October 1, 2022

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Robert Pattinson’s Best 23 Movies Ranked

Back in 2008, when Twilight launched Robert Pattinson into the hearts of teenyboppers around the world, Hollywood’s newest dreamboat had a choice. He could go the typical leading man route, picking up unchallenging roles in mainstream blockbuster fare, or he could do something unexpected, swerving toward weirder, meatier roles in smaller films. Two roads diverged, and Pattinson took the one less traveled. It’s made all the difference.

Now, over a decade later, Pattinson has established a name for himself as an actor who never makes a boring choice. A gutsy chameleon unafraid of challenging roles, Pattinson is drawn to auteurist films and visionary directors, making him something of an indie darling. At this stage of Pattinson’s career, it’s more surprising to hear that he’s starring in big-budget fare like Tenet than it is to hear about his latest arthouse curio. This spring, he’s set to take on one of his biggest challenges yet with Matt Reeves’ The Batman, stepping into well-worn shoes that have leveled lesser actors. Can this arthouse king bring something new to the caped crusader? We’ll soon find out. From bank robbers to teen wizards to sparkly vampires, we’re ranking Pattinson’s best (and worst) film roles. See where your favorite stacks up.

23) The Batman (2022)

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If all goes well, The Batman will rocket up this list faster than you can gruffly mutter justice. Though we will say that Battinson—who walks, talks, and breathes Nirvana’s “Something in the Way”—already looks like an improvement over the beefed-up Batfleck. The Batman just doesn’t come out until March, so we’re forced to reserve any and all judgements until then. —Brady Langmann

22) Remember Me (2008)

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Remember Me answers the age old question: what if we told a middling coming of age story and then used 9/11 as a plot device to tear the lovers apart? Smack in the middle of the Twilight craze, Hollywood tried to make Robert Pattinson into a romcom heartthrob. The problem is that romcoms were falling out of fashion, and Pattinson, as this list indicates, is much more fitted for prestige and arthouse films than he is for mushy romantic fodder. But for those who did love the film, the ending really ruined it by having Pattinson’s character stand on one of the ill-fated floors of the World Trade Center as a plane flies into it. A thin plot device like that is still in poor taste in 2022, so imagine how it landed in 2010. —Justin Kirkland

21) The Childhood of a Leader

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Sure, Pattinson may be highly billed on The Childhood of a Leader, but the film’s real star is young Tom Sweet, who plays a holy terror growing up in WWI-era France. Sweet’s petulant Prescott works himself into towering rages at the adults around him as the film gradually reveals its hand: Prescott will grow up to become a fascist leader. Pattinson plays two roles: a free-thinking journalist who pals around with Prescott’s father, and the second, we won’t spoil. The Childhood of a Leader is a sinister, unnerving movie, but not much of a Pattinson vehicle. —Adrienne Westenfeld

20) How to Be (2008)

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Pattinson’s first leading man role came in this indie comedy about a young man in the throes of an existential crisis. Desperate for a lifeline, he convinces a self-help guru to become his life coach, but his path to wellness (mending fences with his parents, girlfriend, and bandmates) only pisses everyone off, to comic effect. Pattinson charms, but the film doesn’t leave a lasting impression. —AW

19) Bel Ami

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In this adaptation of a Guy de Maupassant novel, Pattinson stars as Georges Duroy, a caddish social striver who rises to prominence in fin de siècle Paris by seducing the city’s most aristocratic women. Bel Ami is hamstrung by a shallow script, uninterested in plumbing Duroy’s motives or amorality, but Pattinson does his level best with what he’s given, smirking, scowling, and batting his eyelashes at Paris’ finest. It’s a shame that this forgettable film doesn’t rise to his talent. —AW

18) Little Ashes (2008)

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In which Pattinson plays… Salvador Dali?! That’s right, this arthouse curio released hard on heels of the first Twilight (to cash in on the newly minted star’s overnight marquee value) was early proof that Pattinson was at least as interested in indie cred as he was in becoming a global teen-steam heartthrob. It’s interesting to speculate how his career would have played out had he stuck to films like this one and passed on the shimmery vampire movie. Either way, as the infamous Spanish surrealist, Pattinson is one leg of a three-legged biopic stool about Dali, filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Matthew McNulty), and writer Federico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran) in 1920’s Madrid. Despite some too tame sexual tension between Pattinson and Beltran, it’s pretty thin and unremarkable. The best that can be said about the well-timed Little Ashes is that it probably hipped a bunch of mall-kids to three important artists. —Chris Nashawaty

17) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

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I don’t know why people think Cedric Diggory is that great. First off, he’s a Hufflepuff. Secondly, it took Harry Potter (a child years junior to him) helping Cedric defeat a dragon for him to cut the kid a break. Thirdly, he died. So if we’re going off of Robert Pattinson characters, there’s not a lot to write home about because Cedric Diggory, again, is a scrub. That said, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire slaps. The lone film directed by Mike Newell, Goblet of Fire is dark as hell and a major departure from the past films in the series. The film opens up a whole new aesthetic when it comes to Harry Potter films and ultimately serves as a launching-off point for one of the greatest battles in cinematic history. —JK

