10 Best Robert Pattinson Movie Performances
With the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet trailer, alongside teasers for the new Batman reboot, Robert Pattinson has been at the center of media attention this month. Kick-starting his career with the teen sensation Twilight before developing a taste for indie, Pattinson has proved his ability to tap into a range of roles and genres. Before returning to our screens as the fresh DC superhero or Nolan’s time-bending blockbuster, let’s take a look at Pattinson’s impressive filmography so far:
Honorable Mention #3
One of two successful collaborations with famous body-horror director David Cronenberg (the other being Maps to the Stars, 2014, which we’re including as an honorable mention), Cosmopolis headlines Robert Pattinson as the young billionaire Eric Packer. Working for the near-future Wall Street, Packer spends most of the movie in his high-tech limousine, enshrouded by Cronenberg’s dark depiction of the “glow of cyber-capital”. Unfortunately for Packer, his twenty-four-hour odyssey take a series of downward spirals, with the chaotic thrum of protests, assassins, and vast speculation losses erupting just outside his window.
A haunting yet seductive film, Cosmopolis hangs slightly off-center, exhibiting an eccentricity unique to Cronenberg’s filmography (director of The Fly, 1986, and Videodrome, 1983). The energetic, politically-charged thriller received a divided reception, but what can’t be denied is Pattinson’s superb performance, showing his aptitude for the bizarre at the dawn of his career. Cosmopolis invites us to both laugh and reflect, bluntly examining the psychology of our modern, virtual world with offbeat pizzazz.
Honorable Mention #2
Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson star in this delightful Western that somewhat slipped the radar. The Zellner brothers show a similar knack for oddball characters and subversive (and often ridiculous) storylines to the acclaimed Coen brothers – themselves having dabbled in the Western genre. David and Nathan Zellner, alongside their acting roles in the movie, write and direct for us a uniquely entertaining journey across the American Frontier. Pattinson leads the way as Samuel Alabaster – a pioneer set on proposing to the “love of his life” Penelope – alongside his miniature horse Butterscotch and a drunk Parson.
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Damsel is an original and well-crafted comedy, flavored with bursts of violence and fiery feminism. Pattinson once again sets out to break his pretty-boy stereotype, bringing us a naïve but good-natured explorer whose good-intentions don’t always turn out as expected. Pattinson leaps from a smoldering, blood-sucking vampire to a true romantic who sips whiskey like a teenager having their first drink. It is a witty and honest performance; a fine example of Pattinson’s comedic ability that he’s lesser known for.
Damsel’s contrast of light-hearted innocence against the backdrop of the grisly Wild West creates an interesting dynamic to explore contemporary issues, acting as a social commentary on gender stereotypes. Although Damsel can perhaps try a little too hard to impress viewers with its daring absurdity, Pattinson exhibits a natural ability to make us laugh which we can only hope he’ll explore further in his future projects.
Honorable Mention #1
The Twilight Saga (2008-2012)
It may not be the most acclaimed franchise amongst cinephiles, but where would Robert Pattinson be without Twilight? Based on the teen novels by Stephenie Meyer, Twilight was an unmatched hit with young audiences, grossing over $3 billion worldwide. Despite Pattinson publicly voicing his dislike for the films, Twilight became an instant teen classic, earning Pattinson a large fan following for his iconic role as Edward – a smoldering high-school vampire.
Robert Pattinson stars alongside an ensemble of famous faces, including Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning, and Michael Sheen. The five-part series takes place in the dreary town of Forks, Washington, where young Bella (Stewart) unknowingly befriends a native tribe of werewolves. Soon, however, she begins falling for a member of the Cullen family (Pattinson) – vampires, and arch-enemies of the wolves.
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Throughout the five movies, Bella embroiled in a new world of dark fantasy and romance. Robert Pattinson shares the limelight of the heroic teen heartthrob with Lautner, developing a cult divide within Twilight’s fanbase between “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob”. Catherine Hardwicke directs an iconic saga of young love and launches Pattinson’s career head-first into Hollywood success.
10. Life (2015)
Dane Deehan stars as the legendary ‘rebel without a cause’ James Dean in Life – but it’s Pattinson who takes the lead in this biopic. Directed by Anton Corbijn, Life tells Dean’s story through the eyes of photographer Dennis Stock, working for – you guessed it – LIFE magazine. The two form an unexpected friendship, riding the (rough) waves of the art industry together in old New York. After living their lives out in the city, Stock accompanies Dean to visit his childhood home in Indiana. Here, some of his most famous photos were taken as a teen idol. (A quick Google will show you how accurate the film is to the real photographs).
It’s 1955; the bar is filled with smoke and jazz record are playing in the background. This is the tone Corbijn perfectly encapsulates. Dean is at the height of his career, bus his spontaneous and reckless reputation may have gone unnoticed if no one were there to capture (or tame) it. Where Dean is sporadic and extroverted, Stock is hard-working and grounded. In the same way, Stock aims to capture the legend of Dean on film, Life attempts to celebrate the untold story of the man behind the camera.
