For years, Jesse Eisenberg has been a consistent cinematic presence. Whether in comedy or drama, Eisenberg has delivered the goods, offering up a very specific sort of performance. The Academy has seen fit to cite him once, making him an Oscar nominee. He’s also managed to star in a blockbuster or two. For an actor who leans toward independent fare and has a very specific type of acting style, he’s been able to do a little bit of everything. Today, we dive into some of the best examples of that.
With two of Eisenberg’s new efforts in “Resistance” and “Vivarium” having hit last week, we present to you today some of his best films. Honorable Mentions go to “The Double,” “The Emperor’s Club,” “The Hummingbird Project,” “Night Moves,” and “Resistance.” Those works, spread out over the course of his career, showcase a range genre. Below, you’ll see even more.
dir: Lorcan Finnegan
Jesse Eisenberg’s latest film is very weird, but also incredibly compelling. A mix of horror and science fiction, Eisenberg slowly goes mad as he and co-star Imogen Poots are stuck in a planned community with no escape. “Vivarium” gets stranger the more it goes on, mixing its puzzling nature with an impending sense of doom that builds to one hell of an ending. Whenever Eisenberg chooses an odd little flick, the results are often strong, and this is no exception.
“Cafe Society” (2016)
dir: Woody Allen
Eisenberg is one of the better Woody Allen stand-ins that the filmmaker has employed over the years. Paired with frequent collaborator Kristen Stewart, Eisenberg makes his character in “Cafe Society” much more than a thinly veiled Allen. In doing so, he mixes with the luscious Vittorio Storaro cinematography to make one of Allen’s most romantic modern movies. The longing for a time gone by is truly palpable.
“Solitary Man” (2010)
dir: Brian Koppelman, David Levien
An early supporting turn of Eisenberg’s comes in this Michael Douglas star vehicle. “Solitary Man” is a character study that begins with a smirk but ends with a tear. Douglas’ disgraced businessman/hustler winds up a temporary mentor to Eisenberg while visiting a college, and the interactions between the two are really something. Deeply under-seen, this is a hidden gem well worthy of discovery a decade later.
dir: Ruben Fleischer
A surprise smash hit, casting Eisenberg is a bit of a genius move. “Zombieland” has a lot of fun with how specific types of folk would survive an undead apocalypse, and watching his nebbish character thrive through rigid rule-following is consistently hilarious. The sequel retained much of its charm, but the original is the one that more effectively executes the premise’s ample potential.
“The Squid and the Whale” (2005)
dir: Noah Baumbach
The better the movie Eisenberg is in, the better his performances tend to be. Noah Baumbach‘s breakthrough “The Squid and the Whale” is top notch, giving the young actor a vivid character to portray. Watching his teen internalize and then externalize his parents’ divorce is as enthralling as it is frustrating to witness. Bad decisions abound, but the cast, including Eisenberg, makes it impossible to look away. Baumbach mined the fertile territory of a union’s dissolution last year in “Marriage Story,” but this was the start of his signature style.
“Roger Dodger” (2002)
dir: Dylan Kidd
One of the first showcases of his talents, Eisenberg is one part of why “Roger Dodger” is such a great and underrated movie. The other is, of course, the amazing Campbell Scott performance at the center. Watching Scott’s emotional manipulation begin to wear thin is equal parts amusing, bleak, and downright heartbreaking. In particular, when you see how Eisenberg’s impressionable youth goes from admiring to pitying the title character, Dylan Kidd‘s profound filmmaking debut truly hits home.
“The End of the Tour” (2015)
dir: James Ponsoldt
Largely a two-hander, this look at a freewheeling interview between Eisenberg’s journalist David Lipsky and Jason Segel‘s author David Foster Wallace burns with things unsaid. The audience knows that Wallace will soon take his life, but Rolling Stone writer Lipsky does not have that benefit. Watching these two tremendous actors sizing each other up is a major reason why “The End of the Tour” is so special. Under James Ponsoldt‘s direction, they inhabit these two men with specificity and universality.
dir: Greg Mottola
Jesse Eisenberg has never been as charming as he is in this phenomenal coming of age story. The same year he broke out for many in “Zombieland,” he anchored this flick. “Adventureland” is Eisenberg’s best collaboration with Kristen Stewart, as well as being among the most honest works about teenagers working dead end summer jobs. The laughs are big, but the emotions and its heart are far bigger.
“The Art of Self-Defense” (2019)
dir: Riley Stearns
Last year’s biting satire of toxic masculinity flew way too far under the radar. From our rave review here on the site last year: “Taking direct aim at toxic masculinity, this is a very earnest and specific bit of cinema, yet one that absolutely quashes expectations. Not only does the film have a lot to say, it parses its analysis in an incredibly unique manner. Blisteringly funny and pitch black in its critique, this is one of the best works of 2019 so far, bar none. From start to finish, it’s entirely riveting.” Eisenberg is terrific in “The Art of Self-Defense,” but the movie exquisite from top to bottom.
“The Social Network” (2010)
dir: David Fincher
One of the best films of the decade, Eisenberg was rightly heaped with praise for his incisive turn as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Academy Award nominated in Best Actor, he’s at his best in the best movie he’s ever been a part of. Flawlessly directed by David Fincher, with a pitch perfect and Oscar winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, this is a modern classic. As pointed as it felt back in 2010, the movie has only increased in stature. When it comes to Eisenberg’s filmography, “The Social Network” stands tall.