10 Best Jeremy Renner Movies Ranked
Best known for playing the archer Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jeremy Lee Renner is an American actor and musician. Renner has been nominated twice for Academy Awards and has appeared in over thirty films. Here are the best movies from the talented actor.
‘Hawkeye,’ which is available now for streaming on Disney+, is the new series starring Jeremy Renner reprising his popular role from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Set after the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ the show follows Clint Barton (Renner) as he struggles to return to his family in time for Christmas, while helping Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) confront enemies from his past as Ronin.
Renner’s film career began in 1995 with ‘National Lampoon’s Senior Trip,’ and since then the actor has earned two Academy Award nominations and appeared in six MCU movies including ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ which is the second highest grossing film of all-time behind ‘Avatar.’ With the entire 'Hawkeye' series now available to stream on Disney+, Moviefone counts down the top ten performances of Jeremy Renner’s career.
Jeremy Renner’s 10 Best Performances
10) ‘Dahmer’ (2002)
Directed by David Jacobson, ‘Dahmer’ stars Renner as the notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. While not a box office hit, this is the film that earned Renner his first notice from Hollywood and essentially began his career.
The film is told in two different timelines with Renner playing Dahmer in both, first as an older version and then as a younger version of the character committing his first murder. The performance earned Renner a Best Male Lead nomination at the 18th Independent Spirit Awards.
9) ‘The Bourne Legacy’ (2012)
After his success in the MCU movies, Renner was given an opportunity to star in his own action vehicle with ‘The Bourne Legacy.’ Substituting for Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, Renner plays Aaron Cross, another victim of the Treadstone operation.
While the film was unable to start a new ‘Bourne’ series for the franchise as intended, it still features a commanding performance from Renner and is a better all-around movie than Damon’s eventual return in 2016’s ‘Jason Bourne.’ Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, ‘The Bourne Legacy’ also stars Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Oscar Isaac, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, and Corey Stoll.
8) ‘Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol’ (2011)
Another franchise that intended for Renner to join and possibly replace the lead actor is ‘Mission: Impossible,’ which saw the actor appear in both ‘Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol’ and its follow-up, ‘Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.’ It’s hard to believe now that Paramount would ever consider replacing Tom Cruise, but you have to remember that the actor’s career had stumbled a bit at that point after box office disappointments like ‘Lions for Lambs’ and 'Knight and Day,’ as well as jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch.
But ‘Ghost Protocol’ turned out to be a huge success and rehabilitated Cruise’s career, leading the actor to continue to star in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ series, and relegating Renner to a supporting role in the franchise. Yet, Renner holds his own against Cruise in this movie, and created a great alley for Ethan Hunt in the eventual sequel.
7) ‘Kill the Messenger’ (2014)
Directed by Michael Cuesta and based on the book ‘Dark Alliance’ by Gary Webb, ‘Kill the Messenger’ starred and was produced by Renner coming off of his ‘Avengers’ success. The movie tells the true story of journalist Gary Webb (Renner), and his suppressed attempts to cover the CIA’s involvement and secret support of large-scale cocaine sales to fund the Nicaraguan Contras.
While the film was released and mostly forgotten, it does mark a turn in Renner’s resume, as he began to do less action movies and take on more dramatic roles as his career progressed. ‘Kill the Messenger’ is Renner’s first attempt since ‘Dahmer’ at starring in a dramatic film, and the result is an excellent performance from the actor. The movie also stars Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Michael K. Williams, and Andy Garcia.
6) ‘Arrival’ (2016)
Directed by ‘Dune’ filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, ‘Arrival’ is really an Amy Adams star-vehicle, yet Renner still gives a strong supporting performance. The film follows a linguist (Adams) and a physicist (Renner) who are enlisted by the U.S. Army to communicate with aliens that have arrived on Earth.
Adams and Renner are great together, and the movie has a very emotional twist that Renner’s solid performance helps to make work. The movie went on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, and also stars Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg.
5) ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019)
After five previous appearances in MCU movies, it wasn’t until the final film in ‘The Infinity Saga’ that Renner finally got to shine as Clint Barton/Hawkeye. While his appearance in ‘Thor’ was just a cameo, the character was somewhat marginalized in ‘Avengers,’ and was finally given something to do with his character in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and ‘Captain America: Civil War.’
But it was ‘Avengers: Endgame’ where the character really started to come into his own, having seen his family disappear due to The Blip, becoming the vigilante Ronin, watching his best friend (Natasha Romanoff) die on Vormir, and joining the assembled Avengers for their final battle against Thanos. It took a while, but the actor finally got a chance to shine in his signature role this time around.
4) ‘American Hustle’ (2013)
Renner stars opposite an all-star cast in director David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle’ that includes Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Oscar winners Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. The movie follows two con artists (Bale and Adams) who are forced by an FBI agent (Cooper) to take down the corrupt mayor of Camden, New Jersey, played by Renner.
The actor more than holds his own against the remarkable cast and creates a character that you really sympathize with towards the end of the film. Yes, he does commit several crimes, but through Renner you truly understand that his character behaved badly because he believed he was still doing the right thing. The film is a black comedy, and Renner walks the line between drama and comedy beautifully.
3) ‘The Hurt Locker’ (2008)
If ‘Dahmer’ is the film that put Jeremy Renner on the map in Hollywood, then director Kathryn Bigelow’s award winning ‘The Hurt Locker’ is the film that made Jeremy Renner a household name. The story follows an Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team who are targeted by insurgents and their psychological reactions to the stress of combat.
In addition to Renner, the movie also stars future MCU actors Anthony Mackie (‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’), Guy Pearce (‘Iron Man 3’) and Evangeline Lilly (‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’). ‘The Hurt Locker’ also marks the first time Renner earned an Oscar nomination, as he received a Best Actor nom for his work in the film.
2) ‘The Town’ (2010)
Renner received his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in director Ben Affleck’s brilliant ‘The Town.’ In the movie, Renner stars as James “Jem” Coughlin, the leader of a group of Boston bank robbers who are planning their biggest heist yet, robbing Fenway Park. I grew up in Boston and I knew at least five different Jem’s when I was a kid, I can tell you that Renner’s performance in this film is absolutely spot-on.
Renner, who actually grew up in California, nails every aspect of the Boston native he is portraying and, in some moments, seems more like a Bostonian than even Affleck, who is actually from Beantown. Renner lost the Oscar to his ‘American Hustle’ co-star Christian Bale, who was also playing a Bostonian in ‘The Fighter,’ and while I kind of can’t argue with that, I still wish Renner had come out on top at the Academy Awards for this performance.
1) ‘Wind River’ (2017)
In my opinion, ‘Wind River’ was the best film of 2017 and should have been nominated for several Academy Awards. However, after filmmaker Taylor Sheridan was awarded the Un Certain Regard for Best Director at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, the film’s Oscar campaign was derailed when producer Harvey Weinstein’s scandal began.
The film’s producers moved quickly to have Weinstein’s name removed from the movie, but it wasn’t enough to get Academy voters to give it a chance. It’s a shame, because ‘Wind River’ is an important and exciting murder mystery with a career-best performance from Renner. The film follows Elizabeth Olsen as a rookie FBI agent sent to solve a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
Soon realizing that she is in way over her head, she recruits U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Renner) to help her find the killer. As the disillusioned Lambert, Renner gives a quiet yet commanding performance in a brilliant film that deserves to get a second chance.