With his tall figure somewhere between lanky and wide, his deep baritone voice, and his aquiline face, Adam Driver could very easily be cast as villains forever. His film career certainly got helped by playing one in the new series of Disney Star Wars movies. But playing sci-fi's fallen angel isn't all that Driver is good at, not when you look at the surprising breadth of his film roles in such a short amount of time.
The blockbuster nature of Star Wars makes Kylo Ren his most widely recognized role to date, but he's steadily been appearing in more heroic parts the last few years. His best performances can be found in movies like Marriage Story, where a voice that was once used for threatening violence is also applied to offer words of comfort during the death throes of a couple's relationship. His ability to deftly walk the line between the forces of good and evil is what makes his characters so believable.
Here are 10 Adam Driver characters ranked from most heroic to most villainous.
11 BlacKkKlansman - PHILIP "FLIP" ZIMMERMAN
Tackling the racial prejudices in the United States during the tumultuous Civil Rights era, when the KKK was still powerful behind the scenes, is difficult to do delicately. And when it can't be done delicately, it must be done with raw determination.
As Flip Zimmerman in BlacKkKlansman, Adam Driver plays a police officer that goes undercover in the KKK to infiltrate their ranks, while his black counterpart Ron Stallworth portrays him on the phone. Of Jewish descent, he has never known the sort of discrimination that people of color have had to suffer until he hears the anti-antisemitism from the mouths of his klansmen. Flip convinces the KKK that he is one of them before exposing the group's villainous nature.
10 The Report - DANIEL J. JONES
When an altruistic staffer named Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is asked to lead an investigation by Senator Diane Feinstein of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program, he knows the stakes will be high following the aftermath of 9/11. What he uncovers points to corruption in the highest offices as he reveals the lengths the central intelligence agency went to in order to subvert sensitive information.
As idealistic as Jones is in The Report, he's not prepared for the amount of subterfuge and malevolence he encounters to cover up the results of implementing the CIA's first torture program. He helped prove interrogators went well and beyond reasonable methods to acquire the information they deemed "sensitive," when the most sensitive information was proven to have actually been gained by more humane measures.
9 Silence - FATHER Garupe
When their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) goes missing in Japan, two missionaries begin a courageous crusade to find him. The year is 1640, and Jesuit persecution is rife in the country, forcing Father Garupe (Adam Driver) and Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) to conceal their identities.
Their faith is tested in ways they never thought possible, as they go through the most inhospitable terrain, are captured by Inquisitors, tortured, and made to denounce their God or suffer death. In searching for validation from his higher power and the truth of his conviction, Father Garupe must let go of everything he thought he knew about spirituality through a gauntlet of pain and fear.
8 The Dead Don't Die - OFFICER RONNIE PETERSON
As one-half of the only three law enforcement officers in a tiny town, Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) leads a fairly simple life of pulling cats from trees for old ladies and apprehending teenagers stealing candy from the corner markets. Eventually, strange things start happening in the town along with strange weather patterns, and it's up to him and Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) to investigate.
They come to find out that zombies roam the Earth in The Dead Don't Die, and they've begun to see the town as their feeding ground. Armed with nothing but a few firearms and a baseball bat, Officer Peterson attempts to be as heroic as he can, but the odds are not in his favor, though his fate is ambiguous by the end.
7 Paterson - PATERSON
To some, the life of bus driver Paterson is ideal, while others might find it maddeningly mundane. He awakens every day at precisely the same time, takes his brown paper bag lunch to work, drives the #23 Paterson school bus, and returns home. He eats dinner with his wife Laura, then takes his dog Marvin for a walk to the local bar, where he has exactly one beer before going home. Wash, rinse, repeat.
A film like Paterson might be conspicuously dull if it weren't for the magnetic performance of Adam Driver, who imbues Paterson with a noble sophomoric quality, like a living Norman Rockwell painting. He isn't particularly heroic, but he certainly isn't evil, and after watching him you wish there were more people like him in the world.
6 Marriage Story - CHARLIE
Sometimes when a couple decides to divorce, it isn't due to one big thing, but a series of small things that cut away at two people like a thousand cuts. Eventually, the love they have for each other bleeds out. In Marriage Story, Adam Driver plays Charlie opposite Scarlett Johansson's Nicole, and the film takes place from both of their perspectives.
Ultimately, Charlie is depicted as passionate, fearless, and a devoted father, but he can also be controlling, aggressive, and selfish. He was never willing to make the large sacrifices necessary to help his spouse also achieve her dreams because they would have interfered with his own. He learns life's lessons too late, but still manages to keep a good relationship with his young son.
5 Hungry Hearts - JUDE
Based on the way that Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) meet in Hungry Hearts, you would think their eccentric romance would flourish in the way that happenstance meetings do in New York City. They build a life together and have a child despite meeting under embarrassing circumstances, and soon the baby becomes the primary focus.
Mina begins to exhibit some obsessive behaviors around their child, to the point where Jude worries about its safety. At one point, he has to actively do what's in the best interest of the infant rather than his wife, which is painful to watch, especially as her body and mind deteriorate. This film showcases powerful performances from both leads, where the truth of the villain role is based on the perspective of each character.
4 THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE - Toby Grisoni
In Terry Gilliam's long-awaited opus The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Adam Driver plays a bratty director that travels to Spain to make a movie about the famous squire of legend. He once shot a student film on the same subject and in the same town, so he tracks down the man he once cast to play Don Quixote.
Thus begins a series of adventures, both real and unreal, both in and out of time, in which the former-cobbler, now convinced he is the real Don Quixote, shows Toby just how vile he was to the people on whose backs he has made his career. The film tackles large themes of obsolescence, escapism, and spiritual enlightenment through sacrifice.
3 Midnight Special - PAUL SEVIER
When a young boy named Alton Meyer begins to exhibit extraordinary powers, his father (Michael Shannon) decides to smuggle him out of the compound of the cult-like existence he's lived and go into hiding. Soon, its followers begin to frantically search for their "idol," and the Federal Government gets curious about what the boy can really do.
Adam Driver plays Sevier in Midnight Special, a federal agent with the National Security Agency and a scientist who wants to study the boy's abilities and possibly exploit them. As the father and son travel the breadth of the US, they have both groups dogging their every step, and the boy has a date with destiny that could imperil the entire world. This film is an interesting take on how "superheroes" might spring up from our society.
2 While We're Young - JAMIE Massey
Driver's ability to vacillate between charming, arrogant, and manipulative serves him well in portraying Jamie, a young documentary filmmaker in While We're Young. He's obsessed with a fellow documentarian's (Ben Stiller) work and befriends him and his wife in the hopes of collaborating on something together.
Their collaboration soon turns into Jamie usurping control of the production, and even staging certain elements to achieve greater dramatic tension, a big no-no to Stiller's character who believes documentaries should only present what is, not what the filmmaker is trying to make appear true. Jamie ends up stealing credit for the entire piece, and not only gets away with it but earns accolades for it by his colleagues.
1 Star Wars - KYLO REN
Without a doubt, the most villainous character Adam Driver has played to date has been the Prince of Darkness of the Star Wars franchise, Kylo Ren. Born Ben Solo to Rebel heroes Han Solo and Leia Organa, he had a strong connection to The Force and was encouraged to train with his uncle, the famous Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.
In the midst of his training, he was seduced by Supreme Leader Snoke and made to serve as his merciless enforcer of the First Order. Almost fully corrupted by the Dark Side, Ren has committed unspeakable atrocities, but he struggles with the light that still resides in his heart, much like his infamous grandfather, Darth Vader. Like Vader, he has been the undisputed main villain of Disney's Star Wars sequel trilogy.