No matter what role he's in, you know Oscar Isaac will deliver a captivating performance. The Guatemala-born actor has been breaking stereotypes with his diverse and fully fledged roles for years now. An alumni of Juilliard, he broke out in the 2006 biblical drama, The Nativity Story, which tells the story of Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. Isaac starred as Joseph.
"I got to cast Oscar Isaac in his first role," director Catherine Hardwicke recently reflected, "and we premiered in the freaking Vatican! I mean, it was out of control."
Since then, Isaac has worked with some of the most-renowned filmmakers in the industry, appearing in modern classics from Nicolas Winding Refn and the Coen brothers, as well as blockbuster franchise including Star Wars, the MCU, X-Men, and the Spider-Verse saga. (He recently reprised his role as Miguel O'Hara, AKA Spider-Man 2099, in this summer's Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.)
The actor has shown his versatility and vulnerability in the projects he's taken on, along the way gaining admirers and accolades: For HBO's Scenes from a Marriage, he received an Emmy nomination (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie) and Screen Actors Guild nomination (Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series).
Whether Isaac is playing the lead or a supporting role, his charismatic presence can't be denied. Below, A.frame celebrates his body of work with a look back at the essential performances of his career so far.
This Australian historical war drama features Isaac as a young José Ramos-Horta, a future Nobel Peace Prize recipient and the second president of East Timor. In Balibo, Ramos-Horta teams up with journalist Roger East (Anthony LaPaglia) to investigate the deaths of a group of journalists, known as the Balibo Five, who were captured and killed while reporting on the Indonesian invasion in East Timor in 1975.
The film is loosely based on the 2001 book Cover-up by Australian journalist Jill Jolliffe, who met the men before they were killed.
In this neo-noir thriller, Ryan Gosling stars as the enigmatic character credited simply as Driver, a Hollywood stunt driver and mechanic who moonlights as a criminal-for-hire getaway driver. He ends up meeting and falling for his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan). When Irene's husband, Standard (Isaac), is released from prison and is in need of help, Driver decides to help him with a dangerous, million-dollar heist.
Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks co-star in this hyper-stylized film from director Nicolas Winding Refn. Drive, which won Best Director at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing.
Written and directed by the Coen brothers and beautifully shot by Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis stars Isaac as Llewyn, a struggling folk singer in New York City's Greenwich Village in the early '60s. The musical drama depicts a week in his life as he attempts to keep things in order while trying to make his singing career a reality.
Isaac and many of the other actors in the film performed most of the music in the film live. The film reunites Isaac with Mulligan, and also co-stars John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver, and F. Murray Abraham. Inside Llewyn Davis, one of the critical hits of 2013, received two Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing.
Based on Patricia Highsmith's 1964 novel of the same name, this romantic thriller follows Chester (Viggo Mortensen), a New York con man traveling with his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) in Greece. When Chester kills a private detective, the couple enlists the help of Rydal (Isaac), the potentially dangerous tour guide who they've recently met during their stay, to help them get out of the country. Hossein Amini, the screenwriter behind Drive, wrote and directed The Two Faces of January.
J.C. Chandor wrote and directed this crime drama set in 1981 New York. Isaac plays Abel Morales, an immigrant trucking company owner who has many trucks hijacked amid the city's most dangerous year. As he tries to protect his business, which is under investigation, he must also keep his wife, Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain), and kids safe. David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Albert Brooks, and Catalina Sandino Moreno co-star. Isaac and Chastain would later go on to star in the miniseries Scenes from a Marriage.
Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Isaac co-star in Alex Garland's sci-fi thriller about the testing of a highly advanced humanoid A.I. The film follows programmer Caleb (Gleeson) who wins a contest to spend the weekend at the estate of billionaire scientist Nathan (Isaac). Once there, Caleb discovers that he is to participate in a test to see if Nathan's humanoid robot, Ava (Vikander), is capable of feelings and consciousness. Things, however, go awry once Ava turns out to be much more self-aware than anyone had imagined.
Nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay, Ex Machina took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. And, of course, Isaac's disco-dancing scene remains one of the highlights of his career.
Isaac entered the galaxy far, far away as Poe Dameron, an X-wing fighter pilot for the Resistance. The Force Awakens follows desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), and Poe as they go in search of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In the film, directed by J.J. Abrams, The heroes face a threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Isaac's Inside Llewyn Davis co-star, Adam Driver) and the First Order.
The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the Skywalker Saga and the sequel to 1983's Return of the Jedi when viewed in chronological order, was the first film of the sequel trilogy. Isaac would go on to also appear in the final two films of the Skywalker Saga, 2017's The Last Jedi and 2019's The Rise of Skywalker. Aside from Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher also reprised their famous Star Wars roles.
The Force Awakens was nominated for five Oscars: Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.
Reuniting with writer-director J.C. Chandor for this action flick, Isaac stars alongside a dynamic group of actors, including Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal. Co-written by Oscar winner Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Triple Frontier follows five friends, who are former Special Forces operatives, who risk their lives trying to pull off a dangerous heist in South America.
Isaac stars as ex-military interrogator turned lone-wolf gambler William Tell in Paul Schrader's revenge thriller. William is an avid gambler who learned how to count cards while serving time in prison. He is approached by a woman named La Linda (Tiffany Haddish), who tries to recruit him for her associates. He initially declines, but, after meeting Cirk (Tye Sheridan), a young man who is seeking revenge on a military colonel they both know, William changes his mind. Together, they set out to get revenge. Martin Scorsese serves as an executive producer on the film.
Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, Dune, is brought to life by filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, starring Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, and Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson as his parents, Duke Leto Atreides and Lady Jessica. Dune follows Paul as he travels to a dangerous planet to ensure the future of his family and people amid a war over the galaxy’s most precious resources. Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, and Zendaya co-star.
Dune was nominated for a total of 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film ultimately won six Oscars: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound.