August 18, 2022

Although he’s not given the credit he deserves, Jason Clarke is one of the hardest working actors of his generation. It’s easy for young stars to try and announce themselves with flashy roles, but Clarke has proven time and time again that he can compliment an ensemble and still deliver a memorable performance. He’s appears in a wide variety of projects; even if it’s an overlong genre piece like The Devil All The Time, a failed prestige project like Child 44, or a bombed franchise reboot like Terminator: Genisys, Clarke still brings his A-game.

Clarke will next be seen in the HBO series Winning Time, the highly anticipated new biographical series from Adam McKay about the rise of the Los Angele Lakers. Clarke co-stars as the basketball executive Jerry West and is expected to be one of the central figures within the series. Perhaps if Winning Time lives up to expectations, Clarke could gain the awards’ attraction that he’s been deprived of for nearly his entire career.


Clarke isn’t slowing down any time soon, and is currently in the middle of filming Christopher Nolan’s new film Oppenheimer. Here are the top seven greatest Jason Clarke movies.

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Dan in Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

jason clarke zero dark thirty
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

Zero Dark Thirty remains just as divisive as it was a decade ago during its initial release. Among the most controversial aspects of the film was the way that it depicted torture, and whether director Kathryn Bigelow was promoting its use during the search for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. The waterboarding and humiliation sequences are without a doubt some of the film’s most memorable moments, regardless of which side you fall on.

Jessica Chastain’s character, CIA analyst Maya Harris, receives a brutal introduction to her new assignment when she watches her superior officer Dan Fuller (Clarke) question a suspected 9/11 participant about a potential terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. Clarke is unflinching, being completely cruel; he shows Fuller’s commitment to finding answers, no matter what moral lines he has to cross. He’s a big part of why the sequence is so haunting.

George B. Wilson in The Great Gatsby (2013)

jason clarke the great gatsby
Image via Warner Bros.

Baz Luhrmann’s wild adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby may not be the version that readers had in mind, but few would argue with the brilliance of the casting. Leonardo DiCaprio is particularly captivating as the titular millionaire, but Clarke was given a challenging task with the character of George Wilson. George is critical to the film’s tragedy, but he’s also a surprisingly sympathetic character.

George owns a gas station in the Valley of Ashes, and is completely ignorant of his wife Myrtle’s (Isla Fisher) infidelity. While George is ignorant, he’s also hardly a charmer; Clarke perfectly captures the seediness of the working class slums that the wealthier characters look down upon. Clarke makes the viewer both disgusted and empathetic to George’s perspective. He’s clearly not innocent, given his eventual crimes. At the same time, he’s trapped in a social circle that he obviously knows nothing about.

Malcolm in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

dawn of the planet of the apes jason clarke
Image via 20th Century Fox

It’s a general rule of thumb that the human characters within the Planet of the Apes films are never as interesting as the apes themselves, and that’s definitely the case with the recent prequel trilogy set before the original franchise. The series has been mostly acclaimed for the groundbreaking work by Andy Serkis as Caesar, as well as the other motion-capture performances throughout the three films. However, the second installment Dawn of the Planet of the Apes features the most fleshed out human characters of the trilogy.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes centers on the fragmentation between two civilizations, as Caesar and his allies become self-sufficient. Clarke co-stars as Malcolm, a human colonial leader who sees the opportunity for humans and apes to coexist by building a mutually beneficial power plant. Clarke and Serkis do a great job at capturing the plight of leaders who cannot control the violence of their cohorts. Their mutual failure to stop conflict is heartbreaking thanks to their engaging chemistry.

Rob Hall in Everest (2015)

Everest jason clarke jake gyllenhaal
Image via Universal Pictures

Everest may have seemed like it was about spectacle, but in actuality it’s a film about process. When you look past the cultural significance of Mount Everest, the climb itself is a meticulous endeavor that requires careful planning and strategy to complete. Baltasar Kormákur’s 2015 biographical film captures one of the most tragic events in Everest’s history, in which twenty climbers and rescuers were killed during a deadly storm. The film peels back the psychology of these brave men, and why they chose to commit to such a dangerous task.

Clarke honors the real victims of the tragedy with a respectful performance as the base camp guide Rob Hall. Rob’s involvement is particularly tragic given the pivotal scenes that establish his relationship with his pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley); while these scenes aren’t particularly melodramatic, they give a compelling motivation for Hall to return home safely. His death strikes an even deeper cord, considering how determined Hall is to help each climber complete their goal.

Henry McAllan in Mudbound (2017)

mudbound jason clarke
Image via Netflix

Mudbound is a gripping historical tale that asks all the toughest questions about America’s history of race relations. While there are obvious cases of violence that are included, Dee Rees was keen to explore the subtle ways in which discrimination plays a role in every single interaction between a white and black family. Clarke and the rest of the white actors were given the difficult task of making unlikable characters understandable, even if their attitudes are disgusting.

Mudbound follows the friendship between two soldiers drafted for World War II, Jamie McAllan (Garret Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), as they return home from service. Ronsel’s hardworking father Harp (Rob Hall) lives on property included within the farm of Jamie’s brother-in-law Henry (Clarke). Clarke is disgusting in how little he touches on racial issues; he expects Harp’s family to obey his commands without question.

Ted Kennedy in Chappaquiddick (2017)

jason clarke chappaquiddick
Image via Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Clarke is rarely cast in leading roles, but he’s done a great job with all the opportunities he’s been given. Clarke was certainly saddled with a challenging task when he was cast as Senator Ted Kennedy in Chappaquiddick, a film that depicts one of the most notoriously controversial true crime cases in American political history. Kennedy admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol during a crash that killed a young volunteer for his Presidential campaign, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). The details of the accident have been debated by historians since they occurred in 1968.

Given how well documented the case is, it’s surprising that Chappaquiddick was able to give insights into the events that preceded the tragedy, and how it was subsequently covered by the media. Remarkably, neither Clarke nor the film itself seem to take a definitive stance on how much Kennedy should be blamed. Clarke is entirely convincing with how he captures Kennedy’s iconic accent and demeanor. It’s unfortunate that Chappaquiddick was released during April, as Clarke’s performance should have been remembered until awards season.

Ed White in First Man (2018)

jason clarke first man
Image via Universal Pictures

First Man is not an idealized depiction of American lunar flight, as it’s essentially about all the tragedy that surrounded one of the most inspiring events in history. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) joined the team behind the Apollo 11 launch only shortly after the death of his young daughter, and he spends a majority of the preparations coping with the horrible loss. Armstrong is forced to become used to the reality of death, as many of his close friends perish during the pre stages of the flight. Among them is Clarke’s character Ed White.

White was an engineer who welcomed Armstrong and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) into the community of astronomers and their families. The group bonds over their excitement and anxieties about the groundbreaking mission, and White helps to get the soft-spoken Armstrong to open up a bit more. He is tragically killed during a fire in the launch of the Apollo 1 mission, and Clarke’s presence lingers throughout the rest of the film. He shows that a feat as extraordinary as space flight requires sacrifice.

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