No actor wants to be typecast as a villain, but Jesse Plemons is just too damn good at playing them. Thus, ever since his sinister turn in the Breaking Bad cast as Todd, he has practically made a living playing characters that range from morally questionable (such as Agent Roy Mitchell in Judas and the Black Messiah) to stereotypically mustache-twirling (Prince Joachim in Jungle Cruise).
Believe it or not, the two-time Emmy-nominated former child actor has played a few roles that are worthy of empathy, which we will highlight in our following picks of the best Jesse Plemons movies and TV shows to watch right now. However, we cannot help but start with his biggest, baddest, and (arguably) most iconic role.
Breaking Bad (Netflix)
Desperate to be able to provide for his family after learning he is terminally ill, a high school chemistry teacher (five-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston) teams up with his former student (Aaron Paul) to start manufacturing and selling crystal methamphetamine, which sparks a slow, dramatic change to his morality.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: For how despicable Walter White became over the course of Breaking Bad’s groundbreaking five seasons from 2008 to 2013, he is a freaking angel when compared to the cruel, inhumane, and soulless Todd, whom Jesse Plemons began playing on its final season and would reprise in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, through harrowing flashbacks to Jesse Pinkman’s time under his captivity.
Black Mirror: U.S.S. Callister (Netflix)
A charismatic space traveler (Jesse Plemons) bravely, wisely, and compassionately leads his loyal crew on a dangerous journey through the farthest reaches of space… or so it seems.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Similarly to how he portrayed Todd, Jesse Plemons lures you in with a seemingly harmless, almost sympathetic demeanor before pulling the rug right from under you in one violent jolt with his Emmy-nominated performance in one of the best Black Mirror episodes, “U.S.S. Callister” - a stunning ode to old school Star Trek with a disturbing, technophobic twist.
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (Netflix)
An unnamed young woman (Irish actress Jessie Buckley) joins her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) on a trip to meet his mother (Toni Collette) and father (Dave Thewlis) at his secluded childhood home, where bizarre circumstances cause her to question the nature of her relationship and her own life as she knows it.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Another Netflix original in which Jesse Plemons’ moral compass and trustworthiness are put into question is the 2020 movie, I’m Thinking of Ending Things - an impeccably strange and thoroughly unnerving adaptation of Ian Reid’s novel, that writer and director Charlie Kaufman adapts into one of his most defining works.
Game Night (Amazon Rental)
A married couple (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) who regularly have friends over for evenings to play harmless games are in for their most memorable instance of such an occasion (if they can survive it), when the husband’s brother (Kyle Chandler) offers to be the host this time.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams’ characters question the moral compass and trustworthiness of the creepy cop who lives next door (Jesse Plemons, who also gets to reunite with Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler) in 2018’s Game Night - a surprisingly clever and uproariously funny dark comedy, directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.
Like Mike (HBO Max)
An orphaned teenager (Shad “Bow Wow” Moss) becomes an NBA star with the help of a pair of shoes that once belonged to Michael Jordan which, after a freak electrical accident, magically give him extraordinary athletic abilities.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Jesse Plemons was “breaking bad” even as a child actor, when he played the resident bully at Lil Bow Wow’s orphanage in 2002’s Like Mike - one of the best sports movies for kids that the whole family can enjoy.
Friday Night Lights (Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Tubi)
A Texas high school football team and their dedicated head coach (Kyle Chandler) struggle to stay on top while falling under the pressures of life and from being one of the nation’s top-ranking academic athletics programs.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Speaking of sports, Jesse Plemons’ first major role on a hit series came when he was hired for the Friday Night Lights cast as high school football player Landry Clarke - one of the most likable characters (a rarity for the actor now) on one of TV’s most beloved athletic dramas.
Fargo, Season 2 (Hulu)
A deadly shooting at a local diner has a tangentially life-changing effect on a State Trooper (Patrick Wilson), a seemingly innocent married couple (Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst), and a small criminal organization in 1970s Minnesota.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: In his first Emmy-nominated TV role, Jesse Plemons plays a meek butcher’s assistant who becomes embroiled in a different kind of bloody mess with his wife (Kirsten Dunst, who became Plemons’ real-life romantic partner) in the second season of Fargo - FX’s arresting anthology crime series loosely inspired by Joel and Ethan Coen’s Oscar-winning 1996 masterpiece.
The Irishman (Netflix)
An elderly man (Academy Award winner Robert De Niro) reminisces about the decades he spent loyally working as a hitman for the mafia and how that career tragically intersected with his friendship with labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Academy Award winner Al Pacino).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Jimmy Hoffa’s unofficial “adopted son” (and unwitting accomplice to his mysterious disappearance), Chuckie O’Brien, in the allegedly fact-based 2019 Netflix original movie The Irishman was Jesse Plemons’ first role as directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, who would later cast the actor in his upcoming historical crime drama, Killers of the Flower Moon.
Judas And The Black Messiah (HBO Max)
To avoid serving time in prison and to make some good cash, a young thief (Oscar nominee Lakeith Stanfield) accepts an offer from a shady FBI agent (Jesse Plemons) to be an informant for Chicago’s chapter of the Black Panther party, and unexpectedly comes to admire the chairman, Fred Hampton (Academy Award winner Daniel Kaluuya).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: While he is not exactly playing a criminal this time, you will not remember Jesse Plemons’ role as Roy Mitchell too fondly by the Judas and the Black Messiah ending - director Shaka King’s powerful, Oscar-winning retelling of a shocking and unjustly overlooked tragedy in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
Other People (Netflix)
After recently breaking up with his boyfriend, a New York comedy writer (Jesse Plemons) must confront his dysfunctional relationship with his conservative family when he moves back in with them to help care for his terminally ill mother (former Saturday Night Live cast member Molly Shannon).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: In 2016, Jesse Plemons gave one of the most honest and heartfelt performances of his film career in Other People - a deeply emotional, but effectively funny, story loosely inspired by writer and director Chris Kelly’s own life experiences.
Politician Dick Cheney (an almost entirely unrecognizable Christian Bale in Oscar-winning makeup) rises to unprecedented power in the United States government from his discreet position as Vice President of the administration headed by George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Other than the fact that Jesse Plemons plays him, I suppose it is not too surprising that the most likable and sympathetic character in writer and director Adam McKay’s Vice is a fictional character named Kurt, who also narrates this dazzling, inventive 2018 satire for reasons I will not give away.
The Power Of The Dog (Netflix)
A charming, yet domineering, ranch hand (Benedict Cumberbatch) ungraciously taunts his brother’s (Jesse Plemons) new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her feeble son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), until he and the young man begin to grow unexpectedly close.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Jesse Plemons: Jesse Plemons reunites with his real-life love, Kirsten Dunst, onscreen and has the advantage of not being the most brutally antagonistic character in the 2021 Netflix original, The Power of the Dog - a stunning return for The Piano director Jane Campion, based on Thomas Savage's Neo-Western novel.
In addition to Martin Scorsese’s aforementioned Killers of the Flower Moon, set for a 2022 release on Apple TV+, Jesse Plemons is also starring opposite Jason Segel and Lily Collins in the home invasion thriller, Windfall, which is expected to come out that same year. He is also currently filming the HBO Max exclusive true crime miniseries, Love and Death.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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