Oscar Isaac has a talent for versatility, with his recent project, Moon Knight, being an excellent example. When not playing the bumbling, gentle genius Steven Grant, he was the morally gray mercenary Marc Spector. Not only could he display seamless transitions for two distinct characters, but he also acted them out in ways that made it clear they follow different moral codes.
What helped Isaac give such a mind-blowing performance was the fact that it has not been his first time playing intense roles. Isaac is a rare actor that has excelled equally in heroic and villainous roles, refusing to be pigeonholed into either. Whether it was a hero or a villain, terrifying or inspiring, he never failed to make them stand out.
10 Poe Dameron – The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy (2015-2019)
Poe is one of Isaac’s most iconic roles, and for good reason. As Poe Dameron, he was an ace pilot in the New Republic before eventually rising to become a General for the Resistance.
As Leia’s # 1 pilot, Poe has shown what a heroic man he can be while also showing fierce loyalty to his comrades. He can sometimes be considered reckless, but it does not keep him from fighting for those who can not. He is a great pilot (and certainly knows it) with absolute dedication to his missions. He’ll tend to stray from obeying orders, but again, it normally is in the name of helping others. He’s brave, a good friend, and always around to provide hope.
9 Duke Leto Atreides – Dune (2021)
In a film with a great ensemble cast, Isaac manages to stand out with his role as the head of the Atreides family. As Duke, he is tasked to bring order to Arrakis and forms an alliance with the natives of the desert planet.
He possesses a good moral compass due to always trying to do the right thing. Leto is a wise man who takes the time to be a strong leader as well as a good father and life partner. Whatever situation he is in, he displays intelligence and compassion. He’s prepared to lay down his life and is aware of the risks that come with his title. It’s why he has no qualms about being ruthless when dealing with his enemies.
8 Steven Grant / Marc Spector – Moon Knight (2022)
Isaac joined the MCU with this complex role. The majority of the show follows these two as they try to save the world while also coming to terms with their fictionalized version of Dissociative Identity Disorder. They not only battle foes but also overcome emotional trauma, too.
Steven and Marc are good people in their own ways. Marc struggles with his morals as a former mercenary and his background in a broken home. He still shows what a good person he is through his protective nature. Steven is more optimistic as the brains and the more wholesome of the two. When their third alter, Jake Lockley, finally appeared, he showed to have fewer issues with violence. Only time will tell which side he is on.
7 Abel Morales -A Most Violent Year (2014)
Isaac plays someone more uncertain but firm with his values in this gangster movie. As Abel Morales, he is a man who does his best to keep his moral compass straight as he just wants to make an honest living.
Abel is like Michael Corleone if he actually went through with not being a part of the family business. He wishes for a crime-free life as a hardworking fuel supplier. Yet, in the world he’s placed in, there seems to be nothing but danger surrounding him. There are close calls where he embraces the darkness after those he cares about become at risk. Nevertheless, he manages to rise above the violence and corruption plaguing his city.
6 Santiago “Pope” Garcia – Triple Frontier (2018)
In Triple Frontier, Isaac plays a military adviser who, along with his comrades from his Special Forces days, plans a heist on a drug lord. When the situation escalates, dangerous obstacles are placed and force them to rethink their values.
Santiago never stopped trying to fight for a good cause. His motives are somewhat fueled by greed, and he feels entitled to the large sum of money the crime boss has. He also withholds information to have his friends comply. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad man. He cares about the well-being of others and shows reluctance when doing things like threatening lives. It takes the death of a friend to make him see life differently and find better ways to serve.
5 Kane – Annihilation (2018)
In this cosmic horror movie, The Shimmer makes Isaac’s Kane two characters in one. The intense, dark world he placed in may have spat him out, but not as someone who can be trusted.
Prior to Annihilation‘s events, he’s seen as a good military man and a loving husband to Natalie Portman’s Lena. After returning from the mysterious place known as “The Shimmer,” he becomes someone else entirely. Isaac’s chilling performance as the soldier returning home is complimented by the flashbacks that show the more endearing person he once was. With it contrasting with the stoic being in the present, it can make for tense viewing as both audiences and Lena are not sure what to make of the situation.
4 Nathan Bateman – Ex Machina (2014)
in Ex Machina, Isaac is an eccentric CEO who spends his time building humanoid robots. When he invites one of his employees to test one out, eerie business ensues.
Audiences were never 100% sure how to feel about the narcissistic tech genius. Bateman was someone who played a role himself to gain the trust of Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb. What is certain are his nihilistic views on AI and his wanting to figure out how far they go with human interactions. If that means twisting the truth for his experiment to be a success, then so be it. He may not have anticipated things going as terribly as they did, but he certainly did not stop them.
3 Jack – Mojave (2015)
In this crime thriller, audiences can see Isaac channel his inner Max Cady. In Mojave, he plays an unhinged drifter who is out for revenge against a film director he encountered in the titular desert.
His performance as Jack shows off a disturbed man dedicated to tormenting Garrett Hedland’s Tom. Tom isn’t exactly a likable character himself, but Jack is beyond terrifying. When not spewing out his version of soliloquies, he’s stalking Tom and showing little to no restraint in his actions. He goes so far as to kill those he considers pawns for his act of vengeance with hardly any remorse. It’s all just to get back at a man he believes has wronged him.
2 Blue Jones – Sucker Punch (2011)
In one of his more despicable performances, Isaac plays an orderly who, in a fantasized reality, also has a role as a brothel owner. Whatever he’s running though, there’s no doubt Blue is a terrible man. He is an awful person to give authority to since he uses his positions to make life good for himself only.
He takes advantage of his unwell charges and couldn’t care less for their well-being. He is more worried about losing control, as he demonstrates by constantly threatening those he feels are beneath him. He also is not above disposing of others to maintain his power. A vile, cold, and overall disgusting man who takes what he can by using fear and manipulation tactics to succeed.
1 Apocalypse – X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Isaac’s performance as the first-ever mutant might’ve come with backlash, but it’s still his most villainous role to date. Apocalypse is an omnipotent being who, after being asleep for thousands of years, has arisen to seek control of the world and reshape it in his image.
Even if all of what he’s capable of isn’t presented perfectly onscreen, there’s still a ruthless villain here. He is an immortal being who can absorb the powers of other mutants and finds no use for those he considers weak or against his ideals. Because of his tyrannical views, he also has no issue with leaving behind any loyal followers he feels aren’t pulling their weight. Nothing or no one will stand in his way to world domination.
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