We all know Justin Timberlake can sing and dance, but his acting abilities have been up for debate ever since he appeared in the Disney Channel train wreck/legendary supernova masterpiece Model Behavior.
That was in 2000, and the former *NSYNCer has gone on to star in films ranging from romantic comedy froth (Friends With Benefits) to dramatic Oscar season fare (The Social Network). Oh, let’s also not forget classics like The Love Guru and Bad Teacher. Yes, Timberlake is hot and charming as hell, but we’re still left with a burning question: Can he act?
In our opinion, the answer is a resounding yes. He’s had some missteps (i.e.: 2013′s Runner Runner), but what actor hasn’t? Timberlake has done enough good films that we feel confident in our verdict. Don’t believe us? Check out these seven films that show Timberlake in peak form.
Alpha Dog (2006)
Timberlake plays Frankie, a 19-year-old drug dealer who kidnaps his friend Jake’s 15-year-old brother after he doesn’t pay back a debt. Alpha Dog only has a 55 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but Timberlake emerges as the violent film’s saving grace. In a positive review, film critic Richard Roeper wrote, “Justin Timberlake has what it takes to be a genuine movie star.” And we have to agree. Alpha Dog is the first film where Timberlake proves to be a powerful on-screen force.
Black Snake Moan (2006)
Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci also star in this movie about a religious blues musician, Lazarus Woods, who tries to “save” the town sex addict, Rae, after he finds her beaten on the side of a road. Timberlake gives a bravura performance as Rae’s controlling boyfriend Ronnie.
Shrek the Third (2007)
While not as critically lauded as the first two films, Shrek the Third is a perfectly harmless and enjoyable animated feature. Timberlake is both enthusiastic and charming as Artie, Princess Fiona’s cousin who the gang wants as the new king of Far Far Away. We challenge you to watch this film without smiling or giggling. (You won’t be able to.)
The Social Network (2010)
This gripping Oscar-winning film, which centers on Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, showcases Timberlake’s best performance to date. In The Social Network, Timberlake plays Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who convinces Zuckerberg to let him get in on the Facebook game. As a result, Zuckerberg finds himself at odds with one of Facebook’s original founders Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Timberlake excels in this slimy, conniving, and nuanced role, and even got his own catchphrase.
Friends With Benefits (2011)
This formulaic romantic comedy is saved by the electric chemistry between Timberlake and Mila Kunis, platonic friends who complicate their relationship by starting a no-strings-attached sexual affair. It’s very funny, and Timberlake has never been more natural on screen. With a 70 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear the critics loved it, too.
Bad Teacher (2011)
In Bad Teacher, Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, a no-fucks-given teacher who just wants to find a rich man to take care of her. Timberlake is comedic gold as the bumbling, virginal — but filthy rich— substitute teacher who becomes the target of Elizabeth’s advances. While the film received tepid reviews at best, Bad Teacher is worth watching for a few hearty, genuine laughs plus that glorious dry-humping scene between Timberlake and Diaz (who used to date). You’ll never look at blue jeans the same way again.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
This 2013 breakout film about a struggling ’60s folk singer trying to make it in the Greenwich Village music scene shows Timberlake in his most mature role to date. As singer Jim Berkley, Timberlake delivers a reserved performance as well as more than one memorable musical number. With a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it looks like Timberlake was on pitch.
Do you think JT can act? Let us know in the comments below.
[Photo Credit: Screen Gems]