10 Performances That Prove Robert Pattinson Isn’t Just ‘the Twilight Guy’

10 Performances That Prove Robert Pattinson Isn’t Just ‘the Twilight Guy’

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Robert Pattinson has been a household name since 2008 when the first Twilight movie hit theaters. So whether you, your siblings or your parents loved Twilight, there was no way of escaping Pattinson and Kristen Stewart for a solid four-year period as the “Saga” rolled into theaters.

But even when they were the faces of a major franchise, both Pattinson and Stewart were taking roles in a variety of smaller independent films that allowed them to show off more than the undeniably narrow performances the Twilight films required. And since the franchise’s end, they’ve leveraged their star power to work with exciting directors (as of this year, both have worked with David Cronenberg) and explore unique roles.

Sadly though, they’ve often been unfairly written off by audiences because of their association with the similarly unfairly maligned Twilight movies. This means many varied performances from these actors exhibiting their talent have been overlooked by audiences over the last decade and a half.

With Pattinson making his debut as The Batman earlier this year, we thought it might be time to look at some other fantastic performances from the actor that prove he’s much more than just “the guy from Twilight.” A note that the list is simply in chronological order and not ranked. And no, we’re not including Batman.

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Salvador Dalí – Little Ashes

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Image Credit: APT Films.

Released the same year as the first Twilight film, this little Spanish-British co-produced historical biopic centered on the life of Federico García Lorca (played by Javier Beltrán) already shows that Pattinson can do more than brood. In his role as Salvador Dalí, Pattinson begins the film as an eccentric and awkward young man looking to make a name for himself and grows into the eccentric and confident artist with the immortal mustache that we all know.

The performance allows Pattinson to track Dalí’s changes over time, but even in those early years, it’s never a small performance. As a student, Pattinson’s Dalí is a perpetual motion machine, even if those movements are as simple as a twitch here and there. But by the movie’s end, he’s committing to the theatricality that made Dalí an icon for his personality as much as his paintings.

It’s also worth noting that part of the story of Little Ashes centers on a romance that might have existed between Lorca and Dalí. This, of course, means the film offers some titillating scenes between the two actors but also shows that Pattinson was not going to be limited by sexuality in his career.

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Image Credit: APT Films.

Eric Packer – Cosmopolis

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Image Credit: Entertainment One.

While Little Ashes arrived the same year as the first Twilight movie, Pattinson’s next unexpected performance came the same year as the final film in the saga when he teamed with David Cronenberg for Cosmopolis. Based on the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis stars Pattinson as Eric Packer, a young billionaire currency speculator.

The movie centers on Packer and his day in a stretch limo that doubles as an office. Various people come and go throughout the day, including business partners, sexual partners, and his doctor, who performs a prostate exam.

Despite not being at all a body horror film, Cosmopolis is distinctly a Cronenberg film, with its strange eroticism and considerations of the relationship between the body and capital. And Pattinson does a fantastic job holding it together with his central performance.

He plays Packer as removed from reality, and not just our reality, but even the strange and heightened reality of the film. He’s disconnected from everything, even his wife, who we briefly meet, and only seems to have an honest conversation with a man who means to kill him. It’s an unnerving performance, but that’s just what the movie calls for.

Image Credit: Entertainment One.

Rey – The Rover

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Image Credit: A24.

Rey in The Rover could have been a dangerous role for Pattinson or anyone who took it on. Rey is an intellectually disabled young man, and there’s a significant history of non-disabled people playing characters with disabilities that run the gamut from celebrated to the offensive.

While everyone may feel differently about the phenomenon of non-disabled actors playing disabled characters, and some may take issue with Pattinson’s performance in The Rover, it was largely hailed as a success.

Many reviews at the time praised Pattinson’s ability to inhabit the role of an intellectually disabled character and deliver a layered performance. A performance that garnered him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Fourth Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards.

