Taika Waititi’s 10 Best Performances, Ranked


Taika Waititi is arguably best known for the films that he either directed, produced, or wrote the screenplay for. As a man with many talents, Waititi has often times overlapped these titles, sometimes going as far as to even star in the films himself. Films like What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit, and Thor: Ragnarök are a few such films. His screen time varies in these movies, ranging from supporting roles to full-blown leading characters.



Waititi is such a unique screen presence that he has even cameoed in other filmmakers’ movies, including that of directors Martin Campbell, James Gunn, and The Russo Brothers. He brings a lighthearted and sarcastic dry wit to his roles, and no matter how small, he has made an impression. His latest film, Next Goal Wins, saw Waititi feature in a humorous cameo again, so look back at some of his best performances.

Update January 23, 2024: This article has been updated following the release of Next Goal Wins and the cancelation of Our Flag Means Death with even more great Waititi performances you should check out.


10 Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Madman Films

2016’s comedy adventure, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, was simply a triumph, and it understandably came in for serious critical adulation. Waititi’s screenplay, based on the novel Wild Pork and Watercress, traverses the story of a troubled orphaned boy and his time in foster care under the guardianship of a couple, Bella and Hector, in rural New Zealand. After an initial attempt to run away from his new home, the spirited Ricky soon begins to settle in, before disaster strikes, and he flees into the wild.

A Small Cameo With a Lot of Laughs

Waititi’s direction of this brilliantly funny and full-bodied comedy is second to none, and his brief cameo as a minister is the icing on the cake as far as his contributions are concerned. Appearing in the funeral scene, he delivers a hilarious eulogy, filled with his characteristic dry-wit and a rib-tickling flippancy towards what is traditionally considered a sacred transition from one life to the next. Stream on Netflix

9 Boy (2010)

Boy
Transmission Films

Waititi’s 2010 indie comedy, Boy, was unsurprisingly created on a shoestring budget, but whatever it lacks in funding, it makes up for in charm and comic value. Traversing the tale of an 11-year-old boy whose estranged father returns home to locate a bag of buried money. Taika Waititi plays Alamein, the boy’s father, a career criminal and immoral lowlife who is not only a grossly incompetent serial offender but a useless father whose lack of paternal instinct renders him more of a jovial friend.

What Makes Haititi’s Display So Brilliant?

The on-screen chemistry between Waititi and James Rolleston is beautifully authentic and part of the reason this is such an underrated gem. Naturally, Waititi brings a charismatic likability to the role and imbues an effortless comedic presence. However, that comedic persona also highlights the tragic nature of the character, as he might be a good friend, but he is not a very good father and, at times, is only looking out for himself. It is a great example of Waititi using his sarcastic humorous persona to underline a sad reality. Stream on Paramount+

8 The Mandalorian (2019 – Present)

IG-11 The Mandalorian Disney+ Pedro Pascal Taika Waititi
Disney+

Jon Favreau’s Disney+ creation, The Mandalorian, a Star Wars spin-off, has amassed quite the following since it began airing in 2019. The series details the story of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), a bounty hunter who is forced to go on the run in order to protect the force-sensitive Grogu. Over the course of the journey, The Mandalorian and Grogu encounter many friends and foes along the way, sometimes the line between them blurs, and nowhere is that more apparent than the role of IG-11, who Waititi voices.

How Waititi’s Performance in The Mandalorian is One of His Best

IG-11 is a ruthless bounty-hunting android who is in pursuit of Grogu, who eventually is reprogrammed and made into the ultimate protector of Grogu and eventually a mobile vehicle to ride (with Waititi’s voice still in tack as Grogu can press a button that says “no” and “yes”). IG-11 is a vital character to the franchise and another example of acting and directing the series as he directed the season one finale, the very episode where IG-11 gets to display his most heroic act yet of self-sacrifice. Waititi is now working on a new Star Wars film for Lucasfilm. Stream on Disney+

7 The Suicide Squad (2021)

Waititi in The Suicide Squad
Warner Bros.

