Chris Evans is one of Hollywood’s most charismatic leading men of his generation. The actor has charmed and worked his way into some of the century’s most high-profile acting roles. Look no further than Captain America, an unprecedented phenomenon of the big screen that made Evans a household name. Today, the character of Captain America is almost inseparable from the prolific actor, and most audiences likely associate him most closely with that role. Since finishing his time in the MCU the actor has branched out with high-profile films like Knives Out, Lightyear, The Gray Man, and even the poorly-received romantic comedy Ghosted.
Updated January 21st, 2024: This article has been updated with more films from Chris Evans’ career before he was Captain America as well as new information on his upcoming films.
But before striking it big with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Evans had already built up a filmography with interesting titles. From some underwhelming superhero projects to crime thrillers and even high-school comedies, the man had already proved himself as a versatile talent before becoming America’s favorite superhero. Some of these ventures were a vibrant success, and others admittedly left quite a bit to be desired. Despite it all, these films all share the lovable beating heart of Chris Evans, who regularly delivers an engrossing performance.
11 Battle for Terra (2007)
Humanity is a colonizing force in the 2007 animated science fiction film Battle for Terra. Facing annihilation, the natives of the planet Terra must do everything in their power to fight off the human colonizing force. In other words, a plot that’s been done before, and better.
Why Battle for Terra Ranks Low
Chris Evans’ performance in the film is nothing to write home about, as his character isn’t a big part of the main events of the story. Still, the film is a straightforward science fiction adventure that is frequently compared as a predecessor to 2009’s Avatar. Though, admittedly, it lacked the technical prowess required to create the same dazzling visuals, and its kid-friendly narrative prevents it from really delving into its themes.
10 Cellular (2004)
Cellular is a genuinely hilarious concept for a movie, a type of script born out of the minds of studio executives that leaves audiences wondering what the line is between an extended advertisement and an actual story. After a biology teacher (Kim Basinger) is kidnapped, she comes up with a convoluted series of schemes to send word for help using a broken telephone. The events of this kidnapping plot revolve (in a plastic, unnatural way) around the technology of the cell phone. Some phones lose reception in certain areas in this film, while some refuse to cooperate and others have seemingly magical qualities.
Why Cellular Ranks Low
This is fiction speculating on technology in a rote, contrived way that, many years later, comes off as wonderfully ironic and antiquated. Chris Evans plays Ryan, an average person that gets caught up in the kidnapping scheme and has to use his resourcefulness to help rescue the victim. Evans’ desperation and gravitas bring a much-needed anchor to the film, which threatens to get carried away with its strange fixation on cellular technology. The film also remains a fun relic of the early 2000s, when affordable cell phones were just breaking into the mainstream, and makes for an entertaining time capsule.
9 Puncture (2011)
Release Date September 23, 2011
Puncture is based on the real-life story of Michael David Weiss, an attorney and drug user who championed a case related to the implementation of safer, single-use syringes in medical spaces. A harrowing story with a flawed hero at the front, the film unfortunately suffers from some rote and familiar storytelling that bogs down its interesting premise.
Why Puncture Ranks Low
At each turn, however, Chris Evans has all the talent required to bring depth and humanity to the troubled attorney. His struggles with addiction form a heated contrast with the heart of a servant, creating a portrait of a man doomed to failure by his vices. It’s worth a watch to see Evans bring impeccable charisma to the role, which becomes the film’s saving grace.
8 What’s Your Number? (2011)
What’s Your Number was released in 2011, the same year as Captain America: The First Avenger, and in many ways is the last entry in what Evans’ career was like before joining the MCU. It is a fun romantic comedy where Evans is cast as the lovable romantic lead. He is charming, and slightly immature, but in a flirtatious way that is what audiences associated the star with.
Why What’s Your Number? Ranks Low
The film focuses on Ally, played by Anna Faris, who decides to track down all of her 19 exes to see if any of them are the one she is meant to marry. Evans plays her musician neighbor and the eventual romantic interest, and his boyish charms are an indicator that anyone would want to be with him. What’s Your Number? might be a simple and often unconvincingly-written romantic comedy, but the chemistry between the two stars makes for an entertaining enough watch.
7 TMNT (2007)
Release Date March 23, 2007
Before becoming Captain America, Chris Evans still had a reputation as an actor in comic book movies. Not only was he in The Fantastic Four movies and would do Scott Pilgrim vs the World, but he lent his voice to the character of Casey Jones in the 2007 animated film, TMNT. Though, in terms of box office receipts, TMNT skewed more Scott Pilgrim or The Losers than 2005’s Fantastic Four or Captain America: Civil War.
Why TMNT Ranks Low
Evans makes for an ideal Casey Jones, with a fun carefree attitude with a great sense of humor but also a hint at maturity as the character contemplates his life with April O’Neil. Overall, TMNT is a fresh spin on the heroes in a half-shell and is a solid take on the characters, but now Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has shown how a Ninja Turtles animated movie should really be done, and TMNT looks more like the middling (but heartfelt) installment it truly is.
