Zac Efron's Best Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

He's grown up a lot since 'High School Musical!' Discover Zac Efron's 10 best movies, ranked by Metascore.
by Hedy Phillips — 

Zac Efron

James Van Evers / Getty Images

Comedy lovers are no doubt already very familiar with Zac Efron's work, if you consider how many funny movies he's been in over the years (17 Again, Neighbors, Baywatch, to name a few). If you go back to the beginning, though, the actor's big break came by way of Disney Channel's High School Musical (though he did have a few TV roles even before that, including in Summerland). Starring in High School Musical in 2006 firmly cemented him as a heartthrob of his generation and an actor who would likely be around for quite awhile. 

And that was exactly the case. Efron landed a number of movie roles after that, including two sequels to High School Musical, plus a reboot of Hairspray. Rather than box himself into the musical genre, though, expanded across genres and really flexed his acting chops with projects from Me and Orson Welles, to The Greatest Showman and Liberal Arts. Over the years, he collected a number of nominations and awards for his work, including Peoples' Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and MTV TV & Movie Awards. Efron even has a Daytime Emmy Award that he won for the docuseries he released on Netflix in 2020, Down to Earth with Zac Efron

The beauty of Efron's résumé is that there's something for everyone — musicals, dramas to make you cry, stoner comedies to make you laugh, animated features, and more. If you want to cue up an Efron movie tonight, you have a lot of great material to choose from. 

Here, Metacritic highlights the best movies Efron has acted in, ranked by Metascore.

Hairspray (2007)

Metascore: 81
Best for: Fans of musicals
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 117 minutes

For Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), the dream is to land a gig on The Corny Collins Show. Not only would she get to dance her heart out on every TV screen across Baltimore, but she would get to do it alongside the dreamy Link Larkin (Efron). Things start looking up when she lands a spot on the show, along with a spokesperson job for the Hefty Hideaway Boutique. All that's left on her to-do list is to be crowned Miss Teenage Hairspray … and maybe to make Link her official boyfriend.

"A feel-good musical that, for a change, actually makes you feel good." — Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor

The Disaster Artist

Metascore: 76
Best for: Fans of The Room
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 104 minutes

If you've already seen Tommy Wiseau's The Room, you absolutely must watch The Disaster Artist — the movie about the movie. It's not a documentary, but still, dramatizing the colorful personalities who made such a poorly reviewed film (The Room has a 9 Metascore) that became a cult classic is ripe for entertainment. James Franco stars as Wiseau in the movie that he also directed and produced. The Disaster Artist gives you a slightly fantastical look at how Tommy and his best friend Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) doggedly went after making this movie that has become a cult classic in cinematic history. Efron pops up as former actor and Olympian Dan Janjigian in The Room, and the real Wiseau himself is, of course, in it as well.

"The laughs, as they say, keep coming." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Me and Orson Welles

Metascore: 73
Best for: Fans of Old Hollywood but with a modern cast
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 114 minutes

Teenager Richard Samuels (Efron) hoped to one day find himself on stage — perhaps one as big as Broadway. And when he randomly meets Orson Welles (Christian McKay) one day, that dream starts to become a reality. The revered director plucks Richard off the street to be in a Broadway show, but the young man soon learns that a lot of hard work and unfairness goes into building a production. Though he butts heads with Orson on occasion, he knows this will set up his future if all goes well.

"Art is a fairy tale we choose to believe in, and this movie, a fiction confected about real people, is too good not to be true." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times

High School Musical 2

Metascore: 72
Best for: Fans of fun musicals
Where to watch:

, , Google Play, iTunes
Runtime: 111 minutes

After the success of Disney Channel's High School Musical, it only made sense to roll out a sequel. The students of East High, including star basketball player and theater kid Troy Bolton (Efron), are out of school for the summer. Rather than relax, though, some of these kids have to work to get by. (Not Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel), though.) While the rich kids lounge around the club, everyone else has to work hard for the money. Fortunately, they all sing and dance while doing it.

