Adrien Brody began his acting career almost three decades ago. Over the years, he has collaborated with many acclaimed filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh, Terrence Malick, and Wes Anderson. Besides his work in films, he has also appeared in acclaimed shows like “Succession,” “Peaky Blinders,” “Poker Face,” and “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” and left a fine impression. However, his most notable achievement may always remain to be the youngest person to win the Best Leading Actor Oscar until then.

With a much-deserved win for his devastating performance in “The Pianist,” Brody suddenly reached the height of fame. Unfortunately, it does not always bode well for the winners since expectations reach an all-time high. Brody experienced this through his later acting gigs. His role in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” met with severe criticism. There are a few more underwhelming or miscalculated performances in his filmography, with recent examples being “Ghosted” and “Fool’s Paradise.”

Nevertheless, Brody managed to get back his mojo and give impressive performances in other films even when he had less screen time. To appreciate his acting talent, we have listed down his most notable performances that continue to elevate our viewing experience. Here are ten best film performances by Adrien Brody:

Honourable Mentions:

Adrien Brody’s filmography is filled with roles that have limited screen time. Besides his Oscar-winning turn in the 2002 film and a few other movies like “The Jacket” and “Detachment,” Brody has rarely been the lead in the films he has worked on. However, that doesn’t mean that these roles are any less worthy of praise. In “The Thin Red Line” (1998), Brody’s role was cut short, presumably as a result of Terrence Malick’s creative decisions in the post-production. Even with limited screen time, Brody remarkably explores a soldier’s eternal paranoia.

Besides that, Brody has worked in a couple of Wes Anderson films and brought a unique flair to their distinct aesthetic choices and deadpan humor. His roles in Steven Soderbergh’s “King of the Hill” or Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam” are considerably short. But you cannot think of those films without recognizing Brody’s valuable contribution. After over two decades, the visual and acting choices in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” feel dated. However, it shows Brody’s skills in a melodramatic performance despite his lack of chemistry with Naomi Watts.

Then, there’s the meandering, underwhelming “The Jacket,” which shows Brody channeling his agony. On the other hand, Vincenzo Natali‘s “Splice” is a fascinating film, but Brody’s performance isn’t its highlight. Alas, there are better performances that show Brody’s acting chops and either elevate the movie or leave a lasting impression.

10. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Adrien Brody Midnight in Paris (2011)

“Midnight in Paris” is about a screenwriter who finds himself at odds with the world he lives in. His wife has different hopes and dreams that do not make sense to him. Unlike her materialistic goals, he wants to pursue a life full of creative wonder and fancy. So, while on tour in Paris, he escapes into the past to meet writers and artists he deeply admires. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, Luis Buñuel to Pablo Picasso, and T. S. Eliot to Gertrude Stein, he meets all his artistic inspirations in person.

In this fantasy comedy, the central character of a 21st-century writer finds the motivation for his creative endeavors and also a partner of his dreams. In this dewy-eyed film, Adrien Brody appears as Salvador Dalí for only a couple of scenes. Still, he carries Dalí’s signature mustache and embodies his absurdist behavior & mannerisms so well that he leaves a strong imprint. Although over-the-top, Brody manages to make the most of this faux impression and turns it into something unforgettable. In fact, it is hard not to recall this comedic performance when thinking about this 2011 Woody Allen film.

9. Blonde (2022)

Adrien Brody Blonde (2022)

 

Since its release, Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” has received polarising reactions. While it was nominated for an Oscar, it was also nominated for multiple Razzies and won a couple. The 2022 film tried to portray Marilyn Monroe beyond her mystical persona through the lens of the trauma she endured throughout her life. Sadly, it became a nauseating torture porn that feels like a chore to sit through. Although it gave Ana de Armas enough material to explore her acting chops, it remained to be a disappointing affair.

Nevertheless, “Blonde” features an impressive Adrien Brody performance in the role of The Playwright Arthur Miller. It might be Brody’s most physical performance as he manages to depict Miller’s almost skeletal, towering figure without appearing like a cheap imitation. The Playwright’s relationship with Norma Jeane didn’t end on a good note. However, it also went through an arc of fantasy-like romance. Brody takes us through the journey of The Playwright’s mind as he gradually falls for Norma’s intellect. He offers a modest nuance in this role that the film otherwise lacks severely.

