He has made his movie debut at the age of eleven in City Slickers (1991) and he’s come a long way since then. He is an Academy Award nominee for his performance in Brokeback Mountain (2005), the film that brought him a whole new level of attention.
He is mostly known for his unusual choices of roles, but whether he plays a cowboy, an action hero, or a sociopath, he does it with such elegance, depth and showing extreme talent in every role he is given.
He likes being an actor because he can get away with doing stuff he can’t do in the real world.
He’s one of the rare actors of this generation whose movies I watch and I don’t automatically see “Jake Gyllenhaal playing X,Y,Z”, he truly transforms into all of his roles.
Here are the top 6 movies of Jake Gyllenhaal:
6. Zodiac (2007)
Directed by the master of thrillers, David Fincher, Gyllenhaal portrays Robert Graysmith in the movie, a man who becomes obsessed with the Zodiac killer and he thinks he can help the police catch him. The film is not only well worth a watch because of his performance, both his partners, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo deliver brilliant performances in this much-acclaimed movie.
Fun fact: the film was adapted from the book written by the real Graysmith himself, and Gyllenhaal was able to develop a remarkable performance as the cartoonist.
5. Enemy (2013)
The movie, Enemy, isn’t his first collaboration with the director, Denis Villeneuve. In this one, you get two Jakes for the price of one. What more can you ask for?
Gyllenhaal plays a professor who discovers he has a doppelganger, a failed movie actor, and he becomes obsessed with him and tries to contact him… I will not talk more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.
Gyllenhaal is very, very good in bringing these two entirely different characters together. It is one hell of a thought-provoking movie, which has a very tense atmosphere and you should pay close attention to the details. Once you understand it, it is absolutely brilliant.
What is even more brilliant about it is that the actor carries the whole film on his shoulders. The two characters are distinct, but it’s the strange and nuanced similarities between them that really make it remarkable in terms of performance.
4. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is one of those movies that was pretty much underlooked back in those days when it was released, but it has developed into a cult film in the recent years. This is probably one of the actor’s signature rules before Brokeback Mountain, but some may consider this his breakout role.
He plays Donnie, a neurotic kid, who communicates with a rabbit called Frank. And that rabbit manipulates him into committing a series of crimes.
The movie is incredibly dark, focuses on mental illness and will stay with you for a while after you finished watching it. The actor plays alongside his sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, playing a brother and sister.
3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Brokeback Mountain is still very moving after all these years, there is so much beauty in every frame. This is a go-to movie if you want to wallow in sadness. It is devastating every single time and you still want it to finish differently, even though it is obvious that the ending couldn’t realistically be different.
The movie isn’t really about two gay cowboys’ relationship, it is the story of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). The story of two human beings who fall in love with each other, and yes, who happen to be two men who develop something deeper than friendship.
Both actors give truly mesmerizing performances and the movie remains – sadly – to be the only one which Gyllenhaal was nominated for an Oscar for.
2. Prisoners (2013)
The tiny amount of detail that he puts into each of his roles is always mind-blowing. The movie, Prisoners, stayed with me for a long time after I watched it. What I will never forget is, however, the nervous twitch his character,
Detective Loki had. It is something so small yet it makes such a difference. It was a genius idea. It wasn’t distracting at all, it just felt so real. His character served as the voice of reason amongst all the other people who were primarily driven by their emotions.
1. Nightcrawler (2014)
Jake’s performance in Nightcrawler is absolutely phenomenal, words can hardly describe how terrifying and mesmerizing he is in the movie. I think we can all agree on that he should definitely have been nominated for that Oscar, but it’s time to move on.
His character, Louis Bloom is a detached and empty freelance videographer. He shows no empathy, this treat is demonstrated repeatedly. He uses others to achieve his goals and he demonstrates that hurting others is acceptable in order to win – winning is the only thing that seems to matter to him -, and he does not take responsibility for their harm. He so selfishly seeks credit and recognition but he is not sharing this credit with others.
Louis Bloom is our anti-hero for the ages, he is a monster in some creepy modern world fairytale. The movie, which is surprisingly funny at times with its dark humor, is a critical look at the media and the capitalist system.
Lou is good at his job, in fact, he is very good at his job, and so is Gyllenhaal at portraying him. Let’s be honest, Jake Gyllenhaal is a very good looking man, but he has reinvented himself into some gaunt looking monster this time.
He lost a significant amount of weight for this role and needed to visit a hospital for stitches during filming, which resulted in him appearing as scary as possible. For Gyllenhaal, achieving this kind of gaunt look was important in creating this character.
The truth about his character and what he does for a living says as much about him as the consumers. I mentioned earlier, the only thing Lou cares about is winning. He is not going to win because he’s intelligent or because he’s brilliant. He’s a leech who uses other people in order to get what he wants (to win), and men like him always win. And that’s that.