Andrew Garfield’s Best Movie Roles To Date
Beginning his career on the stage and in a number of TV movies, Andrew Garfield has risen to become one of the most dependable character actors currently working. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Surrey, the actor has proven to be something of a chameleon, adapting to any accent or genre that has come his way.
His supporting role in the Oscar-winning “The Social Network” brought him international recognition, and with his appearance as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel, he became a megastar, going on to work with directors such as Martin Scorsese, Andy Serkis, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
If there is one thing that you can guarantee about an Andrew Garfield performance, it is that whatever the part — whether major or minor — he will also show incredible commitment and dedication to the role, truly inhabiting the character sometimes to the point of being almost unrecognizable. There are many to choose from, but these are just some of Garfield’s best movie roles to date.
Anton (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus)
Making his feature film debut in the ensemble drama “Lions for Lambs” in 2007, Garfield appeared alongside Hollywood royalty that included Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, and Robert Redford. Of this experience, Garfield told Variety, “I’m just lucky to be there working on the same project as them, although I don’t really expect to be recognized later by audiences.” But recognition wasn’t far away, and one of his next roles had him rubbing shoulders with more huge names.
In Terry Gilliam’s surreal fantasy “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” Garfield plays Anton, a member of a traveling theatre company that offers a taste of the unexpected. Garfield stars alongside Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, and the late Heath Ledger in his final screen performance, in a film that is full of imagination and surprises.
What isn’t surprising is that Garfield is fantastic in the film, using his stage experience to bring some theatrical gravitas to the part of Anton. The production, however, had a tragic hurdle to overcome when Heath Ledger passed away during the making of the film. Terry Gilliam told Entertainment Weekly that the loss of Ledger was “like a member of the family had died.” Working with Ledger had a huge impact on Garfield, who told Vulture, “The amount of stuff he left me with was astonishing. I will never ever lose hold of what he had to offer.”
Tommy (Never Let Me Go)
Based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, “Never Let Me Go” tells the story of three friends — Ruth (Keira Knightley), Kathy (Carey Mulligan), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) — who grow up together in an English boarding school where everything is not as it seems. The children living there are all destined to be organ donors and will die in early adulthood. Just as the school harbors secrets, there is much more to this poignant dystopian love story than meets the eye.
The film is undeniably tragic as it explores the very real idea of mortality and how humans grapple with the notion of death, in a way that feels unique and interesting. This idea of wrestling with a pre-determined fate and the end of one’s life was something that appealed to Andrew Garfield about the role. In an interview with MTV News he said, “[The film] is reminding us hopefully that we do have a choice to wake up in the morning and think, ‘What do I want to do?’ Not ‘What should I do?’ and ‘What am I obliged to do?’ but ‘What do I want to do with this very unique day?'” He added that despite its bleak nature, the film is “a call to arms for that kind of excitement about life.”
Eduardo Saverin (The Social Network)
With his performance as Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network,” Andrew Garfield’s career was about to hit a steep upward trajectory that has shown little signs of stopping since. The film tells the story of college student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and how he created Facebook, framed around two lawsuits — one from the Winklevoss brothers (Armie Hammer), and the other from Eduardo, the co-founder who Zuckerberg tried to force out of the business.
As Eduardo, Garfield brings the perfect balance and level-headedness to offset Zuckerberg’s neurotic intensity and is one of the few redeemable characters in the film. “The Social Network” was well-received, earning eight Oscar nominations, and winning three. Garfield narrowly missed out on a Best Supporting Actor nod from the Academy, but did receive a BAFTA nomination.
The experience of making the film has stuck with Garfield, particularly regarding the number of takes director David Fincher required to get certain scenes right — a notable example being the laptop smashing scene. Garfield praised Fincher’s methods, telling Collider, “That’s a part of the magic of the performances in each of his films … where you forget you’re there, you forget what’s happening, and there’s a purity and a vulnerability and an openness, and the audience responds to that in a deeply unconscious way.” The audience certainly responded to the movie, which boasts an impressive 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is frequently cited as one of the best films of the 2010s.