16) Waiting for the Barbarians (2020)

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Pattinson’s penchant for working with auteurs continued with Waiting for the Barbarians, a turgid drama from Colombian director Ciro Guerra. In a fictional desert country, two fearsome visitors descend on a colonial outpost controlled by a political superpower known only as The Empire. The visitors are Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp), a ruthless civil servant sent to investigate rumors of a planned uprising, and Mandel (Pattinson), his sociopathic associate. Pattinson does his best with a shallowly-written part, while the film’s superficial examination of colonialism fails to impress. Feel free to skip this one. —AW

15) The Devil All the Time (2020)

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Oof. This one is some tough sledding. A feel-bad slice of Southern Gothic starring the moonlighting Spider-Man, Tom Holland, The Devil All the Time is a backwoods bummer without the touch of art necessary to stick the landing. You’ve seen plenty of this sort of Appalachian misery before, so no need to kick a dog when it’s down (which, by the way, this film actually does). But one of the very few things that it has in the plus column is Pattinson’s turn as a fiery, bible-thumping small-town preacher who has more sin in his heart than any dozen members of his flock. It’s the sort of role that good actors can tear into like a pitbull with a T-bone. Pattinson gobbles it up whole. —CN

14) The Rover (2014)

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Aussie auteur David Michod’s The Rover has its partisans. We’re not among them. A grim, post-apocalyptic wallow that goes nowhere very, very slowly, think of this as Mad Max on downers. Set in an outback wasteland after some worldwide fall-out, this decidedly bleak snoozefest features Pattinson as a dim bulb named Rey who joins up with a vengeful drifter (Guy Pearce) determined to track down the goons who stole his car. Pattinson isn’t bad exactly. But he sure is annoying, confusing mumbling with giving an interesting performance. —CN

13) Queen of the Desert (2017)

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No actor would turn down a chance to work with Werner Herzog, so Pattinson probably jumped at the chance to appear in this biopic about Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), the early 20th-Century British adventurer, diplomat, and spy. Some have called her a female Lawrence of Arabia. Sadly, this wannabe epic is far too conventional for a director as unconventional as Herzog; it feels like the result of a million artistic compromises) Queen of the Desert isn’t terrible, it’s just pretty and bland—all of the desert scenes must have sanded the edges off of it. Thankfully, Pattinson swings by as the “real” Lawrence of Arabia, T.E. Lawrence, to goose things to cheeky life, albeit all too briefly. —CN

12) Water for Elephants (2011)

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Pattinson seems to love a good literary adaptation. In this rendering of Sara Gruen’s runaway bestseller, he plays Jacob, a veterinary school dropout who falls in with a struggling Depression-era circus. When Jacob meets beautiful circus performer Marlena, their shared compassion for an elephant leads to love, but Marlena’s husband, the circus’ cruel ringleader, stands in their way. Water for Elephants is an amiable but forgettable film; even Pattinson wasn’t much to write home about. We’ll cut him some slack, given that it was 2011 and he was still finding his footing in Hollywood. Ultimately, it’s a safe choice from an actor who would prove himself to be anything but conventional. —AW

11) Maps to the Stars (2014)

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In his second collaboration with David Cronenberg, Pattinson is on the other side of the limousine glass. Here he plays Jerome Fontana, an aspiring actor moonlighting as a chauffeur who orbits superstars as he squires them around town. This story of stars and strivers aims high, but ultimately, it’s an over-the-top satire of Tinseltown, with not enough Pattinson to make it worth your time. —AW

10) Life (2015)

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Life tackles the much-mythologized life of James Dean, set during the few weeks before East of Eden catapulted him to overnight superstardom. Pattinson plays Dennis Stock, an ambitious photographer working for the fabled Life Magazine, who sees Dean as his vehicle out of hacky red carpet photography. On a road trip together, Stock and Dean stew about what it’ll take to claw their way to the top, all while Stock captures images of Dean that will live in the annals of Hollywood history. Pattinson soars in this role, showing Stock’s talent and drive, as well as the ugliness of ambition. —AW

9) Cosmopolis (2012)

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If there’s one thing we know about Robert Pattinson, it’s that he always commits to the bit. Case in point: the unforgettable scene from Cosmopolis in which his billionaire finance wiz receives a prostate exam in the backseat of a limousine. Adapted from the novel by Don DeLillo, the first of Pattinson’s collaborations with David Cronenberg proved that our young star could carry an ambitious film. As a financier whose world crumbles all in one chaotic day, he’s committed, controlled, and impossible to look away from. —AW

8) The King (2019)

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Did Robert Pattinson join The King just to bully Timothée Chalamet? It sure seems that way. In this big-budget Netflix adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henriad, Pattinson’s maniacal Dauphin of France delights in tormenting Chalamet’s Henry V, gleefully stealing their every scene together. With a shaggy blonde wig and a ludicrous French accent, Pattinson plays the Dauphin as a haughty, flamboyant madman—a truly unhinged sociopath you can’t look away from. In one unforgettable scene, the Dauphin describes his graphic plan to murder King Henry (“I’ll drain your body of its blood”), snarling, “The screams of your wives and children will lull me to sleep at night.” If that sounds too tame, have no fear—he also uses his hands to cartoonishly pantomime the size of Henry’s genitals. In a measured Shakespearean drama like The King, Pattinson didn’t have to take it this far, but of course, he did. Are you even surprised? It’s the Robert Pattinson Way. —AW

