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Every James Franco Performance, Ranked

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture

It is impossible to rank every movie James Franco has ever been in. This is not just because there are so many (and there are 146 credits in fewer than 20 years, according to IMDb), but because so many of them are beyond classification — as movies, as TV shows, as class projects, as art installations. No actor, for better or for worse, more intensely tests our ability to decipher what, exactly, a “movie” is.

Franco has 17 listed credits in 2017 alone. Not only will most of these never appear on a movie screen, many of them will never be seen at all, particularly those that came out of his film classes at NYU and UCLA (even though they drew major star talent, including Natalie Portman, Kristen Wiig, Seth MacFarlane, and Franco himself). Actually watching these movies requires Herculean feats of research; trying to figure out what Franco performance is “best” in them would be a fool’s errand.

Thus, we decided the best way to rank James Franco’s movie performances was to keep it as simple as possible. Strip away all the art projects — of which there are so, so many — and the bit parts where he plays himself, and focus solely on the traditional released-in-theaters movies that most non-Franco, mortal actors must limit themselves to. Some of these are odd, Franco-directed side projects that may have only played in one theater — but played in a theater they did, so they count.

First off: Let’s omit the art projects and frivolities. Some of these are goofy larks; some of them are larger movies by established directors that went straight to VOD; some of them, well, we have no idea what they are. The thing that all those movies have in common is that we haven’t seen them, and you probably haven’t either. We sort of doubt that even Franco has. They are, on the whole, best thought of as Movie Flotsam. There’s surely some good stuff in there somewhere. But they are, essentially, driftwood, to us (and maybe to Franco himself?). Here they are:

Actors Anonymous (2017)
The Adderall Diaries (2017)
The Ape (2005) (also directed)
As I Lay Dying (2013) (also directed)
Black Dog, Red Dog (2015) (also directed)
Blind Spot (2002)
Blood Heist (2017)
Blood Ride (2017)
Blood Surf (2017)
The Broken Tower (2011) (also directed)
Burn Country (2016)
Camille (2008)
The Color of Time (2012)
Don Quixote (2015)
Everything Will Be Fine (2015)
Fool’s Gold (2005) (also directed)
Good Time Max (2007) (also directed)
The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards (2017)
I Am Michael (2015)
If Tomorrow Comes (2000)
In Dubious Battle (2016) (also directed)
The Institute (2017) (also directed)
Interior. Leather Bar (2013) (also directed, omitted from theatrical release because it’s technically a short)
I Think You Are Totally Wrong: A Quarrel (2014) (also directed)
The Letter (2012)
Maladies (2012)
Of Mice and Men (2014)
Richard Peter Johnson (2016)
Shadows and Lies (2010)
The Show (2017)
The Sound and the Fury (2014) (also directed)
Wild Horses (2015)

(Our favorite curios from that list: more than a dozen movies featuring Franco’s friend Scott Haze — who’s actually excellent in this year’s Thank You for Your Service — three seemingly unrelated movies in 2017 that all start with the word “Blood,” and Franco’s 2005 directorial debut The Ape, which actually has this as its poster.)

Then you have the bit parts in larger movies. Perhaps not surprisingly, several of these feature Franco playing “James Franco.”

Alien: Covenant (2017)
Child of God (2013)
The Dead Girl (2006)
Deuces Wild (2002)
Finishing the Game (2007)
The Green Hornet (2011)
The Holiday (2006)
Interview (2007)
Knocked Up (2007)
The Little Prince (2015)
Lovelace (2013)
Mother Ghost (2002)
Never Been Kissed (1999)
The Night Before (2016)
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Sal (2011)
Sausage Party (2016)
The Vault (2017)
Veronica Mars (2013)
The Wicker Man (2006)
You Always Stalk the Ones You Love (2002)

That leaves us with 36 Actual Movies that Franco has appeared in, giving relatively normal, human-actor performances. In these movies, you get some actual clarity as to what kind of an actor Franco really is. He’s smart, he’s daring, but he’s also a little guarded: He can sometimes come across like more of a concept of an actor than an actual actor. Which is why those little moments when he lets himself show are so powerful: There’s charisma and humanity and soul there, and not even Franco can hide it all the time.

With that, here’s a ranking of every James Franco performance, flotsam excluded.