James Gunn’s 2021 action comedy, The Suicide Squad, follows an eclectic assembly of supervillains, namely Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, King Shark, Ratcatcher 2, Polka-Dot Man, and Peacemaker who are tasked with locating the Thinker, an evil, narcissistic scientist who plots to bring an end to humankind. In a film filled with colorful villains, Waititi has a small cameo in a flashback as the obscure villain, Ratcatcher, the father of the Suicide Squad member Ratcatcher 2.

WaititI Can Even Make a Cameo Great

The flashbacks show that not only did Ratcatcher teach his daughter everything she knew, but he had a truly tragic past as he was a drug addict who sadly overdosed. Despite largely being a comedic actor, Waititi gives a truly sweet and sincere performance, even if it is a brief cameo. Not only does casting an actor known for his comedic persona as a tragic figure tie into the idea that sometimes the funniest people have some serious demons they are struggling with, but he also gets to deliver the thesis of the movie: everyone, no matter how bad they seem, must have a place in this world. Stream on Netflix and Max

the suicide squad

The Suicide Squad

Supervillains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.

Release Date
August 5, 2021

Runtime
2hr 12min

6 Lightyear (2022)

Taika Waititi in Lightyear
Walt Disney Studios

Lightyear told the story of Buzz Lightyear, best known from the Toy Story franchise. Alongside fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe co-star Chris Evans, Waititi starred as Mo Morrison, a man looking for a new adventure — just not one that could get him killed. He originally joined the Junior Zap Patrol, thinking it would be a good workout, only to find out that’s not the case. When Buzz Lightyear meets up with the rest of the patrol, they all join forces to fight Zurg and his army of evil robots.

What Makes Waititi’s Display So Brilliant?

While only reduced to a supporting capacity, once again, Waititi’s performance as Mo Morrison brings the comedy, albeit in a performance that is one of an understated, more measured nature. His delayed response and dopiness are thoroughly endearing qualities and ones that are a solid addition to the film. Stream on Disney+

Lightyear

Lightyear

The story of Buzz Lightyear and his adventures to infinity and beyond. Chris Evans, Taika Waititi and James Brolin star in this Pixar animated film.

Release Date
June 17, 2022

Director
Angus MacLane

Runtime
1hr 40min

Related: Why Lightyear Underperformed at The Box Office

5 Free Guy (2021)

Taika Waititi in Free Guy
20th Century Studios

In the action-comedy film Free Guy, Waititi plays the antagonist, Antwan Hovachelik. The egotistical, money-hungry character is the founder and CEO of Soonami Studios. It’s this studio that stole the codes for the enhancement of the fictional open-world video game “Free City.” He is a perfect send-up of corporate business evil and tech-bro culture.

Why Waititi’s Performance is So Funny

In this video-game-themed film, Waititi plays the villain to Ryan Reynolds’ protagonist, Guy (a fun reunion for the duo as they previously worked together on Green Lantern). When he finds out about Guy’s popularity, he tries to get rid of him. Throughout most of the film, he tries feverishly to maintain control, although his employees do not care for him. Waititi effortlessly slips between a narcissistic force of evil, whose menace is tangible, and a rib-tickling source of amusement. Stream on Disney+

Free Guy

Free Guy

Release Date
August 13, 2021

Runtime
1hr 55min

4 Our Flag Means Death (2022 – 2023)

Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby looking conerned in Our Flag Means Death.
Max

Our Flag Means Death was recently canceled by Max, but the series is certainly one of their best. The series ran for two seasons and was a period romantic comedy takes place in the 18th Century Golden Age of Piracy. The series follows the misadventures of gentleman-turned-pirate Stede Bonnet, played by Rhys Darby. Along with his crew aboard their ship, Revenge, they try to make a name for themselves as pirates. Shortly into the series, they meet up with Waititi’s character, Blackbeard, who is a famed pirate captain who is bored with his life and the midst of a grapple with existentialism.