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An underrated gem of Robert Pattinson’s filmography, Life is a tender movie, brushed with tons of artistic flair. It’s no blockbuster, but it has a lot of heart, evoking that street-riding, chain-smoking youth-culture of late-night 1950s.
9. The Childhood of a Leader (2015)
At a time when Pattinson was beginning to show a flair for the avant-garde, The Childhood of a Leader was released without making nearly as much noise as it deserved. Brady Corbet’s directorial debut is partially based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1939 collection, chronicling the childhood of a fascist leader post-World War One. The Childhood of a Leader offers both a French and English version of the film, winning two awards at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. Much of the filmmaking took place in Budapest, Hungary, meaning you’re in for some breath-taking visuals of the Buda Castle and Hungarian National Gallery.
Robert Pattinson delights us with two performances in this foreboding mystery drama – though one is, admittedly, very brief. As the “family friend” of young Prescott’s family, Pattinson maintains a looming presence throughout the film. Centered around Prescott and his disturbed – oftentimes brutal – nature, The Childhood of a Leader is an immensely tense piece of beautiful filmmaking. Every shot is executed with immaculate precision; cloaking viewers with the sense that something isn’t quite right.
8. The Devil All The Time (2020)
While Pattinson was preparing for his portrayal of Batman, Tom Holland was already swinging across skyscrapers in red spandex as Spider-Man. In 2020, the two came together in a sordid crime drama, directed by Antonio Campos. The Devil All The Time immediately plunges itself into darkness; its plot is littered with serial killers, crucifixion, and suicides. Although Pattinson tends to veer towards heroic (if a little strange or misguided) characters, you’re definitely not going to feel the same way about this one.
When Arvin (Holland) becomes orphaned in 1957, he must face off against a narcissistic—scratch that: pure evil—preacher, played by Pattinson. From his grating Southern American accent to his violent and abusive actions, Reverend Preston Teagardin haunts the chilling tale with his manic omnipresence, masked with the allusion to charisma and faith. At one point, he even believes to have sacred, magical powers! Critics weren’t overly struck by the disturbing themes of The Devil All The Time, but what everyone could agree on was Pattinson’s invigorating performance.
The sweat coming off this tense, post-war thriller in the Ohio backwoods is almost palpable; saturated in blood and twisted into all types of moral contortions. The only criticism Pattinson received was for his apparently inaccurate accent, for which he refused to get a dialect coach. Sources state Pattinson was adamant about working the role out for himself which, admirable as it is, was probably best left up to the professionals.
7. Remember Me (2010)
Mid-Twilight saga Pattinson appeared in a coming-of-age drama with a surprising twist. What may, at first glance, look like another easy-going rom-com is somewhat subversive, harboring a bleak tone with fragile touches of romance. The reception proved “Remember Me” to be a love-it-or-hate-it deal, but what can’t be denied is its originality that balances on unclear genre boundaries.
Pattinson delivers a powerful performance as Tyler Hawkins – an auditor who struggles with a strained family dynamic. Tyler, after a run-in with the police, uses a cop’s daughter as a method of revenge. But, as you can probably guess from the poster, he eventually falls for her. Tension broils and lies are told, and the film takes a few turns you’re not expecting – all the while Pattinson proving his rising talent for acting. Directed by Allen Coulter, Remember Me is vaguely somber in tone, with hints of tragi-comedy, outbursts of rage, and perhaps one-or-two clichés.
6. The Rover (2014)
A film of niche taste, The Rover is one of those slow-paced dramas that’s sparse on dialogue and hailed at film festivals. A not-quite buddy movie with Western influences, The Rover is set in a lawless, dystopian world ten years after an economic collapse. Robert Pattinson starts to turn industry heads here, playing a simple-minded boy, Reynolds, injured in the Australian outback. Eric – a no-nonsense loner played by Guy Pierce – take Reynolds under his wing when his car is stolen and turmoil breaks loose.
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Vengeful and bloody – yet subtle and raw –The Rover received high ratings for its gritty atmospherics. Pattinson’s performance was highly praised, connecting with audiences on a humane and sympathetic level. You can almost feel the sweat and dirt and smell of tobacco radiating off this movie, again directed by David Michŏd. The Rover also marked Pattinson’s first of several collaborations with A24, who frequently strive to bring more independent filmmakers into the public eye.
5. High Life (2018)
A sci-fi horror with its roots in the arthouse, High Life is a visually stunning exploration of deep space. Robert Pattinson is one of several criminals that are sent on a mission to space – one that inevitably turns sideways. Switching between the past and the present, Monte (Pattinson) recalls the events of the mission whilst struggling to care for his daughter on board the spaceship, which is now hurtling towards a black hole.
The dark and daring themes of High Life – injected with surprising notes of erotica – are not the most stand-out qualities of this film like you might expect. Instead, the exquisite cinematography takes center stage, causing ripples of awe amongst cinema-goers. A dance of light and color, director Claire Denis’s film is dreamily captivating (or else nightmarish). Hazy neon flares and soft, pastel hues drench High Life in that astral eeriness perfect for a space setting. An existential black hole of both derangement and wonder, the gradual structuring of this film is only a little short of a masterpiece.
