Pacific Blue (1997)
Franco got his first early break into acting with TV work, and he got his first spot of work with a tiny role in one episode of bicycle cop show (!) Pacific Blue . The Santa Monica fuzz patrolled the beaches on their bikes to ensure that law and order was upheld.
Following that, he played high-school student Greg, opposite Ben Foster in short TV movie 1973 . This was unsurprisingly set in the 70s, though it has all but disappeared into obscurity since its first airing.
Arty Franco? We'll have to guess no...
To Serve and Protect (1999)
Franco was still in TV territory here, for this multiple-part drama. It follows the fortunes of the Carrs, a family of Dallas cops.
In the dude-in-distress role, Franco has little to do as the young Carr boy who is kidnapped and needs rescuing by his family. He needn't be too worried though as his family includes Craig T. Nelson and Richard Crenna.
Arty Franco? His career wasn't really at the stage where he could start being fussy about artistic credibility.
Never Been Kissed (1999)
This was Franco's first appearance in a feature film with a wide release. His role fell strictly into the support category, but at least he was in good company (Jessica Alba, Leelee Sobieski and Marley Shelton all attend the same high-school).
Drew Barrymore stars as a reporter who goes undercover at a high-school for a story. Franco pretty much smoulders in the background as best friend of school hunk Gus is this impossible-to-hate teen-com.
Arty Franco? Sadly it was probably his good looks that nabbed him this role.
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
A recurrent role in this Judd Apatow-produced comedy-drama gave Franco his first culty breakout. The NBC TV show was one of many to fall foul of the US TV networks' harsh schedules, and has since gained a strong following (though there's still no Region 2 DVD- gah!)
Franco fell into the 'Freaks' group, alongside movie-stars-in-the-making Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, and he showed that he wasn't content to play on his looks forever.
Arty Franco? The show's considerably more interesting than longer-running teen fare.
If Tomorrow Comes (2000)
Franco bagged a prominent role in a feature here, and displayed some sound acting skills, even if this low-budget effort wasn't seen by many.
The movie centres on two troubled young 'uns, Adam (Dave Buzzotta) and Devin (Franco), whose lives are intertwined by their circumstances. It doesn't transcend it's low budget origins, but Franco gives an extremely promising performance.
Arty Franco? Low budget means artistic integrity, surely?
Whatever It Takes (2000)
It was another leading role for Franco in this forgettable teen comedy. As updates on the Cyrano de Bergerac play go, it's not a patch on Roxanne .
The film puts a two-way spin on the dating shenanigans of the original story, as geeky Ryan (Shane West) and school hunk Chris (Franco) swap advice in the hope of snagging their respective dream girls.
Arty Franco? He's happy to send up his image, but this is unashamedly commercial pap.
James Dean (2001)
Franco returned to TV to play the role of the tragic movie star, and turned in a performance that earned him some serious notices (he picked up a Golden Globe award, plus several more noms).
Making good on his uncanny resemblance to Dean, Franco portrays the mentally-frail Dean throughout his short but explosive acting career, as he rises to stardom while failing to reconcile with his tough-to-please father.
Arty Franco? This is Franco proving himself as a serious thesp.
Sam Raimi's superhero franchise would become Franco's bread and butter for the next few years, as it gained him huge levels of exposure and allowed him to take on more diverse projects.
He played Harry, son of Norman, Osborn, Peter Parker's high-school friend and occasional enemy. He's in troubled territory again (you would be if your father was maniacal supervillain Willem Dafoe), but he plays it with a nice balance of frustration and menace.
Arty Franco? Nah, this is big budget Franco to the max. He apparently bagged the role after auditioning for Peter Parker.
Deuces Wild (2002)
Franco joined a surprisingly diverse cast for this little-seen gangster flick. Steven Dorff and Brad Renfro play the brothers who look after their Brooklyn neighbourhood in the 50s.
Martin Scorsese exec-produced this movie, which also features appearances from Matt Dillon, Frankie Muniz, Johnny Knoxville and a number of Sopranos regulars.
Arty Franco? Hardly anyone saw this, but sadly that's not enough to qualify it as art.
Blind Spot (2002)
After a couple of shorts and a teensy role in drama Mother Ghost (not as exciting as it sounds), Franco tackled serious subject matter again in this crime drama.
He plays Danny, a young student who goes searching for his older lover Darcy, who has mysteriously vanished. Despite an intriguing premise, this is thoroughly uninspiring.
Arty Franco? Relentless clichés abound, making this more than a little pretentious.
Franco must have felt his performance was in safe hands for this movie, as he was directed by Nicolas Cage (this was his one movie as a director).
In the title role, Franco plays a character who has returned from the army, only to be suckered into being a gigolo for his mother's brothel. You didn't expect Cage to direct a mainstream romcom, did you?
