Every Robert Pattinson performance, ranked

He's played vampires, historical figures, bandits and Batman. So how do they all stack up?

by Barry Levitt
|
01 March 2022, 8:15am

Robert Pattinson’s persona is difficult to predict, which is probably why he’s so irresistibly compelling as an actor. After his first major film role in the Harry Potter franchise, he went on to star in the Twilight films as vampire Edward Cullen, a role he, imminently after wrapping the project, notoriously despised. But as he’s segued into life as an arthouse darling (and done some soul searching on the Twilight topic), he’s begun to immerse himself in a plethora of new roles, from down-and-out men on society’s fringes to one of the biggest superheroes in the world. 

Look back through his catalogue of performances and you’ll find he’s recently veered into a distinctive territory: A24 darling, collaborating with the likes of Robert Eggers and the Safdie Brothers, as well as established European icons of cinema like French director Claire Denis. He was, for a while, steering clear of the straightforward blockbusters – until now, that is. The announcement of Robert playing the latest iteration of masked crusader Batman in the new Matt Reeves blockbuster caused confusion and uproar at first. On one hand, his recent roles didn’t suggest a desire to become a franchise favourite once again, but upon revisiting Robert’s work, it's easy to see why it’s a natural fit. With the release of The Batman upon us, we’ve gone deep into Rob’s entire oeuvre, watching every single feature film performance to discover what makes the actor so special, and what his very best roles are.

Including The Batman, this is every Robert Pattinson performance, ranked.

27. Vanity Fair (2004)

Rob’s small role in Vanity Fair might’ve been cut from the final film but hardcore completionists will find his scenes included as an extra on some DVD releases.


26. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the worst Twilight film is the one with the least amount of Edward Cullen. New Moon feels more like an opportunity to have Rob’s character be shirtless than to provide any real characterisation. All the glitter in the world can’t distract from how dull it is.

25. Little Ashes (2008)

As Salvador Dali, Rob completely abandons his Spanish accent halfway through, which is probably the same time you should stop watching this rather dull and questionably directed film. Even R-Patz engaging in homoeroticism can’t save it!

24. Bel Ami (2012)

Rob is woefully miscast as a penniless man who climbs the social ladder during the Belle Époque. It’s a curiously vacant performance, and the women he tries to seduce (Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Christina Ricci) act circles around him.

23. Twilight (2008)

The film that properly launched Rob’s career provides him with a surprisingly small amount to do. It’s a role largely comprised of brooding and reacting, which doesn’t exactly hurt his sex appeal. It does serve as the genesis of the Pattinson-Stewart relationship that fans obsessed over, so that’s something.

22. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2011)

Rob finally gets the opportunity to add a dash of dimension to his character and do a bit of acting (what a concept!). It’s a step up from the previous entries in the franchise, both in performance and for the overall series, but you just can’t shake the vibe that Rob would rather be anywhere else at this point.

21. The Childhood of a Leader (2015)

A fascinating art-house film about the early days of a fascist, but Rob’s role is ultimately inconsequential (despite featuring prominently in the marketing). Still, he’s pretty imposing when he does appear.

20. Waiting for the Barbarians (2019)

The working title for this should have been Waiting for Pattinson, since Rob doesn’t actually show up until a good two-thirds of the way in. His character, Officer Mandel, has a penchant for brutality. Besides this, he’s barely a factor in the film, especially in contrast to the characters played by his co-stars Mark Rylance and Johnny Depp

19. Queen of the Desert (2015)

Another supporting role that gives him little to do, Rob portrays historical figure T.E. Lawrence in this film based on the real life of Gertrude Bell, who negotiated the borders between Middle Eastern countries at the end of the empire. He's not actually in Queen of the Desert much, but at least he’s devastatingly handsome when he is. Standout moment? Well, he poses for a photo with lion cubs, does that count?

18. Life (2015)

Despite top billing, Rob’s character, real-life photographer Dennis Stock, plays second fiddle to Dane DeHaan's mumbling James Dean in this film about the duo’s relationship. It's one of the only times Rob plays a thoroughly average person, and it's all sort of fine — except for the unintentionally hilarious moment when he vomits on his six-year-old son. 

17. Remember Me (2010)

While the film completely eviscerates any and all goodwill you may have for it with a gobsmackingly bad twist ending, Rob is good in this largely run-of-the-mill romantic drama. His character Tyler has plenty of bad-boy brooding energy for him to dig into, and it’s lovely to see some proper chemistry with his on-screen girlfriend Ally, played by Emilie de Ravin.

16. Maps to the Stars (2014)

It’s a minor role, sure, but Rob is very well cast in this incestuous Hollywood satire as a limo driver (a fun nod to his previous film with director David Cronenberg, Cosmopolis), alongside some of the strangest characters you’ll ever meet. 

15. Tenet (2020)

In Nolan’s action spectacle, Rob plays Neil, the handler of the Protagonist (yes, that’s his character name), played by John David Washington. It’s an intriguing performance, and he’s well suited for action movies, though his performance is a touch too mysterious for its own good. Like everything in Tenet, he comes second to the jaw-dropping set-pieces.

14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Rob’s very first major film role acclimated him nicely to the world of blockbusters, starring as Cedric Diggory in Goblet of Fire, the fifth film in the Harry Potter universe. It’s a promising performance that explains why the actor continues to endure in the industry: no matter the screentime, he’ll make an indelible impression. 

13. The Devil All the Time (2020)

One of Rob’s nastiest characters, preacher Preston Teagarden is a despicable antagonist in this Netflix movie, starring alongside Tom Holland and Bill Skarsgård. In the most drastic 180 of his career image thus far, he subverts his star image, doing an ugly and depraved performance. 

