Saturday Night Live (1995-2006)
Ferrel launched his career on US television staple Saturday Night Live . The long-running sketch show has been launching the careers of some of Hollywood's dominant funny people since the 70s: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Tina Fey and many more earned their stripes there.
Will Ferrell is best remembered for his impersonations (most famously George W. Bush), and since his 11-year run, he has returned a couple of times as a guest host.
Mega-funny? He bagged laughs with a pretty wide range of characters on the show, some crazy, others a little more reigned in.
Men Seeking Women (1997)
This was one of Ferrell's first notable movie performances bolstered by his SNL fame. He starred as one of three unlucky-in-love guys who make a bet to see who can move in with a woman first.
A string of mostly unoriginal 'bad date' set-ups follow, and an unimpressive laugh count mean this hasn't gathered the cult following of much of Ferrell's output.
Mega-funny? This one sees the frequently unhinged wild man flounder with weak material.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Ferrell first came to the attention of many via his brief supporting role as Mustafa in Mike Myers' bond spoof. He was one of Dr Evil's henchman (getting a taste of grand villainy pre- Megamind ), and bagged one of the movie's most memorable gags.
After being despatched via flaming chute in Dr Evil's boardroom, he doesn't die as quickly as anticipated: "I'm still alive, only I'm very badly burnt… Can someone call an ambulance? I'm in a lot of pain…"
Mega-funny? Hell yes, it's full-on cartoony characterisation (just what nationality is he supposed to be?)
The Thin Pink Line (1998)
Will's next movie role was in The Thin Pink Line , a Death Row mockumentary comedy (the title ribs Errol Morris' doc The Thin Blue Line ). Purporting to be the making of a 'making of' doc, it features a host of TV talent including Friends ' David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston, and Janeane Garofalo.
This has been knocking around in obscuresville since its limited release, and is nigh-on impossible to track down.
Mega-funny? It's anyone's guess really...
A Night at the Roxbury (1998)
Will's first foray into SNL films. He plays one of a pair of dorky brothers who dream of inventing their own hip nightspot, with an interior styled on a roadside.
This falls victim to the same curse that struck many SNL movie graduates, as it struggles to stretch sketch-friendly material to feature length. Ferrell and Chris Kattan have a good sibling chemistry though, and it ends on a high note with a brilliant wedding interruption.
Mega-funny? His Steve Butabi is intensely irritating, and becomes a bit of a chore to spend a movie with.
The Suburbans (1999)
In this musical comedy, Ferrell, Donal Lardner Ward, Craig Bierko and Tony Guma play 80s one-hit-wonders The Suburbans. After a reunion performance at a wedding, TV producer Jennifer Love Hewitt tries to relaunch the band on a reality TV programme.
The fact that Ferrell's character was the bass player should help you estimate his prominence in the movie (we're not dissing bass players- they're unsung heroes!).
Mega-funny? He disappears into the background a bit, despite the fact that he's now the most famous member of the band by far.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
"I don't recall your name, but your fez is familiar." Returning for Part II of the once popular comedy series, Ferrell was forced to go through a slightly less funny re-run of his previous skit… much like Myers was doing throughout the whole movie.
After being interrogated by Austin Powers and Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), Mustafa survives longer than expected when he falls off a cliff face.
Mega-funny? The interrogation is fresher and funnier than the reheated pay-off.
Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst star as two ditzy teens who inadvertently stumble into the Watergate scandal and play a pivotal role in the downfall of Richard Nixon (played here by Dan Hedaya).
It's a cut above traditional teen fare, and has fun joining the dots in its deliriously silly 'almost true' story. Ferrell is Bob Woodward, the journalist played by Robert Redford in All the President's Men .
Mega-funny? He's mostly calm here, with any zaniness coming from the inherent silliness of the situation.
This film is a pretty convincing contender for worst SNL movie spinoff (though is anything as bad as It's Pat ?). It stars Molly Shannon as Catholic high-schooler Mary Katherine Gallagher. She's determined to become a superstar so that she can win a kiss from Sky Corrigan (Ferrell).
Ferrell's character's name is probably the humorous high-point in this mostly unfunny movie.
Mega-funny? It's another irredeemably irritating effort from Ferrell.
Drowning Mona (2000)
This starry black comedy failed to make much of an impact at the US box office, and didn't even see the light of day on these shores. Danny DeVito is the police officer investigating the mysterious watery death of Mona (Bette Midler), a woman not much liked by her fellow townsfolk.
Ferrell sports a godawful combover as a funeral director, and he's part of a cast that also includes Jamie Lee Curtis, William Fichtner and Casey Affleck.
