Chris Evans has come a long way since first appearing as Johnny Storm in 2005’s Fantastic Four. Though he’s arguably best known as Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Evans has shown impressive range across various genres from animated films to murder mysteries. He’s proven his ability to make audiences laugh, cry, and cheer through charismatic and nuanced performances over the past two decades.
In this list, we’ll highlight Evans’ 10 most outstanding movies based on a combination of critical acclaim, cultural impact, and the quality of his acting. From his breakout comedy role in Not Another Teen Movie to his emotional turn in the family drama Gifted, these films demonstrate Evans’ versatility and talent. Of course, we had to include a few of his iconic Marvel appearances, but we also wanted to showcase some of his lesser-known yet exceptional work like the mind-bending sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer and quirky comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
By looking back on the movies that have defined his career so far, it’s clear Chris Evans has established himself as much more than just Marvel’s star-spangled hero. Though he brought Captain America to life in an unforgettable way, Evans has proven over and over again that he has the acting chops to disappear into any role. Get ready to revisit some of Evans’ most memorable films and performances across different eras and genres.
10. Lightyear (2022)
Taking on the mantle of Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story franchise was undoubtedly daunting, considering the character was previously voiced by Tim Allen for over 25 years. But Chris Evans managed to pay respectful homage while also putting his own charismatic spin on the Space Ranger in Lightyear.
Rather than voicing the toy Buzz we know and love, Evans plays the “real-life” human character that the toy was based on. This comedic sci-fi adventure shows the original Buzz Lightyear’s first test flight gone awry, which strands him and his crew on a hostile planet. While trying to find their way home, Buzz goes on daring solo test flights, traveling into the future and becoming a Space Ranger legend who inspires the toy line.
Evans captures that quintessential Buzz Lightyear confidence and bravado, while also lending more vulnerability and humor to this iteration. His vocal performance gives Buzz intriguing new depths beneath the stoic, statue-worthy Space Ranger exterior. And Evans’ innate likability and charm shine through to make this Buzz just as beloved as Allen’s toy version. After over a decade playing the noble Captain America, Evans clearly relished getting to tap into his silly, playful side again as this animated galactic hero.
9. Sunshine (2007)
In the stark sci-fi thriller Sunshine, Chris Evans proves he can captivate audiences even without flaunting superhero muscles or all-American charisma. Set 50 years in the future, Sunshine follows the crew of the spaceship Icarus II on a desperate mission to reignite the dying Sun and save humanity. Evans plays Mace, the team’s hotheaded engineer whose mental state becomes increasingly precarious as their oxygen supply dwindles.
Sunshine came relatively early in Evans’ career, when he was still best known for glossy, mainstream fare like Fantastic Four. But under the masterful direction of Danny Boyle, Evans demonstrates powerful dramatic range that foreshadowed the depth he would later bring to Captain America. With chilling intensity, he captures Mace’s fraying sanity once the crew discovers they are not alone on the Icarus II. Evans compellingly conveys the existential terror this breeds, ratcheting up the film’s palpable tension.
While Sunshine boasts a standout ensemble cast including Cillian Murphy and Michelle Yeoh, Evans proves he can shine bright even surrounded by these heavyweight talents. With a performance this blisteringly unhinged, Evans showed his ability to completely immerse himself into emotionally and morally complex roles.
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8. The Gray Man (2022)
In the Russo brothers’ slick espionage thriller The Gray Man, Chris Evans has an absolute blast going full villain mode as unhinged former CIA operative Lloyd Hansen. Sporting a truly unsettling porn-stache, Evans abandons his usual heroism to play a ruthless sociopath who delights in hunting people for sport.
The Gray Man pits Evans against Ryan Gosling’s Court Gentry, a CIA black ops agent who accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets. Gentry becomes a target of his unscrupulous colleagues, who sic the off-the-rails Hansen on his trail. What follows is a globe-trotting game of cat and mouse, with Hansen clearly relishing the chance to torment his prey psychotically.