6 Fantastic Four (2005) / Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
2005’s Fantastic Four and the 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer are both mixed bags. While they were not beloved by critics and fans at the time, they were genuinely enjoyed by mainstream audiences to a degree, and after the 2015 failed reboot of the franchise, the films look better by comparison. Chris Evans’ performance as Johnny Storm is one of the elements most fans tend to agree the films got right, as he captured the charm and cockiness associated with the Human Torch.
Why Fantastic Four Is Right In the Middle
He was so good in the part that fans at first had a hard time imagining him playing Captain America when he was first cast in the part. If Evans were to return to the MCU, there is a chance he would not reprise his role as Captain America, but the Multiverse Saga would allow Evans to reprise his role as the Human Torch one last time. It would be complex, but pretty neat all the same.
5 The Losers (2010)
March and April 2010 were interesting months for cinema. For one, midnight releases were still a thing, which actually gave each and every movie a bit of an event feel, including The Losers (and Kick-Ass, Clash of the Titans, even the wretched A Nightmare on Elm Street remake). And yet, even though it was released towards the beginning of the MCU, and prior to the start of the DCEU, The Losers fell victim to being one comic book film too many. Not to mention, the marketing did much to help it stand out.
Why The Losers Ranks Higher
However, The Losers is (oddly enough) one of those movies that gets a little better each time one watches it. It’s action packed and loaded with cast members who were just short of fame (Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldaña, and Idris Elba). And, while everyone seems like they’re genuinely having fun, the scene-stealer is Evans as the goofy hacker Jensen. Even when his comedic scenes are a little shoddily-written, Evans sells the hell out of them.
4 Street Kings (2008)
A gritty look at the LAPD’s war on drugs, Street Kings is arguably David Ayer’s most underrated film to date. In the movie, Evans portrays Detective Paul “Disco” Diskant, who is pretty low in level at the department but high in ambition. And, even though he’s not the lead and doesn’t really play a part until the second half, Evans’ character has the most well-drawn arc of the entire film.
Why Street Kings Ranks High
If any of David Ayer’s movies seem fully in his wheelhouse (considering he made his big break as screenwriter on Training Day), it’s Street Kings, or the film that directly preceded it: Harsh Times (also quite underrated). Street Kings, like Harsh Times, works because it packs a genuine punch. A stereotypical crowd-pleasing Hollywood picture this is not, and while that can mean it’s tone may be off-putting to some, for the most part it’s a very accessible film (that honestly could have done well with a two-and-a-half hour runtime).
3 Not Another Teen Movie (2001)
Not Another Teen Movie is, as the title suggests, a parody of teen movies like Pretty In Pink, Varsity Blues, American Pie, and many more. Evans plays Jack Wyler, a riff on the popular jock troupe, and delivers a spot-on comedic performance. Evans naturally looks like an all-American high school hero, which is what worked for his sincerity as Captain America, but in Not Another Teen Movie his appearance is utilized to perfect comedic effect.
Why Not Another Teen Movie Ranks High
Much to Evans’ credit, especially so early in his career, he dives all the way into the spoof’s silly tone. Not Another Teen Movie is the movie that defined Evan’s early Hollywood career as a funny handsome leading man and the performance still stands as one of his best. It may not be high art, but it’s far, far better than one might guess just by looking at the DVD case.
2 Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
This electric action-comedy film directed by Edgar Wright has already achieved legendary renown for its unique spin on its comic-book source material. Lazy musician Scott Pilgrim develops a crush on one Ramona Flowers and realizes he has to defeat six of her evil exes in stylish combat in order to win her heart. These extended action sequences set to gripping music and creative visuals are at the heart of what makes Scott Pilgrim vs the World such an enjoyable thrill ride.
Why Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Rank High
Chris Evans plays Lucas, one of Flowers’ exes, who is himself a Hollywood actor and a skateboarder. The hilarious contrast between the arrogant, muscled Evans and the quiet Michael Cera is a gut-busting force in this beloved movie. Some describe certain elements of Scott Pilgrim as problematic, but Evans’ wit and charm are undeniable.
1 Sunshine (2007)
Sunshine is a 2007 science fiction thriller directed by Danny Boyle that evokes the same existential dread of open space as Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky. Astronauts aboard the spaceship Icarus II attempt a suicide mission of jump-starting the sun to reintegrate heat and warmth into Earth’s ecosystem. Chris Evans plays James Mace, the engineer aboard the ship with a stoic, uncompromising moral backbone that acts as the glue between the ship’s crew.
Why Sunshine Is Chris Evans’ Best Movie Before Captain America
After suffering from a series of setbacks, the members of the crew begin making personal sacrifices to ensure the completion of their mission. In other words, Sunshine is as proficient in crafting well-drawn characters as the complexities of the desperate situation surrounding them. It’s a depressing and enthralling tale of human bravery and ingenuity, and Evans’ physicality and presence carry these elements to their zenith in this film. Simply put, Sunshine is one of the most underrated sci-fi films of the century so far.