12. The King (2019)

It takes over an hour for Rob to make an appearance in The King, but it takes just a few seconds for him to inject some much-needed life into an otherwise slow historical drama with Timothée Chalamet. His performance as the Dauphin of France is so deliciously deranged that it’s almost like he’s in an entirely different film to his co-stars. Some actors chew scenery; in The King, Rob swallows it whole.

11. Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Parts 1 and 2 (2011-2012)

It’s easy to take swings at these rather bonkers movies about vampires and werewolves, but the final two films in the saga finally add some credence to Rob as a bonafide actor and star. He brings a lot more than a stilted, distant vampire this time around, at least when he’s given the opportunity to do so. Despite the complete absurdity swirling around him, Rob’s Edward Cullen showcases some surprising depth.

10. How to Be (2008)

"When we first met, you seemed so elusive and brooding and intense," the girlfriend of Rob’s character Art says to him in this underseen indie-comedy. It feels like a meta-comment on Rob's star persona. Look beyond one of the worst posters ever, and you’ll find How To Be is a surprisingly weird and charming film that pre-dates Rob's vampire breakthrough. His character is suffering an existential quarter-life crisis and enlists a self-help guru from Canada to come live with him and his parents in an attempt to gain clarity on it all. His performance is convincing: Rob nails the first of many brooding outsider roles that would come to define his career. 

9. Water for Elephants (2011)

In this visually gorgeous but otherwise predictable melodrama, Rob seems thrilled to be freed of his franchise commitments, playing a circus vet falling for the wife of a ringmaster. He stands toe-to-toe with his co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, both of whom had won Oscars by this point, bringing an impressive nuance and characterisation to Jacob. It’s our best chance to see how an actor like Rob would have been in Classical Hollywood.

8. Cosmopolis (2012)

Rob received plenty of criticism while starring in the Twilight saga for being cold and stilted; his performance in Cosmopolis feels like a direct response to those critiques. As billionaire Eric, he’s brutally uncaring, loathsome, and detached from everything around him, as he watches everything fall apart: the economy, his marriage and his health. His sex is devoid of any passion or enthusiasm, but despite all this, there’s something hypnotic about his choices. Just like the film itself (which is largely set inside a limousine), the performance is impeccably put together, but difficult to love. Rob’s now an expert at playing characters in moments of existential crisis. That all started here.

7. The Rover (2014)

In the bleak, dystopian landscape of the dusty Australian outback, Rob completely embodies his role as Rey — a criminal left behind by his crew — in this impressive physical performance. Though at first he feels like a nasty character, Rob revels in the small details, both through physicality and dialogue. 

6. Damsel (2018)

If your very specific fever dreams involve Robert Pattinson walking around with a miniature horse as close company, Damsel is right up your alley. In it he plays Samuel, a pioneer who’s completely smitten by Penelope (Mia Wasikowska), whom he must rescue from her abductors with the intention of marrying. It might be a black comedy, but Rob delivers one of his most complicated characters in this surprising film with a shocking twist. It proved that Rob isn’t just a great dramatic actor, but has some real comedic chops to boot. 

5. The Lost City of Z (2016)

Evidence that Rob is every bit as capable as a sideline character actor as he is in the main spotlight, his performance in The Lost City of Z is the only proper supporting role in the top 10. As Corporal Henry Costin, assistant to explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), he disappears into the role behind a glorious beard, possessing a searing power and fierce loyalty towards Percy, and delivering each line with impressive restraint. You almost believe Rob is out there himself, in the depths of the jungle trying to find a secret civilization.

4. The Batman (2022)

It's not easy to step into a character that's been interpreted ad-nauseam and make it your own, but that's exactly what Rob does as Batman. The film aims to be a gritty new take on the character and Gotham City, and it is fairly successful at doing so, but the biggest highlight is Rob's performance. He delivers a surprisingly emotional and sensitive take, though that doesn't make the character any less imposing. It's an exceptional, well-rounded performance, channelling grief, trauma, rage, and fear to create what just might be the most compelling and unique portrait of Batman to date.

3. The Lighthouse (2019)

While many would crumble being forced to carry an entire movie with a titan like Willem Dafoe, Rob handles it all with meticulous skill and detail in the black-and-white psychothriller The Lighthouse. In many ways, his performance feels like a culmination of all his oddball, off-kilter characters that have come before. His love for playing weirdos and his impressive comic chops come together exquisitely, creating a singular portrait of obsession, terror, anger, confusion, and insanity. 

2. Good Time (2017)

Another portrait of an obsessive character on the verge, Rob is dazzling as Connie Nikas in the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time. Like The Lighthouse, it’s a performance that feels like an amalgamation of everything that’s come before: the effortless charm on display as Cedric and Samuel, the gritty determination of Henry, the helplessness of Art, the unbridled nastiness of Preston and the magnificent madness of the Dauphin. This current phase of Rob’s career, in which he develops these bizarre and endlessly watchable characters with visionary directors, is his most satisfying to date. Good Time features the actor at his grimiest, and most deliciously despicable. 

1. High Life (2018)

A film as beguiling as Robert’s own persona, Claire Denis’ High Life is hypnotic and haunting. Rob plays Monte, a prisoner sent on an experimental space mission on which everyone else has died, attempting to reach a black hole; he and his infant daughter are the sole survivors. It’s a challenging role in a challenging film that the actor rises to, making the most of minute physical detail to deliver a strong display of emotional nuance. Everything around Monte points to devastation, which acts as a great catalyst for Robert Pattinson’s most masterful performance to date.


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