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Pattinson is undoubtedly the core of High Life. Viewers are met with an enigmatic performance that never fails to inspire. Mia Goth and Juliette Binoche also appear in Denis’s first English-language debut, enveloping us in her hypnotic world.
4. Good Time (2017)
When a bank robbery goes badly wrong, Connie (Pattinson) throws himself through the seedy underbelly of New York City in an attempt to free his mentally-handicapped brother from jail. Urgent and intoxicating, Josh and Benny Safdie’s crime thriller is a richly textured and bursting with energy. Pattinson’s stellar portrayal of an urban outlaw, misguided by love for his brother, anchored his position as a prominent actor of immense talent.
Like many A24 movies, the aesthetics of “Good Time” are eye-catchingly electric. The mood of the film is mostly established through the visuals and soundtrack, provided by Oneohtrix Point Never in collaboration with Iggy Pop and winning the Cannes Film Festival Soundtrack Award. Everything is drowned in hues of neon: the red perhaps a symbol of blood, or a warning of danger; the blue a reflection of sterile television screens that hang in the background of modern-day crime.
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Pattinson once again shreds his eye-candy reputation in favor of a shaggy-haired thief who looks like he needs a shower. Enshrouded by an air ambiguity, Good Time explores its twisted themes with a morally compromised anti-hero at its center. For all it’s drug-fuelled adrenaline, Good Time also maintains a strand of humanity throughout the narrative. This is chiefly provided by Connie’s brother, Nick, who tugs at our heartstrings most notably during the end credits.
Whenever Christopher Nolan is releasing a movie, it seems the whole cinematic world grinds to a halt in apprehension. Known for playing around with his trademark theme of time (working at different speeds on different planes of consciousness in Inception, 2010; or different planets in Interstellar, 2014; and repeating itself every day in Memento, 2000), Tenet gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘time travel’. Going backward would be far too simple for this cinematic genius. Instead, Tenet is a movie told invertedly, meaning you actively move backward in time—sort of like walking backward or hitting rewind—rather than just teleporting back to some past date and letting time roll on as usual.
Starring in this complex and utterly original sci-fi thriller is John David Washington as a CIA agent tasked with saving the world from rich supervillain Kenneth Branagh. But he’d get nowhere without his sophisticated, gin-drinking handler Neil, played by Pattinson. Although Pattinson has had a few successful stabs on American characters, Tenet sees him tap into his inner Englishman. His well-to-do accent is endlessly quotable, oozing with gentlemanly charm in his fitted suit and cool disposition. He may not be the main hero of Tenet, but he certainly adds a humane—even humorous—element to all the technical jargon.
2. The Lighthouse (2019)
The most recent film on our list also happens to take the top spot. The Lighthouse is fantastical and bizarre, putting Pattinson’s acting skills to the test in a perverse tale of the seas. Willem Dafoe stars alongside him (the film having a very slim cast list indeed) as the irritably superstitious supervisor of a lighthouse in New England. Pattinson arrives as the man-of-little-words Ephraim Winslow, taking a job as a wickie under the old sailors watch. Surrounded by nothing but rough seas, the two are bound to each other in maddening isolation.
There’s more to fear here than seagull attacks and mermaids; the light of the house itself is something altogether terrifying – yet tempting – for reasons unexplained. A blending of genres brought together by a clear sense of style and direction, The Lighthouse is a psychoanalytic film of mythic horror.
The first thing that will strike you about The Lighthouse is the cinematography: a square ratio framing black-and-white images, overlaid with crisp film grain resembling that of a 1940s film. Director Robert Eggers didn’t just choose this because it looks cool though – the shadowy, claustrophobic filming is apt for a Gothic horror set in the late 19th century. For any dedicated film buffs reading, take note of the lingering still shots, eerie empty spaces, and beautiful use of frame-within-a-frame.
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Though Dafoe’s character begins the story with a screw already loose, Pattinson is left to slowly unravel in a fight against sanity. His change from one mindset to the next is executed with phenomenal skill, speaking in period-accurate language punctuated by riddles. It’s very far from his Twilight days, showing an impressive dedication to his art as an evolved actor.
1. The Batman (2022)
After the hailed success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, the bar was set pretty high for subsequent Batman remakes. Nolan’s franchise featured Christian Bale as the gruff-talking, ninja-fighting superhero—by day known as the reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne. The trilogy was quite a feat for the superhero genre, which is generally frowned upon as generic “low art” fan service movies by critics. Ben Affleck’s follow-up was a dismal flop in the face of Bale’s iconic performance (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2016), but the same can’t be said for Robert Pattinson.
The eccentric actor bulked up and decked himself in eyeliner for his rendition of the antiheroic savior of Gotham City, starring alongside Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and Paul Dano in “The Riddler”. The Batman is surprisingly slow-burning for a DC movie, stretching on for a tense, operatically cinematic three hours. Matt Reeves directs this stunning, contemporary reboot, where Pattinson thrives in a gritty performance unlike any other in his filmography. The air was buzzing with anticipation in the lead-up to The Batman’s release, and luckily for Reeves, Pattinson’s go at the infamous shadowy hero perfectly matched the somber tone of the movie.