Michael Peña is a compelling actor of incredible range. He first started getting noticed earlier in his career for small but powerful roles in big films. As his career grew, he was given the opportunity to play a variety of more significant and complex roles and his immense talent began to get recognized.
Peña has the rare ability to play intense dramatic roles just as well as the zany comedic roles. Sometimes he even combines the two in the same role. While he likely has a lot more fun performances to deliver in the years to come, he's already given us some truly great ones. Here are some of Michael Peña's most memorable roles to date.
10 World Trade Center
One of the first high-profile leading roles Peña got was in Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. Based on the amazing true story, the movie centers on John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), two officers who were trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks.
While the 2006 film might have been too soon for some audiences to relive the tragedy, Peña gives an amazing performance as the real-life hero. His desperate struggle for survival is heartbreaking and inspiring. It made a lot of people take notice of the young actor.
Crash has developed something of a bad reputation over the years, being considered one of the worst films to win Best Picture. The film by Paul Haggis tells several different interesting stories all based around racism in Los Angeles.
Many people took issue with the simplistic way the film handled such complex ideas, but Peña was singled out as a highlight of the film. He plays Daniel, a working-class family man who is routinely profiled for his appearance. Peña gives the film some of its most emotionally powerful moments in a stellar performance.
After the recognition from films like Crash and World Trade Center, Peña began getting big roles in high-profile projects. One of his first big roles was in the Mark Wahlberg action thriller, Shooter. Wahlberg plays a former army sniper who is framed for an assassination.
Peña plays Nick Memphis, a young FBI agent who becomes entangled in the conspiracy. While not the most complex part, Peña brought a lot of charm and humor to the film in a supporting role, something he would do to great effect throughout his career.
7 Observe And Report
Peña's career began with very intense dramas, but before too long, he let the world know he was just as effective in comedies. One of the first comedic roles he tackled was in the underrated dark comedy Observe and Report.
The film stars Seth Rogen as an unhinged mall cop with dreams of being a real detective. Peña plays Dennis, his partner with a hidden wild side. Peña is hilarious as the calm yet dangerous security guard. It's no surprise he started appearing in a lot more comedies after this.
6 Narcos: Mexico
Narcos: Mexico is the companion series to the popular Netflix true-crime series, Narcos. The new series followed the real-life events of Mexican drug kingpin Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and law enforcement's attempts to bring him to justice.
The series starred Diego Luna as Gallardo and Peña as the DEA agent who is hunting him. Peña plays the hero role well and makes us really fear for this man who has put himself in a very dangerous position.
5 Eastbound And Down
Eastbound and Down is one of the most outrageous comedy series to ever appear on television. The HBO show followed the increasingly dark and depraved exploits of Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), a washed-up baseball player looking for a comeback.
Peña joined the second season of the show as a Mexican businessman who seeks to have Kenny play for the team he owns. Peña plays this massively successful man-child so perfectly. Every line he says is laugh-out-loud funny, proving again what a gifted comedic actor he is.
Peña has shown that he can carry a movie himself with his talents, but he is often seen as a stand-out member in large ensemble films. Fury is one great example of this, as Peña joins the likes of Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, and Jon Bernthal in this World War II film about a tank crew.
The main focus is obviously on Pitt, but the other actors get their chance to shine as well. Peña does great work as Gordo, the tank driver. He has fantastic chemistry with the rest of the small cast and they help make Fury an interesting war film.
3 The Martian
Another example of Peña standing out in a big cast is with Ridley Scott's excellent science fiction film, The Martian. The film stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who is stranded alone on Mars. Though Damon is the star of the film, there is an excellent ensemble backing him up.
Peña plays Rick Martinez, a member of the crew that left their man behind and endeavor to rescue him. Peña makes the most of the small role, bringing humor and charm to the highly entertaining film.
2 End Of Watch
Found footage films are usually seen in the horror genre, but David Ayer's End of Watch effectively used the technique for a gritty cop flick. Peña co-stars with Jake Gyllenhaal as two Los Angeles cops who run afoul of a local gang and become targets.
While the found footage aspect might not work for everyone, the performances by the two lead actors make this a must-watch film. They are both incredible as these partners whose bond is unbreakable. They embrace the style of the movie to make these characters feel like real people.
Peña has managed to become one of the most popular characters in the MCU, and he's not even one of the superheroes. Peña has been the highlight of both Ant-Man films as Luis, Scott Lang's ex-convict friend who helps him on his heroic adventures.
Peña is hilarious as the sweet, fast-talking criminal who has a surprising passion for high-class culture. His long-winded tangents about how he collected information are some of the funniest moments in any of the MCU movies and we're just waiting for Luis to show up in an Avengers film.