Ranking John Cena's Films From Unforgettable To Regrettable

After a banner year in 2021 that included major co-starring turns in The Suicide Squad, Vacation Friends, and the ninth entry of the Fast & Furious franchise, John Cena showed off his on-screen versatility in 2022, flexing his dramatic muscles in The Independent, refining his comedic skills in The Bubble, and blending both talents effortlessly in Peacemaker.

HBO Max

With 2023 promising another season of Peacemaker, sequels to both Vacation Friends and F9, a starring role in the new Looney Tunes film, and new projects from Peter Farrelly, Pierre Morel, and Matthew Vaughn all slated to drop, I’ve decided to put together a definitive ranking of Cena’s feature films.

25.Tie: Fred: The Movie, Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred & Fred 3: Camp Fred

Nickelodeon Studios

Cast: Lucas Cruikshank, Jake Weary, John Cena, and Siobhan Fallon HoganDirector: Clay Weiner (Fred), John Fortenberry (Fred 2), Jonathan Judge (Fred 3)Runtime: 81 Minutes (Fred), 84 Minutes (Fred 2), 81 Minutes (Fred 3)Rating: N/ARotten Tomatoes (Fred), Rotten Tomatoes (Fred 2), Rotten Tomatoes (Fred 3)

Listen, I know Fred has an audience, and that audience is certainly younger and more excitable than me. But perhaps the Fred trilogy of films’ inability to really appeal to anyone outside of the Fred brand’s demographic makes them a shoo-in for the bottom spot of this list. With that in mind, this direct-to-video trilogy cast John Cena in one of his earliest crossover roles as Fred’s imaginary father, giving the pro wrestling superstar a chance to show off his sense of humor and his inherent penchant for children’s entertainment, which goes hand-in-hand with his real altruistic sensibilities. If you’re not already a fan of Lucas Cruikshank’s viral character, chances are you do not need to go out of your way to check out the Fred trilogy, even if you’re a hardcore Cena completist.

24.Surf's Up 2: WaveMania

A group of stylized penguins stand around large rocks at the beach

Cast: John Cena, Saraya-Jade Bevis, Diedrich Bader, and Jon HederDirector: Henry YuRuntime: 84 MinutesRating: PGRotten Tomatoes

A co-production between Sony Pictures Animation, WWE Studios, and Rainmaker Entertainment, this direct-to-video sequel to the moderately successful animated film about surfing penguins from a decade prior brings back only Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder and Office Space actor Diedrich Bader from its star-studded cast, instead enlisting in a cavalcade of WWE superstars to fill out the cast. Bringing in Mark Calaway (aka The Undertaker), Paul Levesque (aka Triple H), Vince McMahon, current AEW star Saraya-Jade Bevis and, yes, John Cena to play penguin facsimiles of their sports entertainment counterparts, Surf’s Up 2 is more lame and toothless than the light-hearted original film, and even steadfast wrestling fanatics won’t be giving this one a second watch.

Sony Pictures Animation / WWE Studios / Atlaspix / Alamy

23.Ready to Rumble

Two men talk with a professional wrestler at a gymnasium

Cast: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, and Rose McGowanDirector: Brian RobbinsRuntime: 107 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

This selection appears on this list as a borderline technicality, as Cena is not credited in the film, does not have a speaking line, and barely even appears on camera. Yet the former multi-time WWE champion, prior to his WWE run, unmistakably appears as an extra in a gym sequence in Ready to Rumble, a cinematic piece of WCW advertising released less than a year before the company was sold wholesale to WWE. While the film is entertaining to a degree and holds a special part in the eventual recent comeback story of David Arquette in the world of professional wrestling, there’s no denying the gross-out humor and hyperactive energy of Ready to Rumble wore critics and audiences thin.

