From High School Musical to The Iron Claw: Ranking Zac Efron’s most iconic roles

T as in Troy? x

I don’t think when any of us first clapped our eyes on Zac Efron in High School Musical when we were 12, we thought our love affair with Troy Bolton would ascend past the Disney Channel nostalgia into a solid and consistent film career where he’s been a bankable A-list Hollywood actor for nearly 20 years. And have we ever stopped lowkey (or highkey x) fancying him? No we absolutely have not. Here’s a rundown of all the major Zac Efron roles ranked from honestly quite shit to literally life-changing and / or Oscar worthy.

10. Charlie St Cloud in Charlie St Cloud

You know a film is going to be twee nonsense when it is named after a lead character called CHARLIE ST CLOUD. A bad performance in a very bad film that was made for 15 year old girls to cry over a Chinese takeaway on Friday nights. Avoid.

9. Logan Thibault in The Lucky One

The plot of The Lucky One is like one of those naff books your mum reads on holiday. Zac Efron is a soldier who is THE LUCKY ONE because he found a pic of Taylor Schilling from Orange is the New Black just before a lot of his squad died at war so he tracks her down for a ridiculous movie romance. We’re all better than this.

8. Jason in That Awkward Moment

2014’s That Awkward Moment was dated before it even release with a title taking its name from how people were talking on the internet about three years prior to it. Awkward turtle core. But this film isn’t awkward, it’s just boring. A “bromantic” comedy. Who’s arsed??? Who went to see this, apart from me (for some reason)? Is it for lads who want to be Zac Efron or girls who want to date him? No clue.

7. Phillip Carlyle in The Greatest Showman

Zac Efron does his best in The Greatest Showman and had a little hit with Zendaya as they belted out Rewrite The Stars, but this film is ridiculous. If it has no haters, I am dead.

6. Mike O’Donnell in 17 Again

The first on this list of ranked Zac Efron roles that I think is actually from a fun film. Granted, I haven’t watched 17 Again in AGES but I remember being very much charmed and amused by Zac Efron and the late Matthew Perry playing two different ages of the same character. Plus, Michelle Trachtenberg was in it! Buffy stan til I die.

5. Teddy Sanders in Neighbors

Zac Efron ranked

Literally worthy of a top five placement because of this shot of him barbecuing shirtless. Lives were changed.

4. Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

There are a lot of worthy ethical discussions about the portrayals of serial killers on screen, and when this film came out in 2019 there was some furore about “the sexualisation of serial killers” in films. Reaction to the movie was mixed, but Zac Efron was praised – and I think its important that the casting of someone famously sexy as Ted Bundy is crucial to the horrible truth that Bundy got away with his crimes and managed to lure victims partly down to his good looks.

3. Link Larkin in Hairspray

Zac Efron ranked

Zac Efron was perfectly cast as Hairspray’s heartthrob and he knocks it out of the park. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing this role on the big screen – a good big blockbuster in the midst of High School Musical fever.

2. Troy Bolton in High School Musical, HSM 2 and HSM Senior Year

Zac Efron ranked

Via Disney

I mean, where do we start? I truly believe if High School Musical wasn’t as cast as good as it was, the films wouldn’t have become the cultural phenomenon they wear in the late 2000s. Everyone knew his name, everyone knew the name Troy Bolton and everyone could hum his songs. Who cares he didn’t sing on the first soundtrack? Zac Efron made Troy Bolton a Disney classic character and kinda set the benchmark for teen crushes. Legendary. He’s a jock, but he’s layered and likeable and vulnerable. Love.

1. Kevin Von Erich in The Iron Claw

Yep, Zac Efron has proved with his latest role why he’s only just beginning his imperial phase as an actor who’s transitioned out of his Disney youth into a well respected and nuanced performer. His gentle giant performance in The Iron Claw had a lot of Oscar buzz, and it’s a shame he never saw a nomination in the end because he really gives the performance of his career. His physical transformation aside, he brings so much to the role.

Catch the top ranked Zac Efron performance in cinemas now. For all the latest film and entertainment news, memes and gossip, like Pop Culture Shrine on Facebook

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Right, here’s how Zac Efron got so jacked for his role in The Iron Claw

• Right, was Barry Keoghan wearing a prosthetic in THAT Saltburn final scene

• Okay, this is why everyone’s accusing Jacob Elordi of ‘queerbaiting’ right now