1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

IMDB Rating: 8.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%

Storyline: Directed by Darren Aronofsky, this film follows the lives of four individuals battling with addictions that spiral out of control. Jared Leto plays Harry Goldfarb, a heroin addict who dreams of making it big by selling drugs. He soon finds his life falling apart as his addiction worsens.

Major Performance: This is considered one of Leto’s most impactful and powerful performances throughout his acting career. His utterly convincing portrayal of a heroin addict endeared him to audiences and critics, turning into one of his career-defining roles. His depiction of the progressive decay from drug abuse showcases his dedication to the role. He was widely praised for his nuanced performance, which captures the harrowing nature of drug addiction and the devastating impact it can have on individuals and their loved ones.

The physical transformation Leto had undertaken for the role is well noted. He lost 25 pounds to aptly depict a drug addict, which not only physically changed him but also had a deep impact on his emotional state. His performance in the movie set a new threshold for other actors regarding commitment to a role.

2. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

Storyline: This biographical drama portrays the life of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a man diagnosed with HIV who starts a Dallas buyers club, providing medication to those struggling with the same illness. Leto plays the role of Rayon, a transgender woman suffering from AIDS who eventually becomes a business partner to Woodroof.

Major Performance: Jared Leto received both critical and public acclaim for his role as Rayon. He humanized a character who at the time was a part of a highly marginalized group, by portraying her with dignity, kindness and resilience. His remarkable performance earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

To befit the character, Leto underwent a radical physical transformation, losing considerable weight and adopting a completely new persona. His dedication goes beyond physical modifications; he stayed in character throughout the film’s shooting and even helped in developing Rayon’s backstory to add more complexity to her character. This performance further established his wide-ranging acting abilities as well as his firm commitment to embodying his roles.

3. Fight Club (1999)

IMDB Rating: 8.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%

Storyline: This David Fincher classic narrates the story of a discontented and insomniac man (Edward Norton) who establishes an underground fight club with a devil-may-care soap salesman (Brad Pitt). Leto portrays Angel Face, a seemingly angelic yet violently destructive man who becomes involved with the fight club.

Major Performance: Though the character of Angel Face may be considered a minor role, Leto’s performance was far from inconsequential. His portrayal of the pretty-faced brute who embodies youthful impetuousness stood out in the movie. His chemistry with the leads and seamless assimilation in the gritty narrative added an extra layer of complexity to the film.

Despite having less screen time than the leads, Leto left a notable impact on the audience. His transformation for the role – including dying his hair platinum blonde – and his commitment to the character established him as a versatile actor willing to take risks. Having shared screen space with renowned actors like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, Leto held his own, displaying his acting prowess.

4. American Psycho (2000)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 68%

Storyline: This dark comedy-drama is about Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a wealthy banker with a hidden psychopathic serial killer persona. Jared Leto plays Paul Allen, a coworker of Bateman who becomes one of his victims.

Major Performance: Leto’s performance in this film is short but compelling. As Paul Allen, he portrays the character’s arrogant and carefree attitude that, combined with his commendable acting, keeps the audience engaged, despite his character’s early exit from the narrative.

Even in this brief role, Leto demonstrated his skill to immerse himself entirely in the part he’s playing. His standout portrayal of Paul Allen gained praise from critics, strengthening his reputation as a committed and versatile actor. The film, full of gruesome scenes, scored a cult following, further adding to Leto’s already impressive filmography.

5. Lord of War (2005)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 61%

Storyline: A dramatized biopic of world’s most notorious illegal arms trader, Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), who sold weapons to dictators and warlords in countries suffering from civil war. Leto plays Vitaly Orlov, Yuri’s younger brother, who struggles with drug addiction and moral conflicts about their business practices.

Major Performance: Despite sharing the screen with the veteran actor Nicolas Cage, Leto’s performance in “Lord of War” stands out. His portrayal of the tormented Vitaly Orlov – a man who tries to drown his guilt and remorse in drugs – brings a grim reality attached with the war profiteering world into sharp focus.

