Oscar Isaac may have made his screen debut in the late 1990s, but it took a long time for the actor to break through into the mainstream. He’s definitely managed it, though, and earned a reputation as one of the best talents of his generation via a string of phenomenal performances in a variety of different genres.
It was the period between 2013 and 2015 that really cemented him as a rapidly-rising talent, with four movies in particular showcasing his range and versatility. Isaac drew rave reviews for his breakout turn in the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, delivered incendiary work in J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, charmed audiences everywhere as the roguish Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and chilled as a reclusive tech genius in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.
The latter is comfortably one of the most imaginative and engrossing original sci-fi films of the 21st Century, getting you hooked right from the opening scene. Domhnall Gleeson’s programmer wins a contest and heads off for a week at the isolated retreat of Isaac’s CEO. Once there, he discovers he’s part of an artificial intelligence experiment, where things swiftly spiral out of control.
A fascinating examination of free will and humanity wrapped up in a pulse-pounding techno thriller, Ex Machina was showered in critical acclaim and landed Garland an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It’ll be remembered as a timeless modern classic, which could go some way to explaining why it’s experienced a sudden resurgence in popularity on HBO Max‘s most-watched list.