36. Flyboys (2006)

Back when Franco was pursuing a more conventional career — in what was an industry-wide desire to turn him into Josh Hartnett — he had his first big “lead” role in this dull, pretty stupid World War I fighter-pilot drama that does its darnedest to turn the war to end all wars into a showcase for aerial boy bands. Franco took a pretty hard turn away from the traditional movie-star trajectory after that, and as weird as that path got, it’s still hard not to blame him.

35. Whatever It Takes (2000)

This teen comedy hit right as Freaks and Geeks was coming on the air, and it was a good example of the sort of mistakes that show was so smart about avoiding. Franco is a dumb jock who is a front for a nerd (Shane West, who ended up taking his own career turn; he’s now a punk-rock singer and TV actor) in yet another Cyrano knockoff. You can see a little here of Franco’s “heartthrob with a soul” bit that Judd Apatow understood so well on that show … but only a little.

34. Annapolis (2006)

Justin Lin’s follow-up to his terrific Better Luck Tomorrow is a dud in Franco’s trilogy of Waxwork Noble American Period Pieces. Franco plays a wannabe midshipman who ends up crossing his instructor (Tyrese Gibson!) while attempting to survive the first year at the U.S. Naval Academy. The movie is obsessively masculine in an overcompensating way, and you can see Lin trying too hard, and Franco not trying hard enough. Lin and Franco would go in opposite directions, but each found considerable success — enough success, anyway, to forget about this movie.

33. About Cherry (2012)

This sloppy, bizarre coming-of-age story about a girl named Cherry (Ashley Hinshaw) who stumbles into the world of pornography is nonsensical and weirdly distant; Roger Ebert amusingly said it was “a movie that suggests prostitution is something that just sort of happens to you, like Lyme disease.” (It also features a bad Dev Patel performance, right in the middle of his awkward phase.) Franco shows up as a wealthy lawyer who romances Cherry but also introduces her to cocaine and porn, and it’s a measure of how sort of gross this movie is that Franco is the straight-laced older suit guy. He also has some curious facial hair for a high-powered lawyer.

32. Why Him? (2016)

Released as a comedic alternative to all the “serious” fare last Christmas, Why Him? was mostly ignored by audiences, and that’s for the best: Franco hams it up in excruciating fashion as Bryan Cranston mugs all around him as the father trying to deal with Franco dating his daughter. This is one of those high-concept comedies that figured out the cast and then just assumed everything else would fall into place. It didn’t. This was a waste of time for everyone involved.

31. The Interview (2012)

We know many people who think this is one of Franco’s best performances — a big, brash turn as a soulless, sensationalist celebrity interviewer who decides to prove his journalistic bona fides by landing an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park). None of those people are writing this capsule, however, and we’re here to say that we find him absolutely grating in The Interview, a spectacular misfire of a satire that never finds the right tone. And Franco has a lot to do with that: As Dave Skylark, he’s meant to be the film’s so-terrible-you-love-him comic relief, but the character’s insufferable ego is never rendered in a funny way. Because of the controversy that enveloped this film before its release, The Interview remains more of a curiosity than something folks actually saw, which was good for Franco and everyone else involved.

30. Good People (2013)

One of the strangest things about Franco’s film career are odd movies like Good People, a standard, boring “thriller” that has no reason to exist and passes by so pointlessly that you wonder why he even bothered. He co-stars with Kate Winslet as a couple with money problems who come across a bag with $200,000 in London, take it, and then watch as their lives are complicated by the people looking for it. You’ve seen this movie a hundred times, and so has everyone in it: The movie barely musters up enough energy to rouse anyone from slumber. Franco could have made at least six Scott Haze movies in the time it took him to do this one.

29. Queen of the Desert (2017)

Remember that Werner Herzog–Nicole Kidman movie that came out earlier this year that everyone agreed was terrible and then no one ever mentioned again? Well, James Franco was in that, though not for very long and not to much effect. In fact, Franco looks a little bewildered by the stateliness and decorum of the whole enterprise, as if he thought he was signing up for Bad Lieutenant: Morocco Port of Call and ended up stuck diddling around in the sand. Werner Herzog and James Franco could, theoretically, do something pretty wild together. This ain’t it.

28. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Did you ever wonder what the man behind the curtain was like before Dorothy showed up? Well, according to Oz the Great and Powerful, he was James Franco, looking thoroughly out of his element in this stunningly garish green-screen prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It would be so easy to dismiss Great and Powerful as a Franco stunt — the serious actor dabbling in blockbuster cinema to expose its artifice and commercialism — but that wouldn’t do justice to how dull he is in this strained piece of fantasy storytelling. As Oscar Diggs, Franco perfunctorily plays a bumbling magician who gets swept up in a tornado and lands in Oz, where he encounters a cast (including Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis) that actually seems to be trying. Thankfully, it didn’t make enough money to necessitate a sequel.

27. The Great Raid (2005)

The story of a World War II rescue mission (directed by John Dahl before he became a heralded television director) is a little more pedestrian than you’d like, particularly when it comes to Franco’s performance, which is mostly checked out and even a little bored. These sort of real life stories of heroism don’t lend themselves well to Franco’s meta approach: Playing a real person — a prisoner of war, no less — makes it unusually difficult to deconstruct stardom. Franco has a tendency, in films like this, to disappear in plain sight.

26. City by the Sea (2002)

Franco gets to play the son of Robert De Niro — and there is no way those two are in the same gene pool — in this by-the-numbers, perfectly acceptable crime thriller about a cop (De Niro) who has to save his junkie son (Franco) after he gets involved in a drug killing. This is a New York movie through and through, which leaves Franco a little on the outside looking in: Franco is one of the least New York actors we can think of. (There is no way he was raised in any outer boroughs.) He does his best, and it’s fun to catch him in movies like this when he feels like he has something to prove, but there’s not much there there.

25. Tristan & Isolde (2006)

General rule: When James Franco shows up with flowing, clean, freshly brushed long hair … he’s not in control of the project. This Kevin Reynolds Dark Ages romance isn’t actually terrible — you can see an alternate universe here where Franco turns into Richard Gere — but it’s just another jacket Franco was trying on during this period of Hollywood misfires and odd fits. Also: There are moments in this when he looks disturbingly like Hayden Christensen.

24. Third Person (2013)

Franco’s third collaboration with Mila Kunis took place in this negligible Paul Haggis ensemble drama, in which he’s a New York artist who’s fighting for custody of his son with his unstable ex-wife (Kunis). There’s a third-act twist awaiting anyone who bothered seeing Third Person — don’t worry, all the different plot strands, including one involving Liam Neeson’s soulful author, will come together — and Franco is stuck in the same moody, somnolent funk that infects everyone else in the cast. Franco can do smoldering sensitivity without breaking a sweat, but that doesn’t mean he should.

23. Sonny (2002)

Did you know Nicolas Cage once directed a movie? He did! It’s not great, and in retrospect, completely insane that Cage would make it. Franco plays the titular Sonny, the son of a New Orleans prostitute who raised her son to be a gigolo, and it follows his desire to find a new life for himself. The movie is full of strange tonal shifts and odd asides, and it’s reasonable that Cage never directed again, but Franco still gives this strange character a grounded, mysterious presence. You can see why Cage wanted to build a movie around him; even when he is just sitting and staring wistfully into the distance, you look.

22. Your Highness (2011)

This Lord of the Rings spoof never entirely works, but Franco (reuniting with his Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green) seems amused playing the impossibly dashing and heroic Prince Fabious, whose brother is the uncouth, cowardly Prince Thadeous (PE costar Danny McBride). Your Highness has one joke — it’s like Dungeons & Dragons, but with nudity, swearing, and pot jokes! — and while sometimes that joke is really funny, more often it’s really not. Same goes for Franco’s performance, which is a clever riff on a Prince Valiant type, until it’s clear that that’s all it is.

21. Homefront (2013)

This weird little movie:

• Stars Jason Statham, who is on the movie poster wearing an American-flag jean jacket, even though he has a thick English accent throughout.
• Co-stars Winona Ryder and Chuck Zito.
• Was written by Sylvester Stallone (but does not feature Sylvester Stallone).

Franco plays a scary meth dealer named “Gator” in what feels like leftover detritus — sort of the remainder after a division problem — of his Spring Breakers performance. It’s not altogether unpleasant, and you do get to watch Jason Statham and James Franco get in a fight. Still: What in the world is going on with this movie?

