No, it's not just you, Adam Driver was everywhere in 2019. Actually, Driver has been everywhere since audiences first fell in love with his character, Adam Sackler, on the HBO comedy-drama series Girls way back in 2012. And ever since then, Driver has given us some of the best performances and become one of the most prolific actors of his generation.
It is hard to find a bad movie in Adam Driver's extensive filmography, but it's even harder to narrow down Driver's movies down to the top 10, but we're going to give it our best shot.
10. While We're Young (2014)
Adam Driver had already worked with director Noah Baumbach by the time the two got together for While We're Young in 2014, but the two expanded upon the relationship for their second of four collaborations. And although While We're Young doesn't have the same impact on viewers as Marriage Story would do five years later, this film about a middle-aged couple falling in with a young hipster couple in New York City still has a lot to say in its own right.
This comedy-drama follows the lives of Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia Schrebnick (Naomi Watts), a couple on the rocks, as they meet and become friends with a young couple, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby Massey (Amanda Seyfried). As Josh and Cornelia grow closer to the young and free couple, they begin to see the real side of Jamie and Darby. Throughout his performance, Driver convincingly brings the stereotypical hipster filmmaker archetype to life in a way that is so infuriating that you can't wait for him to get his comeuppance.
9. Paterson (2016)
By the time Adam Driver wowed audiences and critics alike in Jim Jarmusch's 2016 drama Paterson about a week in the life of a bus driver and poet, he had already become a household name after receiving three consecutive Golden Globe nominations for his role in Girls. Driver would only continue that in his riveting performance of the titular Paterson.
Over the course of a week, the film follows Paterson as he wakes up, goes to work, writes poetry, walks his dog, and goes to his favorite watering hole at night. Although this premise doesn't seem as exciting as some of Driver's later roles, the actor is able to bring so much poignancy and raw emotion to the performance that turns this film into a reflective and contemplative exercise of the human heart. The scenes in which Paterson scribbles down poetry in his tattered notebook become works of art thanks to Driver's performance and great direction by Jarmusch.
8. Frances Ha (2012)
Two years before he was given a larger role in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Adam Driver was given a small, yet memorable role in the director's 2012 feature Frances Ha. The film came out less than six months after Driver was introduced to the world on Girls, and was just the beginning of the great things that were to come for the actor.
This short, black and white indie film follows the life of a struggling dancer, Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the film), as she tries to find a new living arrangement after her roommate and best friend Sophie Levee (Mickey Summer) decides to move from Brooklyn to Tribeca. Over the course of this 86-minute film, Frances briefly meets Driver's character, Lev Shapiro and his roommate Benji (Michael Zegen), which gives us some of the most absurd scenes in the film. Driver so accurately portrays the upper class hipsters of New York as he bounces from one ludicrous conversation to the next.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
In a movie as heart-wrenching and bleak as Inside Llewyn Davis, seeing Adam Driver make a brief appearance as a baritone country western singer by the name of Al Cody comes as nice moment of levity. And though Driver only shows up in one scene of this critically acclaimed film from the Coen brothers, we're still talking about it nearly seven years after the fact.
The film follows a week in the life of struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he tries to get his life in order while also trying to get his music career to take off. Throughout Inside Llewyn Davis, Davis encounters terrible situation after terrible situation, including the revelation that he could be the father of his friend, Jean Berkey's (Carey Mulligan) unborn child. When Jean tells Davis that he needs to pay for the abortion, he takes a studio gig with Jean's husband Jim Berkey (Justin Timberlake) and Driver's Al Cody for a novelty song. It's hard not to laugh as Cody practices his iconic vocal delivery as the other two musicians have a tense conversation about the song.
6. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
Prior to the release of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in 2018, director and screenwriter Terry Gilliam spent nearly 30 years trying to get his adaptation of the classic novel Don Quixote off the ground. Between 1989 and 2018 (the year the film was released), Gilliam cast everyone from Robin Williams to Johnny Depp in the role that eventually went to Adam Driver. But even after filming the long-awaited film, Gilliam's masterpiece wouldn't see the light of day for several years after distribution rights and other legal issues were finally settled upon.
The film centers around Driver's character of Toby, an advertising executive who goes back to the location of a film he shot years ago where he is confronted by an old Spanish shoemaker named Javier (Jonathan Pryce) who is convinced that he is actually the famous character from the novel. Not only does Javier believe he is the real Don Quixote, he is also convinced that Toby is his trusty squire Sancho Panza. What follows is a surreal retelling of the classic novel with as many twists and turns as the original book and its murky history.