Bel Air Entertainment / Cinematic Collection / Alamy

22.Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery

WWE Studios

Cast: John Cena, Matthew Lillard, Charles S. Dutton, and Frank WelkerDirector: Brandon ViettiRuntime: 83 MinutesRating: N/ARotten TomatoesIn this WWE animated co-production, Scooby, Shaggy, and the rest of the gang are tasked with solving a mystery at WWE’s annual flagship event, Wrestlemania, though it is inexplicably known in the fictional universe at hand as “Super-Star-Mania.” While the film is well-meaning and attempts to remain accurate to the classic Scooby-Doo! formula, the lackluster vocal performances from some WWE figures (particularly Vince McMahon), and the bizarre (and inaccurate) pieces of WWE propaganda, ultimately cement the film as an eye-rolling affair. As for Cena’s voice performance as himself, the wrestler-turned-actor does well enough in his interactions with the iconic crime solvers, though he certainly doesn’t have to stretch to bring his character to life.

21.Legendary

A man in a denim shirt sits in a rusty red truck at night

Cast: Patricia Clarkson, John Cena, Devon Graye and Danny GloverDirector: Mel DamskiRuntime: 107 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

WWE Studios’ frustratingly formulaic attempt at creating an inspirational sports drama, Legendary isn’t necessarily a bad movie, but its desperation to pull on your heartstrings while hitting every predictable beat the genre has to offer makes sitting through it a Herculean task. That said, Legendary is actually fairly competent at times when it isn’t trying to lay on the heavy schmaltz and is elevated by a number of solid performances, particularly those of Patricia Clarkson, Devon Graye, and John Cena, who offers perhaps his first substantial dramatic performance in a wide theatrical release as the estranged brother and reluctant wrestling coach of the main character.

Samuel Goldwyn Films / AJ Pics / Alamy

20.The Bubble

A bearded man with glasses points an tablet with a man's face on it against a green screen background

Cast: Karen Gillan, Fred Armisen, Maria Bakalova, and Keegan-Michael KeyDirector: Judd ApatowRuntime: 126 MinutesRating: RRotten TomatoesAn embarrassing comedic failure for almost all involved, Judd Apatow’s overstuffed riff on COVID-19-era filmmaking rarely elicits a laugh over the course of its bloated runtime, most of which feels like well-tread territory and, at its worst, seems incapable of properly servicing its largely-talented cast. Despite dropping the ball as a satire in every department where Tropic Thunder previously soared, John Cena’s cameo as the incompetent and reckless stunt coordinator for “Cliff Beasts 6” mines some of the rare hard laughs in the film, so much so that it’s a shame that the role (and the corresponding gags) are so fleeting.

Netflix via YouTube

19.Dolittle

A young boy is comforted on a galleon by a gorilla and a polar bear in a hat

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas, and Jessie BuckleyDirector: Stephen GaghanRuntime: 100 MinutesRating: PGRotten Tomatoes

Was there anyone who really asked for a reboot of the Doctor Dolittle properties in 2020, let alone one that returns to the 19th century and follows a seafaring Dolittle searching for a mythical island? Apparently not, as this box office disaster has been wilfully left in the past by both distributor (Universal) and star, Robert Downey Jr. But for all of Dolittle’s faults, and there are many if you ask critics, John Cena’s casting as the voice of a laid-back polar bear is one spark of genius that has the best chance of leaving a smile on your face.

Universal Pictures / Photo 12 / Alamy

18.The Reunion (2011)

Three brothers stand pensively on a porch of a nice home

Cast: John Cena, Ethan Embry, Boyd Holbrook, and Amy SmartDirector: Michael PavoneRuntime: 96 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

Though the concept of this 2011 limited-release action comedy feels almost too similar to the premise of a bad television pilot, The Reunion never feels like it really can escape its low budget or unoriginal plot devices, but when the film embraces its own inner absurdity, there’s fun to be had if you’re willing to turn your brain off and go for the ride. Of course, this is only possible thanks to The Reunion’s inspired casting, as you can practically witness in real-time as Ethan Embry, Boyd Holbrook, and Amy Smart coax out John Cena’s charming side on camera

WWE Studios via YouTube

17.Daddy's Home 2

A large man and his co-parent examine a concerning situation in a room full of children

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, and Mel GibsonDirector: Sean AndersRuntime: 98 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

Reprising his cameo from the prior Daddy’s Home film, John Cena has more to do in Daddy’s Home 2 but rarely gets a chance to shine, given his role as the overtly-serious musclehead stepdad who makes Mark Wahlberg look weak in comparison. As for the film itself, the Daddy’s Home films often are just good excuses to give its ensemble cast an impressive payday with try-hard, lowest-common-denominator laugh bait that never really works, but Daddy’s Home 2 is ranked lower by the mere presence of Mel Gibson, whose cranky desperation to repair his public image by playing Wahlberg’s dad sweats through every frame of the flick.