20. The Iceman (2012)

Franco was originally supposed to play the role that Chris Evans ended up playing (quite well, we might add) in this real-life story about the eponymous contract killer who tries to have a normal family life and … fails. Michael Shannon is strong as the Iceman, even if the movie doesn’t quite hold up its end, but Franco has a nice, frightened scene as one of the Iceman’s victims. We tend to like a scrambling Franco: He’s more fun weaselly than as the hero.

19. Yosemite (2015)

Another of Franco’s experiments: Launching a 2013 Indiegogo fundraising campaign for him to executive-produce three adaptations of his short story collection Palo Alto. (This is maybe the most Franco thing ever.) The results were Yosemite, Palo Alto, and Memoria, and the nice thing is, all three movies are pretty good, and Franco’s pretty good in all three of them. Here, he plays the recovering alcoholic father of one of the movie’s three fifth-graders; he and his son find a dead body in the woods in the most moving of the three stories. Franco is better at playing grown-ups, even dorky dads, than he is often given credit for.

18. Palo Alto (2014)

The second of the three movies based off Franco’s short-story collection, this one is the most professionally directed (by Gia Coppola) and features the most traditional Franco performance, as a teacher named simply Mr. B who has some inappropriate moments with Emma Roberts’s protagonist. He’s creepy in an ingratiating way that, quite understandably, evinces considerable comfort with the material.

17. Date Night (2010)

This is a good place to mention that Franco was really funny in “Klaus and Greta,” a season-four episode of 30 Rock in which he plays a fictionalized version of himself who pays Jenna to pretend to be his girlfriend so as to dispel tabloid rumors that he’s secretly involved with “Kimiko,” a Japanese body pillow. A few months after that episode, he appeared with Tina Fey again for Date Night, a perfectly passable After Hours–style comedy-thriller about a staid married couple (Fey and Steve Carell) who get mistaken for thieves by some violent mobsters. Franco is one of the actual thieves — he’s a two-bit con man who sells stolen wheelchairs — and his scenes with his equally pervy wife (Mila Kunis) very much look like they were improvised on the set. None of this ever gets to the level of loony inspiration that Franco brings to his Judd Apatow–Seth Rogen work, but it’s a decently fun cameo that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

16. In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Around the time that his Spider-Man movies were drawing to a close, Franco did a brief bit in Paul Haggis’s follow-up to Crash. In Elah, he’s a sergeant who shows Tommy Lee Jones’s concerned father around the barracks of his son, a soldier who has mysteriously gone missing after returning from a stint in Iraq. It’s a small part, and Franco doesn’t try to fancy it up — his solid, stripped-down approach matches his character’s shorn head and stoic manner.

15. Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies (2002, 2004, 2007)

It’s strange to think that, after all this time and all the different projects Franco has tackled, more people have seen him in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films than in anything else he’s ever done. He’s certainly not bad as Harry Osborn, the friend to and eventual rival of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, but he plays the character with such pin-up earnestness that, in hindsight, the performance is almost distractingly straightforward. Also, it’s not remotely representative of what makes him such a fascinating and, oftentimes, incredibly frustrating figure. Spider-Man gave Franco a film career, and for better and for worse he’s consistently used that cachet to challenge himself, rarely doing the safe or even smart thing commercially.

14. Memoria (2016)

The final film on this list based on short stories from Franco’s Palo Alto collection, this is the best one, about a high-school kid named Ivan (Sam Dillon) who spends most of his time hanging around Palo Alto with his skater friends (including Keith Stanfield), talking about sex but never actually having it. It’s another tale of disassociated youth, and it’s not half-bad. Franco’s small turn as a teacher who attempts to inspire Ivan is filled with warmth and light in a movie that has little of either.

13. Eat Pray Love (2010)

This much-derided (but ultimately, you know, just fine, as much a fantasy film as Lord of the Rings that does its job just as well) Julia Roberts vehicle gives Franco a bit part as the dreamy young actor who our heroine dabbles with after her divorce. Franco smiles and tries to look like the perfect young thing in a way he rarely does, and it’s actually sort of freeing. It’s as if, in the presence of another, bigger star, he no longer feels constrained by being a movie star and thus simply is one. It’s a small part, but a winning one. We don’t think Franco will ever let himself play a part like this unreservedly, but in a small dose, it’s refreshing.

