There have been many great depictions of The Riddler on screen over the years, but the latest interpretation of the DC Comics villain is easily the darkest and deadliest, with his famous knack for brainteasers feeing more reminiscent of the Zodiac Killer. Of course, an essential key to how The Batman - released in theaters March 4, 2022 - portrays the puzzling foe in such a memorably creepy manner is in the masterful performance by Paul Dano.
If director Matt Reeves’ gritty, noir-inspired reboot of the live-action Batman movies just happened to be your introduction to this acclaimed, award-winning actor, I have no doubt that it must have piqued your interest in exploring more of his filmography. There is, indeed, quite an eclectic collection of Paul Dano movies and TV shows on his resume so far, such as this underrated teen comedy.
The Girl Next Door (Starz)
A high school student (Emile Hirsch) forms a relationship with a beautiful woman (Elisha Cuthbert) housesitting for his neighbor, but things get a little crazy when he discovers that she works in the adult entertainment industry.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: Relatively early into his career, Paul Dano gave a scene-stealing performance as Klitz, a meek geek who slowly learns to branch out of his comfort zone, in 2004's The Girl Next Door - a forgotten favorite of the early-2000s teen sex comedy era that is, surprisingly, as sweet as it is raunchy.
Little Miss Sunshine (Hulu, Amazon Prime, Tubi)
After young Olive (Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin) is accepted as a beauty pageant contestant at the last minute, her family piles into a VW for a cross-country trip to the event, during which they are forced to confront their issues with one another and with themselves.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: In 2006, Paul Dano began to make an even grander impression on cinema with his role as Dwayne, an angsty teen who has taken a vow of silence, in the Little Miss Sunshine cast with this brilliant, Oscar-winning dysfunctional family story that is just as funny and endearing as it is unapologetically dark.
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There Will Be Blood (Netflix, Paramount+)
An oil driller (Daniel Day-Lewis in his second Oscar-winning role) clashes with the citizens of a small California town and anyone he perceives has gotten in the way of his greedy aspirations.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: In 2007, Paul Dano proved that he could hold his own opposite the great Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Eli Sunday, a raucous, self-righteous young preacher, in There Will Blood - a powerful, often shocking character study that writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson loosely based off of Upton Sinclair’s influential, dramatized industry exposé, Oil!
Being Flynn (HBO Max)
A young, aspiring writer (Paul Dano) unexpectedly crosses paths with his father (two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro) after years apart, when the older man shows up seeking a room at the homeless shelter his son has started working at.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: In 2012, Paul Dano proved that he could hold his own opposite the great Robert De Niro in the role of his estranged son, Nick Flynn, in Being Flynn - another raw, emotional, dysfunctional family story that writer and director Paul Weitz based off of the real Nick Flynn’s memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.
Knight And Day (Tubi)
An average, small-town woman (Cameron Diaz) crosses paths with a mysterious stranger (Tom Cruise) who turns out to be a disgraced, international secret agent seeking to clear his name, and ends up becoming an unwillingly participant in his latest globe-trotting adventure.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: In 2010, Paul Dano made a fun return to comedy and made his action movie debut as Simon Fenk, a young inventor whom Cruise’s Roy Miller is trying to protect, in Knight and Day - a delightful, thoroughly engaging spy thriller (and one of the more underrated Tom Cruise movies) from director James Mangold.
Ruby Sparks (Amazon Rental)
To cure his writer’s block, a young novelist (Paul Dano) types out his own vision of the perfect woman for him and is, at first, shocked but later delighted to learn that she has, somehow, manifested into a real person (Zoe Kazan).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: Also in 2012, Paul Dano both serves as an executive producer and stars as the lovelorn novelist with a truly overactive imagination, Calvin Weir-Fields, alongside his real-life romantic partner, Zoe Kazan, as the title character of Ruby Sparks - a touching and funny romantic fantasy that would also reunite Dano with the directors of Little Miss Sunshine: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
In the year 2044, a hired gun (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), part of a group of hitmen employed by the mob to take out people sent to him from thirty years in the future, is forced to go on the run when he fails to kill his latest target: his older self (Bruce Willis).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: Paul Dano made a relatively brief, but memorable and devastating, appearance as Seth, a fellow assassin and friend of JGL’s Joe, in Looper - a brilliant blend of high-concept, sci-fi dystopia, time travel, and classic film-noir elements from writer and director Rian Johnson.
After the efforts of a local detective (Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal) prove ultimately unhelpful, a man (Hugh Jackman) grows increasingly desperate to find who captured his missing daughter and her friend and is driven to go to unimaginable lengths to take matters into his own hands.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: Out of all the great Paul Dano roles that prove he was a good fit to play The Riddler in The Batman, perhaps the most essential is his performance as Alex Jones, who becomes the prime suspect in the child kidnapping case at the center of 2013’s Prisoners - a riveting and disturbing, Oscar-nominated crime thriller from director Denis Villeneuve.
Escape At Dannemora (Showtime)
An employee at a prison in upstate New York (Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette) becomes romantically involved with a pair of convicted killers (Academy Award winner Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano) and helps them plot a breakout.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: Another role that surely must have had some in hand in earning Paul Dano the part of The Riddler is his Emmy-nominated performance as convicted felon David Sweat in Escape at Dannemora - a Showtime original, 2018 miniseries inspired by a true story that was helmed by Ben Stiller.
Love & Mercy (HBO Max)
Brian Wilson, the leader and creative force behind the legendary band, The Beach Boys, struggles with his mental health in the 1960s and, two decades later, falls in love with a woman (Elizabeth Banks) who begins to take notice of the oppressive nature of her beau’s relationship with his psychotherapist (Paul Giamatti).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: Out of all the great Paul Dano roles in his entire career, one of the most riveting and investing is his performance as Brian Wilson, also played by the equally moving John Cusack at different times in Wilson's life, in 2014’s Love & Mercy - a revealing and inventively executed music biopic that reunited Dano with 12 Years a Slave producer Bill Pohlad, who directed the film.
Swiss Army Man (Showtime)
A man (Paul Dano) cast away on a desert island finds his unexpected saving grace in a washed-up corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that, somehow, possesses an innumerable amount of special abilities to help him survive.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Paul Dano: I do not even know how to begin to describe why 2016’s Swiss Army Man - the feature-length directorial debut of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”) - is one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen, but if there is one thing that will keep audiences from getting lost in bewilderment, it would be the impenetrable chemistry between Dano and Radcliffe.
There is more from Paul Dano on the horizon following his stunning turn in The Batman. He will next appear in co-writer and director Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical family drama, The Fabelmans, stars opposite Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan in Spaceman (which is on the 2022 Netflix Movie schedule), and joins the all-star cast of AMC’s eight-episode sci-fi series, Pantheon.
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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