Mega-funny? This is Ferrell at his most socially inept.
The Ladies' Man (2000)
Ferrell's star-making success as an SNL member on TV never really converted into gold in their spin-off movies. This was another turkey, and it starred Tim Meadows as Leon Phelps, the womaniser of the title.
The character ultimately proves unworthy of a big screen adap. Ferrell turns up as Lance DeLune, a man who challenge Phelps to a wrestling match after he tries it on with his wife.
Mega-funny? He provides a few funnies in an otherwise stale effort.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) had been memorable background players in Smith's movies, but here they got the chance to take centre stage.
The results were a mixed bag, but there are plenty of moments of delightfully geeky fun for fans of Smith's output, Star Wars aficionados, and anyone with a love of Hollywood in-jokery. Ferrell turns up as a Wildlife Marshal who the duo run into.
Mega-funny? Not really, but solidly entertaining.
Ben Stiller's sublime male model comedy saw Ferrell on lead villain duties. He played Mugatu, a fashion guru who tries to brainwash the really really ridiculously good-looking Zoolander into assassinating the Prime Minister of Malaysia in order to keep child labour costs down.
The gusto of the cast (and the flood of knowing cameos) help to sell the ridiculous premise, and turn it into something genuinely hilarious.
Mega-funny? He's preened almost beyond the point of recognition as the feckless fashionista.
The Oblongs... (2001)
Ferrell had done a few guest voicing spots on TV animations, but he took a starring role in this short-lived series, which failed to survive the harsh conditions of US TV schedules.
Ferrell voiced father-of-the-family Bob Oblong, in the surprisingly dark comedy: most of the characters have some kind of deformity, often as a result from the local poison factory. Bob's surprisingly upbeat, considering the circumstances.
Mega-funny? It's surprisingly mirthsome.
Boat Trip (2002)
Ferrell continued his run of comedy support characters in this dire movie. Jerry (Cuba Gooding Jr) and Nick (Horatio Sanz) are friends desperate to hook up with some ladies, so they book themselves in for a 'Singles' cruise. Hilarity ensues (or rather doesn't) when they actually book onto a gay cruise.
Ferrell turns up briefly as a travel agent who sets the plot in motion, before ducking out of this sinking disaster early on.
Mega-funny? He's outcamped by Roger Moore.
MTV: Reloaded (2003)
Justin Timberlake and Sean William Scott starred in this inspired Matrix Reloaded parody for the MTV Movie Awards. The pair get sucked into the sequel, and Timberlake shows early promise of his acting talent.
Ferrell dons a white wig and beard to play the Architect in the mash-up. The movie might be an easy target, but this is still damn funny.
Mega-funny? "Ergo open your yapper one more time and I'm going to architect a whole world of pain all over your candy ass… ERGO, VIS-A-VIS, CONCORDANTLY!"
Old School (2003)
One of Todd Phillips pre- Hangover successes. Luke Wilson is Mitch, a man whose life falls apart after his relationship breaks down. His friends Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn convince him to regain his youth by turning his new home into a frathouse.
Frank the Tank (Ferrell) starts to relive his college days with animalistic enthusiasm.
Mega-funny? This was a major calling card for Ferrell, who's rarely been as relentlessly energetic or funny.
Before Iron Man , Jon Favreau directed this immensely likeable Christmas effort, one of the most enduring 'festive' movies of recent years.
Buddy (Ferrell) is a human raised as an elf. The good-natured misfit journeys from the North Pole to NYC one Christmas to be reunited with his estranged father (James Caan), romance store-elf Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) and generally spread a bit of Christmas cheer. Worth checking out this holiday season if you want something that's sweet but not too sappy.
Mega-funny? This is the star in his purest 'manchild' form.
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Re-teaming up with Old School director Todd Phillips for this cop show spoof, Ferrell took an uncredited cameo here. He plays imprisoned drug pusher 'Big Earl' to whom the coppers have to go to for some info.
It doesn't come cheap though, with Earl coming up with some increasingly odd demands ("show me your belly button") in exchange for what he knows.
Mega-funny? Indeed: you wouldn't want to be locked in a cell with him.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Possibly Ferrell's finest comedic hour (sadly the sequel is stuck in production limbo), though it's certainly not a one-man show. Steve Carell and Paul Rudd are on fire as fellow members of his news team, and Christina Applegate holds her own against the funny men.
Endlessly quotably, Anchorman has built up a loyal cult fanbase. It has already had a follow-up of sorts (stay tuned for more on that), but we're still hoping that Paramount will come to their senses and bankroll Anchorman 2 …
Mega-funny? It's an extremely committed performance from Ferrell as the chauvinistic throwback.
