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Adam Driver's Best Movie And TV Roles To Date

From supporting roles in TV shows to playing the main villain in one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all time, the journey of Adam Driver has been an incredible one to watch. A decade ago he was still almost unheard of, and now he is one of the biggest stars in the world. His life could have been on a very different trajectory, however, as he originally intended on a military career, enlisting in the US Marine Corps in 2001 and only making the unlikely switch to acting following an injury in 2004.

After attending the prestigious Juilliard performing arts school, Driver appeared in several Broadway and off-Broadway productions before landing his big break in the HBO comedy-drama series, "Girls." Going on to work with some huge directors — including Steven Spielberg, Noah Baumbach, and the Coen brothers — Driver became a household name when he starred as Kylo Ren in "Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens."

Driver cuts an imposing figure on the screen and is frequently cast as dark and mysterious characters. But he has proven himself to be adaptable to a variety of genres, including comedy, historical dramas, and even musicals. Adam Driver has certainly established a very impressive resume in a relatively short space of time, and these are some of his best TV and movie roles to date.

Adam Sackler (Girls)

Running for six seasons between 2012 and 2017, HBO comedy-drama series "Girls" was the show that first brought Adam Driver to the public's attention. Created by and starring Lena Dunham, "Girls" was loosely based on her own experiences as a writer, and according to Dunham was intended to fill the gap between "Sex And The City" and "Gossip Girl."

In the show, Driver plays Adam Sackler, an actor and the on-again-off-again boyfriend of the main character, Hannah (Dunham). Driver was initially skeptical about the show, revealing in an interview with ScreenRant that he "didn't understand it" and "wasn't interested" in the part at first. However, he was later convinced to audition and incredibly grateful he did: as he said in the same interview, the part "changed the course of my life."

Despite the show receiving some criticism for its frank depiction of certain taboo topics, Driver's performance has been praised and even formally recognized, with the actor earning three consecutive Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. This wouldn't be the last time Driver received awards recognition, and even at this early point in his career, it was clear that he was destined for greatness.

Lev Shapiro (Frances Ha)

Appearing alongside Greta Gerwig in the black-and-white comedy-drama "Frances Ha," Adam Driver made his first — but not last — appearance in a Noah Baumbach-directed feature. Released in 2012, "Frances Ha" tells the story of Frances Halliday (Greta Gerwig), a struggling dancer living in New York, seemingly unable to find direction and purpose in her life.

Driver plays Lev Shapiro, a young bohemian who, after briefly dating Frances, eventually welcomes her into his apartment as a temporary roommate. Despite only having around five minutes of screen time, Driver undoubtedly made an impact on Baumbach. Talking about him in an interview with Newsweek, Baumbach said, "Adam has a way of doing everything that's totally unexpected, but once he does it, you think, oh, of course the scene should be played that way." The pair went on to work together on projects including "While We're Young," "The Meyerowitz Stories," and "Marriage Story."

"Frances Ha" proved to be a hit with critics, who complimented the visual style of the film and the natural performances of the cast. Empire film critic David Hughes praised the film, calling it a "beautifully observed, bittersweet coming-of-age comedy." Long before the blockbusters beckoned, it was his roles in indie films like "Frances Ha" that proved Driver was an actor with a very bright future ahead of him.

Al Cody (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver would go on to appear in a much bigger film just two years later, but both also turned in great performances in The Coen Brothers' melancholy music drama, "Inside Llewyn Davis." Isaac takes the lead as the titular folk musician, while Driver has a scene-stealing appearance in the musical number "Please Mr. Kennedy."

He may only be on screen for a couple of minutes, but Driver's bizarre backing vocals make this scene surprisingly hilarious, and there's an extra layer of irony to his "outer space" lines knowing what film he and Isaac would appear in together in 2015. Driver sings in a number of his movies, but the rendition of "Please Mr. Kennedy" remains one of the best, and certainly most memorable.

Driver famously doesn't watch his own performances, something that he elaborates on in a profile piece in The New Yorker. This began with him feeling "mortified" by his appearance in "Girls," and has continued throughout his career, Driver — referring to his scene in "Inside Llewyn Davis" — admits that "I hated what I did." But critics and audiences certainly didn't hate "Inside Llewyn Davis," as it achieved positive reviews and secured two Oscar nominations for Cinematography and Sound Mixing.

Allan (What If)

Driver stars alongside Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Mackenzie Davis in this surprisingly funny romantic comedy about the unlucky-in-love Wallace (Radcliffe) and his bond with Chantry (Kazan), his perfect woman and best friend who just so happens to already be in a relationship.

The film may be packed with the usual romantic comedy tropes, but it is also absolutely hilarious, mostly due to the once again scene-stealing performance from Driver as Wallace's confident best friend, Allan. The chalk-and-cheese dynamic between Wallace and Allan is perfect, with the two riffing together in a way that feels authentic. "What If" proves that Driver thrives in comedy, with his deadpan delivery ensuring that all of his lines are hilarious – the one about nachos being a particular stand-out.

