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The 10 Best Jake Gyllenhaal Movies You Need To Watch

29 May 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Joao Vieira

Nightcrawler-Movie-2014

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. Brothers (Jim Sheridan, 2009)

Brothers 2009

Though the actor took a smaller role in support of lead Tobey Maguire, he gives a masterful performance with the role of the main character’s brother.

Gyllenhaal’s character is an ex-con welcomed into the home of his brother, played by McGuire. The brother is a Marine captain and a good husband and father who is assigned to his second tour to Afghanistan. He is presumed dead after his helicopter is shot down and the miscreant brother ends up taking care of the marine’s wife (Natalie Portman) and two daughters in a subtle, realist and engaging way.

When the very much alive marine is rescued, he returns home to to his family a much changed man, a situation with which all will have to reconcile.

 

9. Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011)

source-code-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.

 

8. Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005)

Jarhead

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.

 

7. End of Watch (David Ayer, 2012)

End of Watch

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.

 

6. Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Enemy

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.

 

 

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  • Wolfgang

    Enemy is so underestimated. Should be on this list…

    • Martin

      Is number 6 on the list.

      • jane

        should be higher – he carries the entire movie!

  • Harsha Raman

    Superb list for a superb actor.

  • Tessa

    Nice list.

  • Travis Bickle

    october sky

  • Katey Kate

    Fab list. Personally can’t stand Zodiac

  • jane

    i’d lower brokeback and move up donnie darko and enemy to 2nd and 3rd.

  • Brian Gregory

    DONNIE DARKO, NIGHTCRAWLER,ENEMY and END OF WATCH and SOURCE CODE for me (from what I’ve seen). A great talent.

  • anowak

    >> “Nightcrawler takes a critical look at the media and is also a satire of journalists’ ethics.”

    I think Nighcrawler takes, as much as “…And there will be blood” or “American psycho” movies, “The shield” or “The wire” series, a critical look at the capitalism system and “dog eat dog” career battle. It’s about that, all in all, psychopaths and half-criminals win competition on the free market. Due to their ruthlessness and lack of empathy they become CEOs of companies and corporations.