Melinda and Melinda (2004)
After a string of OTT funny roles, Ferrell reigned it in for fellow funnyman-turned-semi-serious Woody Allen. A couple of writers spin competing tragic and funny stories about an imagined character, Melinda (Radha Mitchell).
Ferrell appears in the lighthearted half, as a struggling actor who falls for the happier Melinda, though neither Ferrell or Mitchell were Allen's first choice (Robert Downey Jr and Winona Ryder were the intended stars).
Mega-funny? The change of pace suits him, as he makes a nicely laid-back, bumbling charmer.
Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie (2004)
A credit to the amount of improvising that went on during the filming of Anchorman , this pseudo-sequel was made up of footage that didn't make it into the first movie, as Ron and his gang investigate a terrorist organisation.
It's an interesting exercise, but it inevitably lacks the consistency of the original release. It went straight-to-DVD, and treated as a substantial 'special feature' there's plenty here to keep fans happy.
Mega-funny? You should know what to expect from the unhinged broadcaster by now.
The Wendell Baker Story (2005)
Luke Wilson wrote, co-directed and starred in this comedy, which never got a UK cinema release outside of the festival circuit. It was something of a family affair, as Owen Wilson, Andrew Wilson and their mum were also involved.
Will Ferrell plays a grocery store manager who punches out the roguish Baker (Wilson, Luke) after a confrontation.
Mega-funny? This is mid-range Ferrell, not too buttoned down, not too incandescent with rage.
Kicking and Screaming (2005)
Ferrell directed his manic energy to kids' 'soccer' training in this Bad News Bears / Mighty Ducks -style comedy.
Phil Weston (Ferrell) is determined that his son won't turn out to be a sporting failure like he did, so he takes on coaching duties for the kids' soccer team. Roping in NFL legend Mike Ditka ('who?' to us Brits) and a lifeless Robert Duvall, the concept isn't conducive to classic Ferrell.
Mega-funny? The Tigers lack a bit of roar...
This update on the classic TV series sounded like it had all the ingredients in place to be decent. In a postmodern premise, Ferrell plays a movie star attempting to relaunch his career with a remake of Bewitched , and Nicole Kidman is the real-life witch who nabs the role as his leading lady.
Ferrell seems out of place here, firing on all cylinders when a softer approach would have better suited the material. That said, it's Ferrell's manic energy that grabs the movie its few laughs, so it seems like a complete overhaul is what's needed.
Mega-funny? He's at odds with his surroundings here.
Wedding Crashers (2005)
After a couple of less-than-spectacular lead roles, Ferrell went back to doing what he does best: stealing the show in a supporting cameo in his frat-pack buddies' movies.
Chazz (Ferrell) was the one who taught wedding crasher Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) all he knows, and the silk-gowned lothario explains to John (Owen Wilson) that funerals are the hot new pick-up spot: "Grief is nature's most powerful aphrodisiac!".
Mega-funny? He's insane, but also a genius.
Winter Passing (2005)
Ferrell went pretty serious again for this quirksome drama. He reunited with Elf co-star Zooey Deschanel, who plays depressed loner Reese. Her parents were famous literary types, and the movie sees her reunite with her estranged dad (Ed Harris) after her mum's suicide.
It's all pretty dark, though Ferrell brings some welcome relief in his role as Corbit, a dim-witted musician who has moved in with Reese's father.
Mega-funny? Another quite restrained outing for Ferrell here.
The Producers (2005)
Will was back on nutso support duties in this remake of the the Mel Brooks classic (well, it was actually an adaptation of the Broadway show taken from Brooks' film).
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprise their stage roles as Bialystock and Bloom. The pair attempt to make a quick buck by staging a flop musical, and the one they've got their eye on is Springtime for Hitler , written by ex-Nazi Franz Liebkind (Ferrell).
Mega-funny? His crazy Nazi is a certified highlight in this hit-and-miss version, and he gets to sing and dance too...
Curious George (2006)
Another spot of voice work for Ferrell, although there's not much here for his hardcore fans. This is a straight-forward adap of the famous kids' book series, and Ferrell plays it straight as Ted, the man with the yellow hat.
The bright colours and clean lines will appeal to younger audience members, but there's no real bite for anyone older who might have to sit through it.
Mega-funny? No, he's as tame as his pet monkey here.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
For committed Ferrell fans this is an absolute blast, but those who prefer the tamer side of his persona are advised to steer clear of this one.