Spider-Man/Peter Parker (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Playing a superhero on screen is often the moment that can define an actor, and regardless of how long they do it for, it is hard to ignore what it can mean for their career going forward. For Garfield — while he had interesting roles prior to this — the moment he became Spider-Man made him a household name, acting as the springboard for the rest of his career.
Garfield was praised for his portrayal of the student-turned-superhero, with Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian calling him “the definitive Spider-Man.” But after the second installment, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” was critically panned, subsequent sequels were scrapped and Garfield moved on to bigger and better things.
While acknowledging what it did for his career, Garfield also spoke candidly about his experiences working on his two “Spider-Man” movies in an interview with The Guardian, which he described as having his “heart broken a little bit.” Garfield reflected on how the commercial aspect of making a Spider-Man film tarnished the experience, saying, “There are millions of dollars at stake and that’s what guides the ship. It was a big awakening and it hurt.”
There are plenty of stories about why Garfield decided to hang up the Spider-Man suit, but it is something the actor has now made peace with, telling The Guardian in 2016, “What I’ll proudly say is that I didn’t compromise who I was, I was only ever myself. And that might have been difficult for some people.”
Desmond Doss (Hacksaw Ridge)
The true story of Desmond Doss, who was given the Medal of Honor without ever firing a weapon, is one that even on paper sounds like a great film. It eventually arrived on the big screen in 2016, directed by Mel Gibson and starring Garfield as Doss. It was a role that Garfield felt particularly passionate about, telling Entertainment Weekly that he longed to “attempt to express his essence and share his story with as many people as possible.”
“Hacksaw Ridge” doesn’t shy away from the reality of war, with particularly bloody and brutal action sequences that sometimes come closer to a horror film. Gibson emphasized the importance of showing the bloodshed to the Los Angeles Times, saying, “You have to be real. You have to show what our veterans go through.” But the gentleness of Garfield’s performance provides a purposefully stark contrast to the violence, accentuating that he isn’t there to attack but to help. Guided by his strong faith, Desmond saves close to 100 men from the battlefield, regardless of which “side” they’re on, each time saying the prayer, “Lord, please help me get one more.”
Garfield’s performance was one of the highlights of the film, earning him his first Lead Actor Oscar nomination, as well as praise from critics. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian called his work in the picture “mature and substantial.”
Despite being overlooked when it came to the Oscars, Andrew Garfield possibly gives a career-best performance in Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.” Set in the 17th century, Garfield plays a Jesuit priest named Father Rodrigues, who travels with Father Garupe (Adam Driver) to Japan to find their mentor Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who is rumored to have abandoned his faith.
Working with Martin Scorsese is a dream come true for any actor, and Garfield was no different, telling TimeOut, “There’s a shortlist of directors that, if they call — no matter what they’re asking for — you do it. And Scorsese is at the top of that list.” Garfield’s preparation for “Silence” began a full year before production when he studied with a Jesuit priest named Father James Martin. In the same interview with TimeOut, Garfield said that Martin “became my spiritual director for a year, he took me in as if I was training for the priesthood.”
It was an experience that had a profound impact on the actor’s own faith, something that he explained in an interview with W Magazine: “I developed a relationship with a power greater than myself — call it God, call it love, call it what you will. Insert your belief system here.” Scorsese’s film was one that spoke powerfully to audiences as well as critics, with Richard Roeper from the Chicago Sun-Times calling Garfield’s performance “the most compelling … of his still-young career.”
Robin Cavendish (Breathe)
Andrew Garfield has never been afraid of taking on a challenging role, and “Breathe” is another one to add to the list. Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, a polio victim who is paralyzed at the age of 28. In addition to the physical challenges of this role, he threw himself into the research, telling Variety, “I love the opportunity to get to know the subject; that’s part of why I love acting.” Garfield’s commitment always pays off in the final product, and “Breathe” is certainly a testament to this.
