15 Best Paul Dano Movies, Ranked (According To IMDb)


Paul Dano has played a multitude of complex characters over the course of his over 20-year career. His filmography is one that would make any aspiring actor jealous. Not only has he starred in a number of widely successful and acclaimed films, but he has also held his own against acting greats such as Hugh Jackman and Daniel Day-Lewis.

RELATED: Paul Dano’s 10 Best Movies, According To Letterboxd

IMDb users’ favorite films from the actor are those that challenge his acting skills and feature him alongside his well-known peers. They are movies that satisfy both the cinephile and the casual movie-lover with thorough character studies and interesting plotlines.

Updated on March 13th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: Paul Dano not only took on the role of one of Batman’s most famous villains, but he did so in a way that reinvented the character. It showed how versatile Dano is as an actor and elevated a character that was at one time a joke and turned him into a genuine and scary threat.

The performance should open up a lot of people’s eyes when it comes to Dano’s skills as an actor. With a lot more people now knowing who this man is, it might be time to go back and look at his body of work, which includes dramas, comedies, and some of the quirkiest and most bizarre storylines ever put in a movie. There is so much quality in his past work, that it was important to add more movies based on IMDb scores.

15 The Girl Next Door (2004) – 6.7

Matthew, Klitz and Derek looking in shock in The Girl Next Door.

Paul Dano has mostly appeared in adult-oriented, often dark movies. However, he has some lighthearted fare in his body of work as well. That includes the 2004 raunchy comedy The Girl Next Door, where Emile Hirsch learned the girl who moved in next door that he starts to date used to be a porn star.

Dano plays one of his best friends in the movie, Klitz. Fans seemed to enjoy the movie. Fans on IMDb compared the movie to Risky Business and while his role was small, Dano showed there could be great things to come.

14 The Good Heart (2009) – 6.8

Lucas and Jacques talking in The Good Heart.

  • Now streaming on Prime Video.

Paul Dano and Brian Cox worked together more than once, including a very early role in Dano’s career in L.I.E. when he was only 17. Eight years later, they were back together in The Good Heart, where Cox plays a bartender who has a heart attack and Dano is a homeless man who attempted suicide.

The two end up sharing a hospital room and end up changing each other’s lives. IMDb members credited the chemistry between the two actors, saying both men delivered great performances.


13 The Emperor’s Club (2002) – 6.9

Paul Dano with Jesse Eisenberg in The Emperor's Club

The Emporer’s Club was a 2002 drama movie with Kevin Kline starring as a teacher in a prep school who developed an interest in a student whose father, a U.S. Senator, doesn’t seem to care about his education. This causes the teacher to do what he can to help the young man succeed.

Paul Dano stars as Martin Blythe, another student and one whose aspirations are dashed when Kline’s teacher cheats him out of an award to help the senator’s son. Dano only starred as the student-aged Martin, but the character played a large role in the movie when it picked up 25 years later.

12 Swiss Army Man (2016) – 6.9

Hank holding onto Manny in Swiss Army Man.

Swiss Army Man might be one of the most unusual Paul Dano movies ever made. Dano is Hank Thompson, a man marooned on an island who considers suicide before he sees another body wash ashore. While this is a dead man, Hank begins to befriend the corpse, played by Daniel Radcliffe, who can only respond through farts.

When the corpse somehow helps Hank get back home, things get even more bizarre. IMDb voters gave the movie a 6.9 average score, with reviews praising Dano’s acting, both through his hilarious screwball comedy and his darker moments as he slowly loses his grip on reality.

11 L.I.E. (2001) – 7.1

Two boys looking at the camera in the 2001 movie L.I.E.

  • Available to rent on Prime Video.

L.I.E is an independent drama that tells the story of a relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a middle-aged man. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. The movie is a rather disturbing and uncomfortable watch that features stand-out performances from its two leads.

RELATED: 10 Best Paul Dano Movies, According to Metacritic

For his role as Howie, the teenage boy who enters into an inappropriate relationship with an adult, Dano won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. His co-star Brian Cox was nominated for Best Male Lead.

10 Ruby Sparks (2012) – 7.2

  • Available to rent on Apple TV.

In this romantic comedy, which was written by his partner Zoe Kazan, Dano plays a writer named Calvin whose protagonist comes to life. The protagonist, Ruby, is Calvin’s dream girlfriend.

The plot of Ruby Sparks is completely unique and inventive and initiates many conversations about relationships and power. When Ruby begins to pull away from Calvin, he uses his typewriter to tweak her character so that she continues to love him. Dano is excellent as the hopeless writer, and there is obvious chemistry between him and Kazan.

9 Youth (2015) – 7.3

Fred and Jimmy relaxing at a garden in Youth

  • Available to rent on Apple TV.

