We've seen a lot of Oscar Isaac on the big screen over the last few decades, though it wasn't until strong roles in films like The Nativity Story and Balibo that he really started to appear in larger films to critical acclaim. Isaac has a busy few years ahead of him as well, as he will be appearing in a number of new films, including the animated The Addams Family and the upcoming Dune remake.
Oscar Isaac is an incredibly talented actor and musician who has even been featured on his own film's soundtracks a couple of times over the years. To celebrate his continuing rise to Hollywood fame and the promise of bigger and better roles still to come, we are going to showcase the best of Oscar Isaac with a look at 10 of his greatest roles, ranked.
10 SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Admittedly, there may be a couple of Isaac's roles with more screen time and better performance than Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse that could have easily have started off this list. However, his cameo role as Miguel O'Hara /Spider-Man 2099 in the post-credit stinger of the academy award winning animated film deserves a shout out.
His time on screen may have been short, but quickly became one of the most shared moments from the film. Plus, the appearance of Spider-Man 2099 opens the door to the next Spider-Verse film which is likely set to expand on the role of Miguel O'Hara, allowing Isaac to really explore the fan-favorite character.
9 TRIPLE FRONTIER
Isaac's most recent release was the Netflix film Triple Frontier, which also starred Ben Affleck and Charlie Hunnam. While not the best heist film we've seen in the last few years, Isaac shined as Santiago 'Pope' Garcia, a Special Forces operative who is frustrated with his government and plans to steal a big score from a South American drug kingpin.
Isaac reteamed with director J.C. Chandor (more on their first work together soon) for Triple Frontier, and there is a sense of comfortability to Isaac's scenes, chaotic as they can be, that reflect their time together. Isaac also works well alongside his reunited squad, but even more so with his on-screen informant, played by Adria Arjona.
8 SUCKER PUNCH
Before Zack Snyder dove into the DCEU with Man of Steel, he released a passion project of his called Sucker Punch. The film was a fever dream of an idea, great in premise yet slightly flawed in execution, with a young girl navigating the dangerous world of an insane asylum while also exploring various fantasy worlds that showcase the various influences of Snyder.
Oscar Isaac plays Blue Jones, a crooked asylum orderly with a disturbing control over the patients/prisoners of the institution. Isaac is really able to flex his bad guy persona in Sucker Punch as both a seedy orderly and a domineering bordello owner, but it's the "Love is the Drug" performance led by Isaac and Carla Gugino that further displays the many talents of Oscar Isaac.
Drive features yet another example of Oscar Isaac in a supporting role that he is able to elevate off the page and truly make the audience care, or at the very least sympathize with his character. Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive follows Ryan Gosling's Driver as he is dragged into a heist by Isaac's Standard, who is drowning in debt and looking for a way to care for his family, who the Driver had grown fond of.
Standard is by no means a good character, and it's painfully obvious through every moment on screen he shares with his family that their relationships are loving but damaged. Oscar Isaac again has little screen time but turns in a memorable performance in an equally memorable film full of the same from the other actors.
6 STAR WARS
We could easily discuss both of Isaac's film appearances as Poe Dameron in the Star Wars franchise considering we see the character in very different situations in each film that showcase different sides of Dameron. However, if for no other reason than to include Spider-Verse in the rankings, we're going to combine the films to a single ranking.
Oscar Isaac has knocked more than a few cameo roles out of the park, and The Force Awakens was no different. His time with Poe was extended and the character reworked into the new developing trilogy, and he has become a flawed yet determined leader of the Rebellion in The Last Jedi, with more to come in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
5 SHOW ME A HERO
One of Oscar Isaac's earliest roles was on the long-running TV franchise Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and he has appeared on television a few times since his film star began to rise. In 2015 Isaac starred in HBO's Show Me A Hero mini-series, which was based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin.
Isaac played young Mayor Nick Wasicsko as he dealt with the government's order to build low-income public housing in a white, middle-class neighborhood in Yonkers, New York, during his term that began in 1987. Issac perfectly captures Wasicsko's internal and public debates with the issue while also exploring the corrupting nature of politics, making Show Me a Hero a must-see role.
4 A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
J. C. Chandor wrote and directed A Most Violent Year, which starred Oscar Isaac alongside Jessica Chastain as a successful businessman in 1980s New York. He runs a growing company in the oil-heating industry whose trucks are besieged by hijackers. Issac's Abel Morales is a man struggling to stay above a line of criminality he might not be able to get back from.
Isaac toes the line between the frustrated working man and the smooth-talking problem-solver perfectly, though we really see the cracks in his character during his scenes with Chastain's Anna Morales as the family struggles with secrets and a ticking clock business deal. It may have been A Most Violent Year, but it was also a most excellent role for Isaac.
Alex Garland's second directorial outing (and second film with Oscar Isaac) was a loose adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation. Isaac stars as Kane, the husband of Natalie Portman's Lena who ventured into the mysterious infected area known as The Shimmer on a government mission, before disappearing and coming back changed.
In the book, the character of the husband dies almost immediately, yet Kane's expanded role in the film gives Oscar Isaac the chance to really play in the sci-fi horror genre. We really see Isaac playing two roles in the film, as the Kane who returns from The Shimmer is eerily different. Another smaller supporting role that stands out among the great cast assembled by Garland.
2 EX MACHINA
The directorial debut from Alex Garland starred Oscar Isaac alongside his Star Wars co-star Domhall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. The film follows Gleeson's Caleb Smith, a programmer invited to Isaac's billionaire inventor Nathan Bateman's reclusive cabin to test a newly created robot with artificial intelligence named Ava, played by Vikander.
The film explores many themes about humanity and what separates us from a program designed to act like us, all while Oscar Isaac's Bateman showcases some of the less than admirable traits of humanity. Ex Machina manages to ask a number of interesting questions while also showcasing a fantastic trio of actors who serve as a solid foundation for the heady sci-fi thriller.
1 INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
The Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis is often considered Oscar Isaac's breakout role and is one of his strongest and most emotional films on this list. The film follows a week in the life of struggling folk musician Llewyn Davis in 1961's Greenwich Village in New York. Following the loss of his music partner, Davis tries to make it one last time as the world he knew changes around him.
The film is an innovative blend of music and story that Isaac seems perfectly comfortable in, and his musical performance is on par with his dramatic presence. There's a good reason Inside Llewyn Davis was his breakout role, and it's because it perfectly showcases the range and talent of Oscar Isaac.