1. The Social Network (2010)

IMDB Rating: 7.7/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

Storyline:
Set in the late 2000s, as the age of social media is dawning, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is an undergraduate at Harvard. After an uninspiring conversation with his ex-girlfriend, Zuckerberg returns to his dorm room and creates a website called “FaceMash” in a night of inspiration. This online platform leads Mark to face disciplinary action from school authorities, but simultaneously, it also lays the foundation for the creation of ‘Facebook’. While the movie showcases the birth and rise of Facebook, it also highlights the drama, disputes, and legal battles that lurk behind the scenes.

Why it’s a major performance:
Jesse Eisenberg was highly acclaimed for his portrayal of the young, seemingly emotionless genius, Mark Zuckerberg. The actor shines a new light onto the character, presenting the notoriously reclusive Silicon Valley billionaire as a profoundly complex, if not sympathetic, character. Interpreting the precise rhythm and pitch of Aaron Sorkin’s script, Eisenberg made Zuckerberg more human, breathing life into the digital mogul’s digital persona.

Why it’s a major performance:
This movie presented Eisenberg with an opportunity to step outside his comfort zone and take on a complicated personality, cementing his status as one of the industry’s most versatile actors. He received his first Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Actor’ for this role. His performance is often hailed as compelling and intense, managing to exemplify the ruthless ambition and indifference required to change the world in the way Zuckerberg did.

2. Zombieland (2009)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Storyline:
In a world overrun by zombies, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has a number of phobias which aid him in survival. He comes across three other survivors – Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock and together, they navigate their way through a world of chaos. In between all the action, there are moments of humor, love, and homage, not to mention the famous rulebook for surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Why it’s a major performance:
This movie brings out a different side of Eisenberg, displaying his aptness for action-comedy. He gives an exceptional performance as the nervous, methodical Columbus, using his comedic timing and self-deprecating charm to bring the character to life. His portrayal of a quirky, rule-abiding yet gentle character in a gory environment is commendable.

Why it’s a major performance:
Though not a critically acclaimed performance, Zombieland is widely loved because of its unmatched entertainment value. Eisenberg’s subtle charm resonates throughout the movie, providing a light-hearted take on the otherwise serious and grim zombie genre. The film cemented his status as a versatile actor who could handle action, horror, and comedy, all in one go.

3. The Double (2013)

IMDB Rating: 6.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

Storyline:
Jesse Eisenberg plays dual roles in The Double where he portrays Simon James and James Simon. The story develops as the timid and lowly office worker, Simon, discovers that his doppelgänger, James, who is confident and charismatic, starts working in the same office. The movie is a dystopian ride that follows the unnerving tale of identity theft.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg shines in his dual roles, showcasing an impressive range of versatility. He successfuly depicts the shy, socially-awkward Simon and the confident, conniving James. The ability to slip subtly between two different personas in the same movie allowed Eisenberg to showcase his acting prowess at its finest.

Why it’s a major performance:
Playing both the protagonist and antagonist, Eisenberg slips between the two distinct characters with such finesse that the audience is constantly left in a state of discomfort, making the performance all the more intriguing. This was a challenging role, and his expert delivery established him as a phenomenal actor in the industry.

4. Adventureland (2009)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Storyline:
After his graduation, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to take a low-paying job at a local amusement park due to his financial situation. Here, he learns invaluable life lessons about love, friendship, and the bittersweet transition to adulthood. The park also provides the perfect backdrop for falling in love with his captivating colleague, Em.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg’s impeccable performance of an inexperienced young adult tackling life’s ups and downs resonates with many. His portrayal of James is both charming and relatable as he grapples with love, friendship, and coming of age. His distinctive narrative style adds both warmth and humour to this nostalgic tale.

Why it’s a major performance:
Adventureland showcased Eisenberg’s ability to pull off a lead role with an effortless charm and appeal. His performance is underplayed and yet striking, leaving a memorable and lasting impression on viewers. He captures the inevitable growing pains of early adulthood with nuance, smoothly transitioning from a fresh graduate to a more self-aware individual.

5. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Storyline:
The movie revolves around a teenage boy’ Walt’s (Jesse Eisenberg), struggle as he watches his parents’ marriage crumbling. His parents, both writers, have opposite teaching approaches and their divorce complicates Walt’s feelings towards them. This coming-of-age story depicts the profound effects of divorce on a family.

Why it’s a major performance:
In one of his earliest roles, Eisenberg compellingly portrays the emotional pain and confusion of a teenage boy watching his family fall apart. He captures the character’s angst, bitterness, and vulnerability, making him relatable and immensely human. His skilled performance brings forth the rawness of emotions experienced during a family crisis.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg’s nuanced performance in this movie set the stage for the later triumphs in his career. As Walt, Eisenberg rose to the challenge of portraying a young man grappling with maturation in the midst of family dysfunction. He handles complex and conflicting emotions with deft, subtly conveying the consequences of adult decisions on a budding life.

