The 7 Best Oscar Isaac Movies
Oscar Isaac has had something of a meteoric rise in the last decade. In 2010, he played a supporting role in Ridley Scott’s middling adaptation of Robin Hood. In 2019, he will be completing his key arc in the sizeable Star Wars sequel trilogy with J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX. His stock in the industry has risen immensely. In between, his roles varied wildly — as did the quality of the films — but he never failed to captivate audiences. He is a unique actor, wholly committed to each role and rarely forgettable. Here are his seven best films to date.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Even for Joel and Ethan Coen — who have a staggering amount of great films — Inside Llewyn Davis is one of their best. The film is set in the folk music scene of 1960s Greenwich Village. Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is a talented but perennially down-on-his-luck musician. Since the suicide of his musical partner, he drifts from friend’s couch to friend’s couch and lives paycheck to paycheck. For all the circular monotony of near-poverty, though, the film is quite funny. Isaac and the Coens deliver a near-perfect black comedy with a wonderful soundtrack.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
After a decade of dormancy in the franchise — during which Lucasfilm was sold to the Walt Disney Company — Isaac’s Poe Dameron is one of the very first new Star Wars characters audiences are introduced to. Poe is an ace pilot and one of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher)’s most trusted allies. His desperate search for a map to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and subsequent arrest by the brutal First Order sets in motion the events of the film. While the film may spend too much time echoing the original films rather than striking out on its own, Isaac’s performance is fun and fits into the nature of the franchise well.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
For the second act to J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rian Johnson sought to make a unique Star Wars film. In that regard, he succeeded, making an entry to the franchise that is all his own. From the highs to the lows, it is a Johnson film through and through. For Isaac’s part as Poe, Johnson focuses on the distinction between a hero and a leader. Poe may be the former, but finds he has a lot to learn about the latter. It is gripping and colorful and unbalanced and goofy. It is one of the most personal blockbusters in years, and Isaac is laudable.
Ex Machina (2014)
In spite of working in the film industry since 2000, Ex Machina was Alex Garland’s directorial debut. In the film, he imagines a near-future in which artificial intelligence is nearing perfection. Nathan Bateman (Isaac), the hermetic head of a tech company invites one of his programmers to his isolated compound. The programmer, named Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), is there to help him run tests on his latest project, a female-presenting android named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Through Ava, Caleb finds that Nathan may not be what he seems. Ex Machina is a tense, thrilling film with an impressively minimalist science fiction element.
Nearly a decade out, Drive continues to be Nicolas Winding-Refn’s best film by a significant margin. An unnamed stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) complements his paychecks by working as a getaway driver. His developing crush on his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) becomes complicated when her husband (Isaac) is released from prison and asks the driver for help pulling off a robbery of his own. Out of empathy for Irene and her son, he accepts his pitch, a decision he may or may not live to regret.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Following an unceremonious firing from Solo: A Star Wars Story, Phil Lord and Chris Miller made an incredible bounce-back with this now-Academy Award-winning animated film. With Shameik Moore at the center as Miles Morales, a teenager with spider-like abilities. He finds himself crossing paths with a number of other spider-abled characters from other universes, including Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Woman/Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney). One of the many Spider-Beings the film folds into the narrative is Miguel O’Hara (Isaac). It is a truly stunning film, arguably the best animated film to come out of an American studio in a decade or more.
Based on the popular novel of the same name, Alex Garland took on Annihilation as his second directorial project. Like Ex Machina before it, the film blends horror and science fiction on a relatively small budget. Lena (Natalie Portman)’s soldier husband Kane (Isaac) returns from a strange mission behaving abnormally. She discovers that he was sent into Area X, the crash zone of a meteorite which has changed the genetic makeup of the organisms within it. She volunteers to enter Area X herself on the next expedition. Once inside, she and her assigned team (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny) find a world that makes less and less sense to them. It is a solid science-fiction thriller with a truly great cast.
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