Best Chris Farley Movies, From Coneheads to Wayne’s World 2
Dec 23, 2022
It’s hard to believe, but Chris Farley will have been gone for 25 years come this December. Even though he is no longer with us, he is still as popular as ever, loved by fans who knew his work when he dominated Saturday Night Live, to new fans who have discovered him through YouTube and his hilarious comedies. We’ll always wonder what more Chris Farley would have done (he had been cast to be the lead in Shrek before his death, for example), but here’s what we do have. These are Chris Farley’s best movies. Holy schnikes, were they good.
RELATED: Chris Farley’s Shrek Would Have Given Us a More Innocent and Vulnerable Look at the Comedian
Ronnie the Mechanic in Coneheads (1993)
Image via Paramount Pictures
Before it was a film, Coneheads was a popular recurring SNL skit from the 1970s about a family of pointy-headed aliens. Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain played the husband and wife, Beldar and Prymatt Conehead. When the bit became its own movie decades later, it was only natural that current SNL members would be included. Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Phil Hartman are all here in small roles. None was better, however, than Chris Farley, who plays Ronnie, the boyfriend of the Conehead’s daughter, Connie (Michelle Burke). We don’t get the over-the-top hijinks Farley is so well known for in this film. He works by playing a regular mechanic, a nice guy who hasn’t made much out of himself, but who we root for to get the girl. He does, and Farley showed that he was more than just chaotic energy. He could act.
Milton in Wayne’s World 2 (1993)
Image via Paramount Pictures
Farley was actually in both Wayne’s World films. In the original, in what was his film debut, it was a different and much smaller part, with Farley playing a security guard. In the sequel, he got a bigger role. This time he plays a guy named Milton who wants to be a roadie for Waynestock, the concert Wayne and Garth (Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey) are setting up. It’s still a small role, but a good one. This sees Farley play a character we’re more used to: dumb and bordering on losing his mind. Milton may have the look of a roadie with the long hair, flannel, and constant utterances of “man” after every sentence, but he is a dolt and not exactly up to the task of being a roadie for anyone. Just as Ronnie got the girl in Coneheads, however, Milton’s bouncing enthusiasm gets him the job too.
Officer Wilson in Airheads (1994)
Image Via 20th Century Fox
Farley continued his early success with minor characters here. He went from mechanic to roadie, to now a cop. This cult comedy sees a rock band (Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler, and Steve Buscemi) take a radio station hostage, demanding that they play their demo tape. Farley plays one of the police officers who respond to the hostage situation. Just his big hair and goofy grin elicit a laugh. Wilson is a by-the-book cop, but when he’s told to do whatever is necessary to get the job done, he resorts to violence. After being insulted about his weight one too many times, with a man at a club then ripping off his badge, Farley simply rips out the man’s nipple ring. Farley stays subdued in his five minutes of screen time, but his character is trying so hard to be good at his job, that he resorts to desperate measures to get it done.
Tommy in Tommy Boy (1995)
Image via Paramount
This is the big one. As popular as Farley was on Saturday Night Live, his fame went to another level in his first headlining role opposite his SNL pal, David Spade. Tommy, as with most Farley characters, is a moron. He means well, though. He’s a family man, so when his father (Brian Cox) unexpectedly dies, it’s up to him to go on a road trip with Spade to save his father’s auto parts business. There are so many popular one-liners to be found in this film, as well as scenes of every emotional range possible. We get to see Farley do the “fat guy in a little coat” dance, and his signature self-deprecation. There’s great physical comedy everywhere. Just as good in its own way are the silent moments where Tommy doubts himself and mourns his father.
Bus Driver in Billy Madison (1995)
Image Via Universal Pictures
In an uncredited role for this early Adam Sandler comedy hit, Farley is a bus driver at his wit’s end. With his hair slicked to the side and extra thick mutton chop sideburns, Farley has the look of a scene stealer. Sandler’s titular Billy Madison is a grown man who has to go back to school and repeat every grade. When he’s riding to school with ten years olds, Farley is the bus driver – and he is full of rage. When a kid throws a sandwich at him, we watch him yell, before silently raging to himself, his face shaking, his eyes welling up. He gets back at them by stealing all of their lunches. He’s more than rage, however. The bus driver beams at Billy about how much he knows about women after scoping out the hot teacher, never losing face no matter how much Billy calls him about. Farley’s confidence shines through in what was such a little role.
Mike Donnelly in Black Sheep (1996)
Image via Paramount Pictures
After the success of Tommy Boy, it was only natural that Farley and David Spade would collaborate again. A year after the major success came this film. When a man running for governor (Tim Matheson) wants his inept brother, Mike (Farley), contained so he doesn’t mess up his election chances, he hires Spade’s Steve to watch over him. The plot doesn’t pack the same punch with the same emotional core as Tommy Boy. It’s not a bad film, it simply had the impossible task of trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Farley is still as funny as ever with his successful brand of idiocy and body humor. Watching Farley tumble down a hill or run from a bat showed that he could turn mediocrity into gold. His talent more than made up for a thin screenplay.
Haru in Beverly Hills Ninja (1997)
Image Via Sony Pictures Releasing
This Dennis Dugan-directed comedy proved just how valuable Chris Farley was to a project. With no other actor could such a quirky premise have worked. This time Farley plays Haru, an orphan who is taken in by ninjas and raised to be one of them. We get the cheap laugh lines of watching a bigger man training and doing martial arts, but this time, Farley is without David Spade. He is the sole centerpiece, and he makes it work. You’re not going to remember much about the murder mystery plot, buy you are going to remember what Haru does on his mission, from the physical gags to disguising himself as a hibachi chef. It’s Farley doing his best Farley, which is always superb, but one could tell, if his career had continued, that it was time for the actor to evolve to some stronger material that better suited his acting abilities and didn’t focus on bits about his weight.
Bartholomew Hunt in Almost Heroes (1998)
Image Via Warner Bros.
This Christopher Guest-directed film has the distinction of being Farley’s last leading role, released six months after his death. This time, he stars with Matthew Perry of Friends fame as an 1800s-era explorer trying to make his way across the United States before the famed Lewis and Clark can. Perry gets the Spade role as the sidekick, but it’s not him you’re watching this film for. It’s all for Chris. As far as well-made movies go, this isn’t one. (It gets a cringe-worthy 5% on Rotten Tomatoes.) Still, it’s a fitting swan song for Farley. Yes, the shtick had started to run old. We’d seen him do the same moronic character with the same physical humor so many times. Fans wanted more. This, sadly, would be the end. It was a film as flawed as the man behind it, but it’s a fitting way to remember him. He was a big man with a big heart who only wanted to make people laugh, no matter the cost to him.
Jimmy in Dirty Work (1998)
Image Via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Farley’s last role would be a small bit in this Norm MacDonald vehicle directed by Bob Saget. Here he is as Jimmy, a friend of MacDonald’s character, Mitch Weaver. Jimmy is a miserable man with half a nose (it was bitten off by a Saigon sex worker) who lives at the YMCA. He spends too much time at the bar and speaks about how lonely he is. It’s a sad character, but with Farley’s delivery, it’s hilarious. Still, it’s painful to watch at times, knowing how Farley’s life ended. We see so much of Farley in this character, and even though he had been gone for months when the film was released, we want to reach through the screen and save him. We can’t, though; for better or for worse, this is Farley. In the film’s end, Jimmy gets a happy ending. Chris Farley didn’t. Knowing that he was still making people laugh even after he died would probably have made him happy, however. He was a selfless performer, so what better way to end a career than to have his last role be in a movie that wasn’t about him.
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