Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese called Adam Driver, “one of the best, if not the best, actors of his generation.” Renowned director Terry Gilliam suggested Driver is the best after working with him on the criminally overlooked, long-gestating The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
After a whirlwind few years, he has become one of the best actors around. And these are the best Adam Driver movies to date:
Marriage Story, Netflix
Driver stars as Charlie, whose character is going through a divorce with Nicole (Scarlett Johansson). She’s an actor who met Charlie by chance and has seen him emerge as a successful theatre director in New York.
All the supporting players in this film are phenomenal as well. Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda all play divorce lawyers, with Dern figuring in most prominently. But the two leads really shine in Marriage Story. Writer-director Baumbach is meticulous about his cerebral dialogue in that what’s on the page is what’s said. There’s very little improvisation, and it’s more like theatre acting in that way.
There’s an argument scene between Driver and Johansson that will go down as one of the best sequences ever in a domestic drama. It’s that good.
The Report, Amazon Prime Video
This is based on the true story of a report that covered the CIA’s torture program of extreme interrogation techniques. Much of that torture report is redacted, yet the revelations unearthed in this movie are stunning enough.
Driver portrays Daniel Jones, who went through thousands of government documents over a five-year period to compile the report. He worked closely with Dianne Feinstein, played wonderfully by Annette Bening.
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There’s a ton of information flying around in this dialogue-heavy affair, yet it’s presented in a digestible way. Well, sort of, because you do see some of the torture referenced in the report, and it’s hard to watch.
Without getting any more detailed than that, definitely check this out, especially if you’re a history buff. Or check it out if you just enjoy watching Driver crush it.
Paterson, Amazon Prime Video
In a role that’s quite a departure from his obnoxious, impulsive breakout character on the TV show Girls, Driver takes the measured lead in this quiet film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Set in Paterson, New Jersey, Paterson follows a bus driver named Paterson (Driver) who finds beauty in the simplicity of a structured daily schedule in a small Northeastern town.
In most of his spare time, be it on a lunch break or on off days from work, Paterson writes poetry that he keeps to himself in a notebook. Paterson’s domestic partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) encourages her intensely private man to at the very least print off the poems from his notebook, which he’s reluctant to do.
Meanwhile, Paterson encourages Laura’s various creative endeavors and her big dreams, creating a delightful, supportive dynamic. Their conflict stems primarily from their dog, which I won’t spoil here.
This slice-of-life portrait doesn’t follow a three-act structure with a cathartic climax, so don’t go in expecting anything of that variety. It’s largely a showcase for Driver’s ability to communicate without speaking as he quietly observes the world around him.
Inside Llewyn Davis, Fubo TV
Playing a small but memorable supporting role as musician Al Cody in the Coen Brothers’ gloomy portrait of the folk music scene in early 1960s New York City, Driver’s comic timing really stands out here.
The best scene is easily in the recording studio. Driver’s Cody is seated around a microphone with guitar-playing Oscar Isaac’s eponymous character and none other than Justin Timberlake.
JT’s character Jim writes a corny, poppy song about the space race titled, “Please Mr. Kennedy,” to which Al Cody contributes pre-recording grunts and strange vocal warm-up techniques. Once the session officially clears for liftoff, the song is highlighted by Cody’s interjecting “Outer!” “Space!” and “Uh-Oh!” backing vocals.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a rather depressing movie overall, and Llewyn is not the most likable character in the way that central protagonists often are. But even the bit of time Driver is on the screen is worth the watch.
Hungry Hearts, Tubi
This is a harrowing story of a couple who decides to try to make it work after a chance meeting in a bathroom abroad and a sudden, accidental pregnancy not long thereafter.
Without spoiling too much, suffice it to say Driver’s Jude and Alba Rohrwacher’s Mina do not see eye to eye when it comes to how to raise their child.
Driver won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor (and Rohrwacher for Best Actress) at the Venice International Film Festival where Hungry Hearts premiered back in 2014, and for good reason. Many world-class actors have earned the distinction such as Oscar winners Sean Penn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Colin Firth, Javier Bardem, and Jack Lemmon, to name some.
While We’re Young, Fubo TV
Co-star Ben Stiller compared Driver to a young Marlon Brando after working with him on this film, which is some of the highest praise an actor can get. We’re seeing a trend here, no?
Playing a slithering, rather ill-intentioned hipster and pseudo-filmmaker named Jamie in While We’re Young, Driver’s character, along with his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried), coax their way into socializing with Josh (Stiller) and his wife Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and make the older couple feel young again.
It’s a lot of really cerebral dialogue, and especially the beginning of this movie feels perhaps better suited for the stage. However, whenever Driver pops up, like in many of his roles, you never quite know what’s going to happen or where exactly he’s coming from. And that’s meant to be a compliment.
One highlight is a mini-retreat where the quartet trips out on ayahuasca. This is a film that may well grow on you after you’ve seen it, but again Driver is must-see viewing, especially for those fascinated by the craft of acting.
Logan Lucky, Fubo TV
There’s no question Driver does funny well, but this is a far different flavor of humor than he’s offered before. Yes, his character does have some neurosis going on, yet Clyde Logan’s thought process is so deliberate that it alters Driver’s characterization so drastically from any other role he’s played.
What a fun cast this is, too. As was the case in What If?, Driver shares scenes in Logan Lucky with another franchise giant, James Bond himself: Daniel Craig’s bleach-blond Joe Bang.
There’s an elaborate heist plot that Bang has to help Clyde and Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) execute. Director Steven Soderbergh channels his experience in the Oceans films to deliver another great caper comedy.
Tatum proved he could be incredibly funny in the 21 Jump Street reboot. He and Driver are outstanding as brothers from West Virginia whose hearts are ultimately in the right place despite their illegal activities.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Hulu
This is one of the most charismatic lead comedic performances of the 21st century.
Driver plays Toby, a precocious, temperamental, misanthropic director who’s attempting to assemble an ad campaign with a Don Quixote theme. He eventually meets Jonathan Pryce’s character, Javier, a shoemaker who starred in Toby’s student film when the young man was in college abroad.
Now, Javier actually believes he’s Don Quixote. Pryce is hysterical, and Driver deals with him in hilarious ways. Just to state something obvious yet amazing: both men received Best Actor Oscar nominations this year. They work together in this film. It’s as awesome as it sounds.
This really is a Terry Gilliam special. After so many years in development hell, believe it or not, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote lives up to the hype.
Silence, Freevee (Amazon Channel)
Silence is a lengthily-marinating project from an even more legendary director.
Martin Scorsese directed this film of 17th-century Jesuit priests, portrayed by Driver and Andrew Garfield, who quest forth on a mission trip to Japan and face brutal religious persecution.
For his supporting role — Garfield is definitely the central character — Driver lost over 50 pounds. His physical transformation is stunning, and it’s one of the more raw, unnerving roles he’s had.