16 Unforgettable Jim Carrey Movie Moments That Proved To Everyone How Great He Is At Drama

It is universally known to many just how hilarious and whacky of an actor Jim Carrey has been throughout his whole career. The entertaining goofball has entered the hearts and homes of many over the decades as a comedic mastermind. However, it can be argued that Carrey is equally as talented in the field of dramatic film as well. He began showing us all his range in 1998 with The Truman Show, in 2004 with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and as recently as 2017 with Man on the Moon.

Carrey’s acting chops have consistently displayed just how wide of a range the actor has, and sometimes it’s even enveloped within his most popular comedies. Ranker voters have weighed in on the iconic movie moments of Jim Carrey that most strongly show off his dramatic side.

1. The Ending Scene In The Truman Show

Photo: Paramount Pictures

One of the tricky things about acting is that if you’re playing a character who’s just had a world-shattering revelation, playing it subtly is way better than playing it broadly. That’s because if you go broad – which is probably how people would react in real life – it ends up looking like overacting. Playing it with a subtle touch usually reads better onscreen.

Jim Carrey understood that when he tackled the climactic conversation with Ed Harris’s Christof in The Truman Show. His character has just confirmed the devastating truth that his entire life has been the subject of a TV show. Reality as he knows it doesn’t actually exist. Carrey could have had a “big” reaction; instead, he shows the bewilderment it causes with just a few glances and some quietly spoken questions. The scene caps off with Truman realizing that this can be a moment of liberation rather than one of tragedy, and he embraces it. 

It’s a meaningful finale, thanks to the star’s wise choice to go subtle.

2. The Breakdown Scene In Me, Myself & Irene

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Me, Myself & Irene is a more important entry in Jim Carrey’s filmography than many people realize. He plays Charlie, a Rhode Island state trooper with a dual personality disorder. Whereas he’s exceedingly mild-mannered, his alter ego Hank is brutish. Renee Zellweger co-stars as Irene, a woman he’s tasked with transporting to New York. 

In a completely unexpected moment halfway through the picture, Charlie-as-Hank breaks down outside a restaurant. He gives Irene a painful history of Charlie’s life, including the fact that his wife cheated on him. Me, Myself & Irene first showed that Carrey could play a character who is intense and menacing. He’s quite good as the Hank side of Charlie’s personality. This scene in particular proved he could also bring truthfulness to a character’s inner pain. He makes Hank legitimately distraught in the sequence, which adds an important emotional beat to the story.

3. The Opening Scene In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Photo: Focus Features

Jim Carrey had an unusual way with his leading ladies prior to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He was always playing some kind of outrageous character who charmed a love interest with – or perhaps in spite of – his unpredictable or idiotic behavior. Put another way, he didn’t really play a “normal” guy when romancing Lauren Holly, Cameron Diaz, or Renee Zellweger. 

In Eternal Sunshine, there’s a scene in which Joel meets Clementine on a train. Able to finally play a regular man, Carrey instantly works up chemistry with Kate Winslet. And, in an interesting turnaround, she’s the one playing a character who’s very much on the eccentric side. The sequence marked the first time in Carrey’s career where he could really connect with a female co-star on a level where it was about emotions rather than comedy. 

That was a major shift for him, as he’d typically been front and center in his films. This is an early case of him being part of an onscreen romantic duo in which he had to work collaboratively to create a dynamic.

4. The Phone Call Scene In I Love You, Phillip Morris

Photo: Roadside Attractions

One of Jim Carrey’s most effective dramatic moments finds him not speaking at all. In I Love You, Phillip Morris, he plays Steven, a prison inmate who falls in love with another convict named Phillip (Ewan McGregor). After a series of events too complicated to recount here, the two are separated for months and Phillip is eventually told that Steven is fatally ill with AIDS. He makes a phone call, declaring his everlasting love for his partner, who – too weak to respond – listens quietly from a hospital bed, a single tear running down his cheek.

At this point in the film, Phillip doesn’t know that Steven is faking his own demise. But that’s another matter. The important point is that Carrey is extremely touching in the scene. His ruse is designed to reunite them. Nevertheless, the actor shows how Steven really is moved by Phillip’s words of love. Pretending to be sick and registering such important emotions simultaneously would be a challenge for any actor. Carrey executes it masterfully.

5. The Ending Scene In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Photo: Focus Features

The last few minutes of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind pack a wallop. Joel and Clementine have received audio recordings they made at Lacuna. They’re filled with unpleasant memories and unkind statements. Clementine is hurt and offended by things she hears Joel saying about her. 

In this sequence, Carrey makes sure we know Joel is hurt even more by his own words. He feels guilt and shame over having said them. In fact, as he sits on the bathroom floor, he’s just barely holding himself together. The actor nearly breaks down on camera during the scene, which drives home all of the story’s themes of love and hate, good times and bad times, and separation and reconciliation. 