7) Twilight (2008)

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It was the pale white (translucent, really), ice cold, solemn-faced vampire Edward Cullen that put Robert Pattinson on the map as an actor. Over the course of the five movies that came out between 2008 and 2012, based on Stephanie Meyer’s bestselling series, Pattinson went from the guy who played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter to the face of TEAM EDWARD merch all over the world. I should know: I was there taking photos with the large cardboard cutouts of him at the suburban movie theater midnight premiere of each film, along with every other adolescent girl. Is his performance as an actor particularly arresting? That’s not really the point. Twilight was a cultural phenomenon, and a major film franchise is only as good as its leading man. —Lauren Kranc

6) Damsel (2018)

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It should have already been clear at this point in his career that Robert Pattinson had zero interest in being a movie star. But just in case it wasn’t, he sandwiched this deadpan feminist Western in between indies by the Safdie brothers and Claire Denis. No one saw it, which is a shame, because it’s a strange little movie and Pattinson has a field day pushing the limits of its quirkiness just short of the breaking point. Sporting a gold tooth and a miniature horse named Butterscotch, he journeys to meet his fiancée (Mia Wasikowska) so they can tie the knot. But that knot turns out to be pretty tangled. We’d like to think Pattinson got to keep Butterscotch, given that he was probably paid nothing to be in this. —CN

5) High Life (2018)

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High Life is a smoothie of A24 scripts blended together. Sex! Space! Creepy music! The meaning of life! Robert Pattinson! Yep. Robert Pattinson. The actor elevates the erotic space thriller (?) into a genuinely compelling mystery, showing us the joys and pains of parenting a newborn while you’re also hurtling toward a black hole. If anything, it makes us more excited to see Pattinson’s next outing in space, Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of the upcoming novel Mickey7. —BL

4) Good Time (2017)

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Was Good Time the moment we met the Robert Pattinson we know now? I’d say yes. The Safdie brothers, in another panic-attack-inducing journey, seemingly unlocked everything the man has to offer. Pattinson’s character, Connie, is a bug-eyed portrait of anxiety, fighting to get his mentally handicapped brother out of jail. Pattinson plays the role with equal amounts of dereliction and heart, showing us the nuance that he’s truly capable of. The blonde hair isn’t too bad, either. —BL

3) The Lost City of Z (2017)

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This was one of the better movies of 2017 and probably would have been remembered around Oscar time if it hadn’t been released in April. Let’s be clear, this adaptation of David Grann’s bestseller about British explorer Percival Fawcett’s obsessive quest for a mysterious city deep in the Amazonian jungle in the 1920s is Charlie Hunnam’s show all the way. He plays the monomaniacal Fawcett and he’s very good. But as his second-in-command, Pattinson counters Hunnam’s stoic heroism with some sorely-needed madness and weirdness. With his big, shaggy beard and sunken, emaciated cheeks, he also looks like the tubercular cousin of the guys on the Smith Brothers cough drops box. —CN

2) Tenet (2020)

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Listen, I have no clue what was happening in Tenet. Was something happening in Tenet? The budget and director Christopher Nolan’s involvement, plus the amount of coverage—including our own—makes me think that something was absolutely happening. It’s like…the future has declared war on the past, and they’re tossing stuff backwards, including a bullet flying through Kiev that, upon discovery, sends John David Washington to Mumbai (?) to do bungee jumping (??) and meet up with Pattinson, and then they’re like, “Maybe we, like that stuff getting tossed backwards in time, should go back and stop WWII before it happens.” Also, apparently it’s about climate change. You don’t follow, I know. But, for a little while, I thought maybe it was just me who couldn’t figure it out. When Pattinson just knew Washington’s drink order? Sold! Finally, Pattinson admitted he had no fucking clue either! I would argue that his performance deserves credit for just how hard he sold the idea that he knew exactly what he was saying and why he was saying it. He had me going, after all. —Madison Vain

1) The Lighthouse (2019)

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The Lighthouse is hardly the first prestige film that Pattinson starred in, but it is the one that seemingly cemented his status as a capital-A actor. Visceral and disorienting, Robert Eggers’ film about two lighthouse keepers (Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) stranded together on a remote island is some of Pattinson’s best work. What makes the film (and Pattinson’s performance) so memorable is that, for a lot of the feature, it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re watching. Is this a survival film about one man trying to evade the other after he mentally snaps? A psychological thriller following a young man’s descent into madness? Or a horror film about a vicious mermaid and a man who simply can’t quit farting? Does the film sound absurd on paper—sure. But the experience, shot entirely in black and white, is an unforgettable two hours that makes it all seem worthwhile. It’s one of those films that walks the line between insanity and art, and Pattinson is no small part of that creation. —JK

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