15 Best James Franco Movies Of All Time

POSTED BY Bilal Nasir, UPDATED ON January 30th, 2024
Best James Franco Movies of All Time

Born and brought up in Palo Alto, California amid Silicon Valley, it was only appropriate that James Franco’s first prominent role was in the cult hit NBC TV show “Freaks and Geeks”. Since then, he has gone on to star in several critically as well as commercially acclaimed films as well. Let’s have a look at the 15 best James Franco movies of all time:


15. Tristan and Isolde (2006)

James Franco Movie Tristan and Isolde 2006

Based on the folklore of Tristan and Iseult the movie depicts the love affair between Tristan (James Franco), second in line to the British throne, and Isolde (Sophia Myles), the princess of the Irish King Donnchadh.

The relationship is ensnared in royal politics and threatens the truce between the two countries. In the ensuing war between British and Irish forces, Tristan is mortally wounded and dies in Isolde’s arms. The movie was panned by critics having failed to capture romanticism. Franco’s portrayal of Tristan garnered mild praise for him. Henry Cavill, who portrayed Superman, appears as Melot in one of his earlier acting roles.


14. True Story (2015)

Mystery Drama Movie True Story 2015

The movie depicts the story of Christian Longo (James Franco) who steals the identity of Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) and proceeds to murder his wife and three children. He manipulates Finkel into portraying his side of the story in exchange for journalism tips. Franco’s depiction of Longo was considered by many to be one of his finest performances.

In case you didn’t notice, the movie poster consists of a giant fingerprint pattern, made up of the word “LIES”.


13. Good Time Max (2007)

Drama Film Good Time Max 2007

Written, starred, and directed by Franco himself, Good Time Max is the story of two genius brothers Max and Adam, who drift apart in their lives. Adam who is more goal-oriented becomes a successful doctor, while Adam lacking ambition goes into a life of drugs and substance abuse. It was one of the earliest films directed by Franco and has received appraisal for its pacing and directional insights.

Bailey Hughes was nominated for the 2008 Young Artist Award for Best Supporting Young Actor in Fantasy or Drama, for his role in the film.


12. I Am Michael (2015)

James Franco Film I Am Michael 2015

The movie is based on the true story of Michael Glatze (James Franco), a gay activist and journalist who renounced his homosexuality after turning to Christianity. Whilst promoting gay rights and in a healthy relationship, Galtez (Franco) has a health scare (heart palpitations).

This, in his own words, brings him closer to God. Franco won critical acclaim for his nuanced portrayal of Galetz’s outspokenness for gay activism juxtaposed with his subsequent reversal of opinion.

Michael Glatze sold his life story for $ 75,000 for the film.


11. The Company (2003)

The Company 2003 Movie

The Company is a collection of stories depicting the life of various dancers, choreographers, and managers of the Joffrey Ballet. The movie subplots with the affair between Loretta (Neve Campbell), a talented member of the troupe poised to become the principal dancer, and Josh (James Franco) who is not associated with the Ballet scene as he is a chef (Franco prepared for this role of a chef by studying at a Chicago upscale restaurant).

The movie was filmed with complete and unrestricted help from the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Franco’s portrayal beautifully highlights the conflict between the priorities of both Loretta and Josh.


10. The Interview (2014)

The Interview 2014 Movie

The Interview is an action-comedy where Franco and Seth Rogen’s characters host a TV show named “Skylark Tonight”. After discovering that the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of Dave’s show, they hatch a plan to legitimize their reputation as serious journalists, by arranging for an interview. The CIA recruits them to assassinate Kim Jong-un. Hilarity ensues as Dave and Aaron are the two least qualified men for the job.

Sony Pictures was the target of a major computer hack in the run to the release of the film. It was announced that the hack was carried out by North Korea in retaliation for the depiction of Kim Jong-un.


9. Spring Breakers (2012)

Spring Breakers 2012 James Franco Movie

Spring Breakers was the highest-grossing limited-release film of 2013. It depicts the story of four college students who rob a local restaurant to fund their spring break vacations. Their vacation quickly devolves into a mix of partying and drugs until they are arrested. A drug dealer and rapper Allen (James Franco) posts their bail.

The girls soon find themselves on the path of real robbery, violence, and debauchery. The movie highlights the disjointed experiences by presenting the story in various flashbacks.

Franco’s performance in the movie divided critics with some going as far as labeling it to be “more bizarre than his usual performances”. Franco was nominated for several awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal.

Interestingly, Selena Gomez had to be ‘taught’ to smoke for her role in the movie.


