Nolte: After 20 Years of Superstardom, Dwayne Johnson Still Has No Film Legacy

BY: JOHN NOLTE 13 May 2023

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been a top star for 20 years and still has no legacy, nothing to show for it.

He has one movie that will stand the test of time, the underrated 2013 masterpiece Pain & Gain, but that’s not a Dwayne Johnson movie (although it’s his best performance). Instead, it’s a Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg movie.

Fast Five (2015) is another keeper, the most popular of the diminishing Fast & Furious franchise, but again, that’s not a Dwayne Johnson movie.

These are Dwayne Johnson’s movies:

  • The Rundown (2003)
  • Tooth Fairy (2010)
  • Faster (2010)
  • Journey 2: Mysterious Island (2012)
  • Hercules (2014)
  • San Andreas (2015)
  • Central Intelligence (2016)
  • Baywatch (2017)
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
  • Rampage (2018)
  • Skyscraper (2018)
  • Jungle Cruise (2019)
  • Red Notice (2021)
  • Black Adam (2022)

There are more, but those are the main ones, and some of those movies are unquestionably entertaining. I even own a few of them on Blu-ray. But where’s the classic, the all-timer?

Over the same time—20 years—on top of several entertaining titles, Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered the following stone-cold, timeless classics…

  • Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Predator (1987)
  • Total Recall (1990)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • True Lies (1994)

I would go even further and argue that Schwarzenegger’s lesser titles from this era top any of the forgettable vanilla Johnson’s been pumping out for two decades:

  • Commando (1985)
  • The Running Man (1987)
  • Twins (1988)
  • Kindergarten Cop (1990)
  • Last Action Hero (1993)

Steven Seagal will always be remembered for Above the Law (1988) and Under Siege (1992).

Jean-Claude Van Damme has Kickboxer (1989), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), and Timecop (1994).

Chuck Norris has a half-dozen or so early kung-fu B-movies that ensure his place as an action icon, as well as Missing in Action (1984) and Code of Silence (1985).

Stallone cemented his place in the genre with First Blood (1982), Cobra (1986), and Cliffhanger (1993).

Bruce Willis has the first three Die Hard movies, The Last Boy Scout (1991), and Armageddon (1998).

Vin Diesel has both the Fast and the Furious and Riddick franchises.

Keanu Reeves has The Matrix (1999), Point Break (1991), Speed (1994), and of course, John Wick (2014).

Mark Wahlberg has The Departed (2006), Boogie Nights (1997), The Fighter (2010), and Pain and Gain (2013).

I could go on with Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon), Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Kurt Russell (Escape from New York), Will Smith (Independence Day), Denzel Washington (Man on Fire)…

Dwayne Johnson still doesn’t have a single title like that, not one that quickens the pulse or evokes precious memories of being knocked out of your theater seat. He might have a longer career than some of those mentioned above; he might sell more tickets and even earn more money, but as far as a legacy with action fans…?

Pure vanilla.

Schwarzenegger knew exactly how to become an icon… Iconic catchphrases, larger-than-life characters that carry an edge of violence, and top-flight directors looking to push the genre. People will always remember Schwarzenegger for his movies.

People might remember Johnson… but not his movies. He’s too generic, too eager to please, too pleased with himself, and terrified to color outside the lines.

Schwarzenegger wanted a legacy and nailed it.

Johnson just wants to be famous.

In 50 years, we’ll still be watching Terminator, Predator, Total Recall, and the others… No one will be watching Skyscraper or Jungle Cruise.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNCFollow his Facebook Page here.


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