Vin Diesel’s breakthrough into Hollywood was when he broke into a local New York theater with his twin brother at the age of seven. Ignoring their intent to vandalize it, the theater director offered them small parts in a play, and Diesel’s journey in the acting career began.
Diesel had a rough run as a young actor trying to make it big in the industry. But eventually, he channeled his emotions into the short film Multi-Facial, which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. It was sufficiently impressive to catch the attention of none other than Steven Spielberg. The legendary filmmaker recruited Diesel for his Oscar-winning film Saving Private Ryan. Later, when Diesel lent his voice to Brad Bird’s tearjerker The Iron Giant, he began a path leading to his destiny of becoming the most recognizable action franchise hero of modern cinema.
Vin is best associated with the two action franchises xXx and Fast and furious series. If we include them in his top movies, they will inevitably dominate the list. So, here we have compiled a list of Vin’s top 10 movies, excluding the two action series, to surprise you with an incredible amount of other good stuff in his filmography.
Saving Private Ryan
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Vin Diesel and Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Edward Burns
About the movie: Even by Spielberg’s standards, the fatalities in “Saving Private Ryan” are gruesome. There is a lot of heartbreak, pain, and other negative emotions on display in this film. However, the death of Vin Diesel’s Adrian Caparzo has always been the most devastating. The German sniper’s execution of Caparzo is a masterclass in Spielbergian emotional manipulation. A dying man knows he has limited time but needs to find his father’s letter before the battlefield is cleared. It’s stunningly beautiful and utterly disturbing at the same time.
Vin’s Role: Steven Spielberg famously cast Diesel in “Saving Private Ryan” after being moved by Diesel’s 1995 short film “Multi-Facial.” Diesel may only appear briefly in “Saving Private Ryan.” Still, his performance is pivotal in setting the stage for the film’s final act. I cannot think of a better illustration of how even a small performance can have a significant impact.
The Iron Giant
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Vin Diesel and Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr.
About the movie: The Iron Giant is an animated movie that explores a cold war from a comforting perspective. Thanks in great part to Diesel’s contributions, The Iron Giant is now widely regarded as one of the best-animated pictures of all time.
Vin’s Role: Diesel provides the voice of the lead character, a war machine that learns he has a choice in whether or not he wants to be used as a weapon. In the same vein as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Diesel’s participation is also sparse here. The Giant only speaks in fragments, and Diesel uses only 53 words. However, Like Groot, The Giant also made quite an impression on the audience with very few words. All thanks to Diesel’s voice with the unique capacity to blend human and mechanical tones, allowing him to make an empathetic figure out of alien tones.
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel and Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David
About the movie: Like the best B-movies, “Pitch Black” doesn’t mess about and gets straight to the point. When a starship crashes to Earth, we meet its crew, and the scant details we’re given mostly hint at the wider cosmos they’re a part of. If you weren’t around in the early 2000s, it’s hard to appreciate why “Pitch Black” was such a hit with science fiction fans. At the time, the highest-grossing films were usually foreign horror films or the continuations of established franchises. Since science fiction has generally failed to live up to expectations, a low-budget, high-brow thriller like “Pitch Black” stood out.
Vin’s Role: Vin Plays Riddick. The character of Riddick exemplifies the type of hero Vin Diesel usually plays. His characters are tough on the outside but soft at heart, with a wry sense of humor that adversity has honed. Of course, Dom Toretto of Fast and Furious will always be Vin’s most recognizable character. Still, Riddick will always be the most intriguing. Diesel has shown his undying devotion to the part of Riddick by spending his entire career trying to preserve his existence.
Director: Ben Younger
Cast: Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi, Nia Long, Nicky Katt
About the movie: The stock market is a common plot point in Hollywood productions. Films like The Boiler Room are among those that provide an in-depth look at a system designed to help the wealthy get even wealthier. This fictional crime movie centers on J.T. Marlin, a fictional brokerage firm. Without a shadow of a doubt, we believe that the majority of the movie fans adored “Wall Street,” completely missing the film’s sardonic point.
Vin’s Role: If “Boiler Room” is any clue, Diesel has a true soft heart under his rough exterior. Diesel once again proves that he is in the most charismatic roles that require him to be the ugliest teddy bear possible.
An additional pivotal moment in Diesel’s career after “Saving Private Ryan” occurred with this film, as he competes in “Boiler Room” with another of his former “Saving Private Ryan” co-stars, Giovanni Ribisi.