Paramount Pictures / Picturelux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

16.Daddy’s Home

Gary Sanchez Productions

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, and Thomas Haden ChurchDirector: Sean AndersRuntime: 96 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

Looking to take advantage of the oddball pairing that worked so well under Adam McKay’s direction in The Other Guys, Daddy’s Home reconvened both Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell to mine whatever “fish-out-of-water” hijinks they can from the premise of the meek, new husband facing off against the intimidating, “tough-guy” first husband. However, whether Sean Anders’ direction never quite worked or there was an inherent sense of complacency with all involved, Daddy’s Home hasn’t aged as nearly well as The Other Guys and edges out its sequel in the mere fact that it spares the audience from an awkward, prolonged on-screen appearance from Mel Gibson. But for the purpose of this list, it’s also necessary that John Cena’s appearance in Daddy’s Home is really nothing more than a glorified visual gag in the form of a cameo.

15.The Marine

A marine in war paint stares intensely

Cast: John Cena, Kelly Carlson, Robert Patrick, and Anthony Ray ParkerDirector: John BonitoRuntime: 91 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

There’s something certainly disappointing that The Marine doesn’t embrace just how much dumb fun it could be, and there are glimpses of explosive, over-the-top action madness that hint at what could have been from John Cena’s starring role debut. And for what it’s worth, The Marine isn’t a grievously bad movie. While Cena is a little stiff in his first stint as an action movie lead, the movie is absolutely elevated by Robert Patrick, who is having a ball as the scenery-chewing villain. The Marine’s pairing of Patrick with Cena is also somewhat fortuitous, as the pair would eventually reunite for Peacemaker more than 15 years after the film hit theaters.

WWE Films / Album / Alamy

14.Playing with Fire

A disappointed man holds a smiling child in a room filled with foamy bubbles

Cast: John Cena, Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, and John LeguizamoDirector: Andy FickmanRuntime: 96 MinutesRating: PGRotten Tomatoes

If you’re a kid who loves John Cena or a parent looking for family viewing options that won’t grind your brain into chalk, Playing with Fire will likely work for you, as this family comedy about wildland firefighters who must care for three troublesome children is silly enough to not offend anyone. Subscribing to every trick in the “generic family film” book, Playing with Fire isn’t really going to impress anyone seeking something more substantial from their moviegoing, with the bright spot being the sense of energy that everyone in the film tends to match. The film doesn’t really do much for Cena outside of adding another starring role to his respective credits, but the film was a modest hit at the box office and helped further establish the pro wrestler as a box office winner.

Prod DB / Doane Gregory / Broken Road Productions / Nickelodeon Movies / Alamy

13.12 Rounds

A man with a gun in denim and a button-up shirt stands with concern in the middle of a street

Cast: John Cena, Ashley Scott, Aidan Gillen, and Steve HarrisDirector: Renny HarlinRuntime: 108 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

In his second starring role as a big-screen action hero, it’s immediately apparent that John Cena is more comfortable as an actor, as his emotional range is far more visible and his dialogue comes across more naturally than in The Marine. Luckily, his sophomore action vehicle is also directed by a far more capable filmmaker, Renny Harlin, with a pedigree that includes such major movies as Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea, and Die Hard 2, which helps improve the set pieces beyond most of its contemporaries, given the late-’00s were not the greatest time for action cinema. That said, outside of another superb villain performance from Aidan Gillen, 12 Rounds is largely forgettable, with a predictable plot that feels lifted from a myriad of better action pictures.