It’s possible that he’s never appeared more raw or vulnerable onscreen than he is right here.

6. The Realization Scene In Bruce Almighty

Photo: Universal Pictures

Bruce Almighty has a lot of fun exploring all the crazy things a guy could do if he suddenly had the power of God. For all the scenes of hilarity, though, one of the most unforgettable moments comes when Bruce realizes that Grace (Jennifer Aniston) has been praying for him – a lot. He uses his omnipotence to look through her bedroom window, seeing her sobbing on the bed as she prays. His heart visibly breaks.

This is a life-changing event for the character, one that Carrey depicts beautifully. Up until this point, his character has been using his power selfishly. He’s gotten revenge against enemies and done things to give himself an advantage in wooing Grace. Seeing her praying for him causes the realization that her actions are selfless – the opposite of his. This proves a wake-up call, as Bruce witnesses firsthand how people who are suffering will often turn to God for strength or guidance.

That beat could have been saccharine in an otherwise silly comedy. Carrey avoids the pitfall, instead mining it for all its inherent meaning.

7. The Lloyd Monologue Scene In Dumb And Dumber

Photo: New Line Cinema

Dumb and Dumber is packed with goofy physical comedy, lowbrow jokes, and off-color antics. If that’s all it was, nobody would have enjoyed it as much as they do. The main characters, Harry and Lloyd, are so dim-witted that they’d be annoying without a reason to care about them.

Carrey provides that reason during the scene in which his character, Lloyd, confesses to Jeff Daniels’s Harry that he’s “sick and tired of being a nobody” and “sick and tired of having nobody.” He delivers those lines with such sincerity – and such sorrow – that we can’t help but empathize with him. Lloyd may be dumb, but he’s smart enough to know when he’s unhappy. With that brief bit of seriousness, Carrey earns our investment in seeing Lloyd find happiness.

8. The First Date Scene In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Photo: Focus Features

Joel is nervous, withholding the feelings he’s not certain how to describe. Clementine is more forward, perhaps even a bit pushy. She’s practically talking about them getting married already. Joel awkwardly ends their date, and she tells him to call her sometime. He walks home, enters his apartment, and calls immediately. Her response: “What took you so long?” Suddenly, Joel is all smiles, his anxiousness gone.

That’s a description of a key scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Carrey has to walk a fine line here. On one hand, his character is afraid to admit what he feels to himself, much less to Clementine. But by the end of that four-minute sequence, he has to credibly realize he’s attracted to her and wants to continue pursuing things. The actor makes viewers feel the weight of that, so when he ultimately rings her up, we sense the catharsis he’s going through. He conveys how Joel is repressed, but also how liberated he feels when he’s able to push through that.

9. The Goodbye Scene In Man On The Moon

Photo: Universal Pictures

It wouldn’t be accurate to say Jim Carrey played Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. If you know anything about Kaufman, you know that Carrey absolutely channeled him. Literally any scene from the film could be chosen to highlight the actor’s talents, but none has a bigger impact than the one in which Andy, at this point fatally ill, says goodbye to his manager George Shapiro (played by Danny DeVito who, amusingly, co-starred with the real Kaufman on Taxi). 

Carrey brings profound sadness to the scene, which finds Andy telling George that he wants to continue performing when he gets better. Both are fully aware, though, that he isn’t going to get better. We can see that the pain of knowing he’ll never perform again is tearing Andy apart. 

The sequence achieves its heartbreaking power because Carrey makes viewers feel the weight of Andy, a typically vibrant and energetic person, facing the end long before he’s ready.

10. The Installation Scene In The Cable Guy

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The Cable Guy was a notorious box-office flop when it was released in 1996. After a string of blockbusters, Carrey finally had his first high-profile misfire. A big part of the reason this comedy failed to connect with audiences is that he did exactly what he supposed to do.

Everything makes sense when you watch the scene where the cable guy comes to install cable in Steven’s apartment. He creepily caresses a wall, looking for the right place to drill a hole. He gives Steven (Matthew Broderick) an unnerving attitude. He ironically grows frustrated with himself for stumbling over the word “perfectionist.” 

The entire movie is based around the idea that the character is creepy and off-putting. Even though it’s a dark comedy and we’re supposed to laugh at Carrey, he dives into the cable guy persona so fully that audiences were left baffled. In the process, however, Carrey announced that he knew how to tap into his dark side, which opened the door for future career choices.

11. The Bridge Conversation Scene In The Truman Show

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Truman and his best friend Marlon (Noah Emmerich) sit on a bridge, where the former makes a confession. He confides to his pal that it feels like he’s losing his mind – that everyone except him is part of some big conspiracy. Marlon offers words of encouragement in support. Of course, he’s being fed those lines by Christof, but Truman doesn’t know that.

