It may be hard to fathom, but Jesse Eisenberg has been acting consistently for nearly two decades now. When he first arrived, it looked like he might end up shoehorned into similar roles throughout his career. Instead, he has showcased his versatility by starring in comedies, thrillers, dramas, superhero movies, and more.
Eisenberg blew up with a starring role in the hit horror-comedy Zombieland and then scored an Academy Award nomination for The Social Network. With three films already released in 2019, Eisenberg is still consistently shining in everything that he does. We’re now here to look at the 10 best roles of his stellar career as well as rank them.
10 30 Minutes or Less: Nick Davis
By the time 2011 rolled around, Jesse Eisenberg was a big star. Fresh off of an Oscar nod, he returned to the world of comedy where he first found fame. That brought him to 30 Minutes or Less. He portrayed Nick Davis, an underachieving pizza delivery boy.
Nick Davis was kidnapped by two dim-witted criminals who strapped a bomb to his chest and forced him to rob a bank. Eisenberg worked expertly together with his talented co-stars Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride. While some of the reviews were less than stellar, Eisenberg’s work was praised.
9 Batman v. Superman — Dawn of Justice: Lex Luthor
Here’s a role that Jesse Eisenberg played more than once. It began with 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This was the blockbuster that audiences had been waiting decades for. Between the battling superheroes was a puppetmaster by the name of Lex Luthor.
Eisenberg took on the role of one of the most iconic comic book villains of all-time. Many viewed it as a surprise casting, but Eisenberg clearly had a blast with his performance. The movie was widely panned, but Eisenberg was a highlight. He’d go on to reprise the role in a cameo at the end of Justice League the following year. It could be argued that he was the best Luthor in history.
8 The Art of Self-Defense: Casey Davies
There aren’t going to be many people who know a lot about this one yet. Early in 2019, The Art of Self-Defense hit theaters though it only grossed a bit over $2 million at the box office. While it didn’t do big numbers, it was well-received by most of the critics who reviewed it.
In this film, Eisenberg plays Casey Davies, a young man struggling to deal with an assault he suffered. It forced him to learn self-defense from a sensei. The Art of Self-Defense and Casey Davies gives us everything we love about Eisenberg. It’s witty, well-acted, and as charming as it gets.
7 Night Moves: Josh Stamos
This is another movie that should have been watched by a larger audience. Racking up just $788,160 at the box office, Night Moves ranks among the lowest-grossing films of Jesse Eisenberg’s career. However, like the previous entry, it was met with almost universal acclaim.
In it, Eisenberg is Josh Stamos, a radical environmentalist who plots to blow up a dam. Things don’t go quite as planned and it leads to a thrilling unraveling just before the credits rolled. Eisenberg was fantastic alongside the likes of Dakota Fanning, Alia Shawkat, and Peter Sarsgaard.
6 The End of the Tour: David Lipsky
While his turn as Mark Zuckerberg is Jesse Eisenberg’s most notable portrayal of a real person, it wasn’t the only one. In 2013, he worked as Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky. The End of the Tour is based on the memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.
It told the tale of Lipsky’s interview with talented novelist David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel. Both actors deliver some of the best performances of their careers. They bond, fight, and go through awkward moments on their journey. All the while, audiences were treated to a compelling true story.
5 The Squid and the Whale: Walt Berkman
Though this was the fourth film that Jesse Eisenberg starred in, it was the first to be considered great. The Squid and the Whale won several screenplay awards, got nominated multiple times at the Golden Globes, and scored Eisenberg some notable acclaim.
As Walt Berkman, Eisenberg was allowed to showcase his acting chops in a dramatic role. Walt and Frank (Owen Kline) are brothers who must deal with the devastating divorce of their parents (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) during the 1980s. Eisenberg looked at home with incredibly accomplished veteran actors.
4 Adventureland: James Brennan
Early on in Jesse Eisenberg’s career, a character like James Brennan seemed to be right in his wheelhouse. He was awkward, charming, quirky, and a lot of fun. Adventureland is a movie set in Philadelphia during the summer of 1987 as Brennan nabbed a job at a run-down amusement park.
It wasn’t just the fact that this role seemed tailor-made for Eisenberg. It was how well he made it work. A major reason was his chemistry with the rest of the cast, including Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, and Bill Hader. He and Stewart were so good together that they dazzled again in American Ultra a few years later.
3 Now You See Me: J. Daniel Atlas
There isn’t a cooler movie on this list than Now You See Me. It centers around a group of illusionists who use their skills in magic to pull off massive bank heists. The group is known as the Four Horsemen and they’re led by Jesse Eisenberg’s J. Daniel Atlas.
Despite working with Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and plenty of other outstanding actors, Eisenberg stands out. There’s a suave sense of charisma that he carries to be that leader. The stunning visuals and compelling mystery are great, but we love this series because of the cast.
2 Zombieland: Columbus
As with Now You See Me, Jesse Eisenberg acts as something of a leader in this ensemble piece. It also spawned a sequel because of how fun and successful it was. And it also paired Eisenberg up with Woody Harrelson. Zombieland was the quintessential zombie comedy flick as it perfectly blended cheesy hilarity with stomach-churning gore.
In Zombieland, Eisenberg plays Columbus. It’s another character that seemed destined for him as it was right up his alley. He was relatable for audiences and played well off of Harrelson, Emma Stone, and the rest of the team. Both installments rank among the best films of his career.
1 The Social Network: Mark Zuckerberg
It should come as no surprise that the role that nabbed Jesse Eisenberg his Oscar nomination tops the list. In 2011, he undertook the difficult task of playing Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. If you didn’t know, Zuckerberg is famous for starting the social media juggernaut Facebook.
Eisenberg was stellar. Watching him struggle with the social cues needed to maintain Zuckerberg’s complex relationship was enticing. We don’t know if it was being directed by David Fincher, acting alongside Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, or just finding a role that he was captivated by. Whatever it was, it brought out the absolute best in Jesse Eisenberg.