Originally a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (and like fellow correspondent Stephen Colbert a Second City veteran), he is perhaps most recognized for portraying the character of Michael Scott on The Office, the American adaptation of the British sitcom (for which he received a Golden Globe Award for best actor in a television comedy series). Since then, he's risen to prominence on the silver screen, his first starring role in a Hollywood production being The 40-Year-Old Virgin, wherein he portrayed the titular character, Andy Stitzer. However, he'd held minor roles before, such as that of Evan Baxter, the Small Name, Big Ego rival to Jim Carrey's Bruce Nolan in Bruce Almighty.
People tend to forget he's a pretty jam-up writer; he co-wrote The 40-Year-Old Virgin and also wrote the Season 2 finale of The Office ("Casino Night"), widely regarded as one of the best episodes of the series. On top of this, he and his wife Nancy created the TBS series Angie Tribeca and wrote the pilot episode.
- The 40-Year-Old Virgin - his first starring role; he also co-wrote the film.
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
- Bewitched - very impressive job of doing Paul Lynde playing Uncle Arthur
- The Big Short - a serious character who gets a lot of laughs for his abrasive personality, nonexistent social skills, and liberal use of F-bombs.
- Bruce Almighty
- Evan Almighty - the sequel, starring his character Evan Baxter
- Crazy Stupid Love
- Dan in Real Life
- Date Night (with Tina Fey)
- Despicable Me
- Dinner for Schmucks
- Foxcatcher - another serious role, playing schizophrenic millionaire John Du Pont.
- Get Smart - The role he was genetically engineered for.
- Horton Hears a Who!
- The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
- Last Flag Flying
- Little Miss Sunshine - a rare serious role as a suicidal gay academic.
- Over the Hedge
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
- The Way Way Back
Tropes associated with Steve Carell include:
- The Everyman: Plays a likable, sympathetic Nice Guy fairly often. Examples include: The 40 Year Old Virgin, Dan in Real Life, and Crazy Stupid Love.
- Large Ham: We are going to steal-pause for effect-THE MOON!
- Playing Against Type: His roles in Little Miss Sunshine and The Way Way Back, as well as his Oscar-nominated work in Foxcatcher, are all noted departures for the actor.
- Reclusive Artist: Not an extreme example, but he generally dislikes making a public spectacle of himself, doesn't give a lot of interviews and says that, in between projects, he much prefers spending time with his family.
- Star-Making Role: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, although his performance as Brick Tamland in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is what got him noticed by Judd Apatow. Ultimately, his role as Michael Scott thrust him into prominence. In Rainn Wilson's book The Bassoon King, he recalls a lunch with the main cast at the start of the show, and Carell said that he had a feeling that "Michael Scott" would be the role he will always be known for.
- Tom Hanks Syndrome: Little Miss Sunshine was the first instance of Steve showing that he has dramatic range and he's moved onto become known as a "serious actor", earning critical acclaim in films like Foxcatcher and The Big Short while also occasionally going back to the broad comedy he built his reputation on.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: In The Office (US) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
- What Could Have Been: He auditioned for a cast member on SNL but lost the role to Will Ferrell.