Every Adam Driver movie, ranked

Good soup and Oscar-worthy performances.

by Carrie Wittmer
|
26 November 2021, 1:04pm

Before Adam Driver was Kylo Ren and a two-time Oscar nominee, he was a theatre actor trying to make it in New York. It was his role in HBO’s millennial favourite Girls, of course, that saw him rise to prominence in popular culture in 2012. He played the intense but ultimately lovable Adam Sackler, the on-and-off-again love interest of the show’s protagonist, with his oddball character a stand out from the rest of the vapid bunch.

For a few years, Driver appeared in small roles in films from prominent filmmakers including Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, the Coen Brothers’ Inside Lleywen Davis and Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. His roles throughout the early 2010s were in many ways (sorry king) miniscule, but significant because of the energy he brought to them. This all led up to the actor’s casting as Kylo Ren, the main antagonist in The Force Awakens, the first film in a new Star Wars sequel trilogy. His raw, surprising performance was well-received and in just under a decade, Driver cemented himself as one of the best actors of his generation, maybe even of all time, with his blend of old and new Hollywood sensibilities. 

Girls propelled him to fame, but Kylo Ren made him a movie star and the kind of actor who is in the Oscars conversation every year, praised for his flexibility in adapting to a diverse set of roles: a charming idiot, a spiritually broken divorcée, emo space prince, a poetry-writing bus driver. Thanks to Driver’s height (over six feet tall) and to God, the actor has become one of Hollywood’s sex symbols: a role which has proven to be a natural fit for the actor’s undeniable presence and seductive, brooding nature.

So, in honour of Adam Driver’s most recent W as Maurizio Gucci in (you guessed it) House of Gucci, we took a look back at all of his feature film roles and ranked them from worst to best… even though they are all good. Let’s begin.

26. J. Edgar, 2011

In the biographical drama about FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Driver’s first feature film, our guy plays a gas station attendant who gives G-men information. The role could have been forgettable, but Adam Driver did not let his costume — consisting of a newsboy cap, bowtie, and a brown peacoat — wear him. Not even a little.

25. Lincoln, 2012

Driver spends every second of his very little screen time in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning biopic writing letters and saying “sir” and “yes sir” to Daniel Day Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln. As always, Adam Driver did the most with what he had. This time it just wasn’t much.


24. The Meyerowitz Stories, 2017

Driver is only in one short scene in this Noah Baumbach film (his third with the director), but his impact is strong. Driver plays Randy, a client of Matthew (Ben Stiller) who is going broke. Driver doesn’t do much, but he does get to scream the line: “Such a dick, oh god!”

23. While We’re Young, 2015

In his second collaboration with Noah Baumbach, Driver plays Jamie, an aspiring filmmaker who meets Josh (Ben Stiller), an actual filmmaker. They become friends as Josh aims to revisit his youth during a mid-life crisis. Driver is pretty much just film bro in a cowboy hat in one of several roles from the early 2010s in which he embodies the hipster millennial by wearing a little hat.

22. Midnight Special, 2016

In Midnight Special, Driver plays Paul, a nerdy bespectacled NSA communications analyst. The performance is fine. He wears tiny glasses! It’s nothing special, besides the fact that it is an Adam Driver performance which is, even when kind of basic, inherently special. 

21. This Is Where I Leave You, 2014

In this strange nothing of a movie about a funeral from director Shawn Levy — with a who’s who of the early 2010s including Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Dax Shepard, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn and Jane Fonda breathes out — Driver plays Phillip Altman, the fuckboi youngest sibling of the family. In other words, he’s a playboy who thinks he is an entrepreneur because he wears a leather jacket and doesn’t have a job. This is the role that made studio executives everywhere say: “Let’s throw the guy from Girls in there to get to the millennials!” 

20. Bluebird, 2013

In this quiet, indie drama from director Lance Edmands, a school bus driver in a Maine logging town accidentally locks up the bus with a boy inside it, and the near-tragedy affects the entire community. Driver plays Walter, a co-worker of Maria, the boy’s mother. Although his role is small, his hands are still huge. He fits perfectly into Edmands’ world, as mesmerising as he is natural.

19. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, 2018

Terry Gilliam’s messy movie that was in development hell for decades put Driver in a role as a 21st-century marketing executive thrown back through time. Driver grounds the film with a performance that matches Gilliam’s unconventional style.

18. The Dead Don’t Die, 2019

Driver is Officer Ronnie Petersen in Jim Jarmusch’s comedy-horror The Dead Don’t Die. His performance is an excellent example of the actor’s ability to reinvent the English language simply by delivering lines in inventive ways e.g. like the incredible way he pronounces “ghouls.” It’s not an obvious performance and his casual, robotic delivery makes it brilliant. 

17. Tracks, 2013

Adam Driver is well aware of the magnetism of his on-screen presence, so he also knows when it’s time to just get out of the way. Like in Tracks, an Australian film from director John Curran depicting Robyn Davidson’s nine-month journey across the Australian Outback. Playing IRL National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, Driver lets the sparks fly between himself and co-star Mia Wasikowska — his more subdued performance ensuring that Wasikowska is the stand-out. 

16. What If, 2013

In this charming romantic comedy from director Michael Dowse, Daniel Radcliffe stars as Wallace, a med school drop out wrestling with his attraction for his new friend Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a quirky artist who, unfortunately, has a boyfriend. Driver plays Allan, Wallace’s college friend who encourages him to sleep with more women. It’s a traditional early 2010s role for Driver in that Allan is a hipster millennial philanderer, but more subversive because Allan is The Best Friend in a romantic comedy who (literally) screams in one scene: “I just had sex and I’m about to eat nachos. This is the greatest moment of my life!” As always, Driver makes the absolute most of the role, particularly in his chemistry with Radcliffe. 


15. Hungry Hearts, 2014

In this Italian psychological drama from director Saverio Costanzo, Driver plays new father Jude, whose wife becomes so absorbed in wellness culture that it starts to affect the health of their child. Although the movie doesn’t quite work — despite it being fairly prescient with the rise of anti-vaxers since the start of the pandemic — Driver’s portrayal of a desperate, confused man in an unpredictable position is an early display of his ability to portray tightly bottled-up anger and incredible, explosive rage. 

14. Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013

Driver has a small, but very powerful part in the Coen Brothers' 2013 drama Inside Llewyn Davis as Al Cody, a struggling musician in the early 60s who wears a cowboy hat. Driver’s part is small but significant for its departure from what was expected from Driver at the time (hipster fuckbois). Driver is the perfect foil to Oscar Isaac’s Llewyn Davis, and the pair have great energy together in their awkward banter. Also, we must not forget that “outer …. space” changed the culture

13. Paterson, 2016

Here, our boy is a poet and bus driver named Paterson in Paterson, New Jersey. The film, directed by Jim Jarmusch, doesn’t have much of a plot, so it relies on Driver’s charisma to move the story forward and keep things interesting — and it works! If you’ve ever wanted to see Adam Driver walk a dog, this is the perfect movie for that very specific content. 

12. House of Gucci, 2021

Adam Driver can do it all, including camp. In Ridley Scott’s fashion crime drama, Driver plays Maurizio Gucci, an aspiring lawyer who becomes the heir to the Gucci fashion empire. His chemistry with one Miss Lady Gaga is electric. They have a sex scene that is actually sexy (move over Sally Rooney), and for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, Driver gets to have a good time at work. His little Italian accent is as adorable as the adult-sized bike that becomes a tricycle against his giant frame.  


11. Silence, 2016

In Martin Scorsese’s passion project Silence, Driver plays Francisco Garupe, a Portuguese priest who embarks on a mission to Japan to find his mentor and spread Catholicism. Silence is Driver’s most physically demanding role to date: he lost nearly 50lbs to realistically demonstrate emaciation, which transformed his figure from towering and domineering to lanky and unrecognisable, leading to a haunting performance that's unlike any other. In preparation for their roles, Driver and his co-star Andrew Garfield went through a 7-day Jesuit silent prayer vigil.