6. The End of the Tour (2015)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Storyline:
This film chronicles the story of Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). It depicts the five-day interview of Wallace by Lipsky during the final leg of the promo tour for Wallace’s groundbreaking novel, ‘Infinite Jest’. The movie gives an insight into the complex and empathetic nature of these two profound minds.

Why it’s a major performance:
Playing a journalist on-screen, Eisenberg crafts an engaging portrait of a man battling his insecurities and aspirations. His role shines as a fitting counterpart to Segel’s Wallace, foregrounding the tensions and camaraderie that evolve over the course of their conversations.

Why it’s a major performance:
In this movie, Eisenberg confirms his knack for playing intellectuals as he tackles playing David Lipsky. His characterization is nuanced, thanks to the rich and detailed screenplay that accentuates both the flaws and strengths of the character. As Lipsky, Eisenberg encapsulates the wry, beguiling charisma of a journalist trying to make his mark.

7. Now You See Me (2013)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 50%

Storyline:
In this thrilling heist film, Eisenberg plays J. Daniel Atlas, a talented illusionist and part of ‘The Four Horsemen’ magic troupe. With three other magicians, they pull off a sequence of daring robberies against corrupt business leaders during their performances, showering the stolen cash over their audiences while remaining one step ahead of the law.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg’s performance in this high-octane thriller cements his ability to deliver gripping performances in diverse genres. His portrayal of the clever, arrogant, and fast-talking Atlas highlights his range and adaptability. His charisma carries the movie, making his magic tricks appear both believable and exciting.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg’s sharp wit comes to the forefront in this movie, making his character’s quick-thinking and confident persona credible. The success of Now You See Me and its sequel underlines Eisenberg’s box office appeal, proving that he can carry a commercial hit just as beautifully as an auteur film.

8. Cafe Society (2016)

IMDB Rating: 6.6/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Storyline:
Set in the 1930s, the movie chronicles the story of Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) who moves to Hollywood from New York in search of a more exciting life. He finds work with his powerful uncle and falls for his charming secretary Vonnie, not knowing she’s his uncle’s mistress. After a heartbreak, Bobby returns to New York and discovers a vibrant nightlife period, the “Café Society”.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg gives a strong performance in this Woody Allen romantic comedy-drama, effectively portraying the hopeless romantic Bobby. His portrayal of a young, innocent man navigating the worlds of Hollywood glamour and New York nightlife offers a complex view of fame, ambition, and love.

Why it’s a major performance:
Cafe Society showcases Eisenberg’s adeptness at playing an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. His portrayal is poignant, believable, and eye-catching, acting as the emotional axis around which the movie revolves.

9. American Ultra (2015)

IMDB Rating: 6.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 43%

Storyline:
The movie is a fast-paced action-comedy about Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg), a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose life is about to take an unexpected turn. It turns out, he is a genetically engineered, lethal weapon. He becomes the target of a government operation set to wipe him out and must draw on his hidden abilities to protect himself and his girlfriend.

Why it’s a major performance:
Playing a seemingly ordinary convenience store worker turned super-soldier, Eisenberg’s performance gives the movie its unique blend of comedy and action. Despite the high stakes and violent nature of the story, Eisenberg brings his characteristic charm and wit to the role, grounding the movie and bringing humanity to his character.

Why it’s a major performance:
Despite being a sleeper hit, American Ultra showcased a different, edgier side to Eisenberg as an actor. His ability to seamlessly combine comedy and action in this movie highlights his range and versatility. The unique mix of his nervous energy and hardcore action offered an interesting juxtaposition that made his role unforgettable.

10. Night Moves (2013)

IMDB Rating: 6.0/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Storyline:
The film revolves around environmental activists Josh (Eisenberg), Dena, and Harmon who plan to explode a dam as their ultimate act of protest. The movie chronicles their journey from meticulous planning to the execution of their plan, and their subsequent unravelling when their lives start to fall apart after their mission.

Why it’s a major performance:
In Night Moves, Eisenberg portrays an intense and introverted character, demonstrating a more severe and brooding side to his acting prowess. His performance excellently captures the silent desperation and moral turmoil of a character trapped by his actions.

Why it’s a major performance:
Eisenberg’s portrayal is praised for its subtle depiction of the character’s internal conflict. Despite the grim character and key themes, Eisenberg’s performance shines due to his remarkable ability to portray complex emotions without excessive dialogue. This role demonstrates his ability to deliver powerful performances, even under the guise of an understated character.