Hollywood star Vin Diesel has had a long, successful career portraying tough guys on the big screen. Whether it’s live-action or voiceover, Diesel always brings gruffness and weight to every role. That doesn’t mean that his best work has been in movies about cars and explosions, though! The actor has also starred in some genuinely touching films, and he always brings a surprising amount of care into every role.
Since he’s so well-known for appearing in franchises, it’s hard to say which of his movies is the best. Today, we’re ranking Diesel’s best roles, instead, to determine which is his most iconic.
#10. Chris Varick
If you expected to only hear about movies with lots of cars and shootouts, you might be surprised to see Diesel’s first role on this list. In the 2000 film Boiler Room, Diesel plays Chris Varick, a senior stockbroker at an underhanded brokerage firm.
Diesel’s character doesn’t get a ton of screen time in the film, but he’s the star of one of its best scenes. Late in the film, Chris Varick spins a compelling lie for an investor, convincing him to invest his life’s savings into junk stocks. The entire staff of the illegal hedge fund cheers Varick on as he fleeces the unsuspecting mark out of his money.
#9. Taylor Reese
Diesel isn’t above acting in movies that are a bit sillier than the Fast Saga. For instance, in 2001, he played supporting character Taylor Reese in the Brian Koppelman and David Levien-directed Knockaround Guys.
The film centers around the son of a New York gangster, Matty, who gets his friends to help him out by retrieving a shipment of cash. Matty wants to prove to his father that he can handle the family business. Unfortunately, the group quickly finds themselves in over their heads in Billings, Montana when airport security confiscates the bag of money.
The group eventually secures the help of their only competent friend, the hulking brawler Taylor Reese. Reese has some of the best lines of the movie, including a Diesel classic: “Five hundred street fights and you can consider yourself a legitimate tough guy.”
While critics mostly disliked the 2020 film Bloodshot, the movie still has that classic Vin Diesel character. Numerous action scenes and over-the-top fights give the actor’s superhero character, former soldier Ray Garrison, plenty of chances to flex his muscles.
The Bloodshot film is the start of the Valiant Comics shared cinematic universe. Longtime fans of Valiant’s stable of superheroes will be pleased to hear that Diesel is returning to the role in future movies. In December 2020, Diesel confirmed that he’ll be back to play Garrison again in the sequel.
The series will grow to include films based on Valiant’s Harbinger comics before culminating in a crossover between the two films.
The 1997 film Strays doesn’t just star Vin Diesel. It’s also his directorial debut, and both wrote the script and produced the film. While Strays is a competent coming-of-age story, it’s not the most amazing late-90s drama. The protagonist’s journey is the most fascinating part of the movie, though.
Rick is searching for his own identity throughout the film. He constantly tells his friends that he wants recognition as more than just a tough guy. The character’s quest to be seen for who he is under the surface is poignant, considering the real-world Diesel’s sensitive side. Fans of the actor know that he’s a caring, creative man. For instance, his love of Dungeons and Dragons is well-documented.
#6. Private Carpazo
In the 1998 war film Saving Private Ryan, Diesel appears as a young soldier named Adrian Caparzo. The role is the polar opposite of the usual macho characters that Diesel portrays, as Private Caparzo is just a regular soldier trying to survive the horrors of war.
Like his role in Strays, Diesel’s appearance here shows that there’s more to the man than scowling and flexing. Since Carpazo is the first major cast member to fall in battle, Diesel’s screentime is limited. However, his performance made an impact. Many critics point to Saving Private Ryan as a standout role for the then-upstart actor.
#5. Xander Cage
The 2002 film XXX was built entirely around Diesel’s unique screen presence. Its protagonist, Xander Cage, is an all-time classic character for Vin. He’s a cunning super-spy, exuding all of the charisma and muscle-bound charms that would later define the actor’s most prominent roles.
Cage is an adrenaline-loving car thief who joins the NSA to help bring down a terrorist cell called Anarchy 99. The film is a ridiculous romp, but fans love it because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The XXX series now comprises three feature films, with plans for a fourth film announced in September of 2018.
#4. Richard B. Riddick
The 2000 film Pitch Black is one of the few movies to successfully inhabit the same genre as the classic Ridley Scott horror, Alien. Pitch Black brings claustrophobic sci-fi horror in droves, with Diesel turning in one of his few truly villainous roles. As the convicted criminal Richard B. Riddick, Diesel plays one of the only people capable of tackling the dangerous monsters that hunt the crew of the Hunter-Gratzner.
The film was a modest success and spawned a franchise known collectively as the Chronicles of Riddick. Oddly enough, the series has had more success in the realm of video games, spawning some of the best action-horror titles of the early 2000s. Throughout the games, Diesel voices the character he originated in Pitch Black, lending Hollywood legitimacy to the digital action.
Vin Diesel steals the show in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy, even though the actor doesn’t appear onscreen. He is instead only heard as the voice of the towering Flora colossus, Groot. Groot only says three (well, four) words throughout the entire film.
Despite only uttering “I am Groot” over and over, Diesel’s voice work gives the character an emotional undertone. The actor’s line delivery makes his eventual sacrifice for the team that much more poignant. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater when Groot saved his friends and intoned, “We are Groot.”
Fans might be surprised to learn that Diesel also voices the younger versions of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Avengers: Infinity War. The actor isn’t just phoning this role in, either. He provides the motion capture for the tree man, and even records dialogue for the alternate language versions of MCU releases. Diesel clearly cares a lot about the role and loves to engage with fans.
#2. The Iron Giant
Despite Diesel’s well-known muscular physique paving the way for much of his career, his gravelly speaking voice has solidified him as an all-time great. Nowhere else is that more apparent than in his role as the title character in the 1999 film The Iron Giant. Diesel lends his voice to the gentle, titanic robot in a heartwarming story that showcases the actor’s talents.
Like Groot, the Giant doesn’t speak much. Diesel uses slight changes In inflection and careful line reading to get across a sense of genuine humanity and tragedy. If anyone tells you that Vin Diesel is a one-note actor, tell them to watch this movie.
The film doesn’t share much in common with Diesel’s usual action movies. The Iron Giant has an overarching narrative that encourages nonviolence. It’s one of the greatest animated movies ever made, and easily one of Vin Diesel’s most iconic roles.
#1. Dominic Toretto
It wouldn’t be right to forget about the Fast Saga when you’re talking about Vin Diesel. The long-running action series has everything that made Vin Diesel a household name: ridiculous action, elaborate vehicle stunts, and more fight scenes than dialogue.
Still, Diesel’s portrayal of car thief Dominic Toretto can be surprisingly nuanced when he talks about the importance of family and the ties that bind him to his crew. Dom acts as the foil to Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor in the first film. By the time he returns in the series’ fourth entry, Fast & Furious, Dom is much more of a protagonist than a supporting character.
The character has proven extremely popular, and it might be Diesel’s most iconic role. In 2021, the character’s classic refrain about the importance of family even got a life of its own, turning into a meme.
There you have it, Vin Diesel’s ten most iconic roles! Which was your favorite?