10 best films starring Adam Driver
(Credit: Netflix)

10 best films starring Adam Driver

“Acting is really about having the courage to fail in front of people.”– Adam Driver 

Adam Driver’s handsome features, soulful acting and wonderful on-screen presence have taken him to the pinnacle of success in Hollywood in no time. With every role he takes up, Driver manages to ingeniously infuse elements of intrigue and relatability. His intense passion and enthusiasm are palpable. 

Adam, who was born in San Diego, California, has always described his teenage self as a “misfit” after struggling to immediately find his place in the world. Being a huge fan of the movies, he even set up a fight club with friends as an ode to David Fincher’s Fight Club but didn’t take it any further in a professional sense. Instead, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he served in the US Marine Corps for two years before being medically discharged due to a sternum injury. Driver, with his indomitable spirit and a determination to study drama at Juilliard, succeeded in getting through for the second time. Driver, labelled as intimidating and volatile, could not find his place among the students and kept searching for more and he graduated in 2009. 

Driver’s career started slow and late but has taken him on a wonderful rollercoaster ride. It was not until 2011 that he made his debut, taking up a role in Clint Eastwood’s film J.Edgar in which he would star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. That had been the breakthrough Driver’s career required, one that went on to him appearing in hit television series Girls would make him a household name. Within a very short span, by dint of talent and perseverance, Driver has had the opportunity to work with directors like Clint Eastwood, Noah Baumbach, Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Coen Brothers, Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Terry Gilliam and more. 

He gained even more recognition playing the role of Kylo Ren in Star Wars (2015-2019) where he manages to evoke sympathy in our hearts with the sadness and pain in his eyes, despite his despicable misdoings. Driver has also starred in indie films that have touched the hearts of viewers. His 2018 collaboration with Baumbach in Marriage Story remains the most intense and vulnerable performance of his to date. Baumbach has had nothing but high praise for this actor, stating: “What’s so thrilling about working with him is that within a moment or a scene, he’s always looking for something that feels even more authentic or that triggers/activates him.”

Despite his success, Driver hates watching his films as he finds it difficult to digest “all of the mistakes that you are making that are now immortalized on film forever”. Unfortunately, he was forced to watch his role as Kylo Ren in the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and that had reportedly been an unbearable experience for him. “I just went totally cold, because I knew the scene was coming up where I had to kill Han Solo, and people were, like, hyperventilating when the title came up, and I felt like I had to puke.”

Given his supreme rise, Adam Driver has received Academy Award nominations twice and deserves to take one home very soon. However, with success comes fame, a position that the actor has not found easy, often commenting on his dislike interviews or red carpets and finds them “bizarre and awkward.”

Driver has often complained, “If I’m not doing something or working on something, I literally just sit in the room and think, which I don’t think is productive. I won’t go outside for days.” Well, luckily for him, he has his hands full as of now. He stars in a lead role as the stand-up comedian Henry in Leos Carax’s debut-English language musical Annette; the plot revolves around Henry’s life after the tragic and untimely demise of his wife who is an opera singer. Driver has also bagged a role in the legendary Ridley Scott’s 14th-century drama The Last Duel which is set to be intense and epic. The films will be releasing in 2020 and 2021 tentatively. 

It is difficult to decide upon only 10 best films of an actor of his stature. However, as this prolific actor turns 37 today, we wish him health and happiness and look back at some of the amazing characters he played with unique storylines to pay tribute to one of the greatest contemporary actors in Hollywood. 

Here are the 10 best films starring Adam Driver(except Star Wars, because you saw that coming, didn’t you?) 

10 best films starring Adam Driver:

10. While We’re Young (Noah Baumbach, 2014)

The film revolves around a middle-aged New Yorker couple Josh and Cornelia Srebnick whose marriage is on the rocks. Josh is approached by a young, hipster couple after his college lecture where Jamie Massey claims to be a fan of his work. The older couple invites Jamie and Darby Massey over and they begin a beautiful friendship which slowly takes a different turn as their characters begin to unravel. 

In his second collaboration with Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver is effortless as the “stereotypical hipster filmmaker”. He is maddening and infuriating at times and delivers a stellar performance alongside bigshot talents like that of Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried etc. The zany humour and brutally honest portrayal of events make While We’re Young “most engaging”. 

Nobody owns anything. If I hear a song I like, or a story, it’s mine. It’s mine to use. It’s everybody’s.”

9. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 2013)

Coen Brothers’ black comedy-drama is based on an ex merchant marine turned folk singer, Llewyn Davis. He is a struggling artist trying to make do with his artistic independence while his survival is being constantly challenged by the rapidly growing commercial needs of the music industry. 

Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) gets his friend Jean Berkey (Carey Mulligan) pregnant and has to pay for the abortion. To raise money, he collaborates over a novelty based space theme song alongside the ignorant husband Jim Berkey (Justin Timberlake) and Al Cody (Adam Driver). Although Driver makes a small appearance, he leaves an indelible mark as a free-spirited musician with ridiculous and comical vocal delivery amidst the talented ensemble. However, Driver reportedly hates this scene and has not been able to watch himself act in films ever since. While Al Cody’s hilarious and iconic bozo backup vocals to ‘Please Mr Kennedy” cracks us up, it has made the actor vow to never watch his work. The strange studio sequence is one of the most memorable scenes in this mellow drama which is a fan favourite even seven years after its release.  