The movie showcased Leto’s ability to embody diverse characters with conviction and gravitas. His performance as a conflicted man torn between familial loyalty and moral integrity was applauded by audiences and critics. By skillfully capturing the character’s depth and complexity, Leto proved his talent in crafting compelling and relatable characters.

6. The Thin Red Line (1998)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%

Storyline: Directed by Terrence Malick, this war drama showcases the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War through the eyes of a group of soldiers. Jared Leto plays Second Lieutenant Whyte, a junior officer with the Charlie Company.

Major Performance: While “The Thin Red Line” boasts an all-star ensemble cast, Leto’s performance still left a mark. His portrayal of a young officer part of such an inhumane conflict shines through his acting skills.

Despite playing a minor role, Leto successfully made his character memorable. Sharing the screen with seasoned actors like Sean Penn and Nick Nolte, Leto managed to hold his own, delivering a gritty performance that resonated with the audience. His appearance in this intense, thought-provoking war drama added another facet to his skill as an artist.

7. Panic Room (2002)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%

Storyline: Directed by David Fincher, this thriller revolves around a woman (Jodie Foster) and her diabetic daughter, who are forced to take refuge in their home’s panic room when burglars break in. Jared Leto plays Junior, one of the criminals involved in the break-in.

Major Performance: Leto’s role in the movie is of a rather impulsive and short-sighted character, which offered him another opportunity to demonstrate his versatility. His portrayal of Junior, a somewhat less ruthless compared to his counterparts, added an interesting dimension to the film.

The actor’s dedication to his craft is evident in his decision to wear cornrows for his role. Leto’s skillful acting, combined with the cornrows, successfully created a sleazy, desperate character that the audience loved to hate. His considerable contribution to the film’s tension and intensity, despite being part of a relatively small ensemble cast, is a testimony to his acting chops.

8. Mr. Nobody (2009)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 66%

Storyline: This science fiction drama focuses on the life of Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto), the last mortal alive in a world of immortals, recalling his life at three key points, each set in different realities.

Major Performance: This movie offers a vivid demonstration of Leto’s amazing ability to switch between characters and timelines, as he plays multiple versions of the same character. His portrayal of Nemo, the only mortal in a immortal world, in different realities is a tour-de-force of acting.

Leto’s performance was highly lauded for capturing the nuances of his character and the complexity of the story. His ability to embody the same character living different lives shows not only his versatility but his depth as an actor. This film confirmed that Leto could carry a movie on his shoulders and was more than capable of compelling performances in leading roles.

9. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

IMDB Rating: 8.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%

Storyline: This film is a sequel to the classic “Blade Runner” (1982) wherein a young blade runner (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a secret and goes on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who has been missing for thirty years. Leto plays Niander Wallace, the blind owner of the Wallace Corporation, who has dark designs about the human-like androids or replicants.

Major Performance: In “Blade Runner 2049”, Leto delivers an eerie and chilling performance as Niander Wallace. His portrayal of the blind bioengineer, who has an unsettling vision for the future of humanity and replicants, added an extra layer of creepiness to the dystopian film.

Although his screen time is limited, Leto makes a remarkable impression with his performance. He manages to create an unforgettable character that although not physically imposing, exudes a level of menace that extends beyond his physical stature. Leto’s haunting performance renders Wallace as one of the more memorable villains in modern cinema.

10. Suicide Squad (2016)

IMDB Rating: 6.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26%

Storyline: In this superhero film based on the DC Comics, a secret government agency recruits supervillains for a dangerous black ops mission in exchange for leniency. Leto plays the Joker, the notorious Gotham City criminal and lover of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).

Major Performance: Jared Leto brought a fresh take to the iconic character of the Joker. Known for his method acting, Leto immersed himself in the character, resulting in a version of the Joker that was unique in its flamboyance, menace, and unpredictability.

While the film itself received mixed reviews, Leto’s performance was widely discussed. His commitment to the deranged character was so deep that he reportedly stayed in character even when the cameras were not rolling. His interpretation of the Joker demonstrated his adeptness at physically transforming for a role and his audacity in tackling such a legendary character, adding another distinctive performance to his versatile portfolio.