The Rover is a brutal movie that follows Rey and Eric (Guy Pearce) as they make their way through a post-apocalyptic Australia to find Eric’s stolen car. But Pattinson lends the film real heart and, by the end, makes it an emotionally powerful film almost single-handedly.

Image Credit: A24.

Henry Costin – The Lost City of Z

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Image Credit: MadRiver Pictures.

While Pattinson’s roles in the already mentioned movies are undeniably impressive and make a case for him as a great actor, his role as Henry Costin in James Gray’s The Lost City of Z is the first time he almost literally disappears into a character.

Throughout the film, Pattinson sports a big beard and mustache covering the lower half of his face while usually wearing glasses or a hat to obscure the top half, and often (as when he first appears) both glasses and a hat.

He’s not unrecognizable so much as unseeable behind his beard and accessories. It’s a role usually played by a character actor, not someone who was a marquee idol just four years earlier. But Pattinson acquits himself wonderfully in the role.

Costin is an equally determined and jovial character. He is first and foremost concerned with the success of the mission, initially a surveying mission and later an exploratory mission, both in the jungles of the Amazon. But he does not let that determination stop him from enjoying the companionship of his fellow explorers or losing himself in the joy of discovery.

Although Pattinson plays the second or even third most significant role in the movie after Charlie Hunnam’s Percy Fawcett, he shows a considerable range. During the second expedition, we see his kind temperament tested and ultimately broken by a character who slows the crew down and places them all in danger. And late in the film, he has a poignant conversation with Fawcett on the film’s themes of sacrifice and ambition, in which he portrays a real melancholy.

Image Credit: MadRiver Pictures.

Constantine “Connie” Nikas – Good Time

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Image Credit: A24.

After his role in The Lost City of Z hid Pattinson’s good looks behind a beard and accessories, he took another step on the character actor path by entirely transforming into Constantine “Connie” Nikas for the Safdie brothers’ Good Time. Likely best known for the film they made following Good Time, the Adam Sandler-starring Uncut Gems, the brothers’ previous film is a similar panic attack in movie form, and Pattinson is the driving force.

As Connie, Pattinson is nearly unrecognizable with his unkempt hair (both on his face and on top of his head) and his thick Queens accent. He is constantly dragging the audience into stressful situations. From an opening bank robbery gone wrong to a young girl’s house in the middle of the night, a bail bonds office, and the Tivoli Towers in Brooklyn, Connie never stops talking, thinking, or moving, which makes him impossible to take your eyes off of.

The fact that the film was largely shot guerrilla-style only speaks to Pattinson’s performance. He was able to become the character to such a degree that the filmmakers were able to steal footage across the city without their star being recognized.

Image Credit: A24.

Samuel Alabaster – Damsel

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Image Credit: Strophic Prods.

Even when playing the less than competent Connie in Good Time, Pattinson has retained some aspect of, if not coolness, at least danger in his performances (yes, including as Edward in the Twilight films). But as Samuel Alabaster in Damsel, Pattinson is nothing but pathetic and laughable.

He’s a pioneer in that he is moving out west, but in reality, he’s much more of a dandy, to use a term of the time. He is wealthy, doesn’t want to dirty his belongings on his journey, and cannot drink whiskey because it’s too harsh. The only reason he seems to be traveling west is to rescue his beloved Penelope (Mia Wasikowska), who may or may not love him back.

It’s always great to see an actor willing to make a fool of themselves, and in Damsel Pattinson commits to creating a character that would be pitiable if he weren’t so entitled, especially concerning Penelope. It’s also one of the few roles where we get to see Pattinson play music, something he’s also quite talented at, even if the song he plays here isn’t the most enchanting.

Image Credit: Strophic Prods.

Monte – High Life

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Image Credit: A24.

From his least dangerous role to his most, Pattinson’s Monte in High Life is a quiet and often kind man serving a life sentence for killing a friend who killed his dog. But, unlike a life sentence on death row on Earth, the characters in High Life have volunteered for a program that sends criminals into space to search for black holes, from which they might be able to extract energy.