8. Yosemite (2015)

Yosemite 2015

The movie is based on the book, “Palo Alto”, written by James Franco, and depicts the interconnected coming-of-age stories of three friends, Chris, Joe, and Ted in the autumn of 1985. Franco plays the role of Chris’s father. They discover a corpse in the woods on their weekend getaway to Yosemite. Meanwhile, Joe makes friends with a drifter as they share a bond over their love of comic books. Ted is worried about his missing cat as a mountain lion is spotted in his neighborhood.

Franco’s performance was praised for the sincerity of his character. The movie was screened at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival and received good reviews.


7. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

James Franco in Oz the Great and Powerful 2013

It is a fantasy adventure film considered a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Franco plays the role of Oscar Diggs or Oz, a magician circus who accidentally reaches the Land of Oz (Franco received magic lessons from the famous magician, Lance Burton to prepare for this role). He attempts to con the people of Oz into believing that he is the great magician.

Turning over a new leaf, he uses his talents to solve the problems faced by people. The movie was a critical as well as a commercial hit. It grossed a whopping $493 Million worldwide.


6. Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express 2008

The movie has Franco portraying a drug dealer again. While being with his loyal customer, Rogen’s character, they witness a murder and leave clues to their identities on the scene. Hilarity ensues as both of them have to make a run for their lives amidst the tussle between drug deals and corrupt police officials. Franco ran into a tree whilst depicting his character and had to get three stitches.

The film was a commercial success with international box office returns to an impressive $101 million. Franco was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role in the film.


5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 2 2004

The mega superhero movie, Spider-Man 2 (the digital effects in the movie alone cost a whopping $54 million to produce) saw Franco’s reprising the role of Harry Osbourne, Peter Parker’s best friend. Harry assumes the role of head of Oscorp’s research division after his father’s death by Spiderman. He bankrolls the fusion research of Dr. Otto Octavius, only to see it go wrong.

He makes a deal with Octavius for Spiderman’s life only to realize that it’s only Peter beneath the mask. Franco’s performance was considered an improvement in his appearance in the Spiderman (2002) movie.


4. This is the End (2013)

James Franco Flick This is the End 2013

This is the End is a disaster comedy movie with an ensemble cast. After an apocalypse strikes, the characters attempt to ration and survive the ordeal. The characters in the movie portray fictional versions of themselves.

The movie garnered critical as well as commercial success having grossed $126 million worldwide. The movie was nominated for a Saturn Award in the Best Horror Movie category.


3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011 Movie 

Based on the acclaimed Planet of the Apes, the movie has Franco portraying the role of Will Rodman, a scientist working on attempts to cure Alzheimer’s disease by testing drugs on chimpanzees. After a test chimpanzee is killed during testing after having gone wild, Will takes care of her baby, Caesar.

Caesar develops amazing intelligent behavior having inherited the effects of the drug from his mother. After being forced into a zoo sanctuary, Caesar assembles an army of apes and goes on a collision course that could spell doom for planet Earth. Franco’s portrayal of Rodman was considered by many critics to be warm, affectionate, and lovable.

Andy Serkis who plays the role of Caesar via motion capture also played the role of the ape in King Kong and Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.


2. King Cobra (2016)

King Cobra 2016 Movie

The movie is based on the true story of the murder of gay porn producer Bryan Kocis (fictionalized as Stephen) in the aftermath of his fallout with his famous star, Brent Corrigan. Franco plays the role of Joe, an up-and-coming producer who attempts to take advantage of Stephen’s falling out with Corrigan.

Franco’s character was considered by many in the industry to be a caricature. Critics were divided by the amount of violence and graphic scenes in the movie. The movie was released at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

The same actor-director duo, Justin Kelly and Franco, had earlier collaborated on another gay drama movie listed above, “I am Michael”.


1. 127 Hours (2010)

James Franco Film 127 Hours 2010

Based on the true story of the mountaineer and adventurer Aron Ralston, Franco depicts the real-life incident faced by Ralston whilst hiking in the Canyonlands National Park. Having his arm and hand pinned under a boulder, the movie depicts his attempts to keep his morale up by maintaining a video diary.

After being trapped for several days with low rations and no help on the way, he manages to free himself by self-amputating his hand. The movie was a commercial and critical success and Franco was nominated for the Academy Award for Best for his portrayal of Ralston.

Interestingly, the camera used by Franco’s character in the film is the actual one used by Ralston during his ordeal.


Honorable Mentions

We can’t resist mentioning these epic performances of James Franco as well:

  • Milk (2008)
  • City by the Sea (2002)
  • Memoria (2015)

Did we miss any of the best James Franco movies? Please let us know in the comments below!

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