He has portrayed a prince in an action blockbuster, a cowboy in love with another man, a neurotic kid who sees a giant bunny, and many action heroes. Jake Gyllenhaal, despite his youth, has done so much and done it with a high standard of quality.
He is a member of an acting family, including his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal (they are the first thespian siblings to be Oscar-nominated in the 21st century) and his brother-in-law Peter Saarsgard (his co-star in Jarhead and Rendition). His father is a director and his mother a screenwriter. Gyllenhaal is noted for his unorthodox choices of roles which show his talent in its many facets.
An Academy Award nominee for his performance in Brokeback Mountain in 2005, he was up until then known for his roles in Donnie Darko , Bubble Boy and The Good Girl. However, 2005, which saw the release of Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead brought him to a new level of attention.
The following is a list of notable Gyllenhaal films.
10. Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011)
In this overlooked gem, Gyllenhaal has a solid lead role in a sci-fi action film and shows his versatility as an actor.
Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is a US Army soldier who wakes up in a strange body during a mission to discover a train bomber. It’s revealed that he’s part of a government experiment called Source Code. His mission is to prevent the death of millions in Chicago and he will awaken in the last 8 minutes of the life of a strange body in order to carry out the mission.
9. Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005)
The actor’s performance in this biographical film directed by Sam Mendes is often overlooked due to the fact that it was released in the same year as Brokeback Mountain. This war film based on former marine Anthony Swofford’s experiences in Saudi Arabia is real and raw and doesn’t follow the war genre cliches that often mark this type of film and it is highlighted by a fine Gyllenhaal performance.
The film features a strong cast delineating the lives of soldiers during wartime, showing their ordinary humanness even in times of war. Peter Skaargard and Jamie Foxx also give memorable performances.
8. End of Watch (David Ayer, 2012)
It’s not unusual for major actors to play policemen or some other similar authority figure at least once in their careers but, that stated, it takes a special actor to make such a role stand out. Director David Ayer (Fury and Training Day) creates a striking film featuring two excellent interpretations of policemen. These two performances come from Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.
Gyllenhaal portrays a strutting, macho cop in a documentary style film which follows the character and his partner and friend through their drug and human-trafficking busts which make them targets of Big Evil and his gang, who are members of a Mexican cartel.
This unique film follows not only the men but their wives (Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez). It is a most original effort and a fine example of its genre.
7. Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016)
The second film by Tom Ford, after his debut with “A Single Man” in 2009, is one of the most fascinating movies of 2016. It tells the story of an unsatisfied art manager (Amy Adams) who receives the manuscript of a novel by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal); the novel, about a man seeking revenge for the assassination of his wife and daughter, strangely mirrors the former couple’s dissatisfaction.
The two stories are represented with different visual styles, one refined and aseptic, the other harsh and crude. Served by astounding performances by the main actors – including Michael Shannon at his best – “Nocturnal Animals” owns a visceral, nightmarish quality that transcends its narrative mechanism and projects the film on a superior level of fascination.
6. Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)
Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve created this expert thriller featuring one of the actor’s greatest performances. Based on a novel of José Saramago, this dark and dreamy film allows Gyllenhaal to challenge himself as an actor.
Gyllenhaal portrays a college professor named Adam Bell, a rational, lonely and calm man who one day randomly discovers he has a double, Anthony, who is an actor in a movie that Adam has just rented. He becomes obsessed with Anthony and tries to find him. Anthony lives in Toronto (just like Adam) and he has a pregnant wife named Helen. Adam ends up meeting Anthony which abruptly changes their lives.
This is an ambiguous and oblique film which revolves around the motto, “Chaos is order yet undeciphered”. The actor illustrates this well in his performance.