilarious, and 100 percent in his element here. Swingers was the first film that told the world Vince was leading man material. (He’s dreamy as hell in it, tbh.)

  • Old School (2003)

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    Rise: This Will Ferrell classic established Vince’s flavor of comedy: witty, fast, and heavy on wordplay. He’s the perfect foil to Will’s goofball gravitas, and—because the film, about old guys reliving the glory days of college, came early in his mainstream career—everything feels fresh. If you haven’t seen this gem, it’s definitely worth a Friday movie night.

  • Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

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    Rise: Vince plays the straight man to Ben Stiller’s psychotic White Goodman character. It’s hard to resist this film about a group of out-of-shape underdogs defeating a pack of macho muscle-wolves in a game of high-stakes dodgeball. Vince is gloriously likable, and the good vibes between the cast are off the charts. This is peak everyman Vaughn and a sports film for those of us whose idea of sporting contests is seeing which drag queens throw the best shade.

  • Wedding Crashers (2005)

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    Rise: This irreverent, provocative comedy pushes the right buttons while still remaining aware of its tone. With great supporting performances from Rachel McAdams and Isla Fisher, as well as A+ chemistry between Vince and Owen (which unfortunately wasn’t recreated in 2013’s The Internship), Wedding Crashers sits nicely atop the pile of outlandish sex comedies about guys clinging to their wild bachelor days. Vince’s particular brand of dry sarcasm works beautifully here.

  • The Break-Up (2006)

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    Rise: While still a funny film, The Break-Up, which traces the crumbling of a relationship, lets Vince flex his dramatic muscles—and he succeeds with flying colors. There’s a palpable warmth between Jennifer Aniston and Vince that makes The Break-Up one of his best films. It certainly shows us the man has range, even if it was poorly sold as straight comedy and disappointed some people once things got real.

  • Into the Wild (2007)

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    Rise: The biographical drama about ill-fated wilderness enthusiast Christopher McCandless is Vince’s best critical work since Swingers. Vince only has a supporting role in the Sean Penn-directed film, which stars Emile Hirsch, but watching him acting in a movie this serious is incredibly thrilling. It definitely highlights his versatility.

  • Fred Claus (2007)

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    Fall: Things started to go south for Vince here. He followed Into the Wild with the overly sentimental—and plain bad—Fred Claus, playing Santa’s jealous brother. The holiday romp, along with 2008’s equally-as-abysmal Four Christmases, suffer from poor scripts, lazy jokes, and tired, tired gags. This marked the era where Vince attempted to do the same schtick in all his movies—except, this time, we’d seen it all before.

  • Couples Retreat (2009)

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    Fall: Couples Retreat, about couples trying to find the lost spark in their relationships at a therapy resort, had all the makings of an excellent Vince film. (Hell, he even co-wrote the script.) But instead of bringing a fresh energy to the role, Vince coasts on his natural talents and doesn’t push for anything new, and the result is a comedy that’s not abysmal, just forgettable, which is even worse.

  • The Watch (2012)

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    Fall: It boasts a great cast (including Vince’s fellow Dodgeball star Ben Stiller); however, what the hell even is this movie?! It’s tragically unfunny alien action-comedy, vulgar AF, and wastes the comedic chops of these fine actors—including two-time Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill—on bizarre sci-fi gross-out gags. In terms of Vince’s long stretch of flicks, this is definitely bottom of the barrel simply because, well, it blows.

  • The Internship (2013)

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    Fall: The Internship suffers from the same problem as Couples Retreat. By partnering again with Owen in a film very much like Wedding Crashers, this Google advertisement movie is like two men trying to recreate their ’20s…and failing. Even though Vince and Owen are charming leads, they couldn’t save this film from formulaic suckage. It drags on endlessly and suffers from shoddy writing. Even more insulting, a USA Today critic dubbed Vince and Owen the “worst interns since Monica Lewinsky.” Like we said, suckage.

  • Delivery Man (2013)

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    Rise (again): But all good bad things must come to an end. Vince hit a sweet spot with Delivery Man, a remake of director Ken Scott’s Starbuck, where he plays a man who unknowingly fathered 533 children. The plot is far-fetched, but Vince’s reserved performance keeps the film grounded in reality. And while it wasn’t technically a critical hit (only a 39 percent RT rating) or a box office smash, it definitely shows a distinct shift in the quality of Vince’s work. For the first time in more than five years, we saw Vince try something new. Instead of relying on cheap slapstick froth, Vince opts for true character development. You feel things watching this film, as opposed to groaning at some lame repetitive joke.

  • Unfinished Business (2015)

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    Fall (again): Just when we thought Vince had turned a corner, another lackluster comedy with gags that fall flat. There’s some promise in the premise of a small businessman competing with his abusive old company for a client, and Vince has got some solid talent around him—Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller, Nick Frost, James Marsden, and director Ken Scott, with whom he’d made Delivery Man, but a bad script and apparent lack of critical direction bring out the worst in everyone. This one should have been left unfinished and unreleased.

  • True Detective (2015)

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    Rise (again): It seems like we’ve once again entered a new era with True Detective, a vehicle that helped turn Matthew McConaughey’s career around after a string of painful rom-coms showcasing little more than his abs. Vince plays the criminal Francis “Frank” Semyon in the second season of the highly-acclaimed HBO drama series. The season has garnered favorable reviews from critics, and that’s partially credited to Vince’s searing work playing a character who is vulnerable (emotionally and from a street cred perspective) but also a pitbull who will rip your face off to protect his territory. As Frank, Vince is captivating, terrifying, and 100 percent in-the-moment. It’s the most bravura acting we’ve seen from him in quite some time. He’s not playing around, and you’ll be mesmerized in seconds watching him on screen. Essentially, it appears Vince is enjoying his job again, and that might be why things seem on the up-and-up. With another crime-oriented project on the horizon, Term Life, it looks like we’re entering an exciting, grittier period in Mr. Vaughn’s career. Cheers to that. And fingers crossed.