While Garfield has played a number of real people in his films, it is something that he finds tremendous value in, saying in the same interview, “One of the great highlights of this job was getting to meet remarkable people who have had a similar situation to Robin’s and what it meant in terms of their lives and where they find strength and hope and how they reconcile that as their reality.”
Behind the camera for “Breathe” was actor-turned-director Andy Serkis in his directorial debut. Serkis was thoroughly impressed with what Garfield brought to the role, telling Awards Daily, “He’s so versatile. He’s so connected to the universe and so truthful. The way he thinks about things is so profound. He has this great charisma and physicality. To rob him of that to play this role gave him the energy to play Robin, who was extremely athletic and charismatic before he got polio.”
Sam (Under The Silver Lake)
Not all films are going to be universally well-received, and “Under the Silver Lake” was certainly a film that divided critics. However, one thing they were fairly unanimous on was the strength of Andrew Garfield’s performance in the film. Garfield plays Sam, a young man investigating the sudden disappearance of his neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough).
“Under the Silver Lake” is far from a straightforward thriller, however, and is tinged with surreal moments that give the film a darkly comedic edge. Embracing the oddness of the film was something that appealed to Garfield, who told Empire magazine, “There are so many elements and dimensions to it, and it’s so odd, and it’s so weird, and it’s so kind of uncategorizable that I think, it’s like water in the desert for a cinemagoer.”
The polarizing nature of the film means it currently has a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 59%, but critics such as Oliver Jones for Observer praised Garfield’s performance as “always compelling.” “Under the Silver Lake” is certainly an acquired taste, and won’t be for everyone, but more than anything it demonstrates Garfield’s willingness to go to these strange places and pick some of the more unconventional roles that show his range as an actor.
Jim Bakker (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
There are two types of characters that Andrew Garfield really excels at –- those based on a real person, or those defined by their faith in some way. As Jim Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Garfield manages to tick both of these boxes in one go with another astonishing performance. Jessica Chastain stars as the ebullient Tammy Faye Bakker, alongside Garfield, in a film that charts the rise and much-publicized fall of America’s most famous televangelists.
Both Chastian and Garfield underwent radical transformations to play their roles, and while acting through the prosthetics came with its own challenges, Garfield told Observer that it was also “an interesting part of the process.” The real Jim Bakker has seen his share of scandals and controversies over the years -– from allegations of fraud to sexual misconduct –- but Garfield tried to approach the role with fresh eyes. In the same interview, Garfield said, “I didn’t have much prior knowledge of Jim or Tammy. So I was able to just come in without judgment.”
With his roles in films such as “Silence” and “Hacksaw Ridge,” Garfield has frequently explored the idea of faith through the parts that he plays. Garfield compared studying religion with acting in an interview with Nylon, explaining, “It’s fascinating that there’s so much overlap. I just love debunking the idea of the one true religion — there is no such thing. Ultimately, my spirituality is the church of theater, and oftentimes film.”
Jonathan Larson (tick, tick…BOOM!)
Andrew Garfield’s latest role as theatrical composer Jonathan Larson in “tick, tick…BOOM!” proves he can not only act but sing and even play piano as well. The film arrived on Netflix in November 2021 and is the directorial debut of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is a musical within a musical as it charts Larson’s journey through creative failures to the autobiographical musical of the title, and eventually the show that would make him famous, “Rent.”
The closing credits of the film feature archive footage of the real Jonathan Larson, and Garfield’s performance is uncanny, nailing the mannerisms and passionate performance style. The physical resemblance isn’t enough in this case, and the film really hinges on Garfield’s ability to sing. The story of his casting, as mentioned in a segment from CBS Sunday Morning, is a slightly unusual one: it was thanks to Garfield’s massage therapist Greg Miele who informed one of his other clients — a certain Lin-Manuel Miranda — that Garfield could sing.
Like many other productions, the filming of “tick, tick…BOOM!” was heavily affected by COVID, but one positive side effect was that the delay gave Garfield time to work on his singing voice, which pays off in the final product. The early reviews for the film have been mostly positive, with high praise — and even awards buzz – for Garfield’s performance.