It's the debate that pops up on your social media feed of choice every other month, it seems. Or at least every time Chris Evans does another photo shoot or Chris Pratt is attached to some conservative cause or another. Which Chris Is the Best Chris. The phenomenon of the Hollywood Chrises is one that is tailor made for the current cultural era: it's dumb, it's based in the omnipresent reality of the superhero movies that dominate the cultural conversation, and it will seemingly never end. Do you like the Chris who shoots lightning bolts and goes surfing in Australia with his acting brothers? Do you like the Chris who rips logs in half with his bare hands and sometimes dates Jenny Slate? Are you, like all the Chris Pine fans, very different and alternative and refusing to accept the Marvel hegemony? Or do you still like Chris Pratt the best, because you… only ever watch Parks and Recreation on streaming?
Like clockwork, the regularly occurring Chris Wars cycle through the usual Chris advocacy: the Evans people are heard, the Hemworth people get their moment, the Chris Pine people endlessly filibuster, and finally everybody agrees that Chris Pratt should be booted from the group, like a modern-day Farrah Franklin. He's politically problematic, Star Lord is responsible for Thanos getting all the infinity stones in Avengers: Infinity War, and everybody hated that movie Passengers he made with Jennifer Lawrence, like, so much. Lately, the Chris debate train has been followed by a kind of recurring caboose, as people start to suggest that another Chris take Pratt's place: Chris Messina. The arguments are strong: a hugely impressive string of great performances, adept at playing great boyfriends and total nightmares, very handsome, and not a superhero, which would give the Chrises a bit of variety. (Yes, he's in the Harley Quinn movie, but as a villain, and he probably won't be back.)
This week, with Messina coming to Netflix in the Rosamund Pike-starring dark comedy I Care a Lot, the Chris Discourse (or … Chriscourse) will likely strike resume. But in the interest of not having the same conversation yet again, let's expand the scope a bit. The universe of possible Chrises is wide, and it's kind of insane that we've narrowed things down to just four men, three of whom are all in the same movies together. So let's cast that net wide and see what kind of alterna-Chrises we can come up with.
The whole point of The Chrises phenomenon is that they're all somewhat same-y: white guys in their 30s with great bodies and good hair. That's the joke: they're all very … Chris. But what if they weren't? What if we challenged our perceptions of what makes a good Chris? What if we invited a Chris in his … 50s? Or 60s! Consider Chris Noth, famous for playing Mr. Big on Sex and the City for all those years, in addition to stints on Law & Order, The Good Wife, and now opposite Queen Latifah on The Equalizer. He's essentially had the "hot older gentleman" archetype on lock for the last two decades, which is why it shouldn't be surprising — yet still somehow is — that he's 66 (!) years old. Only three years younger than Chris Cooper, our grizzled Chris option, who seems like he's been in his early 60s for 25 years now. Chris Cooper would bring some prestige to the Chris ranks, as he's an Academy Award winner. Another option for the Classic Chrises is Chris Rock, who would definitely take the Chrises in another direction, but whose gravitas is undeniable.
Poor Chris O'Donnell. Cursed to have come to fame in the wrong decade. If he'd gotten famous in the 2010s instead of the 1990s, he'd absolutely have been considered a Chris. He had all the ingredients: boyish good looks, a superhero franchise (with two films playing Robin under two different Batmans, you could say he was the anchor of those Joel Schumacher films), and a Hollywood establishment that was eager to cast him in everything from rom-coms to playing Ernest Hemingway. Alas, by the 2010s, he found himself trapped in NCIS-land and unable to fraternize with the other Chrises.
Chris Pratt started off as a TV Chris, and he was able to graduate to Chris status. So it's not exactly out of the question that either Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars; Private Practice; GLOW) or Chris Carmack (The O.C.; Nashville; Grey's Anatomy) could graduate to big-screen Chris status. It would not be a stretch. Chris Lowell has the smart-ass thing that Chris Evans was basically known for before he became known for holding helicopters and skyscrapers together with his insane arms. And Chris Carmack is definitely Hemsworth-esque in his tanned surf-god appeal. Don't count either of them out.
For the most part, Chris Zylka has been an indie actor in the body of a Chris. In movies like Kaboom and Piranha 3DD and on TV shows like The Leftovers, he's shown an ability to do schlock, indie queerness, and serious drama quite well. But the role that most puts him on the Chris radar was playing Flash Thompson opposite Andrew Garfield in the Amazing Spider-Man films. Superhero flicks are the crucibles through which Chrises are forged.
While there are obviously comedic beats in the superhero movies, the Chrises are predominantly action-blockbuster actors. This sets them opposite primarily comedic Chrises. Take Chris O'Dowd, the Irish actor who's starred in films like Bridesmaids and Molly's Game. When he was cast in a Marvel movie, Thor: The Dark World, O'Dowd was essentially set up as the opposite of Chris Hemsworth in every way. He's almost definitionally not a Chris. But you could certainly make the argument that the Chrises could stand to lighten up a bit. And maybe adding an Irish jokester is just what they need. Alternatively, maybe go even farther off the map of what you'd expect of the Chrises with… maybe a Chris Gethard? The stand-up comic, former alt talk show host, and the best thing about the HBO Max documentary Class Action Park was actually supposed to be in Iron Man 3 before his scenes were cut out, so a case could be made.
And if diversifying the skill set of the Chrises is a priority, we should definitely consider Chris Jackson, Tony nominee from Broadway's Hamilton, he's since lent his vocal talents to Disney's Moana and AppleTV+'s Central Park.
Okay, now we're entering grey territory. The homophones. Yes, auditorily, one could make the case that a Kris is just a Chris, and thus we could grizzle this roster up good with the addition of a Kris Kristofferson. But I would counsel against this, if only because this would open the door for Kris Jenner, and if you give Kris Jenner an opening, you better believe she will take it.
But while I will momentarily entertain arguments for Kris inclusion, I am drawing a line here. Look, we all know there are some great Christopher's out there. And perhaps they go as "Chris" to their close friends and loved ones. Maybe sometimes a film critic or a fan will refer to them as "Chris," employing the same faux-familiarity that people attempt with the likes of Marty Scorsese and Bob De Niro. But professionally, they are Christophers. They made that choice. They now have to live with it. No matter how cool an addition Christopher Meloni might be to the Chris mix. No matter how promising a Christopher Abbott might seem as an heir apparent. Because that way lies the slippery slope that leads to… Christian. And if you thought Chris Dialogue was a nightmare before, just try adding Christian Bale to that mix.
God, I wish!
At the end of the day, this was always going to come down to Chris Messina. Whether you got onboard in the Aughts with his roles in Six Feet Under and films like Ira & Abby, or if it was his breakthrough in Julie & Julia, or his standout sitcom work on The Mindy Project, he's been putting in a ton of work for a long time, and every time he shows up in something, the project is better for it. I Care a Lot on Netflix should be no different. Vote Messina for Chris. It's the right thing to do.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Chris Messina, Netflix, I Care a Lot, Chris Carmack, Chris Cooper, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Lowell, Chris Noth, Chris O’Donnell, Chris O'Dowd, Chris Pine, Chris Rock, Christine Baranski