Ahead of the release of his latest film, Velvet Buzzsaw, landing on Netflix tomorrow, the JumpCut team have come together to vote on our top five performances from Jake Gyllenhaal throughout his impressive career. From his baby-faced first outing on the silver screen in Ron Underwood’s City Slickers (1991), Jake has given us some terrific and unforgettable performances through the years.

Below are what the JumpCut team consider his best performances to date (not necessarily his best film) based on their personal top five and using a points system to determine a collective top five. Some honorable mentions that just missed out on making the list include Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac, The Day After Tomorrow and Source Code.

We’d love to hear your favourite performances of Jake’s – so feel free to leave yours in the comments below, or tell us on Twitter!


Nightcrawler (2014)

“When Louis Bloom, a con man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.”

Gyllenhaal gives an impeccable all-round performance in Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut. He plays Louis Bloom, a freelance journalist constantly in search of the latest big story, be it a car crash or a multiple homicide, with the intention of recording camera footage and selling it to the highest bidding news outlet. Lou Bloom is not your average Joe however. Mercilessly, he works his way up the ladder, leaving his peers in his wake, often with tragic consequences. Bloom is such a divisive character, leaving me questioning whether to empathise with him or despise him for his ruthless, brutal methods. He is a clever and amusing man, and indeed at several points, I found myself chuckling aloud to his witty cynicisms, yet equally, I was stunned as I witnessed the dark and menacing behaviour of the mysterious Lou Bloom. From his speech to his actions, even his ominous slicked-back, jet-black hair, everything about Bloom betrayed a distorted image of an underlying villain.

Nick’s full review from 2015

Donnie Darko (2001)

“A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident.”

A young Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the titular character, a messed up teen with schizophrenia and an imaginary friend in the form of a giant bunny rabbit who can travel through time. Sounds ridiculous, but this is one of the most engaging, thought-provoking and enigmatic films you will ever see, and it even has a fantastic soundtrack to boot; a must watch for fans of the psychological-thriller genre

Prisoners (2013)

“When Keller Dover’s daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts.”

Gyllenhaal doesn’t quite hit the heights of a Lou Bloom or a Donnie Darko here, but his Detective Loki is certainly very cool, likeable and he provides a great hero figure. It’s a brooding, charismatic display, from a character who for the most part looks to show very little emotion, yet upon closer inspection, we see that his job affects him deeply. It’s all in the details, like the excessive blinking and an underlying need for control.

Jakob’s full review from 2015

Enemy (2013)

“A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.”

Here is Gyllenhaal at his versatile, intense best. As Adam, he is brilliantly authentic in his portrayal of a troubled, confused character but is far too hesitant and suspicious rather prematurely. There is no denying however, that his latter scenes with Helen are some of the most powerful and emotive of the whole film. It is as the aggressive, domineering, rather detestable Anthony though, where Gyllenhaal really flourishes. The amalgamation of the two characters resonates with his role as the titular character in ‘Donnie Darko’, an uncanny projection of a future Donnie, a 30-something schizophrenic with plenty more issues.

Jakob’s full review from 2015

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

“A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.”

Jake Gyllenhaal shows incredible range in his dual role in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. Gyllenhall plays Edward Sheffield, the estranged ex-husband of Amy Adams’ character, and in the novel he portrays Tony Hastings, a man on vacation with his family before they’re forced off the road by a gang. Two very different roles in the film but, of course, Jake absolutely nails both and ultimately breaking our hearts in the process as Edward’s novel becomes much darker than originally anticipated.

Abbie’s full review from 2016