Rather than being relegated to the supporting "best friend" role, Allan also has a romantic subplot of his own, and his whirlwind relationship with Nicole (Davis) is undoubtedly spicier and frequently more engaging than the main romantic storyline. In an interview with Collider, Mackenzie Davis spoke highly of her co-star, saying, "He's so lovely, he's so talented, and he's a wonderful actor and I think so deserving of the enormous amount of success he has. He's just a great actor."

Kylo Ren (Star Wars)

It doesn't come much bigger than being cast as the villain in a "Star Wars" film, and with his appearance as Kylo Ren in "The Force Awakens," Driver went from being a relative unknown to a mega-star overnight. Director J.J. Abrams was keen to cast unknown actors, and up to this point, Driver had mostly appeared in indie films and smaller roles. However, Abrams was so impressed with Driver's previous work that he didn't even require him to audition.

Both Abrams and Rian Johnson — who directed "The Last Jedi" — had come from indie backgrounds, and Driver described the familiarities in working with them in an interview with Total Film (via Games Radar), saying, "You try to make 'Star Wars' personal as much as anything else, and because J.J. was the director and because Rian Johnson was the director, it all came down to ... taking moments and breaking them into pieces and making sure you're truthful."

Whether it was physically bulking up for the role or truly getting into the headspace of the character, Driver showed complete commitment to Kylo Ren, and seeing the development and arc of the character over the three films is perhaps one of the strongest things about the trilogy as a whole. "The Force Awakens" performed particularly well with critics and fans, with Helen O'Hara in Empire calling Kylo Ren "the best villain that the franchise has ever produced" — particularly high praise considering who came before him.

Paterson (Paterson)

Even after the biggest film of his career so far, Adam Driver still had a passion for independent films, starring in this unassuming drama from director Jim Jarmusch. Driver plays Paterson, a bus driver and poet with a meticulously routine existence. This reflective and meditative film is a celebration of mundanity, with one of Driver's finest performances to date.

The actor's screen presence is one of the things that is most striking about him, and that is something that undoubtedly elevates his quiet and thoughtful performance in "Paterson." Jim Jarmusch, having seen Driver's work in "Girls" and "Inside Llewyn Davis," was keen to collaborate with him. In an interview with Time, Jarmusch discussed how Driver not watching his own films makes him a better actor, saying, "He doesn't like seeing himself because he doesn't want to break that thing where he just wants to be there and react as the character...He wants to react, he doesn't want to act. I love that."

Driver has also spoken highly of Jarmusch, going on to work with him again in the 2019 horror-comedy "The Dead Don't Die." Speaking to Dazed, Driver said, "It's just exciting to work with Jim because he is a singular filmmaker. He spoils you on set. After you've worked with Jim, you're like, 'Well, this is how good it could be — why isn't it like that all the time?'"

Garupe (Silence)

Adapted from the novel by Shūsaku Endō, "Silence" is rich in content, symbolism, and outstanding performances from its cast. The story focuses on two Portuguese Jesuit priests -– played by Driver and Andrew Garfield — who travel to Japan to try and locate their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is rumored to have abandoned his religion.

For director Martin Scorsese, "Silence" was a passion project that had been gestating for almost 30 years; therefore getting the casting right was essential. Both Garfield and Driver showed incredible commitment to their roles, according to this interview in TimeOut, undertaking spiritual training, silent retreats, and weight loss to prepare for the grueling shoot. Driver's Father Garupe has comparatively less screen time than Garfield, but he makes a huge impact in a short amount of time. "Silence" is a film that handles very thematically dense and difficult subject matter, and while it isn't always an easy watch, Driver is mesmerizing.

As is surely the case with most actors, having the opportunity to work with Martin Scorsese was a dream come true for Driver. Speaking with The Independent, Driver said, "He's the top of the pyramid of filmmakers. I grew up watching his movies and just to talk with him or work with him like that on something, you can't even imagine. It's so exciting." Scorsese has also spoken highly of Driver, calling him "one of the best, if not the best, actors of his generation."

Clyde Logan (Logan Lucky)

If there is any director to trust with a heist film, it's Steven Soderbergh, director of "Out of Sight" and the "Ocean's Eleven" trilogy. "Logan Lucky" is one of the director's more underrated heist movies, but it is hugely entertaining and boasts a spectacular cast, including a rare comedic performance from former 007 Daniel Craig as the hilariously named Joe Bang, as well as Driver and Channing Tatum as the blue-collar siblings Clyde and Jimmy Logan.

Driver had already proven himself as a comedic actor and "Logan Lucky" only cements his talent in this genre even further. Additionally, it demonstrates his proficiency with accents as he adopts a very convincing southern drawl for the part, and the impressive -– and very useful -– ability to make a martini one-handed.

