25. A Man Apart (2003)
As a left-for-dead DEA agent with revenge on his mind and a distracting goatee on his chin, Diesel looks suitably pained in this forgettable cartel shoot-em-up.
24. Babylon AD (2008)
A muscular mercenary ferries vital human cargo across post-apocalyptic Russia (call it Children of Meh). Director Mathieu Kassovitz claims his clunky sci-fi fable was scuttled by studio edits; Diesel’s autopilot glower seems unaffected.
23. The Pacifier (2005)
Diesel goes Disney: his family comedy about a by-the-book Navy Seal babysitting five unruly kids was critically kneecapped but discreetly lucrative. Our man gamely embraces both the dirty-nappy slapstick and equally mushy sentimentality.
22. Bloodshot (2020)
This comic book B-movie sprinkles some Memento-style mind games into its tale of a KIA marine turned unwilling super-assassin (nanobots are involved). Diesel can be a soulful screen presence, but reclaiming his character’s humanity takes a back seat to grunts and gunplay.
21. The Last Witch Hunter (2015)
Co-created by avowed D&D fan Vin, this effects-heavy modern fantasy casts him as a hairy Viking turned suave immortal enforcing an uneasy supernatural truce. It’s a dud, but early scenes with his holy sidekick Michael Caine have a pleasing Batman/Alfred warmth.
20. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Against the gaudy backdrop of LA street racing, an undercover cop (Paul Walker) cosies up to an intimidating wheelman to crack a hijacking ring. Diesel’s gravelly but regal performance as ex-con Dom Toretto anchors the movie that would (eventually) launch a globe-conquering series; its surprise success elevated him to in-demand leading man.
19. Fast & Furious (2009)
After skipping the sequel and only briefly cameoing in Tokyo Drift, Diesel was emphatically back in the driving seat for F&F round four. A franchise-resetting revenge story, it now looks like an Ibsen chamber piece compared with the overclocked blowouts that followed.
18. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
Ang Lee’s PTSD drama set at a glitzy gridiron game is an outlier on Diesel’s recent CV: not just a supporting role but one where he dies. Glimpsed only in Iraq flashbacks, his zen sergeant tells each of his jittery young soldiers “I love you” before a critical firefight. Vin’s beefy sincerity sells it.
17. Fast & Furious 9 (AKA F9: The Fast Saga) (2021)
By No 9 the self-declared saga was beginning to sag, struggling to effectively weld its OTT vehicular action to even soapier melodrama. If Dom v his little brother – played by big John Cena – promised fireworks on the enduring F&F theme of family, the end result failed to spark.
16. Find Me Guilty (2006)
For his comic take on the longest organised crime trial in US history, veteran director of courtroom dramas Sidney Lumet entrusted Diesel to carry the film. As a paunchy, ingratiating mobster who garrulously represents himself in court, his bewigged star takes that chance and runs riot with it.
15. Fast & Furious 8 (AKA The Fate of the Furious) (2017)
After the emotional highs of Furious 7, the eighth F&F instalment hinges on alpha male Dom betraying his loyal gang. The heel-turn is eventually justified – it is, inevitably, about family – but also offers a juicy glimpse of an unwalked career path: Diesel as irredeemable villain.
14. xXx (2002)
An extreme sports superstar is forced to infiltrate an anarchist terror cell in this Bond-baiting shoot-’em-up. Sporting wild tattoos and a flamboyantly fur-collared coat, Diesel turns what should have been an obnoxious meathead into a sly spy with knowingly sensuous swagger.
13. Boiler Room (2000)
This taut financial thriller sees wannabe stockbroker Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) initiated into the murky world of hard-sell cold-calling; his cocky colleague Chris (Diesel) has the eel-slick patter required to reel in wary investors. Chris is a shark, but the joy he extracts from performing is infectious.
12. Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
Episode six cemented the F&F marque as a globetrotting action franchise to rival Bond, with Dom and his scattered family recruited to take down a military-trained hijack crew. Skydiving cars aside, it is refreshing to watch Diesel navigate the emotional hairpins of being caught between his current squeeze and a back-from-the-dead ex.
11. Riddick (2013)
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 Cast Away.
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)
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)
The highest-grossing 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.
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.