20th Century Fox / Cinematic Collection / Alamy

12.Psych: The Movie

11.Vacation Friends

Four adults in beachwear stare in disbelief outside of a vacation resort

Cast: John Cena, Meredith Hagner, Lil Rel Howery, and Yvonne OrjiDirector: Clay TarverRuntime: 103 MinutesRating: RRotten Tomatoes

Another gross-out comedy on John Cena’s resume, and arguably the first to truly show diminishing returns, Vacation Friends was a long-in-development feature comedy that could never quite come together over the years before eventually landing on the pairing of John Cena and Meredith Hagner with Lil Rel Howery and Yvonne Orji. Don’t get me wrong: Vacation Friends isn’t bad, and surely delivers a fair amount of laughs throughout, especially in a sequence in which Cena and Howery’s characters try hallucinogenic drugs, but the film just feels too familiar. One would hope they’ll be able to capitalize on the cast’s chemistry in the impending sequel.

20th Century Studios / Album / Alamy

10.The Independent

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9.Bumblebee

A general and a military scientist stare at a large screen in a futuristic war room

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and John OrtizDirector: Travis KnightRuntime: 114 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

The most recent entry in the Transformers franchise, I don't know if anyone quite expected this spin-off, featuring the fan-favorite character Bumblebee, to have somehow become the most human film of the whole series. Anchored by a really exceptional Hailee Steinfeld, who has proven her ability to bring life and believable suspension-of-disbelief in spectacle-driven studio fare as of late, Bumblebee also benefits from John Cena's dedication to "heeling it up" as the film's Autobot-hunting primary antagonist, even if it's not exactly Shakespeare that either actor is really working with. At the end of the day, Bumblebee's biggest success, outside of just being more entertaining than expected, is exhibiting that there is more life to be found in a franchise many had already disregarded as past its prime.

Alamy / Prod DB / Jaimie Trueblood / Paramount Pictures / Hasbro / Di Bonaventura Pictures / Allspark Pictures / Bay Films

8.Blockers

A trio of concerned parents look at an unfolding situation on prom night

Cast: Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, and Kathryn NewtonDirector: Kay CannonRuntime: 102 MinutesRating: RRotten TomatoesBlockers may not have had the pedigree of Trainwreck or Sisters, but this risqué comedy about concerned parents going to absurd lengths to prevent their children from engaging in sexual depravity on prom night is far funnier than one could have expected. With outstanding and even affecting performances from the adult leads, especially a more-than-game John Cena who gleefully dives headfirst into the film’s grossest gags, Blockers works as well as it does by treating its younger characters with respect and dignity, which allows performers such as Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, and Geraldine Viswanathan to show what they can do in roles that were previously one-dimensional in similar sex comedies from yesteryear.

Universal Pictures / Pixar / Entertainment Pictures / Alamy

7.Fighting with My Family

A dark-haired woman in a sleeveless shirt cuts a promo at the WWE Performance Center

Cast: Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, and Dwayne “The Rock” JohnsonDirector: Stephen MerchantRuntime: 107 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

Though Cena’s appearance in the film as his wrestling alter-ego is very limited, Fighting with My Family is ranked as high as it is because it’s simply a great movie. Following the real-life story of Saraya Bevis, (better known to wrestling fans as “Paige” during her WWE stint) who was raised by a family of independent wrestlers before getting her big break, the film is a legitimately inspiring tale that is further bolstered by a number of great performances (including Florence Pugh as Bevis herself) and the comedic sensibilities of director Stephen Merchant, which helps inject the film with both emotional realism and guffaw-inducing humor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Album / Alamy

6.Ferdinand

A bull and goat correspond with a small critter outside of a village

Cast: John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, and Daveed DiggsDirector: Carlos SaldanhaRuntime: 108 MinutesRating: PGRotten Tomatoes

A loose remake of the 1938 Disney animated short based on The Story of Ferdinand, Ferdinand is a computer-animated comedy about a pacifist bull, voiced by John Cena, who is forced to take on the world’s greatest bullfighter, challenging his beliefs in the process. A star-studded affair that also includes Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Anderson, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez, and Daveed Diggs, the penultimate production of Blue Sky Studios is actually a pretty solid family comedy and Cena really brings a lot of energy and sweetness to the character, even if the film is paint-by-numbers in terms of animated family fare.