As star NASCAR racer Ricky Bobby, Ferrell screams and shouts to blood-vessel-troubling degrees. It rarely reaches the highs of Anchorman (which was also directed by frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay), but that doesn't mean you don't get a few good chuckles.
Mega-funny? Depends on how you like to take your Ferrell.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Ferrell seems to temper his zanier output, with frequent dosages of quieter, more actorly work. This is perhaps his most famous journey into more serious fare, though it comes with a sky-high concept that allows the star to unleash just a little craziness.
He plays Harold Crick, a man who starts to hear a narrator commentating on his life, and he comes to realise he's a character in Karen Eiffel's (Emma Thompson) book. He gets especially shouty when he realises he's going to be killed off.
Mega-funny? He doesn't go off the rails, considering the creative licence that comes with playing a genuinely fictional character.
Funny or Die (2007)
In 2007, Ferrell and his Anchorman collaborator Adam McKay launched Funny Or Die , a website that has been a provider of internet LOLs ever since.
Some of the best-known videos have starred McKay's daughter Pearl, like The Landlord and Good Cop, Baby Cop . Funny or Die is also the home of Zach Galifianakis' spoof chatshow Between Two Ferns , and it has since spawned a UK site, and a HBO TV partnership.
Mega-funny? It has given him the licence to go pretty nuts, and create some of his funniest output.
Blades of Glory (2007)
Another one for staunch Ferrell apologists, here he joins forces with Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder for figure-skating laughs. The rivals team up as a male-male partnership to restore their reputations.
The subject matter is ridiculous enough to allow Ferrell to create another monstrously-egoed crackpot, but the approach feels a little by-the-numbers.
Mega-funny? Again, it depends how OTT you like your comedy.
Continuing his attempt to dominate the comedy-sports movie genre, Ferrell plays another petulant, egotistical superstar unaware of his own shortcomings.
His curly locks have expanded into an afro, as demanded by the 70s setting, but that aside, everything feels all too familiar: the tantrums, the pratfalls, the animal wrestling, against-the-odds sporting success…
Mega-funny? You know what to expect here...
Step Brothers (2008)
After a couple of slight missteps, Ferrell scored a winner here, teaming once again with Talladega Nights co-star John C. Reilly. The pair play man-children who become stepbrothers when their single parents get together.
They're forced to share a room, but it's not long before the resentment begins to melt away, and they discover that they just might be BFFs. This ain't gonna convert any non-fans, but anyone with a passing fondness for Ferrell is likely to crack up severely.
Mega-funny? If these are the results, we hope Ferrell never grows up.
You're Welcome America - A Final Night With George W Bush (2009)
Ferrell's superb Dubya impression was given a feature-length send off in You're Welcome America . This DVD release was adapted from the show's successful Broadway run.
The take-off is uncanny, and the show makes for a decent sampler of Ferrell-Bush's best bits. There's obviously a strong satirical edge, but there's also plenty of downright silliness.
Mega-funny? You betcha.
Land of the Lost (2009)
Will Ferrell was in summer blockbuster mode for another family-friendly effort. Brad Siberling directed this TV show adaptation, which sees Ferrell's arrogant palaeontologist travel back in time through a mysterious time warp.
It didn't set the box office alight, and earned some pretty harsh reviews. It's not an incompetent film, but somehow the decent ingredients don't result in a satisfying whole.
Mega-funny? Still madcap, still egotistical, but toned down a little for the PG market.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)
Ferrell confounded a stodgy cinematic year by producing (and briefly appearing in) this used-car-salesman comedy. Jeremy Piven plays the hotshot brought in to revitalise a flagging lot.
Piven is a charisma-machine, but despite the comedy credentials of the cast, this raises more cringes than laughs. Ferrell only turns up for a brief flashback cameo.
Mega-funny? Er, no.
The Other Guys (2010)
Another collaboration with Adam McKay further proves that the director/collaborator brings out the best in his curly-haired buddy. Ferrell and Wahlberg are two desk-based cops who have to step up to the action plate when the situation calls for it.
It's a mismatched buddy caper at heart, but some innovative humour, and a solid comedic turn from Wahlberg, make this a delight. And McKay manages to keep the plot on track, preventing it from devolving into a series of skits.
Mega-funny? He's back on form, and spars well with Wahlberg.
And Ferrell is back in cinemas this week with another voice role. Megamind (Ferrell) is an alien sent Superman -style to Earth from a dying planet, only to arrive just after future arch-nemesis Metro Man (Brad Pitt).
This is arriving just after similarly-themed animation Despicable Me , but there's enough smart gags, top-class animation, and un-mawkish heart to make it well worth checking out.
Read Total Film's verdict on Megamind here.