Zachary Levi’s best movies and TV shows, ranked

zachary levi shazam
Image via Warner Bros.

Early in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the magical superhero questions his existence. He’s not the only superbeing to wear red or even have a giant gold lightning bolt emblazoned on his costume, after all. But the lead character needs to know that he is far more than that — he’s a character who cheered up the epic but gloomily lit struggles of the DCEU and completed Zachary Levi’s rise to high-profile superhero stardom. 

We’re not sure where Levi’s superhero future lies after the significant changes to DC’s movie plans and some questionable activity in the run-up to the release of Fury of the Gods. But his cape-stealing role came on the back of a diverse resume.

The Louisiana-born actor started young with theatrical roles that took him to Victorian London of Oliver!, the Great Plains of Oklahoma! and the magical world of Oz! Moving to TV, Levi found a home as a supporting character in sitcoms like Less than Perfect and rom-coms like See Jane Date. Then, he leaped to attention in a role that showcased his ability with quick-witted dialogue and winning humanity in Chuck, a show he helped keep away from the constant threat of cancellation for five seasons after it launched in 2007.

Levi’s movie and TV career has been built on ensembles and establishing great chemistry with his fellow actors as he’s taken on real-life characters, a fairytale thief, and of course, a handful of supers. Here are his best.

10. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (2022)

Levi took the role of a NASA staffer in this animated coming-of-age drama inspired by filmmaker Richard Linklater’s childhood. The movie imagines fourth-grader Stan becoming the first person to land on the Moon.

As the cell-shaded Kranz, Levi is one of the officials who recruit the school kid as an astronaut. He could have appeared in live-action, but Linklater decided on animation. Levi adds some name clout to the Netflix film, as well as crucial stability as the voice guiding Stan on his seemingly impossible journey. 

9. She Loves Me (2016)

Levi’s career started on the stage, and this filmed performance showed off his versatile skills walking the boards as it made history. 

This 2016 Broadway revival of the 1960 musical has a classic and influential plot, where two co-workers hate each other while working in a Budapest parfumerie, not knowing they’re falling in love through letters. If it sounds familiar, the plot inspired 1998’s You’ve Got Mail and has worked through several formats, including this cult interpretation, which became the first Broadway show to be live-streamed. Levi and Laura Benanti took the lead roles as Georg and Amalia, with solid support from Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel. Levi told Playbill that his biggest challenge was walking into a ground-breaking production packed with Tony winners was his “own brain,” but earning a Tony nomination of his own for the role must have helped boost his confidence. 

8. Psych: The Movie (2017)

Levi tried on some villainous threads for Psych’s belated revival as a movie, and not just any threads. Playing the “bottle blonde” Thin White Duke, he took his lead from the dark mid-1970s persona David Bowie used for Station to Station. That meant orange hair, a dashing white shirt and black waistcoat combo, and a southern English accent to capture “a ruthless, mysterious, and dashing villain of the highest order.” 

The cult detective comedy-drama relocated to San Francisco for the film version, and Levi helped the interest stay high enough for a 2020 sequel that launched on Peacock. 

7. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Before he took top-billing as a DC superhero, Levi stepped in to save Thor’s great mates, the Warriors Three. Part of the Marvel story since 1965, Levi took on the role of Fandral for Thor the Dark World and Ragnarok, Thor’s inarguable peak, after scheduling conflicts ruled out originally cast actor Joshua Dallas. 

With Levi on board, the character’s comic potential was expanded for the second movie. However, like many Asgardians, the master swordsman met his end facing Hela as Valhalla applied for an extension. 

6. Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure (2017 – 2020)

No egos stopped the major players of Disney’s Tangled leaping from big to small screen. Three seasons followed the further adventures of Mandy Moore’s Rapunzel and her group’s journey into the Dark Kingdom, which may just have a secret connection to her husband, Levi’s Eugene. 

The series picked up its fair share of award nominations and wins, with Moore and Levi earning praise for their chemistry in a show that embarked in unexpected and ambitious directions. It was notable for exploring surprisingly mature themes like emotional abuse and trauma for its Gen Z audience while including enough fun and warmth to appeal to the whole family. 

5. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2108)

Levi took a recurring role in the second season of Amazon’s period comedy-drama as New York Doctor Benjamin Ettenberg. Lead character Midge meets the dashing doctor in a resort in the Catskills in between honing her comedy act at the Gaslight Cafe. 

While Midge introduces him to the stand-up of Lenny Bruce, he returns the favor by dragging her into New York’s art world. Although Levi’s role was limited to one season, it was a notable appearance in another critically acclaimed show.

4. Shazam! (2019)

Casting the god-powered superhero with a child’s maturity isn’t easy, especially when it’s in a lower-budget attempt to brighten DC’s heroes on the screen. After being a superpowered second-string in two Thor movies, Levi found the suit of the leading man fitted. The film follows the comic book convention of presenting the hero as not an adult version of Billy Batson but a more immature figure shown up by his immense new abilities. That allowed Levi to show off his comedy skills without worrying about the Wisdom of Solomon.

Levi beat off some big names for the role, including future Peacemaker John Cena, and quickly owned it. Shazam! balanced emotion and action to win over critics and audiences, particularly when compared to the dark stylings of the darker DCEU it was unashamedly part of — a light, bright, colorful adventure with a heart at its core.

3. Tangled (2010)

Three years before Frozen became a hit for Disney animation, this adaptation of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales was a crucial stepping stone to icy success. Rumors were that the movie, which blended traditional and 3D animation, was the highest-budgeted animated film of all time. Still, it clearly knew how to handle the pressure when it cast Moore and Levi at the center as the princess and thief who fell for each other. 

The pair’s chemistry in the much-praised movie is just one part that successfully… entangled (ahem) without getting knotted up. As the actor later told James Corden, it’s all the more impressive that Levi landed the part by crashing an audition restricted to British actors with a put-on accent before the producers chose his natural voice.

2. American Underdog (2021)

Levi took the lead as Kurt Warner in this biographical sports movie that tracked the aspiring quarterback’s highs and lows as he went from an undrafted player to winning Super Bowl XXXIV. It’s held up as a great example of the tried and tested underdog formula — incredibly powerful in the right hands. 

Stirling support from Anna Paquin as Wagner’s wife and Dennis Quaid as coach Dick Vermeil boosted Levi, who was more of a baseball and basketball fan but threw himself into football training. It’s Levi’s most heartwarming role to date.

1. Chuck (2007 – 2012)

The show that made Levi’s name was a fantastic portrayal of his abilities. The actor clearly thrives in an ensemble, but he also had to carry the weight of the show as Chuck Bartowski, the “average computer whizz” who accidentally uploads the only copy of some CIA software into his brain, forcing the agency to send him on spy missions. 

Chuck overcame tricky scheduling to run for five seasons and pick up multiple award nominations. Levi threw himself into the role, providing a vital part of the show’s warmth. He sunk his teeth into smart dialogue, doing his own stunts as much as he was allowed, and stepped behind the camera to helm three episodes. It’s no wonder that he picked up the Teen Choice Award for Action Actor.