12. King Cobra (2016)

This is the real-life story of former gay porn star Brent Corrigan (real name Sean Lockhart), who ended up disliking the film. His massive success in the industry led to rival producers killing his primary director (Christian Slater), and King Cobra makes for an occasionally fascinating, cognitively dissonant drama. It’s alternately serious and campy in a way that doesn’t always work but is never not compelling. Franco’s actually pretty fantastic as one of the “Viper Boys” who want to take Corrigan away from Slater and end up murdering him; he’s dumb machismo in an increasingly scary way. Franco is playing a different kind of scuzzy jerk here than he usually does, and it works.

11. True Story (2015)

Franco and buddy Jonah Hill went dramatic for this true-life tale of a disgraced New York Times journalist, Michael Finkel (Hill), who discovers that a man (Franco) arrested on suspicion of killing his wife and family used his name when authorities tracked him down. Based on Finkel’s book, True Story chronicles what happens when the writer and the prisoner meet and get to know one another. Franco plays the convict with restraint and sensitivity — all of which make us wonder if he really could have done such terrible things. This is a more measured turn from Franco, but the movie ends up being too superficial in its examination of identity and the slippery nature of “truth” to fully connect. It’s a committed performance in search of a stronger story.

10. The Company (2003)

Featuring one of Franco’s best hanging-out-in-the-margins roles, Robert Altman’s underrated ballet drama focuses on Ry (Neve Campbell), who’s part of Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, putting in demanding hours with the troupe while trying to carve out a little room for a relationship. That’s where Franco comes in: He’s Josh, a chef who’s an artist in his own right. We’ve all seen hundreds of male-driven films in which the female love interest is relegated to the sidelines, but in The Company, the genders are swapped. Josh doesn’t entirely register, but he’s not supposed to — Altman and Campbell understand that, for someone like Ry, everything else will always take a back seat to dance. Still, Franco is awfully appealing as a bright, talented young man who recognizes that this romance can’t last — he plays Josh as a fond memory Ry will think back on one day.

9. Howl (2010)

C’mon, was it that surprising that Franco would eventually play Allen Ginsberg, one of the most revered poets and thinkers of the 20th century? An I’m Not There–esque study of the man, Howl jumps around chronologically, but it’s anchored by Franco’s admirably restrained performance. He nails Ginsberg’s cascading, halting speaking style — his performance of “Howl” is a marvel of oft-kilter cadence — and he also captures the poet’s sensitive, slightly distant manner. But it’s never showy, prompting one to wonder if the actor respected Ginsberg so much that he was a bit intimidated by the responsibility of playing him and didn’t want to screw it up. Howl was Franco’s first big dramatic starring role, and it sets the stage for the more high-profile ones that would follow.

8. Goat (2016)

Because Franco loves to cultivate the persona of a refined renaissance man, a change-of-pace turn like the one he gives in Goat is even more striking. This college drama dives deep into the macho mind-set of fraternity hazing, starring Ben Schnetzer as a sensitive young man who joins his brother’s (Nick Jonas) frat, only to discover how dehumanizing and ugly the experience can be. Franco has a small role, but it’s crucial: He plays Mitch, an alum who’s treated a little bit like a golden god by the current members — this guy was really fuckin’ crazy back in the day. But when Mitch returns to campus, he’s just another overgrown frat bro who may have reluctantly embraced domesticity but will happily return to his childish asshole behavior in front of the new guys to prove he hasn’t lost a step. Franco is believably awful as Mitch, who’s the grown-up version of the boys-will-be-boys jerks you see too often in your lifetime.

7. Milk (2008)

Sean Penn received most of the attention — and his second Oscar — for his portrayal of the slain activist Harvey Milk, but like a lot of love stories, Milk is only as strong as its main character’s significant other. Thankfully Franco is spot-on as Scott Smith, Milk’s longtime partner who is supportive but also tough on him, helping him to become the leader he was before his tragic murder. Franco radiates such uncomplicated warmth in Milk that you can see instantly why Smith and Milk would fall for one another. Smith swears he doesn’t want to get involved with an older guy, but Franco slowly strips away his character’s resolve. This is one of the actor’s least-fussy — and, therefore, most effective — performances.

