From ‘Wayne’s World’ to ‘The West Wing’: 11 Best Rob Lowe Performances, Ranked

Rob Lowe is LITERALLY one of the best actors of our generation.

Rob Lowe has been on our screens since the early 1980s. With his trademark good looks and captivating smile, he seems ageless. When he popped out of the shower in a towel in his screen debut in 1983’s The Outsiders as the middle son, Sodapop in the Curtis family, a new movie star was born. Now almost 40 years later, Rob now hosts a hit podcast entitled “Literally” and also co-hosts another entitled “Parks and Recollection” with Alan Yang. He is currently starring on the highly-rated Fox TV show 9-1-1: Lone Star. Lowe’s career has had its ups and downs, but it has remained steady for the better part of the last 4 decades. Here are 11 of his best roles to date.


RELATED: 'Parks and Recollection' Podcast Hosted by Rob Lowe and Alan Yang Will Look Back at Pawnee, one 'Parks and Rec' Episode at a Time

11. Eddie Nero in Californication (2011 - 2014)

As Eddie Nero in the long-running show Californication, Rob Lowe plays an eccentric and somewhat unpredictable actor. Hank (David Duchovny) has a hit book entitled “Fucking and Punching” which will star Nero when it is made into a motion picture. Lowe had a lot of fun poking fun at ‘actor-types’ in this role and seems to use a lot of real-life inspiration from unspecified people to amalgamate into the character of Eddie Nero.

10. Billy Hicks in St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

A classic Brat Pack pic from the mid-80s, St. Elmo’s Fire doesn’t age that great. And many critics (and Razzies) panned Lowe’s performance as Billy, the bad boy saxophonist who refuses to grow up and take care of his family. However, it may just be personal preference, but Lowe is iconic in this staple from the 80s. This is a good one to watch as a snapshot of a moment in time instead of a cinematic classic. From ‘Wayne’s World’ to ‘The West Wing’: 11 Best Rob Lowe Performances, Ranked

9. Benjamin Kane in Wayne’s World (1992)

In Rob’s first comedic outing, Rob plays Benjamin, a TV producer who decides to buy the local access show Wayne’s World out from under its naive hosts Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). Smooth-talking Benjamin manages to break up the friendship duo while attempting to make a move on Wayne’s new girlfriend, Cassandra (Tia Carrere) as well. Lowe built his career on being the good-looking lead in dramatic outings, however, this was the first time he made himself the butt of the joke which made him somehow even more appealing.

8. Danny Martin in About Last Night (1986)

Based on the play Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet, Lowe and Demi Moore star in this romance about the highs and lows of being in a grownup relationship. Lowe and Moore have obvious chemistry as this young couple who try to navigate their first real venture into adult couplehood. Elizabeth Perkins and Jim Belushi play their best friends, respectively and the foursome turns out a movie that’s worthy of its source material.

7. Nick Andros in The Stand (1994)

In the hit miniseries, The Stand from 1994, Lowe plays Nick Andros, a deaf-mute in a Stephen King story about a virus that is spreading faster than can be controlled. Nick finds himself amongst a group of survivors as they try to get to Nebraska (or Las Vegas) for assistance. Lowe is a standout performer in this huge cast as it remains one of the best King adaptations to date. The series wound up being nominated for 6 Emmy Awards, winning 2 for Makeup and Sound Design.

6. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)/Goldmember (2002)

#2 (Robert Wagner) is Dr. Evil’s (Mike Myers) right-hand man. When Dr. Evil travels back in time, he encounters a young #2 (Lowe) in the 1960s and the 1970s in Goldmember. Lowe was praised for his impression of a young Robert Wagner and once again showcased his comedic timing in this silly, yet classic, franchise.