Paul Dano stars alongside screen legends Jane Fonda, Michael Caine, and Harvey Keitel in this Oscar-nominated drama directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino. The film follows a retired orchestra conductor, played by Caine, who, while on vacation with his daughter and his best friend,  receives an invitation to perform for Prince Philip.

In the movie, Dano plays a frustrated actor who is vacationing at the same resort. Youth competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival but lost out to Jacques Audiard’s film Dheepan.

8 Okja (2017) – 7.3

Steven Yeun and Paul Dano in Okja

  • Streaming now on Netflix.

Directed by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho, Okja tells the story of a young girl who befriends the genetically modified “super pig” that her family raised as part of a global project run by a large corporation. The film is critical of the meat industry and features a very off-brand performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as an eccentric television personality.

In the film, Dano plays the leader of the environmentalist group Animal Liberation Front who rescues Okja from the corporation.

7 Love & Mercy (2014) – 7.4

Paul Dano in Love and Mercy

  • Streaming now on HBO Max.

Love & Mercy is a biographical drama that follows The Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson during two different stages in his life. The film alternates between the 1960s, as Wilson works to complete his Pet Sounds album amidst his struggles with his mental health, and the 1980s where a heavily medicated Wilson is under the control of his therapist.

Dano plays the 1960s Wilson to John Cusack’s 1980s version. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role and received praise from viewers who suggested that he should have played both parts.

6 Looper (2012) – 7.4

Seth and Joe in a covertible car in Looper

  • Streaming now on Netflix.

This science-fiction film tells the story of a group of people known as “loopers,” hired assassins who execute the enemies of their employers that are transported from the future. Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, the younger version of Bruce Willis’ looper.

Dano plays a supporting role in the film as Seth, a fellow looper and friend of Joe who gets into trouble after failing to kill his older self when he reaches the end of his contract. His role is essential for the suspenseful plot, and Dano plays the jittery and anxious Seth perfectly.

5 Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – 7.8

  • Streaming now on Prime Video and Hulu.

Little Miss Sunshine is an independent comedy about a dysfunctional family that goes on a road trip after the daughter qualifies for a beauty pageant. Dano plays Dwayne, the teenage son who has taken a vow of silence until he completes his life goal of becoming a pilot.

RELATED: 10 Behind The Scenes Facts About Little Miss Sunshine

Although he does not speak for the majority of the film, Dano still manages to capture the viewer’s attention with his portrayal of the rebellious and tortured teen. When he finally speaks after finding out that he can never fulfill his dream, it’s like a bomb has been released.

4 Prisoners (2013) – 8.1

Prisoners, the thriller by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, tells the story of Dover, a man who seeks vengeance after his daughter is kidnapped and the police fail to find her. Prisoners is a dark film whose plot twists provoke much discussion amongst the audience.

In the film, Dano plays Alex, a man who lives in an RV where Dover’s daughter was last seen. After he is released by the police, Alex is kidnapped by Dover, who tortures him in an attempt to get a confession. Dano gives one of the best performances of his career as the damaged Alex.

3 12 Year A Slave (2013) – 8.1

  • Streaming now on HBO Max.

12 Years A Slave is a biographical drama that tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man in New York State in 1841 who is sold into slavery. Paul Dano plays a supporting role as John Tibeats, a slave driver on the plantation who tries to lynch Northup.

The film is based on the autobiography of the same name. It received wide critical acclaim and won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

2 There Will Be Blood (2007) – 8.2

  • Streaming now on Netflix.

In Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth feature film, Dano works double-time playing twins Paul and Eli Sunday. However, his performance as Eli, the local preacher in a small town in California, stands out between the two. Although his character cowards under Daniel Day-Lewis’ oilman Daniel Plainview, Dano matches him in acting ability.

There Will Be Blood was nominated for 8 awards at the 2008 Oscars, winning for Best Actor for Day-Lewis and Best Cinematography. For his supporting role, Dano was nominated for a BAFTA award.

1 The Batman (2022) – 8.5

Paul Dano as The Riddler in The Batman (2022)

Paul Dano took on the villain role in The Batman, opposite Robert Pattinson. It went down as one of the highest-rated movies of Dano’s career, although it is still new in theaters at this time, and there is a chance it falls a little.

Dano starred as The Riddler, but this was a very different portrayal. For most of the movie, he was a basic serial killer of Gotham’s elite and corrupt. However, it was after his arrest that Dano really broke out in the role, expressing shock and pain when he realized Batman wasn’t on his side. Fans loved Dano’s performance, even if it wasn’t the character most fans recognized.

NEXT: The 8 Best Versions Of The Riddler In Movies & TV

Harry Potter: Joined image with the ghost Helena Ravenclaw on the right and Bellatrix putting a knife to Hermione's throat on the right.

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