You don’t want to go anywhere, and that’s why the same shit’s going to keep happening to you because you want it to.”

8. The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch, 2019)

Looking for a film that is a part of the zombie genre without conforming to the usual narrative? Jim Jarmusch’s absurdist take on a zombie invasion is the perfect fit for you. Starring a heavyweight ensemble including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Tom Waits and Selena Gomez, Jarmusch’s film merely touches and/or criticises the stereotypical elements in every zombie film. Because breaks the fourth wall in his film, people are divided as to whether they like it or despise it. These gaps heighten the nuanced and intelligent deadpan humour present in the narrative. If you thought Zombieland was funny, Jarmusch’s film is sure to crack you up. With the zombies coming back from the grave, chanting for the things they are obsessed with (including WiFi, Chardonnay etc), the subtle humour of the film is devoid of usual zombie flick gimmicks.

Centreville is a sleepy town which becomes the ground zero for a zombie invasion. Police officers Clidd Robertson (Bill Murray) and Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) must survive against the odds while investigating the mysterious invasion. Driver delivers his dialogues with a deadpan expression and is incredible, as are the other cast members. As rightfully pointed out by PopMatters, “It’s a curious film, one that acknowledges the end of the world blatantly without once forgetting to be steadfastly, almost dementedly, silly. It’s a smart if minor work from a masterfully innovative director.”

He only gave me our scenes. I never saw a complete script. After all I’ve done for that guy, and it’s a lot that you don’t even know about. What a dick.”

7. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Terry Gilliam, 2018)

Terry Gilliam wanted to adapt Cervantes’ Don Quixote since 1989 having finished reading it. However, the film production remained aborted or deferred till 2016 when Adam Driver was cast as Toby and Jonathan Pryce as the eponymous Don Quixote. In the meantime, as Gilliam went on making other films, he commented, “Every film I’ve done since then has been because I couldn’t get Quixote made.” Hysterically funny and messy, the film has received high praises, especially from Peter Bradshaw who said: “It may not be Gilliam’s masterpiece, but it is a movie with sprightliness, innocence and charm and it is a morale boost to anyone who cares about creativity that Gilliam has got the film made at all. His intelligence and joy in his work shine out of every frame, and his individuality is a delight when so much of mainstream cinema seems to have been created by algorithm.”

With an interweaved artistic pathos and surreal fantasy, the film has the classic theme of the individual versus the society which leads to the questioning of sanity; The Man Who Killed Don Quixote revolves around the misadventures of Toby Grummett, a director who visits his village where he had made a short film as a student. He encounters an elderly Spanish cobbler who believes himself to be the eccentric Don Quixote. He also believes that Toby is his trusted squire Sancho Panza. Soon the reality starts slipping away and Toby, disillusioned, cannot make out the difference between what is real and what is not. 

6. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

Adapted from Shusaku Endo’s novel of the same name, the film is set in the Ed-era period in Japan when Christians were mercilessly pursued. In the 17th century, two Jesuit missionaries Father Sebastian Rodrigues and Father Francisco Garupe embark on a perilous mission from Portugal to Macau to locate ad rescue their missing mentor, Cristóvão Ferreira, as well as CatholicChristianity. However, they have to be discreet lest they get caught by feudal leaders which will result in an extremely painful and agonizing death. 

Termed as Scorsese’s “passion project”, this is the third film with troubled figures caught between faith and doubt. The auteur’s 26-year-long odyssey to mirror his spiritual and reverent beliefs is resonated in the film. The film is an experience where the characters are embroiled in a dilemma between adherence to one’s moral beliefs and beliefs that seem pragmatic with respect to societal values. An ensemble led forward by Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield results in an electrifying yet mellow and melancholic performance in a tense anguished atmosphere. Scorsese had an interesting answer to questions about his need for making films on the spiritually paradoxical films: “As you get older, ideas go and come. Questions, answers, loss of the answer again and more questions, and this is what really interests me. Yes, the cinema and the people in my life and my family are most important, but ultimately as you get older, there’s got to be more … Silence is just something that I’m drawn to in that way. It’s been an obsession, it has to be done…it’s a strong, wonderful true story, a thriller in a way, but it deals with those questions.”

“I feel so tempted. I feel so tempted to despair. I’m afraid.”

5. Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh, 2017)

After a brief hiatus and self-proclaimed ‘retirement’ from the film industry, Soderbergh was back with a bang with his heist comedy film, Logan Lucky. After losing his job, Jimmy Logan plans to rob the Speedway of the NASCAR circuit with his one-armed brother Clyde, sister Mellie, safe-cracker Joe and his two brothers. However, it is no easy task and soon have to devise further plans to evade the suspicions of the authorities. 

