From Wes Anderson to Spike Lee: The top 10 films starring Adrien Brody
“Film is a time capsule. If I have a lack of dedication or focus, it’s permanently there as a negative reminder.”—Adrien Brody
Adrien Brody, an actor whose rise to critical acclaim has been unrelentingly fast, became the youngest actor in the history of the Academy Awards to win the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ aged just 29.
Born out of Woodhaven, Queens, in New York City, Brody’s childhood was that of a humble upbringing. Having been enrolled in acting classes from a young age and, after appearing alongside Tupac Shakur and Mickey Rourke in 1996 film Bullet, was given a taste of cinema and didn’t relinquish it.
Since his major role in Martin Scorsese’s Life Lessons, the first part of the 1989 New York Stories trilogy alongside Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola, Brody has committed his life to the art of acting and done it without cutting corners. Just three years after his first major film role, Brody was picking up an Oscar for his remarkable performance in Roman Polanski‘s 2002 film The Pianist.
Ensuring his dedication to the form, Brody withdrew from social life for months on end to prepare for the role in Polanski’s project and it came at some cost. Breaking up with his then-girlfriend, the actor gave up his apartment and his car, learned to play the play ‘Chopin’ on the piano and lost 30 pounds (13.6 kg). His dedication knew no bounds.
Strong relationships with the likes of Wes Anderson, Spike Lee and more has resulted in Brody’s career continually growing in stature. Here, we’re exploring some of his most impressive moments on the big screen.
10. The Thin Red Line (1998)
Director: Terrence Malick.
An adaptation of James Jones’ autobiographical 1962 novel, sees Brody in the role of Cpl. Geoffrey Fife, Malick’s cut of the story focuses on the conflict at Guadalcanal during World War II.
It was Malick’s first film in 20 years when he returned to focus on the harrowing story of C-Company. One of the best war films in modern times The Thin Red Line is a powerful depiction of a hideously true story.
9. The Village (2004)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan.
Brody has worked with some of the finest directors and storytellers Hollywood has to offer. His role as the violent Noah Percy on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village will go down as a particular highlight.
Starring alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Sigourney Weaver Brody is a part of the titular village which lives in fear of the unknown monsters that live in the surrounding woods. As with all Shymalan’s films at the time, it comes with a twist ending.
8. Wrecked (2010)
Director: Michael Greenspan.
In 2010’s Wrecked Brody takes the lead role as well as being an executive producer on the intense picture which sees “The Man” wake up at the bottom of a ravine having suffered a near-fatal car crash.
Brody delivers an exceptional performance as “The Man” who, suffering from amnesia, has to piece together what has happened to him and how to stay alive.
7. The Jacket (2005)
Director: John Maybury.
In John Maybury’s psychological thriller The Jacket, Brody delivers a captivating performance as the Gulf War Veteran Jack Starks, as he is wrongly incarcerated in a hospital for the criminally insane.
Starks soon becomes the object of one doctor’s experiments and his life is changed forever because of it. One such experiment sees Starks strapped in a straight jacket and put inside a morgue casket for hours. The results are surprising to say the least.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: West Anderson.
Perhaps Brody’s most widely loved role sees him working with Wes Anderson on the acclaimed picture, The Grand Budapest Hotel as the son of Madame D. Dmitri.
Following the death of his mother, Dmitri learns that a priceless painting will be given to her younger lover and fastidious concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel, Monsieur Gustave H. As Gustave and his newly-hired lobby boy Zero abscond with the painting a wonderfully rendered chase begins.
5. Summer of Sam (1999)
Director: Spike Lee.
Spike Lee’s take on the infamous Son of Sam murders sees Brody take on the role of the punk freak Ritchie, a friend of the main protagonist Vinnie. All the while John Berkowitz, the notorious murderer is prowling the streets and crossing paths with the inhabitants of this North Bronx neighbourhood.
A young Brody delivers a nuanced performance as Ritchie, taking on the role of perennial outcast with a vigour and verve that would soon see him in starring roles.
4. Detachment (2011)
Director: Tony Kaye.
Tony Kaye’s Detachment is another masterclass from Brody as he effortlessly straddles the line of comedy and tragedy in the role of substitute teacher Henry Barthes.
Taking place over a month in Barthes’ life, we’re taking on an emotional journey as three women enter the teacher’s life. Each one changing him in a profound way as he confronts the suicide of his mother. Far more affecting than other teacher films, this is a real hard-hitter.
3. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Director: Wes Anderson.
Another one of the four films Brody has worked with Wes Anderson on The Darjeeling Limited saw Brody take on the role of Peter Whitman, one of three estranged brothers, as he and his two siblings travel across India trying to reconnect a year after their father’s funeral.
In typical Anderson fashion, the film is rich in imagery and style, allowing the subtle performances of Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman to really shine. Visually enticing the film ranks highly among Anderson’s impressive catalogue.
2. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Director: Woody Allen.
There are not many actors in the world with the composure and delivery to be able to take on Salvador Dali in any meaningful way—but in Allen’s Midnight In Paris Brody did just that.
Considered one of Allen’s finest films, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Brody’s role among many famous faces stood out as being able to capture both the lunacy and genius of the surrealist painter.
1. The Pianist (2002)
Director: Roman Polanski.
The acclaimed film saw Brody taken on the role of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish Jewish musician who is struggling to survive the human destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. It saw the actor rise to his greatest performance.
Brody was rightly recognised for his career-defining role with countless nominations for his leading role as well as picking up the Academy Award for Best Actor. While director Roman Polanski’s reputation has since been tarnished, Brody’s stature as a leading man only grew from here.