8. Dummy (2002)

Adrien Brody Dummy (2002)

Greg Pritikin’s “Dummy” is an early 2000 independent drama that feels similar to Ryan Gosling starrer “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007). It also follows a loner who struggles with social interaction. In “Dummy,” Adrien Brody’s Steven is a miserable, good-for-nothing man who was recently unemployed. In order to express himself better, Steven gets back to his love for ventriloquism. This ‘dummy’ emerges as a solution to Steven’s social problems. With its help, he tries to win over the heart of Lorena Fanchetti – the woman he adores. During his journey, his musician friend & his soon-to-be-married sister become catalysts for his character growth.

“Dummy” follows a standard character arc of a shy, reserved person learning to be comfortable in his skin. Brody portrays Steven as a highly sympathetic figure who fits seamlessly into the 2000s style of dysfunctional family comedy dramas. He portrays Steven’s dorky introversion with compassion, which makes his hopeless romanticism not seem creepy but naïve. Brody aptly uses his lean figure to illustrate this late bloomer’s coming-of-age arc. While the film may seem dated to a younger generation, it oozes a charm that was apparent in the movies from that decade.

7. The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Adrien Brody The Brothers Bloom (2008)

Before gaining massive popularity for his “Knives Out” films, Rian Johnson had worked on a couple of mystery dramas that received positive reviews. One of them is the 2008 caper starring Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, and Rinko Kikuchi in the leading roles. It shows Ruffalo & Brody playing two orphaned brothers, Stephen & Bloom, who grow up to become con men. As a kid, Stephen tries to help Bloom gain confidence. Eventually, it leads them to find themselves in a series of twists and turns because Bloom falls for the wealthy heiress, Penelope, whom Stephen wants to con.

In the film, Brody plays Bloom as an anxious goof who battles between his dependence on Stephen and his adoration for Penelope. Unlike Stephen, who is more goal-driven, Bloom is easily persuaded by his sentiments. While Penelope offers him a chance for love & acceptance, Stephen takes him for granted and considers Bloom indebted to him. Brody plays Bloom’s growth from naivety to self-acceptance with the utmost innocence. Even in this caper thriller, he portrays a broad range of emotions that turn “The Brothers Bloom” into a stimulating saga.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Adrien Brody The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Throughout his filmography, Wes Anderson has consistently maintained his whimsical cinematic style. By now, most of us are well-versed with what sets Anderson apart as a filmmaker. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is his most indulgent work, which works in the film’s favor. It is drenched in his trademark candy-flossed visual style and filled with a string of eccentric characters. Although led by Ralph Fiennes’ and Tony Revolori’s performances, the film also features a standout Adrien Brody performance.

Brody plays Dmitri, the heir of an aging hotel owner, who leaves a substantial part of her property in the hands of her hotel’s concierge. So, Dmitri decides to take back this chunk by any means necessary. Although Dmitri is a menacing figure, Brody plays him like a caricature. Its whimsy fits just right into Anderson’s narrative style. Despite his relatively lesser presence throughout the film’s duration, Brody draws attention to himself with his calculated quirkiness every time he is on the screen. He is just so intense!

5. Hollywoodland (2006)

Adrien Brody Hollywoodland (2006)

Although not a central role, Allen Coulter’s “Hollywoodland” offered Brody a meatier role to explore more of his acting chops. This 2006 mystery drama follows a fictionalized account of the circumstances around the death of actor George Reeves, who was the Superman in the 1950s film. Soaked largely in a sepia tint, “Hollywoodland” follows a fictional detective, Louis Simo, who starts digging deeper into Reeves’ mysterious death. It follows Reeves’ romantic relationship with Toni Mannix, the wife of an MGM studio executive, who was paid to conceal the details of the stars’ mischievous lives.

The film presents Louis Simo, through a known investigator arc, as a man obsessed with unraveling the truth to escape his miserable life with no goals or prospects otherwise. Simo isn’t on good terms with his ex-wife, which keeps him away from his young son. While struggling with these personal conflicts, he gets sucked into the web of a Hollywood mystery where people choose to conceal than be truthful. Brody plays Simo as a wise guy figure, often used as a front to hide unsavory aspects of his life. He skilfully portrays Simo’s demons, including his fear of commitment & unhealthy obsessions, and keeps us hooked on Simo’s journey as a keen observer and a helpless bystander.

4. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

After exploring the landscapes of American cities and suburbs, Wes Anderson moved to the vibrant, colorful world of India for “The Darjeeling Limited” to shoot a moving tale of loss & grief. In this film, Brody plays one of the three estranged brothers who travel to India after their father’s death for a spiritual quest. Unlike Owen Wilson’s Francis, who supervises their entire tour, Brody’s Peter is a man of few words. He doesn’t blabber like Francis, nor does he look for an escape from his misery, like Jason Schwartzman’s Jack.

Peter remains silent for most of their journey, processing his grief more inwardly. He shines in the film’s relatively wordless moments and conveys far more through his agonizing silences. Especially in a scene where he reexperiences loss in front of his eyes, Brody’s performance is utterly devastating. With Wilson and Schwartzman having far more dialogues, Brody may appear sidelined in the film. But he aptly depicts his feelings of loneliness and grief through his internalized performance.

3. Detachment (2011)

Detachment (2011)

After over a decade of its release, “Detachment” feels oddly dated. It follows a high-school substitute teacher who has to contend with his uninspired students who cannot grasp the value of education. The script presents different characters from the marginalized sections of society through an ‘unfiltered’ look. However, its visible & audible loudness instead turns it into an embarrassing attempt at a well-meaning film, made worse by its apparent savior complex. It dulls any earnest intentions of the movie for a realistic depiction of aggression and trauma.

Regardless, Brody gives so much to his role of Henry Barthes that it is impossible to dismiss it because of the film’s constraints. As a substitute teacher, he embodies a stoic approach to not letting any kind of aggression affect him while trying to motivate his students to be better versions of themselves. Meanwhile, he helps an underage sex worker get her life back on track while dealing with his ailing father. With all this trauma surrounding him, his outward calmness doesn’t seem vacuous. Brody encapsulates Henry’s formidable presence that accepts reality for what it is, understands what is in his control, and acts to make a positive impact. Even his occasional shouting and screaming serve a purpose and come from a place of genuine concern and urgency.

2. Bread and Roses (2000)

Bread and Roses (2000)

In “Bread and Roses,” Ken Loach lends his humanist lens to examine the plight of workers in the USA. It is critical to note the inequalities in the United States, which rings true considering the number of rebellious acts we still see against money-minting corporations. The film’s plot revolves around the struggle of janitorial workers in Los Angeles, who receive meager wages despite the grueling input. Brody’s character, Sam Shapiro, pushes these workers to unionize and ask for better working conditions, among other demands. Shapiro’s pursuit of justice is accompanied by his love for one of the workers, Maya (Pilar Padilla).

Paul Laverty, best known for his screenplay for Ken Loach’s films, sketches the flawed characters through a humane, compassionate lens. Among them, Brody’s grounded performance becomes a highlight due to his ability to submerge into this filmmaking style, which is unorthodox to Hollywood. At times, he effortlessly blends into the crowd while making us root for the plight of the workers, whose voices remain suppressed. Yet, he manages to leave a strong mark through his emphatic performance.

1. The Pianist (2002)

The Pianist (2002)

Adrien Brody’s devastating performance in “The Pianist” is easily his most accomplished role until now. The film is based on a Holocaust memoir that follows a Polish-Jewish pianist and composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman. It premiered at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and won the prestigious Palme d’Or. Following an autobiographical narrative makes a potent critique of the inhumane treatment suffered by individuals merely because of the choice of their faith. It presents the harrowing state of humanity due to the inhumane prejudices of others.

In the film, we see Wladyslaw Szpilman going through one ordeal after another, battling insurmountable odds. But what gives him hope is his deep inclination toward art, which can penetrate any soul beyond inhumane biases. Brody embodies the pianist’s love for life among all the chaos in his life. He speaks volumes through his eyes and utilizes body language with nuance. During his excruciating walk among a pile of dead bodies, Brody presents one of the most devastating cinematic moments of all time. That’s why his performance as the pianist manages to stir our emotions even decades after its release.

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