5. The Dead Don't Die (2019)
If you were to tell me 10 years ago that before the end of the decade we would have a zombie movie directed by Jim Jarmusch starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevingy, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Waits I wound't believe you. Despite sounding like one of the most preposterous ideas, that's exactly what we got in the surreal and absurdist take on the zombie genre with The Dead Don't Die.
This movie, which follows several inhabitants of a small town that becomes ground zero for a zombie invasion, is about as polarizing as a zombie movie released in 2019 can get. People either love The Dead Don't Die's tone and multiple examples of breaking the fourth wall, or they hate it. Despite the divisiveness around the movie, one thing is for sure is that Adam Driver absolutely kills his delivery as Officer Ronald Peterson in every scene. There are several lines (talking about the film's theme song and asking Bill Murray's character if he read the script) that are delivered with such a deadpan delivery, it's amazing that Driver got through it without cracking up. If you want to watch an absurd zombie comedy movie, look no further.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Say what you will about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and there's a lot to say, but no one can take away from the brilliant performance given by Adam Driver as the conflicted Kylo Ren. We were introduced to the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa two years earlier in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but Driver's take Ren as he forms a connection with Rey (Daisy Ridley) does nothing but further expand the character and his motivations.
Besides the attack on his mother's Resistance ship near the beginning of the film, Kylo Ren spends much of the movie trying to connect and form an alliance with Rey, which ultimately leads to the iconic "Throne Room" scene where the two take down Supreme Leader Snoke's Praetorian Guard. But just when it looks like Ren is about to turn away from the dark side, he doubles down and declares that he is the Supreme Leader of The First Order. Following the scene, Ren falls deeper into the dark side as he takes on his uncle and former Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Throughout his entire arc in the film (and series as a whole), we see a certain sadness and degree of pain in Ren's eyes that make us want to root for him, despite his despicable actions.
3. Logan Lucky (2017)
Four months before appearing in Star Wars:The Last Jedi, Adam Driver appeared in Steven Soderbergh's redneck heist film, Logan Lucky. Driver portrays Clyde Logan, a veteran who lost the lower half of his left arm in Iraq, who teams up with his brother, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) and Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway after Jimmy is fired from a construction company working at the racetrack.
The film is essentially a white trash take on Soderbergh's successful Oceans trilogy, only this time the heist is set in the hills of North Carolina's NASCAR country opposed to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. The thieves are even dubbed the "Oceans's Seven-Eleven" by the press after they pull of the heist during the Coca-Cola 600 race. To add even more tension to the heist, Clyde has to get sent to prison so that he can help Joe Bang escape prison, pull off the heist, and return to his cell before the guards notice. This section of the movie is just as tense as the heist, if not more.
2. BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Most of the praise from BlacKkKlansman is geared towards the stellar performance by the film's lead John David Washington for his portrayal of real-life African-American Colorado Springs police officer Ron Stallworth who infiltrated and exposed the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, but Adam Driver's portrayal of Philip "Flip" Zimmerman is just as vital to the film's success.
The film really picks up after Stallworth starts a line of communication with the local KKK chapter, which is where Driver's character comes in. Stallworth can talk to the KKK on the phone all he wants, but in order to fully carry out the operation, he has to enlist the help of Zimmerman to handle the face-to-face interactions with the hate group. Zimmerman, who is Jewish, is put in a few tough spots during his multiple meetings with the KKK, including one where they try to make him take a polygraph test to prove he's not Jewish. The movie feels like a comedy in spots, but the situations and messages found throughout paint a disturbing picture of hate groups in America.
1. Marriage Story (2019)
And then there is Marriage Story, the 2019 drama from Noah Baumbach about a married couple going through a divorce on opposite sides of the country. Anchored by performances by Scarlett Johansson as Nicole Barber and Adam Driver as Charlie Barber, this raw and gut-wrenching movie feels all too real in several of its most intense moments.
When I first watched Marriage Story upon its release on Netflix in late 2019, I was taken aback by the performances of its stars portraying the two central characters as they try to keep their family together as it's being ripped apart by outside forces. And although the marriage cannot be salvaged, Nicole and Charlie fight tooth and nail to keep loving one another. This movie will pull out your heart, break it into a million pieces, and then force you to put it back together while wearing a blindfold. There's one scene in particular where you can see Driver and Johansson seem to pull from their own personal failures as their characters have one of the most intense arguments in recent memory.
Do you agree with our list of the best Adam Driver performances, or do you think that something should be added or taken away? Does Star Wars: The Last Jedi deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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