Paul Dano has been cast as The Riddler in Matt Reeves’s upcoming The Batman, which seems like it is excellent news for everyone, as he joins the already exceptional cast of Robert Pattinson, Jeremy Wright and Zoe Kravitz. I thought it would be an interesting idea to look back at his filmography and see what films of his you should see before The Batman.
1. There Will Be Blood
Paul plays Eli Sunday, a preacher and self-proclaimed faith healer who wants to sell the property to Daniel Plainview only to find himself waged in a battle for the land’s oil. Daniel Day-Lewis may well have won an Oscar for his performance in this film, but one thing that should never be overlooked is just how brilliant Paul Dano is here; he could easily have got himself a nomination for his performance in this film.
2. Little Miss Sunshine
Paul plays the brother Dwayne who is undertaking a vow of silence as a follower of Nietzsche while preparing to be a jet pilot. With this role he shows all his expressions through his face and body movements, as the family is traveling across country to enter his little sister Olive into the Little Miss Sunshine contest. Part road trip, part family drama, this is one of the best films to be released in 2006. Dano shines in one stand out scene, where he finally lets everything go, the pent up frustration and anger, even though he will only show love for his little sister, despite what is happening with the rest of the family.
3 – Gigantic
Paul plays a mattress salesman, Brian, who wants to adopt a Chinese baby, raising it by himself, but his life gets turned upside down when a woman falls asleep on one of the mattresses and starts to open his eyes to more about life. This is one of the least known films on this list, one that I have always been a fan of; we get to see Paul take the leading role unlike previous films and he runs with it, showing great chemistry with the ever-pleasant Zooey Deschanel.
4 – Ruby Sparks
Paul teams back up with Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, and opposite his long-time partner Zoe Kazan here, Paul plays a struggling writer, Calvin Weir-Fields, who has a terrible case of writer’s block until he starts to write about a new character, Ruby Sparks, a woman that he falls in love with and suddenly comes to life from the pages he is writing. This is one of the best modern romantic comedies and shows that everybody can work to have their own fantasy to get through the day.
5 – Looper
Paul plays Seth, one of the fellow Loopers and best friend to Joe, who makes the mistake by not closing his loop, which leads to what I consider one of the most disturbing scenes of the last decade. Seth is taken by the crime boss and off-camera, we see the message being sent to the older Seth, which include body parts vanishing. When you stop to think about this scene, it is horrendous; before this, he is the confident cocky young man, which is a perfect looser cannon next to Joe, who plays by the rules.
6 – Prisoners
Paul is amongst the strongest cast of recent years in Denis Villeneuve’s thriller that includes Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo. Paul plays Alex, the young man who becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance. He gets cleared, only to be held hostage by Keller Dover (Jackman), who will go to extreme limits to learn the truth about what happened to his child. Often used as the punching bag here, his character does have a complex side.
7 – Swiss Army Man
Paul plays a homeless man, Hank, who is stranded on an island, about to commit suicide to end his suffering, before he sees a body wash up on the beach. Hank becomes friends with the body and soon learns it has the ability to help him escape his life, to get home. To say this is the weirdest movie you will ever see would be an understatement; branded the farting corpse movie, with Daniel Radcliffe taking this role to break the Harry Potter typecasting, it is Paul Dano that must deal with the emotional factors of his life and what has led him to being left in this location, which is the standout for everything in this film.
8 – Wildlife
Paul directs with movie with his long-term partner Zoe Kazan writing the film with him, and while he might not star in the movie, he showed us all that he was ready to get behind the camera, guiding Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan to a critically acclaimed performance with a touching story, which also saw Paul nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
What would you consider some of the most essential Paul Dano movies to see before The Batman?
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