In this important sequence from The Truman Show, Carrey achieves an interesting balance. Early in the scene, he nervously conveys the paranoia Truman is feeling. That morphs into an appreciation for his friend’s kind words, followed by a moment of becoming emotionally choked up when Marlon says he’d gladly step in front of traffic for him.

Carrey glides effortlessly through a progression of emotions in the course of just a few minutes, never hitting a wrong beat.

12. The Testimony Scene In The Majestic

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Majestic is one of Jim Carrey’s most underrated films. In the 2001 drama, he plays Peter Appleton, a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter who consumes too much alcohol and drives his car off a bridge. He’s washed ashore in a small town, where the residents believe he’s a long-lost war hero. Peter has memory loss as a result of the accident, so he assumes they are correct. Eventually his memory returns, just as he’s called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Having learned a lot about what it means to be an American from the townspeople he’s befriended, Peter delivers a blistering rebuke of the HUAC members.

It’s the kind of triumphant speech James Stewart gave in Frank Capra’s 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. On the surface, you wouldn’t necessarily think to compare Carrey to Stewart, yet he taps into the same kind of All-American Everyman appeal that Stewart displayed throughout his career. Audiences had never seen him this way before. The Majestic, and this scene in particular, demonstrates an ability to project depth and decency, without a hint of self-aware joking.

Although nowhere close to being his biggest hit, this overlooked gem pointed Carrey in a new direction career-wise, as he sought to take on increasingly ambitious parts.

13. The Sylvia Sequence Scene In The Truman Show

Photo: Paramount Pictures

This sequence from The Truman Show finds Truman flirting with Sylvia. He comments on the button she wears, which reads, “How’s it going to end?” After asking if she wants to go out for pizza sometime, she indicates that they should go immediately. The two make their way to the beach, where Sylvia tells him that everyone in his life is lying to him. Then a man claiming to be her father shows up and drags her away, informing Truman that she has mental health issues.

It’s a bewildering moment for the character, who goes from thinking he’s connecting with a pretty young woman, to being shellshocked by a revelation he can’t get his head around, to completely not understanding what’s going on. Bewilderment is a tough beat for an actor to play, because it can come off seeming forced or, even worse, melodramatic. Carrey, through his facial expressions, conveys the idea that everything is happening so fast it’s making Truman’s head spin.

14. The Dog Bite Dream Scene In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

You wouldn’t think there would be a dramatic moment in an unrepentantly silly comedy like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but there is. Ace tells Melissa about a dream he once had in which he sustained a terrible dog bite. He lulls her into this story before getting to the punchline, which entails him barking like an angry dog to scare her.

The interesting thing about this scene is that it represents the single moment in Ace Ventura in which the character appears sincere. Amid all the facial mugging, goofy catchphrases, and talking out of his behind, Carrey demonstrated in this sequence that he could project depth if the occasion warranted it. 

As his career went on, he paid off on that promise again and again.

15. The Bookstore Scene In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Photo: Focus Features

The bookstore scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is unusual, to say the least. Joel is revisiting a memory of a conversation he had with Clementine early in their relationship as it’s being wiped away. Both seem to be aware that it’s a memory, though. The scene even ends with Clementine advising him to remember her. The crux of the sequence is that Joel is quickly realizing he doesn’t want to forget her, despite the sad end to their relationship and his subsequent decision to have all memories of her erased.

Carrey delivers most of his dialogue in a whisper here. That proves to be a potent choice, as it causes the viewer to lean in. We want to make sure we hear what he’s saying, almost as if someone is whispering to us conspiratorially. The intentionally bizarre structure of Eternal Sunshine necessitates finely tuned performances that are somehow realistic and fantastical at the same time. Carrey achieves this during the bookstore chat, highlighting the remorse Joel has over the end of the romance, as well as his choice to undergo a procedure that will make him soon forget his one true love.

16. The Climactic Confessional Scene In Liar, Liar

Photo: Universal Pictures

Liar Liar is, true to Carrey’s early form, a wacky comedy that affords him the opportunity to utilize his rubber-like physicality to hilarious effect. There’s a scene at the end where he poignantly tones that down. His character, Fletcher Reede, has been a louse of a father to his young son Max. After going through a series of humorous comeuppances, he finally develops a conscience. In the movie’s climactic scene, Fletcher vows to be a better dad going forward.

Jim Carrey is a father in real life, too. His daughter Jane was born in 1987, making her 10 when Liar Liar was released. In the confessional with Max, Carrey visibly taps into his own paternal feelings. Knowing what it’s like to have a child, he proves completely convincing when making a sincere promise to his onscreen kid. Fletcher is a compulsive liar throughout most of the picture, but he’s thoroughly sincere in this short sequence.

The bit demonstrated that, even in his broadest comedies, Carrey knew there had to be some sense of emotional grounding.