Evans looks like he’s letting loose and having fun playing wicked for once, while still bringing scary intensity to Hansen’s wild-eyed mania. His antagonist chemistry with Gosling crackles as they exchange pitch-black comic barbs when confronting one another. The Gray Man marks some of Evans’ most wickedly entertaining work, proving he can be just as compelling playing an unhinged villain as Marvel’s stalwart hero.
7. Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
Long before becoming Captain America, Chris Evans took on his first starring role as a parody jock heartthrob in 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie. This slapstick comedy spoofed the tired high school movie tropes of hits like She’s All That and American Pie. Evans got his big break playing football player Jake Wyler, the popular hunk secretly yearning for the school’s frumpy, glasses-wearing outcast.
While it may not have wowed the critics, Not Another Teen Movie showcased Evans’ easygoing charisma and comedic chops right from the start. Even buried under bad hair extensions and a spray tan, his likable presence shines through the raunchy teen antics. Audiences saw hints of the authenticity Evans would later bring to Captain America’s struggle to adjust to modern life.
Not Another Teen Movie also flipped the script by positioning Jake as the makeover recipient, emerging at the prom in a nod to Pretty in Pink’s iconic ending tableau. This may have been a silly send-up of the high school rom-com formula, but it revealed the ingredients that would fuel Evans’ success – including earnest charm, self-deprecating humor, and leading man looks earning him a spot on 2001’s Teen People “25 Hottest Stars under 25” list.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a truly one-of-a-kind cult classic, with Chris Evans memorably tapping into his silly side for an over-the-top villainous supporting role. This wildly inventive comic book adaptation puts average slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) through a bizarre series of video game-style battles in order to win the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
The catch is that Scott must first defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes, including Hollywood heartthrob Lucas Lee played by Evans. With spiky emo hair and douchey facial hair, Evans mocks action movie machismo and leans into arrogant bravado as the skateboarding star. During their Xbox-inspired clash, Evans delivers absurdly aggressive trash talk peppered with biting insults as Scott progressively knocks him down.
Evans clearly relished parodying cocky Hollywood hunks in this clever cult favorite. His trajectory from strutting arrogantly onto the scene to throwing a legit temper tantrum after his defeat shows tremendous comedic range. Scott Pilgrim exemplifies Evans’ talent for balancing endearing goofiness and high octane drama.
5. Gifted (2017)
In the emotional family drama Gifted, Chris Evans tugs on viewers’ heartstrings playing selfless single dad Frank Adler. After his brilliant sister passed away, Frank devotes himself to giving his young math prodigy niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) a normal childhood despite clashes over her exceptional talent. Evans gets to exercise his dramatic acting muscles while showcasing endearing chemistry with his pint-sized co-star.
As Frank faces losing custody of Mary to his well-meaning mother, Evans pivots gracefully between modes. One minute he’s the caring guardian gently comforting Mary after a nightmare, the next he’s passionately defending his late sister’s controversial parenting choices. Beyond nailing the heavy moments, his warm rapport with Grace gives the familial bond at the story’s core authentic heart.
Gifted proved Evans could tone down the super serum and still deliver a powerfully emotional performance. Unlike the noble but rigid Captain America, Frank’s protectiveness stems from a very human desire for connection. Along with spotlighting his sensitive acting abilities, this modest drama highlighted Evans’ signature empathy and integrity.
4. Snowpiercer (2013)
Directed by visionary auteur Bong Joon-ho, the sci-fi action thriller Snowpiercer boasts a powerhouse international ensemble cast. But amid standout talents like Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer and Song Kang-ho, Chris Evans still manages to captivate audiences with a gripping lead turn. This high-concept dystopian tale unfolds entirely aboard the perpetually moving train carrying Earth’s last survivors after a climate change experiment brings on a new Ice Age. Onboard, a brutal class system emerges with the wealthy ruling the extravagant front cars while the poor subsist squalidly in the tail.