The film follows a non-linear narrative that allows us to see Monte in various situations. He talks with his only friend on the crew, Andre Benjamin’s Tcherny. He has erotically charged conversations with Juliette Binoche’s reproduction-in-space obsessed doctor Dibs, in which she pushes him to give her his semen. And he plays with his infant daughter, sweetly teaching her words, and later teaches her lessons about the brutality of life in space when they come upon an abandoned ship.

In each of these situations, Pattinson plays Monte with a cool and calm demeanor that belies the violence he is capable of. We see this violence only once in the film when Monte beats a would-be rapist crewmate near to death before composing himself, but it’s a startling and impactful scene.

Image Credit: A24.

Thomas Howard – The Lighthouse

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Image Credit: A24.

The Lighthouse isn’t built entirely on Pattinson’s performance; here, he gets to share the weight of the film’s success with Willem Dafoe, who is unsurprisingly entirely up to the task. The film centers on Pattinson’s Thomas Howard and Dafoe’s Thomas Wake, who work as wickies – lighthouse keepers on a small island.

But as often happens in remote places with few characters, things begin to grow strange, and it’s unclear how much of that is real and how much may be in the minds of our wickies.

Pattinson and Dafoe are both fantastic, and their interplay shows chemistry almost unmatched anywhere else. What makes their performances so noteworthy is the many different feelings and tones they have to strike, both alone and together. Throughout the film, they go through joy, anger, suspicion, fear, and, perhaps, even attraction.

The Lighthouse is a showcase of two actors, at different points in their careers, capable of stringing an audience along through an undeniably strange film with their charisma and pure watchability.

Image Credit: A24.

Reverend Preston Teagardian – The Devil All the Time

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Some of the roles mentioned above are less than savory characters, there are murderers and narcissistic criminals among them, but they all have something about them that we can root for. Not so for Reverend Preston Teagardian.

Pattinson doesn’t spend much time in The Devil All the Time, but he makes an impact in his few scenes. He plays a preacher who preys on girls in the congregation and gets one of them pregnant but denies having ever slept with her. He’s a genuinely loathsome character, and Pattinson never shies away from that.

The moment the character steps onscreen, the audience can tell something is wrong about him. He just feels slimy, as if he’s constantly pulling a trick. And he is; he’s convincing people that he’s a man of God while using that position to prey on girls.

Pattinson’s performance is incredibly memorable and leaves your skin crawling even after he’s off the screen.

Image Credit: Netflix.

Neil – Tenet

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Tenet is essentially Christopher Nolan’s James Bond movie. It’s a globe-trotting adventure full of gloriously realized action setpieces centered on a protagonist who looks great in a suit, and because it’s a Nolan film, it’s also got time travel.

It’s also one of the most, if not the most, difficult of Nolan’s films to follow. So our protagonist, literally credited as “Protagonist” and played by John David Washington, serves as an audience surrogate who also often struggles to understand exactly what’s going on. While he looks great in a suit and certainly knows his way around a fight, the Protagonist isn’t the coolest character in the movie; that honor goes to Pattinson’s Neil, the Protagonist’s handler.

As Neil, Pattinson is dapper, breezily charming, and above all: capable. He walks the Protagonist through many of the strange things they encounter in the film, acting as both a partner and guide. And Washington and Pattinson’s chemistry makes them simply fun to spend time with, even if the audience can’t follow all the plot points.

It’s not an especially difficult or showy role for Pattinson, but it proves that if he were ever tapped for Bond, he would undoubtedly be up to the task.

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

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Kyle Logan studied philosophy and now constantly overthinks music and movies.

He’s a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Cultured Vultures, Chicago Film Scene, Castle of Chills, and Filmotomy. Kyle has covered virtual film festivals including the inaugural Nightstream festival in 2020 and the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival. Kyle is interested in horror films, animation, Star Wars, and Adventure Time, as well as older genre films written and directed by queer people and women, particularly those from the 1970s and 80s. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.