Jake Gyllenhaal has often times been an actor that cinema fans overlook. Has he done films like Prince of Persia and Bubble Boy? Sure. But for every bad film, Gyllenhaal has five more good ones. He is an actor with a wide range and always commits to the role he’s playing. Narrowing it down to ten movies is insanely tough. There are a lot of great films he’s in that didn’t make the final cut. However, that’s just a testament to how good of an actor he is, and how good the projects he’s involved in are.
Arguably, Gyllenhaal was robbed of an Oscar nomination in a year he certainly could have won. Nightcrawler is a gritty street-level look at crime and those who document it. The film features a breakout performance from Riz Ahmed and also features some of Rene Russo’s best work of recent memory. It’s a stylish thriller, and a terrific directorial debut from Dan Gilroy.
Richard Kelly’s multi-genre directorial debut gave Gyllenhaal a chance to show his range, which is exactly what he did. Donnie Darko has become a bona fide cult classic in the years since it’s release. Gyllenhaal gives a stunning performance as the troubled teen and title character. Technically brilliant, and a star-making vehicle for Jake, Donnie Darko‘s legacy endures as one of 2000’s finest pieces of cinema.
In this inspirational and heartfelt drama, Jake Gyllenhaal gives a powerful performance. Stronger tackles the real-life tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing with a much more personal story than Patriot’s Day. David Gordon Green’s direction helps elevate the film above the typical narrative cliches of inspirational dramas. Tatiana Maslany also turns in a fantastic performance. Stronger is a powerful movie with emotional heft and a gripping sense of reality. The characters never feel like they’re constructed.
A deeply realistic police drama, David Ayer’s End of Watch is a stunning film. Transcending some of the other films that use handheld camerawork, this gritty and bleak film rises above standard fare in the genre. Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena give believable and charismatic performances. The film is violent, resonant, and ultimately affecting because it does such a great job of making you care about the characters.
David Fincher’s tense thriller lets its dialogue do the heavy lifting. The cast is terrific, including Gyllenhaal, and the movie takes it’s time to unravel the mysteries. Gyllenhaal delivers a nuanced performance in Zodiac. Fincher’s direction and approach here are what really make this film great. It is an enthralling movie, and one not be missed on Gyllenhaal’s filmography.
Playing a meticulous detective who never fails, Gyllenhaal is a revelation in this Denis Villeneuve thriller. Featuring a terrific cast including Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, and Paul Dano, Prisoners keeps audiences guessing from start to finish. Always willing to make daring films, Villeneuve tackles some weighty subjects here. Very much a tale of morality in the face of great anguish, Prisoners unwinds a brilliant mystery.
Duncan Jones’s underrated sci-fi thriller finds Jake Gyllenhaal in a charming and impressive performance. Jones unravels the human story among all the great action in the movie. It’s a fresh take on a “groundhog day” scenario. In the end, Source Code is a smart and mind-bending thriller with one of the best endings in a film recently.
Earning immense praise and award wins, Brokeback Mountain has been remembered outside the film community as a landmark film. While many felt it was pushing a political agenda, others found solace in seeing themselves represented on screen. Brokeback Mountain is a deeply affecting love story, with two great performances. Gyllenhaal and the late great Heath Ledger give remarkable turns as two lovers in Wyoming. Their affair lets them escape from their lives but not without consequences. Overall, it’s a terrific film with great themes and wonderful acting.
Taking on his first leading role, Gyllenhaal plays Homer Hickman, a NASA scientist in this interesting and earnest biopic. Gyllenhaal has a quiet charisma which does the work in this role. With great supporting portrayals from Chris Cooper and Laura Dern, October Sky offers heartwarming inspiration. If Donnie Darko established him as a star, this film offered Gyllenhaal to mainstream audiences.
Bizarre, complex and riveting, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is a great achievement. Deftly balancing multiple complex stories at once, the film never loses its focus. Gyllenhaal essentially plays two different roles, and while they aren’t two vastly different characters, he still needs to capture the emotions and motivations of both. Amy Adams lead performance is also spectacular. Ultimately, it has a great supporting cast, a breakneck pace and an enthralling story that makes this another can’t miss.