Evans plays Curtis Everett, a tail section rebel who spearheads an uprising to overthrow the train’s mysterious overseer. With gritty determination, he drives the revolution forward even as the costs mount staggeringly. Evans compellingly shoulders the film’s weighty themes of sacrifice and solidarity while bringing welcome warmth to temper Curtis’ hardened edges. And he’s perfectly believable as a dynamic leader men would courageously follow, even on a suicide mission.
Snowpiercer taps into Evans’ specialty of portraying fundamentally decent men standing up against corrupt regimes. But with less red tape than Captain America, Curtis’ defiant methods prove far more savage as he battles his way to the engine against barbaric opposition. Evans ultimately grounds the chaotic action in resonant humanity.
3. Knives Out (2019)
Rian Johnson’s devilishly clever whodunit Knives Out may boast an all-star ensemble led by Daniel Craig’s drawling private eye Benoit Blanc. But among powerhouses like Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans steals scenes with charismatic smarm as this story’s flashy black sheep. When famed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after publicly cutting off his entitled heirs, Evans plays the deceitful grandson with possible motive and means to silence him.
As slick failson Ransom Drysdale, Evans wears privilege like a bespoke suit – strolling around Harlan’s estate oozing louche arrogance. When debonair detective Blanc shows up to investigate the suspicious death, Ransom spars expertly with his probing. Evans so inhabits Ransom’s breezy nonchalance that his snakelike true colors only gradually become apparent through subtle facial shifts. And that now-iconic ivory sweater makes his gradual sinister shift even more chilling. No armor needed when wielding WASP-y insouciance as a weapon.
By the end, Evans brings Ransom’s delusions of invincibility crashing down with thrilling menace, proving as adept at selling sociopathic malevolence as Captain America’s unwavering nobility. Trading heroic responsibility for careless hedonism and self-interest, this career-best performance unveils untapped depths to Evans’ talent.
2. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
It’s no hyperbole to call Avengers: Endgame a monumental cultural phenomenon that impacted millions emotionally and financially. This three-hour epic concluded Marvel’s sprawling Infinity Saga while giving beloved heroes like Captain America definitive character send-offs. And Chris Evans anchored the film with probably his most iconic performance as Steve Rogers.
After Thanos wiped out half of existence in Infinity War, Endgame unites Earth’s Mightiest for one last stand against the genocidal titan. Still reeling from failure, Cap remains the steadfast moral compass keeping the Avengers focused on their solemn mission. Evans conveys both the grief of Steve’s losses and his unbreakable resolve to bring back the vanished – including best friend Bucky Barnes.
During the pulse-pounding third act battle, Steve proves worthy enough to wield Thor’s hammer Mjolnir against Thanos, finally getting his long-overdue dance with the god of thunder. Vibranium shield and uru hammer in hand, Rogers rallies the decimated Avengers ranks with Evans’ defiant bellow of “Avengers assemble!” And Evans poignantly bookends Steve’s story arc when he passes his mantle onto The Falcon, no longer frozen in time but finally seizing the life denied to him.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Easily both Evans’ and Marvel’s finest outing, Captain America: The Winter Soldier earns its spy thriller inspirations rather than just aping genre predecessors. Co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo deliver a politically-charged conspiracy epic grounded in palpable real-world relevance. And Evans anchors the moral quandaries around government surveillance and preemptive strikes with emotional nuance.
In this prescient sequel, Steve Rogers uncovers deep corruption within S.H.I.E.L.D. while confronting a resurfacing ghost from his past – best friend turned amnesiac assassin, the Winter Soldier. Evans nails Cap’s crisis of faith as the system he represents increasingly breaches his ethical code, putting liberty against security. But he movingly sells Steve’s uncompromising loyalty when the childhood companionship at the heart of both men resurfaces.
The Russos balance sleek espionage action with resonant introspection, achieved through Evans’ thoughtful presence and physicality. Out of uniform with slicked-back hair, Cap feels touchingly human rather than a star-spangled symbol as he visits his own Smithsonian exhibit to process historical erasure. And Evans grounds the big helicarrier climactic fight with tangible emotional stakes, cementing this as one of the MCU’s most comple