10. Frances Ha, 2012

In Noah Baumbach’s arthouse masterpiece, Driver plays Lev, a 20-something New Yorker who wears a little hat and, after failing to court Greta Gerwig’s Frances, takes her in as his new roommate. This point cannot be stressed enough: Adam Driver, for some reason, spent the majority of the early 2010s wearing little hats. His performance in this film also established his long working relationship with Baumbach, who would later direct him to an Oscar nomination for Marriage Story. If performed by anyone else, this character would have disappeared into the crowded abyss of the past decade’s culture but Lev and his precious singing voice will live rent free in our heads forever. 

9. The Report, 2019

The Report’s 2019 release did not serve it well, coming out just as Driver was generating a much bigger buzz for his bigger performance in Marriage Story. The former dropped on Amazon Prime on November 29, while the latter dropped on Netflix a week later, on December 6. It was, indeed, Adam Driver Season. Driver’s performance as Daniel Jones, a Senate investigator who uncovers the CIA’s torture tactics following September 11 is subtle but precise. The actor captures the building frustration of a man who discovers that the truth is something bigger and more horrifying than he ever imagined. It’s reminiscent of a number of acclaimed performances in 70s political thrillers, particularly Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman’s in All the President’s Men. 

8. Annette, 2021

In Annette, Driver plays Henry McHenry, a stand-up comedian and father to a puppet baby who, spoiler alert, is also a murderer. Driver’s passion for this offbeat rock opera radiates in his performance: singing through cunnilingus with Marion Cotillard, holding a puppet baby as if it were real and not horrifying, and performing stand-up in a bath robe. He is perfectly, perfectly unhinged.

7. Logan Lucky, 2017

In this iconic comedy heist film from Steven Soderbergh, Driver plays Clyde Logan, a bartender who served two tours in Iraq and lost the lower part of his left arm. This is Driver’s best comedic performance and one of his best physical performances too: he takes himself prestige drama-levels of seriously, wielding a prosthetic arm and a deadpan southern accent. “Did you just say cauliflower to me?” is one of the best line deliveries of the 21st century so far. Maybe even any century. 

6. BlacKkKlansman, 2018

Driver plays Detective Philip “Flip” Zimmerman in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a dark comedy about a Black detective’s undercover efforts to expose the local Ku Klux Klan. Flip is Jewish, so the things he has to say in order to sell his undercover role as a Klan member start to eat away at him. Driver adds specificity and complexity to the role, letting the film’s lead, John David Washington, take control.

3-5. Star Wars Sequel trilogy, 2015-2019 (but mostly The Last Jedi, 2017)

Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren, the main antagonist in the uneven Star Wars sequel trilogy is deserving of several accolades, most specifically for The Last Jedi. His moving, deeply human portrayal of a villain who could have easily been cartoonish or one-note is the highlight of the films, and one of the (if not the) best performances in a franchise film. Driver’s ability to capture Kylo Ren’s internal pain and rough past through body language, a glance, a broken line delivery, or the way he holds his red lightsaber makes even Rise of Skywalker worth it. He really made the most out of dying in his joggers.

2. The Last Duel, 2021

The Last Duel marks Driver’s most terrifying role yet. The Ridley Scott film, based on true events from the 14th century, is told in three acts: the first from the perspective of Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), Jacques Le Gris (Driver) and finally, Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer). Driver adapts cleverly to these shifting perspectives and toys with his sex symbol status, making minute adjustments to his character in each act. At the start of the film, Jacques Le Gris is a seemingly loyal, beloved French knight. By the end, he’s a monster who smoothly and nonchalantly attempts to get away with rape by denying it ever occurred. Driver doesn’t hesitate to be as evil as possible here, and the progression of his character from affable romantic interest to a total nightmare is suitably chilling as it mirrors reality, even centuries later. 

1. Marriage Story (2019)

In Marriage Story, our favourite, Driver plays Charlie Barber, a New York City-based playwright and father going through a divorce. He shines in this film with the irresistible warmth of Cary Grant and the intense, tough exterior of Judd Hirsch. Driver unleashes his anger unexpectedly, only to fall to his knees crying, seconds later. His iconic performance of Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive” isn’t even his best scene in the movie. The role, which is his fourth with Noah Baumbach, should have won Driver the Oscar for Best Actor. Yes, we’re all still very bitter about it.

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Adam Driver
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