Arty Franco? This ain't no Deuce Bigalow ...
City by the Sea (2002)
Robert De Niro starred in this cop drama, which manages to turn its clunky-sounding premise into a fairly-compelling drama, thanks largely to some strong performances.
Bobby D is the troubled cop whose estranged son (Franco) is the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Franco puts in an extremely solid turn, as do De Niro, Frances McDormand and Eliza Dushku.
Arty Franco? Well, he shows that even when tackling commercial fare, he often gives it an intriguing twist.
The Company (2003)
Robert Altman directed this typically ensemble-based drama, which revolves around a ballet company. Neve Campbell is the star dancer who gets the opportunity to become her company's principal performer.
Campbell put her own ballet training to good use on the screen, but Franco doesn't have to squeeze into a pair of tights in the boyfriend role. Malcolm McDowell is electric as the troupe's impassioned director.
Arty Franco? Yeah, this is typically Altman: unconvential, but no less easy to enjoy for it.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Franco returned to the franchise as Harry Osborn, and the animosity between him and Peter Parker is growing stronger.
As well as seeking revenge for his father's death at the hands of Spider-Man, Osborn is also a little peeved at having lost his girlfriend to Parker. This tension results in one of the campest on-screen slaps in cinema history.
Arty Franco? No, this is unashamedly blockbusting stuff.
Fool's Gold (2005)
As well as starring in this one, multi-talented Franco also directed it, after adapting it from his own play.
The movie has since vanished into obscurity (not to be confused with the 2008 Matthew McConaughey/ Kate Hudson romp), but Franco has continued to direct ever since.
Arty Franco? He's unleashing his creative side here.
The Ape (2005)
Another project that saw Franco take on the director-writer-star role.The multi-tasker starred as Harry Walker, a struggling writer who moves into a new appartment to clear his head.
Unexpectedly, he finds he's got a foul-mouthed ape as a roomie, and his new companion starts to turn his life around. There's shades of Fight Club and Drop Dead Fred in this pre-empter of The Beaver .
Arty Franco? It's surprisingly thought-provoking given the insane premise, and Franco shows off his comedy chops.
The Great Raid (2005)
This war drama captured the real-life rescue of Allied POWs from the Cabanatuan Prison Camp in the Phillipines. Franco and Benjamin Bratt play Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and Captain Bob Prince, the men behind the raid.
Connie Nielsen is on hand as Margaret Utinsky, a resourceful nurse who proves to be an extremely useful team member. The well-meaning movie also recognises the Filipino guerillas who helped with the manuever.
Arty Franco? This is extremely traditional, Hollywood filmmaking.
Tristan + Isolde (2006)
Kevin Reynolds directed this historical romance, but he brought none of the zip to it that made his slightly-similar themed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves so downright enjoyable.
Based on the legend of the unifying of Britain and the tragic love story at it's centre, Tristan (Franco) is the Cornish knight who falls for Irish princess Isolde (Sophia Myles). Even Mark Strong on villain duties can't quite drag this out of the doldrums.
Arty Franco? This is another one that would have been called a commercial if it made a bit more money.
A Naval drama from the director of the recent run of Fast & Furious movies from Tokyo Drift onwards, this results in the exactly sort of film you'd expect.
Franco is new recruit Jake Huard, who gets a bit of a hard time from his commanding officer Lieutenant Cole (Tyrese Gibson, bringing a disappointing lack of grizzle) and flirts with his instructer Ali (Jordana Brewster).
Arty Franco? No, it's sadly all too generic.
It felt like Franco was back on familiar turf in Flyboys , which was another military drama, admittedly with a fresh aerial theme, and a WW1 setting.
Franco is a new recruit once again as Blaine Rawlings, an American who signs up to fight in the French Air Service, under the watchful eye of Captain Thenault (Jean Reno, bringing a disappointing lack of grizzle). Thankfully, the airborne combat is good enough to cut through the cheesiness.
Arty Franco? This was unlikely to trouble your local arthouse theatre.
The Dead Girl (2006)
Franco appeared briefly in this ensemble crime drama, which followed several people who were linked by the mysterious girl of the title.
Rose Byrne plays a forensic investigator who believes that the dead girl could be her missing sister, and Franco turns up as Byrne's love interest. Despite solid reviews, this failed to find an audience.
Arty Franco? File firmly under indie drama.
An American Crime (2007)
Catherine Keener and Ellen Page starred in this based-on-true-events story of the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszewski.
It's a disturbing story, and the quality of the performances by Keener and Page ensure this is a cut above a lot of TV fare. Franco has a fairly minor role as Andy, a townsperson who fathered one of Gertrude's children.
Arty Franco? He played it straight down the line here.