"High School Musical 2 is very good. It's more than listenable. The music is surprisingly catchy, smartly penned and not annoying." — Doug Elfman, Chicago Sun Times

Neighbors (2014)

Metascore: 68
Best for: Fans of college parties
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 97 minutes

Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are living quite the idyllic life. They've just had a baby and have a cute spot in the 'burbs where they can raise her. In no time at all, though, a fraternity from the local university posts up in the house next door, and their parties soon take over the whole block. Mac and Kelly try to reason with the frat's president Teddy (Efron), who seems keen on at least somewhat being respectful to the neighbors, but there's only so much wrangling of college boys that you can do.

"What makes Neighbors exceptional, rather than merely great, is its successful attempt to reinvent the studio comedy." — Inkoo Kang, The Wrap

At Any Price

Metascore: 61
Best for: Fans of family drama
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, , Vudu
Runtime: 105 minutes

Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) is known around town as the farmer to go to for all your agriculture needs. In fact, he's known in multiple counties for his farm. He's spent his life fostering his business, and he wants his son Dean (Efron) to join the it alongside him. All Dean wants, though, is to race cars. In his rebellious streak, Dean pulls away from the family, but when Henry finds his farm embroiled in a legal mess, Dean feels obligated to show up to help.

"This is a brave, layered film that challenges the wisdom of victory at any price." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Metascore: 58
Best for: Fans of absurd comedy
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 92 minutes

You might think that after Mac and Kelly finally dealt with the fraternity next door in Neighbors, everything would be smooth sailing for them. But you'd be wrong! Now, Kelly is pregnant again and just wants some zen while the couple tries to sell their house, but lo and behold, a sorority moves in next door. Worried about their property value taking a hit, Mac and Kelly call on their old pal Teddy to try to help them convince the sorority to vacate the premises, at least long enough for them to offload their house and move somewhere else.

"With the added layer of humor that comes with switching genders, Neighbors 2 ends up offering even more laughs than the original movie."  — Edward Douglas, Daily News

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Metascore: 57
Best for: Disney Channel lovers
Where to watch:

, , Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 112 minutes

As senior year passes right before their eyes, the East High Wildcats are faced with what's to come after graduation. Troy and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) are nervous about whether or not their relationship will hold up once they've collected their diplomas, but they're hopeful that they can make it through. They, along with the rest of the Wildcats, come together for one last high school musical before all going their separate ways for good.

"Disney raised the stakes by turning its hit TV-movie franchise into a feature film — and the bet has paid off." — Catherine Dawson March, The Globe and Mail

The Beach Bum

Metascore: 55
Best for: Fans of stoner comedies
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 95 minutes

Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) is the most carefree man in the Florida Keys. When he's not drinking and smoking weed, he's casually working on his writing, though party time usually outweighs work time. His wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), loves him but not enough to not cheat on him, and his daughter, Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen), is mostly fed up with how he behaves. It's after a tragedy shakes him to his core that he pulls himself together enough to actually put some effort into completing the book he's been working on for years. With the help of some of his friends, including Efron's character Flicker, Moondog gets to work.

"The most shocking thing about the film is its unabashed cheerfulness." — David Sims, The Atlantic

Liberal Arts

Metascore: 55
Best for: Fans of coming-of-age stories
Where to watch:

Google Play, iTunes
Runtime: 97 minutes

Like so many, Jesse (Josh Radnor) still thinks about his college days. Now that he's in his 30s, he's especially reminiscent of a time when everything was easier. It's why he doesn't hesitate to revisit his liberal arts college when his favorite professor Peter Hoberg (Richard Jenkins) invites him back for his retirement celebration. What Jesse doesn't expect, though, is to meet a few young coeds, including Nat (Efron), Dean (John Magaro), and Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), the latter of whom makes him feel young again and makes him want to live life a little more fully than he has been recently. 

"Radnor's script is more bittersweet than laugh-out-loud funny." — Loren King, The Boston Globe