Lifestyle Pictures / Alamy / Blue Sky Studios / 20th Century Fox

5.Trainwreck

A blonde woman walks hand-in-hand with a large, muscular man in public

Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, and LeBron JamesDirector: Judd ApatowRuntime: 125 MinutesRating: RRotten Tomatoes

One could argue that John Cena’s breakout moment on the big screen for mainstream audiences hit with his hysterically outrageous performance as Amy Schumer’s meatheaded ex-boyfriend in Trainwreck since the pro wrestler was able to command big laughs alongside Schumer in her first big screen starring role. But even beyond Cena’s committed and hilarious supporting role, Trainwreck is a fantastic time. It establishes both Amy Schumer and Bill Hader as dependable movie stars and brings about way more laughs than the majority of Judd Apatow’s recent overproduced misfires or as well as the mainstream romantic comedies that have churned out in the past few years.

Universal Pictures / AJ Pics / Alamy

4.F9: The Fast Saga

A scowling man in performance racing gear drives furiously

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, and Sung KangDirector: Justin LinRuntime: 145 MinutesRating: PG-13Rotten Tomatoes

Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ninth chapter of the Fast & Furious saga had nary a surprise left in its tank by the time it rolled into theaters, having had the casting of John Cena as Dom Toretto’s brother and the return of Han to the franchise both out in the open during its marketing campaign. Ultimately, F9 was a win for the franchise, with fans embracing both Sung Kang’s return as well as Cena’s arrival, with the latter providing a stoic and badass performance as he confidently stood toe-to-toe with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron.

Alamy / Prod DB / Universal Pictures / One Race Films / Roth/Kirschenbaum Films / Original Film / Perfect Storm Entertainment / Giles keyte

3.The Wall

A large American soldier stands ready with gun-in-hand near an oil pipeline

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, and Laith NakliDirector: Doug LimanRuntime: 88 MinutesRating: RRotten Tomatoes

An underrated and intense thriller from the director of Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Identity, The Wall stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena as a pair of American soldiers who are pinned down by an unseen, borderline mythical sniper near the end of the Iraq war. A mental cat-and-mouse war drama produced by Amazon Studios, The Wall works on the merits of its vulnerable performances, in which Taylor-Johnson, Cena, and costar Laith Nakli deliver in a big way while filmmaker Doug Liman goes back to basics to establish an uneasy tone to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Amazon Studios / Alamy

2.Sisters

A woman in a revealing dress flirts with a large, muscular man in a tanktop with a neck tattoo and a beanie

Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Ike BarinholtzDirector: Jason MooreRuntime: 118 MinutesRating: RRotten Tomatoes

There’s no denying the comedic power that emerges when both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler collaborate on a project, whether it be hosting duties for an award show, “Weekend Update” duties on Saturday Night Live, or their cinematic team-ups. Produced seven years after their PG-13 big-screen effort, Sisters allowed the pair to dip into more adult and provocative humor while dishing out pathos and giving their wonderful supporting cast their time to shine. Perhaps stealing the film outright is John Cena as a sexually intimidating drug dealer covered in bizarre tattoos, whose extensive and crude riff sessions with Tina Fey bring out the hardest laughs of the movie, bar none.

Universal Pictures / Cinematic Collection / Alamy

1.The Suicide Squad

A bloodied man in a red-and-blue costume holds a pistol in the wreckage of a building

Cast: Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, and Viola DavisDirector: James GunnRuntime: 132 MinutesRating: RRotten Tomatoes

The undeniable best film in John Cena’s oeuvre, The Suicide Squad is not only the rare sequel that outdoes the original at every turn but delivers in its own right from start to finish. Bringing back select characters from the first Suicide Squad, including Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, the show is really stolen by the new antiheroes, including David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man and John Cena’s particularly despicable (and hysterical) Peacemaker. In fact, Cena’s scene-stealing turn in The Suicide Squad appears to possibly become his legacy as an actor, especially given the positive reaction to his character’s spin-off HBO Max series, Peacemaker.

DC Films / Warner Bros. Pictures / Alamy