Franco starred with then rising star Sienna Miller in this blackly-comic romance. Silias (Franco) is a thief who marries his parole officer's niece, Camille (Miller), and heads to Canada. Camille dies en route, but that doesn't stop love blossoming between the fugitives.
Maybe it was the dark subject matter that kept this from obtaining a wide release in The States, or anywhere else for that matter.
Arty Franco? It certainly plays up to his off-kilter sensibilities.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Franco's final appearance in Sam Raimi's Spidey franchise saw him finally take on the webslinger, after their rivalry came to a head.
In fact, Franco's Green Goblin Mk II was probably the most interesting villain of the piece, in comparison to disappointing newcomers Sandman and Venom. He realises the truth about his father and teams up with Spider-Man for the final reel, meaning he bows out of the franchise a good guy.
Arty Franco? This was his final appearance in the mega-blockbuster.
Knocked Up (2007)
Franco reteamed with Freaks and Geeks producer Judd Apatow, who directed this comedy hit. Once again proving that he's a comedy force to be reckoned with, Franco plays himself in interview with Katherine Heigl's wannabe TV presenter Alison.
It's only a brief cameo, but its one of the funny highlights of the movie, and like Franco's Funny or Die skits, it demonstrates his winning ability to send himself up for comedy gold.
Arty Franco? No, this is full-on comedy Franco.
In the Valley of Elah (2007)
This was another failed attempt to bring the complexities of the Iraq War into cinemas. War veteran Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), discovers that a son he believed to be AWOL after a tour of duty is in fact dead.
Together with police detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), Hank gradually works his way toward uncovering a shocking truth. Franco plays a young Sergeant who might be able to shed light on the case.
Arty Franco? He's indulging his political side here.
Pineapple Express (2008)
Franco's comedy potential found a wider audience when he bagged the memorable role of Saul in this stoner action comedy.
As the pyjama-pant-wearing pothead, Franco gives an extremely committed (and very, very funny) comedy performance, taking on the role that Seth Rogen had originally written for himself. One of the year's comedy highlights.
Arty Franco? Here he's showing that an OTT comedy and a great performance aren't mutually exclusive.
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Nicolas Sparks' adaptations cater to a very specific audience. With the exception of The Notebook (somehow Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams make it work), it's always the same unbearably slushy, contrived nonsense (see A Walk To Remember , Dear John , The Last Song ).
This one sees Richard Gere and Diane Lane embark on a (you guessed it) tragic love affair. An uncredited Franco plays Gere's estranged son, who's off inoculating babies in South America.
Arty Franco? Ahem, not quite...
Another politically-charged movie from Franco, as he co-starred in the movie that won Sean Penn his second Oscar. Penn played political activist Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official.
Franco is Scott Smith, Milk's lover, but their relationship struggles in the face of Milk's devotion to politics. The film received eight Oscar nominations, took home the screenplay award (as well as the Actor gong for Penn).
Arty Franco? It's further proof of his commitment to non-mainstream roles.
General Hospital (2009-2010)
In a bizarre but intriguing turn of events, Franco turned up for a guest stint on long-running daytime medical soap General Hospital as artist turned serial killer Franco.
He has loads of fun sleazing it up in the show, and he's set to return for more episodes this year. He even went as far as to hold an exhibit at the LA Museum of Contemporary Art at the same time as his fictional counterpart.
Arty Franco? Could anyone else turn a guest spot in a cheesy soap into performance art?
Date Night (2010)
Steve Carell and Tina Fey's movie marriage may not have been quite the laughter juggernaut you were anticipating, but there are plenty of pleasant moments here to quietly entertained.
Bored couple Fey and Carell find their life is spiced up somewhat when they're mistaken for Tripplehorns, crims Chase (Franco) and Whippit (Kunis), and they soon have mob boss Ray Liotta on their case.
Arty Franco? Nah. Sadly this isn't even Franco at his funniest.
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Franco seemed to be indulging in his taste for the obscure in this dreadful Julia Roberts vanity project. Based on the memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, the movie follows her on a jaunt around the world in an attempt to 'find herself'.
Franco's amounts to little more than eye candy, as Gilbert's young, studly lover who causes her to think that there could be more to life.
Arty Franco? One can only imagine that Franco took on this brief role to add even more diversity to his already varied CV.
127 Hours (2010)
This week, Franco is returning to our cinema screens in 127 Hours . Directed by Danny Boyle, hot off his Slumdog Millionaire Oscar success, the film tells the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who got his arm trapped under a boulder in a Utah canyon.
It's one of Franco's most impressive and challenging roles, as he has to hold the screen for the majority of the film, and there's been plenty of awards buzz rewarding his efforts.
Up next, he'll be seen in Howl , Rise of the Apes and Your Highness , assuring he has no chance of being typecast.