What Makes Waititi’s Display So Great?

There is an air of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow about Waititi’s depiction of Blackbeard, both in a theatrical sense and in aesthetic, which certainly bodes well for the translation of the series. As the series goes on, more layers are revealed about this Blackbird, from his violent persona hiding the sensitive soul who also begins to fall in love with Stede Bonnet, and the two must grapple with being both captains and romantic partners. Waititi is hilarious in the role, but it is clear this is one of his most complex characters and one that Waititi likely could have played even in a more straightforward biopic (but that would not have been as fun). Stream on Max

Related: Our Flag Means Death: Famous Pirates That Could Appear in Season 2

3 Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Jojo Rabbit - Taika Waititi
Fox Searchlight Pictures

2019’s Jojo Rabbit presented Waititi’s fanciful take on a young boy’s experiences of Nazi Germany and his commitment to the infamous Hitler Youth. Buying into the extremist Nazi ideals, Jojo Betzler discovers a Jewish girl hiding in his house and is forced to reflect upon his own views and that of the ones being enforced by the fascist dictatorship in power.

What Makes Waititi’s Performance in Jojo Rabbit So Great?

Waititi portrays Adolf Hitler in one of the funniest, most deeply satirical displays of the notorious mustachio’d tyrant ever seen on the big screen. Appearing as Jojo’s imaginary friend, this unserious yet devilish influence is as hilarious as he is devious, and Waititi steals the show, being the predominant source of the film’s comedy. Tackling the role of Hilter can be challenging, but Waititi wisely remembers to make him the constant source of the joke and that he could only be seen as cool to a child who doesn’t know any better. Rent on Apple TV+

2 Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

taika waititi in thor ragnorok
Walt Disney Pictures

Thor: Ragnarok is often praised as one of the best Marvel films and one of Waititi’s best movies, and rightly so. Thanks to Taika Waititi’s directorship, the film was both a critical and commercial triumph, banking $850 million at the box office. The film traverses Thor’s escape and ultimate objective: to save his home from imminent destruction. Waititi also plays one of the breakout characters of the film: Korg.

Why His Display in Thor: Ragnarok is One of His Best

Korg is a Kronan warrior who tried to start a revolution but failed because he didn’t print enough pamphlets. He finds himself on Sakaar, where he, like Thor, is part of the Grandmaster’s Contest of Champions. When Thor and Valkyrie begin their escape plan, Korg and his other friend, Miek, join forces with the pair. From his dexterous skill as a director to his hilarious performance as Korg, he is arguably one of the best parts of the film. Waititi places himself in the role of Korg, and perhaps unsurprisingly, as is such a common theme in his past work, does much of the film’s comedic heavy lifting. He has since become a major part of the MCU, appearing in Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love and Thunder, and What If…? Stream on Disney+

1 What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows - Taika Waititi
Madman Pictures

As one of the best mockumentaries ever made, What We Do in the Shadows, co-written by Waititi and Jemaine Clement, tells the story of vampires who are centuries old. This enigmatic trio of vampires have to contend with the demands of not just their primitive states but also the difficulties of adjusting to modern life, from trying to get into nightclubs to keeping up with rent payments. The critically acclaimed 2014 film inspired the 2019 multiple-season series of the same name on FX.

Why His Best Performance is What We Do in the Shadows

The Boy auteur features as Viago, along with fellow writer Clement, who stars as Vladislav, two of the three vampires who live together in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. Viago is arguably the most outlandish and eccentric of the three blood-sucking creatures, his comic timing is simply impeccable, and while the three of them all amalgamate to create this cacophony of comedy, Waititi’s display balances profanity and witty quips that help this film retain its cult-like status. Rent on Apple TV+ and Prime

Watch MovieWeb’s interview with Taika Waititi and Jaiyah Saelua regarding the film Next Goal Wins.



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