Quirky and “ridiculously entertaining”, the film stars Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as brothers who share a great camaraderie both on- and off-script. Tatum is compelling as the doting father who needs to provide for his daughter’s welfare while Driver is perfect as the one-armed, supportive Clyde. Soderbergh’s comfort zone lies in the heist genre, and he does a brilliant job with the wonderful cinematography and choice of music in his film which makes it enjoyable and memorable. 

“I know everything there is to know about computers, okay. All the Twitters, I know ‘em.”

4. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)

Adam Driver plays a small yet unforgettable role in Noah Baumbach’s short monochromatic indie film that revolves around the life of a struggling dancer Frances Halladay (co-writer and Baumbach’s partner Greta Gerwig) whose frolicky lifestyle is disrupted when her best friend and roommate Sophie moves from Brooklyn to Tribeca and the former is forced to find new living arrangements.

Adam Driver plays the character of Lev Shapiro who lives with his roommate Benji. Frances moves into their Chinatown apartment briefly where the audience gets an insight into the absurd world of New Yorkers and upper-class hipsters who oscillate from one ridiculous conversation to next. Driver, who was freshly introduced into the acting scene via Girls, stands out in this crazy, affectionate tale with a ditzy and fun Frances Ha. critics have compared Baumbach’s style to that of legendary directors such as Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch, François Truffaut and more.

“I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”

3. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)

Adam Driver plays the role of the eponymous Paterson, a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. The film takes a look into his daily life as a bus driver who writes poetry whenever he gets the slightest chance, walks his wife’s dog and drinks beer. His wife, Laura wants to be a country music star and a cupcake business owner.

Paterson is an endearing yet poignant tale of human emotions and the human heart. Adam Driver’s Paterson is a simple, soulful man whose life and poetry is littered with minor tragic connotations. Simplistic and mundane, Jarmusch’s innovative narrative is relatable; the scenes that capture Paterson scribbling poetry in his notebook are priceless. To quote Todd McCarthy, Paterson is “a mild-mannered, almost startlingly undramatic work that offers discreet pleasures to longtime fans of the New York indie-scene veteran, who can always be counted on to go his own way.”

“A mild-mannered, almost startlingly undramatic work that offers discreet pleasures to longtime fans of the New York indie-scene veteran, who can always be counted on to go his own way.”

2. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018)

Spike Lee’s scorching commentary on racism via this period satire hits hard. Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, is determined to infiltrate and expose Ku Klux Kha, the white supremacist hate group. He enlists the help of his experienced Jewish friend Philip “Flip” Zimmerman to blend in and investigate undercover, with a subsequent effort to quash and impending racist attack on the Black community. On this harrowing journey to defeat the extremists, Lee blends in absurdist humour within a narrative comprising horrors of racism to present a nuanced socio-political satire and an urgent wake-up call. 

The film is more relevant than ever and provides a perfect dichotomy between the absurd and the horrifying. The racist expletives and profane language used by the members of hate groups are appalling. The film is bound to make the viewers’ hearts bleed for the innocent victims subject to the racist slaughter. As the protagonist Ron Stallworth, John David Washington is incredible, as is Adam Driver as his ally Flip Zimmerman. Driver is compelling in his portrayal of a white man waiting to tear down a hate group that demonises his friend and people of colour. However, as a critic rightly pointed out, the film “testifies to a stark and discomforting truth. Maybe not everyone who is white is a racist, but racism is what makes us white. Don’t sleep on this movie”. Although lee has been criticised for being a propagandist, his film paints the realistic and disturbing picture of racism and the dangers the extremist hate groups pose to the communities of colour. 

Black Power also means that we must unite. We must unite, and we must organize to form a base to fight racism.”

1. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2018)

Baumbach’s film is a stinging tale of rocky marriages that end in divorces and how it affects the life of the couple as well as the child. Theatre director Charlie Barber is in an estranged marital relationship with his wife, Nicole. Following disagreements and heartbreaks, the couple decides to part ways, sharing custody of their son Henry. The legal world of divorce and separation is, however, extremely filthy, and threatens the sanctity of their friendship.  

In what is supposedly one of the most realistic films to date, Baumbach elaborates on how the process of going through a divorce is an isolated experience. It celebrates the end of an era where two people, who find it difficult to fill in the gulf created in their respective lives, decide to depart. It is a tender commentary on the uncoupling of a marital union and sharing the custody of the child. Detailed and tastefully balanced, Marriage Story is devoid of the usual melodrama that dominates the screen in such movies. Via the growing anxiety, tension and heartache, the film preserves the precious moments that follow legal as well as emotional separation. Both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are phenomenal in the balanced script; they play their roles, as two individuals who love each other yet cannot be together, with effortless ease. Their chemistry is undeniable on-screen, as is their emotional anguish for having to deal with contentious divorce proceedings. Driver, especially, with his gut-wrenching portrayal of agony and temper issues seem too real and intense; his apology is equally moving. The film is a precious masterpiece that via its calm, composed pace and heart-rending narrative make the viewers want to re-evaluate themselves as well as their relationships.  

“You and I both know you chose this life. You wanted it until you didn’t.”  

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