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11. Riddick (2013)
Outlaw … Vin Diesel in Riddick. Photograph: Universal Pictures/Allstar
This thrifty threequel opens with the eponymous outlaw left for dead on another hostile planet. When different factions crash in to finish him off, it becomes a sci-fi slasher with Riddick as the bogeyman. But the opening act focused on his stoic survival efforts is the real meat: it’s Diesel’s
10. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
That voice like booming heavy artillery ensures a youngish
Vin Diesel stands out, albeit briefly, among the griping platoon of Spielberg’s second world war rescue mission. Poor Private Caparzo’s death – bleeding out while his comrades are pinned down by an enemy sniper – is one of the most wrenching moments in a film full of them.
9. xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)
Xander who? Nothing speaks to Diesel’s towering self-belief more than the fact that he thought moviegoers were demanding a comeback from the heavily inked secret agent he’d last played in 2002. But it ended up being a headlong cocktail of global spy-jinks full of hot people doing daft things. Diesel practically vibrates as their proud, purring ringleader.
8. Strays (1997)
“Not one of us was raised by a father …” Written and directed by its then 30-year-old star, the scrappy but compelling Strays is the tale of a New York City hustler trying to evolve beyond his peer group of immature horndogs. Clearly intended as a Hollywood calling card, it nails the now-familiar Diesel screen image: shaved head, tank top, defiant self-reliance.
7. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Name that Dune: this hulking sequel ditched the spartan thrills of Pitch Black in favour of a wildly baroque space opera, propelling loner jailbird
Riddick into a galactic ding-dong with a gothic death cult. On release it was regarded as such a clanger it stalled Diesel’s career, but two decades on, the hubris and heft seem pretty fun.
6. Knockaround Guys (2001)
Tough enforcer … Knockaround Guys. Photograph: New Line/Allstar
In this underseen crime story, a quartet of young mafiosi scramble to recover a cash-stuffed holdall that has gone walkabout in a small Montana town. Unlike his entitled, often cartoonish buddies, Diesel’s tough enforcer Taylor – who takes care of his two-fisted business with brutal efficiency – understands how the world really works.
5. Fast & Furious 7 (2015)
Fast and Furious movie to date is an emphatic demonstration of Diesel power: ripped rival Dwayne Johnson is hospitalised early doors so top dog Dom can butt bald heads with callous baddie Jason Statham. Wisely, Diesel also plays a crucial part in the extended but undeniably moving screen farewell to his late co-star Paul Walker.
He certainly is. Photograph: Richard Young/Rex features
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) / Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) / Avengers: Infinity War (2018) / Avengers: Endgame (2019) / Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) / Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (2023)
Is Diesel a wooden actor? Certainly when he is voicing Marvel’s beloved tree-like alien, exploring different inflections on his signature “I am Groot!” line. In the past decade, he has been a lanky wingman, a cute (but mute) baby and a squeakily pitched rebel teen. But in the newest instalment, both Groot and Diesel try some new things. Call it personal growth.
3. Pitch Black (2000)
When you crash-land your ship on a planet full of scary monsters, it’s useful to have a monster of your own. This low-budget, high-tension sci-fi survival thriller gifts Diesel the killer role of notorious convict Riddick, a slab of muscle with snazzy swimming goggles who seems genuinely amused by the dire circumstances. The result is a masterclass in badass.
2. The Iron Giant (1999)
Years before Groot, Diesel empathically voiced another intergalactic interloper, lending his death-by-chocolate baritone to the scrap-munching star of Brad Bird’s artful animation. In paranoid 1950s Maine, a young boy encounters an anxious mega-robot and – much like the audience – immediately decides this shy new friend must be protected at all costs.
1. Fast & Furious 5 (2011)
Your mileage may vary but the fifth F&F feels like the sweet spot in the now-sprawling franchise: brothers-in-arms Dom and Brian (Paul Walker) surfing a silver 1966 Corvette into mid-air; Dom’s courtly wooing of a local cop; a tight heist followed by the chaos of dragging a room-sized safe around downtown Rio. It’s roughly five movies crammed into one, and Diesel dominates them all.
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