5. Owen Strand in 9-1-1: Lone Star (2020 - Present)

As Owen Strand, Lowe stars in this spinoff of the Fox hit show 9-1-1. Set in Austin Texas, Strand is a first responder who was the lone survivor of his firehouse on 9/11 in New York. He is suffering from cancer as a result and has relocated to Texas with his son (Ronen Rubinstein). The series from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear is a poignant love letter to first responders as well as a dramatic story of a father and his son. Lowe can easily carry a show on his own, but surrounded by a strong ensemble, 9-1-1: Lone Star is a top-rated Fox hit.

4. Paul Barish in Tommy Boy (1995)

In one of the best comedy classics of all time, Lowe gets to play the villain in this beloved film starring Chris Farley and David Spade. When Tommy (Farley) has to deal with the unexpected death of his father and is forced to run his company, he is impeded at every step by his dad’s assistant (Spade), his dad’s new wife (Bo Derek), and her “son” Paul (Lowe). Lowe has to play the straight man in this film and let the comedy unfold around him which is critical when Farley and Spade are on-screen.

3. Dean Sanderson in The Grinder (2015 - 2016)

Fox made a huge error in canceling this show after just one season. It was a fantastic concept with a great cast and received an inexplicable short life. Lowe plays Dean Sanderson who is famous for playing Mitch Grinder in a long-running tv show about a high-powered attorney. In real life, his younger brother, Stewart (Fred Savage) is an actual attorney who works with their father (William Devane). When Dean’s show is canceled, he moves home and genuinely believes he knows enough to also join the family law firm. The animosity Stewart feels towards Dean is so genuine as he seems to be the only one who thinks the fictional Grinder show was absolutely ridiculous and is constantly annoyed at how obsessed everyone is with the show. Obviously, it’s all done with comedic strokes but the gelling of Savage and Lowe, as well as Devane, was instantaneous, and it’s sad to think this didn’t get a longer shelf life to explore this fun family dynamic further.

2. Sam Seaborn in The West Wing (1999 - 2003, 2006)

As the Deputy Communications Director, Sam Seaborn, Lowe creates one of his most iconic roles to date. In the fictional White House setting under the Presidency of Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) Sam Seaborn worked directly for Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) and Leo McGarry (John Spencer). Sam was consistently one of the favorites on this show along with his pal, Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) as they navigated life on the biggest stage in the world. Lowe left in the middle of Season 5 as his character, Sam, decided to run for Congress in California. He returned to the show in the final season to work for Josh as his Deputy Chief of Staff and also appeared in the 2020 live event on HBO entitled “A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote.”

1. Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation (2010 - 2015, 2020)

Honestly, it could be a toss-up between Sam Seaborn and this guy, but we're going to give the slightest of edges to the unforgettable Chris Traeger. In the second season of Parks and Recreation, the show finally started to hit its stride. Thanks in no small part to the arrival of Lowe and Adam Scott. As state auditor turned city manager Chris Traeger, Lowe plays this enigmatic, upbeat, and overly positive guy that no one can resist. Everyone tries so hard to be annoyed by Chris, but Lowe manages to make him lovable and endearing. Traeger goes through quite the journey in Pawnee in discovering that life isn’t always a bed of roses, but thanks to the help of therapy with the infamous Dr. Richard Nygard, he can work through anything. Lowe’s final episode was in Season 6 when he and Ann (Rashida Jones) left for Michigan to have their baby. He also popped up in the series finale as well as in the 2020 Quarantine special reunion. Chris Traeger will go down in history as one of the best sitcom characters of all time.

How to Watch 'The West Wing' HBO Max Voting Special Now That It's Free Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorJennifer McHugh(48 Articles Published)

Jennifer McHugh is a Los Angeles-based writer and has been a huge TV/Movies fan since childhood in Northeast Pennsylvania. She is a Broadway fanatic and a long-suffering NY Mets fan. She also loves YouTube Cooking videos, her cat, Herbie, and True Crime podcasts. She understands this is unoriginal.

MoreFrom Jennifer McHugh

Sign up for Collider's newsletter for exclusive news, features, streaming recommendations and more