ByElise Jost, writer at Creators.co
"It's a UNIX system! I know this!"
Elise Jost

When you look up "channing" on Urban Dictionary, you find the following definition:

A very cute boy who is really fun to be around. He sometimes acts like a five year old, but he probably treats girls the right way. As a very mature young man, he is talented in many areas. He is gifted and extremely loveable. This boy would have to be the highlight of every party.

While it's kind of a chicken and egg scenario (maybe the term was actually created after him), it's impossible not to marvel at how appropriate 's name seems to be. In 2011, the man who lead Jamie Foxx to coin the phrase "I wanna channing all over your tatum" on Jimmy Kimmel, raised interview standards everywhere by taking a GQ journalist on a trip into the Californian desert, complete with sleeping in Snuggies and doing tequila shots at a mining town's only bar. And the article that came out of this epic trip provided us with one of the most personal descriptions of Tatum to date, confirming that he is indeed extremely loveable.

Tatum starts to giggle. He has a great laugh — a boyish, highly contagious stream of actual tee-hee-hee's. It's not something you get to hear much in his movies, since his chiseled-out-of-a-side-of-beef looks mean he is usually cast as soldiers, bors, or criminals. But in real life he's like a big, good-looking Tickle Me Elmo.

Loveable you say? / [Credit: GQ]
Loveable you say? / [Credit: GQ]

So, in honor of his 36th birthday, let's not dwell on how hot Tatum is — although there's certainly enough visual material online to compile a whole book — or how his relationship with Jenna Dewan-Tatum makes them one of the cutest couples in Hollywood. Let's look instead at the best Channing Tatum movies, the ones that have shed the light on the many subtleties he's able to pull off as an actor and proved that he's meant for much more than just the cute boy roles.

1. 'Step Up' – 2006

We all knew Channing Tatum for his hip-swinging skills long before he went full Beyoncé on the stage of Lip Sync Battle. Not only could Step Up be considered the movie that launched his career, he also met his future wife Jenna Dewan on the set, and they're inseparable.

2. 'She's The Man' – 2006

2006 was a cornerstone in the Tatumization of the universe: In the same year as Step Up, Tatum starred in She's The Man alongside Amanda Bynes as Duke, the typical jock who all the girls have a crush on. Although his role isn't major in the movie, his performance is like an interpretation of the phrase "not just a pretty face," as he gives his character the perfect dose of goofy awkwardness that makes him ridiculous yet attaching.

As Vox points it out, She's The Man was one of the early proofs that Tatum is completely able to put his own spin on the squared-jaw guy roles.

Channing Tatum is an unstoppable, one-man charm offensive, and movies are only better when they give him room to be his delightful weirdo self.

3. 'A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints' – 2006

In this adaptation of Dito Montiel's memoir Saints, which recounts his youth in 1980s New York, Tatum played Antonio, a young criminal, alongside Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and took home the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, which was awarded to the entirety of the cast.

Montiel himself admired Tatum's potential:

"It sounds corny, but he's got something that's behind the eyes. He's almost like an Al Pacino or a Sean Penn, in that he'll be doing a scene where he's telling this woman he loves her and you feel like he's going to kill her."

4. 'Stop-Loss' – 2008

Stop-Loss, the tale of a group of veteran Iraq soldiers who have to go back into battle due to the Army's stop-loss policy, was a small but well-received movie. Tatum, who joined a cast including Ryan Philippe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, gave another stellar performance, as Rolling Stone's review pointed out back when the movie was released.

Tatum excels by going beyond the call of hunk duty to find the demons tormenting Steve. His fistfight with Brandon at a cemetery locates the film's grieving heart.

Again, he took a character that could have been one-dimensionally tough and gave it remarkable depth.

5. 'Magic Mike' - 2012

'Magic Mike' [Credit: Iron Horse Entertainment]
'Magic Mike' [Credit: Iron Horse Entertainment]

There is a metaphor for the evolution of Channing Tatum's roles in Magic Mike: Mike starts out as a successful stripper, but he's got more plans for the future than just flaunting his muscular butt. And you know why? That's because the tale of the Tampa strippers was based on Tatum's own life before he became an A-list actor, although he would have been more similar to The Kid.

'Magic Mike' [Credit: Iron Horse Entertainment]
'Magic Mike' [Credit: Iron Horse Entertainment]

Shortly before the movie's release, he explained to The A.V. Club how the project came about:

"I did a movie with Soderbergh, and we were just sitting after work one day, and having a beer at the hotel, and I told him about my past. His mouth hit the floor, and he was just like: 'Holy shit. I've never seen that in a movie. That would make a sick story.' And he was like: 'You should write it,' and I was like: 'Okay, I'll get right on that, Mr. Soderbergh. I've never written anything before, but, totally, I'll get on it."

It's his production partner, Reid Carolin, who ended up penning the script. And while no one would have imagined a male stripper movie to ever have any success, Magic Mike went on to gross $167 million worldwide, with an initial budget of $7 million.

'Magic Mike' [Credit: Iron Horse Entertainment]
'Magic Mike' [Credit: Iron Horse Entertainment]

Around that time, Tatum decided he would only act in movies he had a say in, putting a definitive end to the roles that would only make him wallflower material.

"I really don't want to be in any more movies that I don't produce. Unless it's with one of the 10 directors that I really want to work with, I don't have any interest in not being on the ground floor of creating it. But what I really want to do is direct."

His production company, Iron Horse Entertainment, was indeed on board of the sequel Magic Mike XXL, which blessed the world with this iconic grinding-in-the-woodshed scene.

6. '21 Jump Street' – 2012

21 Jump Street is a delightful adaptation of the 1980s TV series of the same name, which was led by Johnny Depp. It's the story of two mediocre cops who have to go undercover as high school students, and end up having to face their unresolved teenage issues once more.

They're played by Tatum and Jonah Hill, and Tatum just steals the show. While the movie helped cement his spot in Hollywood's big budget sphere, it most importantly gave him the perfect occasion to show off his goofy comedic talent.

7. 'Hail, Caesar!' – 2016

The latest wacky tale of the Coen brothers, which plays at a studio and includes several movies within the movie, stars Tatum as Burt Gurney, a Gene Kelly-style actor who gives an impressive tap dancing performance, taking Tatum to a whole other level of dancer credibility.

He revealed that when he took the part, he had no idea he was going to have to tap dance and sing.

"In the script, it was like five sentences long — a dance number on a battleship, just a knee-slide, and then cut. And that became a six-minute song with tap-dancing."

'Hail, Caesar!' [Credit: Universal Pictures]
'Hail, Caesar!' [Credit: Universal Pictures]

But he was so intent on working with the Coen brothers that he spent three months preparing for that six-minute sequence. His teacher, Chris Gattelli, wasn't going to let him get away with some kind of tap dancing approximation — but he wouldn't have allowed himself to do that anyway.

"Chris kept telling me, 'I'm not dumbing this down just because you've never tapped. We're going to make this on a level that is legit, and all tappers around the world will be like, 'Okay, that was sincere, that wasn't a joke.'"

Which seems like a suitable way to conclude why I think Tatum deserves all the love: He can be the most hilarious man around, but he's got a sincerity that makes him no joke. Happy birthday, Channing Tatum!

'21 Jump Street' [Credit: Sony Pictures]
'21 Jump Street' [Credit: Sony Pictures]

What's your favorite Channing Tatum role?

Sources: GQ, Vox, Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club, Vulture, Daily News

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