Find Me Guilty
Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Vin Diesel and Alex Rocco, Peter Dinklage, Ron Silver
About the movie: Lumet’s debut, “12 Angry Men,” used a courtroom drama to examine the merits and flaws of the American legal system, and “Find Me Guilty” serves as a fitting companion piece. Based on true events, the film “Find Me Guilty” depicts the high-profile trial of 20 Lucchese criminal family members, once the largest in New York. DiNorscio, played by Diesel, is a low-level gangster who decides to represent himself in court. However, DiNorscio’s devastating trial would eventually catch up with both the prosecution and the defense.
Vin’s Role: Jackie DiNorscio, the character Diesel plays, is terrific, and the result is the best performance of Diesel’s exciting career. In “Find Me Guilty,” Diesel is convincing as the sad clown. This character is full of bravado but secretly wants to be appreciated by the rest of his family.
The Chronicles of Riddick
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel and Thandiwe Newton, Judi Dench, Colm Feore,
About the movie: In the sequel to Pitch Black, Diesel and writer-director David Twohy move away from low-budget horror and towards high fantasy. Many viewers of “The Chronicles of Riddick” cite the world-building techniques employed as the film’s most impressive aspect. There are failing civilizations, prophecies from the past, and a sense of scope that rivals the most expensive science fiction films.
Vin’s Role: Diesel’s Riddick in this movie is a character who fuses his penchant for passion projects with his appreciation for epic mythology and lavish spectacle. In spite of the fact that Twohy and Diesel would reconvene for a more direct approach in 2013’s “Riddick,” “The Chronicles of Riddick” remains the best example of how Diesel-the actor and Diesel-the producer cooperate admirably.
A Man Apart
Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Vin Diesel and Geno Silva, Timothy Olyphant, Larenz Tate,
About the movie: “A Man Apart” is an acceptable police procedural thriller. The movie depicts a DEA agent on the brink of insanity, with an unhealthy dose of skepticism. A second major player is a man known as “Diablo,” who takes over a drug cartel after its former boss is put in jail.
Vin’s Role: Diesel portrays DEA agent Sean Vetter. He delivers a surprisingly effective performance as a shell-shocked soldier, saving the otherwise forgettable B-movie Mexican cartel thriller. Even though “A Man Apart” is a mediocre picture, it marks a significant turning point in Diesel’s career. It helped Diesel take a giant leap ahead, which led to significant growth of his influence in the business.
Director: David Levien, Brian Koppelman
Cast: Vin Diesel and Jennifer Baxter, Dennis Hopper, Barry Pepper
About the movie: Among films on organized crime, “Knockaround Guys” is without a doubt a prime example. In “Knockaround Guys,” the mob is dying out in New York City, with only a handful of aging bosses holding on to the old ways. Reese (Vin Diesel) is the only one who isn’t driven by tradition and family, yet he’s still in the same position. So, a life of violence was inevitable for him.
Vin’s Role: Diesel plays a New York heavy, which, together with a childhood pal, goes to rural America to recover stolen mob money. Despite a stellar cast that includes Tom Noonan and John Malkovich, Diesel turns in the film’s strongest performance. Taylor Reese (Diesel) is not your standard muscle in a film with a postmodern gangster theme. But, even if the part doesn’t challenge Diesel to expand his acting chops, he’s still fun to watch on screen.
The Last Witch Hunter
Director: Breck Eisner
Cast: Vin Diesel and Rose Leslie, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Elijah Wood
About the movie: ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ famously draws inspiration from a Dungeons and Dragons character Diesel used to play at home. The final product includes all the complex world-building, and spell-casting one may encounter in a long campaign. His enthusiasm for Dungeons & Dragons inspired a 90-million-dollar fantasy picture he produced. Supported by a strong ensemble that includes Elijah Wood and Rose Leslie (formerly of “Game of Thrones”), “The Last Witch Hunter” proves to be a fantasy film with all the right accouterments.
Vin’s Role: Vin Diesel plays the title role, a legendary immortal witch hunter who must prevent a global pandemic. Anyone who knows anything about Vin Diesel’s career knows he is a huge “Dungeons & Dragons” fan. You can find many old YouTube interviews where he discusses how Dungeons & Dragons affected his storytelling. No matter how you feel about it, “The Last Witch Hunter” is exactly the kind of personal project that would never have been done if not for Diesel.
Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Vin Diesel and Brittany Snow, Brad Garrett, Max Thieriot
About the movie: The Pacifier, directed by Adam Shankman, is a family-friendly action comedy released in 2005. On a budget of $56 million, it made $113 million in the US and $198 million globally.
Vin’s Role: It’s an unwritten law that every aspiring tough guy in Hollywood has to play the lead in a kid’s movie. So, it’s not surprising that Diesel would pick to portray a Navy SEAL entrusted with protecting the family of an American scientist in a film like “The Pacifier.” The only distinction between other action heroes doing kid’s movies and this movie is that it genuinely worked.