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He brought sexy back – no small feat, for sure – but along the way, Justin Timberlake has cobbled together an intriguing filmography when not being a pop superstar.
In the annals of cultural history, Timberlake will most likely be considered a singer first, from his boy-band days with 'N Sync to becoming a solo phenomenon. That said, he's not too shabby an actor. Timberlake proves once again he has some thespian skills in the new drama "Palmer" (streaming Friday on Apple TV+), starring as an ex-con and former football star who returns to his Louisiana hometown and forms a close bond with a young boy (Ryder Allen).
Timberlake has definitely made some stinkers: "The Love Guru," anyone? But here's where "Palmer" ranks alongside his best stuff.
Streaming preview: 10 must-see movies in 2021, from 'Palmer' to 'Coming 2 America'
10. 'Friends With Benefits' (2011)
OK, it's not making any greatest romantic comedy lists or anything. Yet Timberlake is charming enough – and sings Semisonic's "Closing Time" during sex – alongside Mila Kunis as two friends who decide to engage in some casual sex, figuring feelings won't get involved, and then feelings get involved.
9. 'Alpha Dog' (2007)
The Nick Cassavetes crime drama with an A-list cast – including Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone and a young Olivia Wilde and Amanda Seyfried – was the first to really show Timberlake's dramatic chops. He stars as the right-hand man to a drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) who gets in over his head by kidnapping a youngster (Anton Yelchin).
8. 'Trolls World Tour' (2020)
The animated musical sequel was a hit last year for locked-down kids, and Timberlake reprised his role as lovably neurotic troll Branch in a film that celebrated all forms of music. Which meant getting to hear Timberlake sing a pop medley including "Party Rock Anthem," "Gangnam Style" and "Who Let the Dogs Out?" (No "Cry Me a River," sadly.)
7. 'Black Snake Moan' (2007)
Written and directed by Craig Brewer ("Hustle & Flow"), the dark comedy centers on Christina Ricci as a wild young woman who, after her boyfriend (Timberlake) is deployed to a National Guard post, goes on a bender of sex and drugs. She winds up in the front yard of a religious farmer (Samuel L. Jackson) determined to set her right.
6. 'Southland Tales' (2007)
An underrated gem, the gonzo sci-fi satire/thriller by Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko") features Timberlake as a wild-eyed, disfigured Iraq War vet who lip-syncs The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done" (aka the "I got soul but I'm not a soldier" song) in an arcade with dancers. If that's not reason enough to watch, there's also Dwayne Johnson in one of his impressive early roles as an amnesiac action hero.
5. 'Trouble With the Curve' (2012)
Timberlake holds his own with a legend in director Clint Eastwood's entertaining drama about love, baseball and family. Eastwood plays an aging Atlanta Braves scout, Amy Adams is his workaholic attorney daughter helping out when his eyesight goes bad, and Timberlake is her love interest as well as the pitching prospect the old man once found who's now a rival Red Sox scout.
4. 'Trolls' (2016)
If "Can't Stop the Feeling!" is forever swimming around in your brain, you can thank this flick. Timberlake's moody Branch is a doomsday prepper before COVID quarantine made that cool, and Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) is the chipper troll doling out lessons about the wonders of hugs and being happy.
3. 'Palmer' (2021)
Timberlake showcases some serious depth and a parental vibe as Eddie Palmer, a quiet sort who moves in with his grandma (June Squibb) to get his life back on track. A little dude who helps him in that way is Sam (Allen), an adorable youngster abandoned by his drug-addicted mom (Juno Temple) and bullied because he enjoys playing with dolls and dressing like a princess.
2. 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013)
The Coen Brothers' superb 1960s-set dramedy, about a down-on-his-luck folk singer (Oscar Isaac) struggling to keep his personal and professional lives groovy, let Timberlake strut all of his stuff. He plays the title musician's friend in one of the movie's best scenes, as they record a super-catchy novelty song about the space race with a deep-voiced weirdo (Adam Driver) in a cowboy hat.
1. 'The Social Network' (2010)
David Fincher's acclaimed Facebook movie is the only best picture nominee on Timberlake's resume, but at least it's a really good one. And JT plays a key role in the film as Napster founder Sean Parker, the smooth-talking, charismatic young tech mogul who becomes a primary influence for Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) during his precipitous rise.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justin Timberlake's 10 best movies, ranked (including 'Palmer')