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

When the first chapter of Fox’s Planet of the Apes reboot slash prequel hit theaters in late summer 2011, not many people were excited about a movie starring James Franco. Who could blame them? Franco had recently scuttled the goodwill accrued from his Oscar-nominated turn in 127 Hours by delivering a wretched performance as co-host of the Academy Awards, which only underlined the cultural impression that he was a dilettante trying to performance-art his way through life. What a pleasant surprise, then, that he’s so good and so understated in Rise, in which he plays Will, a scientist trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s by working with chimps — specifically, a young ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis). Something of a star-crossed love story, Rise requires Franco to dial back his ironic detachment to portray a good man who realizes too late that the monkeys are about to take over. Will’s farewell with Caesar at Rise’s finale has no right to be as affecting as it is, and Franco deserves his share of the praise for the moment’s poignancy.

5. This Is the End (2013)

Made by a bunch of Hollywood buddies playing off their established personas, This Is the End is a horror-satire that doubles as a surprisingly touching story of male friendship. But it’s also a great platform for Franco to do a gonzo version of himself as a pretentious, condescending artiste who is spectacularly ill-equipped for the Rapture. What makes the performance work so well is that Franco knows what you think of him, and he leans into that negative impression, giving us a really satisfying variation on every entitled Hollywood hot-shot actor with too much money and not enough sense. But, seriously, though, treat his porno mags with respect.

4. Pineapple Express (2008)

Franco might have been the biggest star heading into this David Gordon Green comedy, but he certainly wasn’t thought of as primarily a comedic actor. How surprising it was then that Franco was so hilarious as Saul, Seth Rogen’s stoned-beyond-belief pal who slowly stumbles into perilous situations but never loses his inherent sweetness the whole way. He and Rogen are so perfect together that they’ve been trying, with decreasing success, to replicate the magic. We could watch these two talk to each other for days.

3. The Disaster Artist (2017)

Lots of people can do impressions of Tommy Wiseau, the talentless eccentric who wrote, directed, and starred in the ghastly cinematic train wreck The Room. But it took Franco to really understand him. In The Disaster Artist, which Franco also directed, the actor nails Wiseau’s unfathomable accent, bizarre behavior, and inhuman laugh, all in service of trying to expose the crippling insecurity underneath this would-be auteur’s bullying bluster. The Disaster Artist encourages you to laugh long and often at Wiseau — the performance is an inspired bit of mimicry — but Franco very gradually complicates our relationship with this utter failure. There’s real pathos to Franco’s portrayal — an unshakeable worry of being exposed as a fraud — that feels bitingly autobiographical. It’s fair to say that Franco senses a kinship with Wiseau: Both men want to stretch themselves beyond the levels of their talent, which is a scary place to be, leaving them open to ridicule. The Disaster Artist is a comedy that’s also a confessional, and Franco brilliantly hides inside the guise of a public punching bag to reveal his own worst fears about himself.

2. 127 Hours (2010)

The film that gave Franco his only Oscar nomination also gave him nowhere to hide. As Aron Ralston, a climber and outdoorsman who, in 2003, got his arm trapped under a boulder in the middle of nowhere, the actor is mostly delivering a solo act in 127 Hours, which builds to the excruciating moment where he’ll have to sever his own arm in order to escape. This is one of those all-in performances that demands everything of an actor — it’s a physically and emotionally draining experience for the audience, let alone him — and Franco capably chronicles the sequence of emotions that bring Aron to his fateful decision. 127 Hours may be the quintessential “difficult sit” of a movie, but it’s his intense and empathetic turn that keep us along for the ride, no matter how brutal things get.

1. Spring Breakers (2012)

Seriously, look at his shit. The accurately named Alien is the otherworldly centerpiece of Harmony Korine’s neon-tinged celebration/condemnation of youth culture, and Franco plays him with such gleeful menace that you’re not sure whether to be entranced, amused, or repulsed. Spring Breakers brought together two outsider artists who enjoy mixing sincerity with irony, so it’s no surprise that Franco gets Korine’s antagonistic, WTF aesthetic. His performance is a stunt and a put-on — a cartoon creation that insists it’s real — and yet Alien somehow becomes the personification of small-town America’s greatest fear of the imaginary trashy reprobate who will corrupt its innocent daughter when she meets him over spring break. Mocking hip-hop’s bling-y excess and guns-and-hoes gangster fantasy, Franco goes beyond shtick to arrive at something genuinely hypnotizing and troubling in Spring Breakers. We’ll never hear Britney Spears’s “Everytime” the same way again.

Every James Franco Movie, Ranked