"Logan Lucky" was something of an experiment for Soderbergh, released independently by the director to bypass the studio system that he had drifted away from. While the domestic opening of $7.6 million was disappointing, it did eventually make over $48 million worldwide, exceeding its budget of $29 million even if it did not break even. Speaking about Soderbergh's decision to release the film on his own, Driver told the Independent that this aspect made the idea of working with him "all the more intriguing," and went on to praise the director's "economical" way of shooting, saying, "When you compare it to other sets you've been on they seem almost wasteful in a way."

Flip Zimmerman (BlacKkKlansman)

With his appearance in the Spike Lee film "BlacKkKlansman," Driver reached another milestone in his career, earning his first Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. The film — which is based on the unbelievable true story of Ron Stallworth – earned six nominations in total, with one win for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Flip Zimmerman is a police officer who works with Stallworth (John David Washington) to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, after Stallworth pretends to be a white person on the phone with the president of the Colorado Springs chapter, Walter Breachway (Ryan Eggold). Zimmerman is Jewish, which presents its own set of challenges and dangers when he comes up against the racist Klan members, perhaps represented best in a tense lie-detector scene. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Driver spoke about playing this character, saying, "When Flip goes undercover and has to say these terrible things out loud, it affects him. I don't know how it couldn't."

Having worked with a host of top-tier directors already, Spike Lee was another that Driver was keen to work with. In an interview with Deadline, he said about Lee, "I just find his movies completely unpredictable. I feel like he's an amazing collage artist, at times; they're always unexpected and pretty vibrant." As well as awards success, "BlacKkKlansman" received high praise from critics, with Slashfilm writer Siddhant Adlakha describing the film as "like writing history with lightning."

Daniel J. Jones (The Report)

Adam Driver is an actor who isn't afraid to take risks and get stuck into some controversial topics — something that is evident in his role as Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones in "The Report." Based on a true story, the film tells the story of Jones' investigative work into the CIA's contentious use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Directed by Scott Z. Burns, "The Report" doesn't shy away from shocking scenes of torture, but the main focus is on Daniel and his tenacious, unwavering quest to find the truth. Driver is a unique screen presence, and he manages to convey the determination, and occasional frustration, of the character exceptionally.

The director's passion for the story was something that hugely appealed to Driver. Speaking with Deadline, he said that Burns needed to "exorcise this movie or this story. When you meet someone who has this, you can almost feel it physically, that they have to get something out, and that usually is going to lead to something interesting."

When you're playing someone real, perhaps the highest praise you can receive is when it comes from the person you're portraying. The real Daniel J. Jones, speaking with The Hot Corn, said of Driver, "Adam is just so fantastic. It took seven years to get this report out, and that's put into a script, and Adam had to show that lapse of time in his face and to think it was filmed out of order, it's an incredible job."

Charlie Barber (Marriage Story)

After his first Oscar nomination for "BlacKkKlansman" in 2019, Adam Driver wouldn't have long to wait before his next one, coming just a year later and this time for Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in "Marriage Story." The film –- Driver's fourth collaboration with director Noah Baumbach — tells the story of Charlie (Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), a couple on the verge of divorce.

"Marriage Story" handles its subject matter in a way that feels very honest, but the emotional nature of the story still presented many challenges for Driver. The actor told The Skinny, "Usually there are scenes in a movie that you dread or they seem too early in the schedule ... but this one, every day felt like that. Every scene was, 'Oh, this is too early in the schedule.'" One particularly difficult scene was the now well-known argument between Charlie and Nicole, where the pair spar in a way that is both cathartic and full of pent-up rage.

There are moments where you'll wonder how this story will end, and in a stroke of genius, it uses a performance of Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" from the musical "Company" in one of its closing scenes. There's huge significance to this song in the musical, coming at a time when the character is considering the benefits of being in a committed relationship. Charlie, however, sings the song when his relationship has ended, giving it fresh meaning and potency.

Jacques Le Gris (The Last Duel)

Driver had proven capable of handling a film with difficult subject matter many times over by this point in his career, and this is certainly evident in "The Last Duel." The film –- which is based on a true incident –- tells the story of the final officially recognized trial by combat in medieval France. Driver plays squire Jacques Le Gris, who is challenged to the duel by knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) after he is accused of assaulting Jean's wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer).

The story is told in three parts or chapters, from the perspective of the three main characters, and perhaps crucially the final chapter — which is Marguerite's story — is subtitled "The Truth." This structure is reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" and, despite its medieval setting, the film tells a surprisingly timely story of the importance of believing women. This isn't the first time Driver has played a villain, but unlike Kylo Ren, there is nothing redemptive about the character of Jacques Le Gris and playing a singularly evil character is something that he excels at.

"The Last Duel" marked the first of two films released in 2021 that saw Driver working with director Ridley Scott, the second being "House of Gucci" alongside Lady Gaga. Almost echoing the words of Martin Scorsese a few years previously, Scott has praised Driver's performances in his films, telling Deadline, "I think Adam is maybe one of the finest actors we have today."