Aaron Taylor-Johnson has not one but two huge movies coming out in September: Tenet, the mysterious Christopher Nolan project starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, and The King’s Man, a Kingsman prequel with Ralph Fiennes and Gemma Arterton. To whet your appetite, here’s a reminder of the intriguing way Taylor-Johnson has balanced blockbusters with more offbeat roles since he broke through a decade or so ago.
1. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)
This sweet British teen movie follows 14-year-old Georgia Nicholson (Georgia Groome, who’s now married to Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint) as she tries to find a boyfriend while planning her 15th birthday party. Taylor-Johnson co-stars as Robbie, the punky class mate Georgia has a crush on. In a concert scene from the movie, Taylor-Johnson gets to play bass with The Stiff Dylans, who were a real-life band at the time – check it out below.
2. Nowhere Boy (2009)
Taylor-Johnson portrays a young John Lennon in this moving biopic about the future Beatle’s teenage years growing up with his Aunt Mimi (Dame Kristin Scott Thomas), a strict but loving figure who disapproves of his musical ambitions. It’s not just a breakthrough role for Taylor-Johnson – who captures Lennon’s spirit impeccably – but also the film where he met his future wife, director Sam Taylor-Johnson.
3. Kick-Ass (2010)
Taylor-Johnson stars in this grown-up superhero movie as Dave Lizewski, an ordinary Staten Island teenager who reinvents himself as the self-made superhero “Kick-Ass.” It’s a lot quirkier (and bloodier) than his future superhero role in The Avengers, but Kick-Ass‘s full-throttle action, gleeful profanity, and pitch-black humor has made it a cult classic. Taylor-Johnson reprised his role in a 2013 sequel and reunites with Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn for this month’s The King’s Man.
4. R.E.M.’s “ÜBerlin” music video (2011)
Sam Taylor-Johnson also directed her future husband – they would get married the following year – in this playful music video from R.E.M.‘s final studio album. It features Aaron Taylor-Johnson showing off some rather “crazy” – his word – dance moves as he putzes around the streets of Shoreditch in East London.
5. Anna Karenina (2012)
Taylor-Johnson plays “the other man” in director Joe Wright‘s handsome and rather theatrical adaptation of the classic Leo Tolstoy novel. He’s suitably dashing as Count Vronksy, a rich cavalry officer whom Keira Knightley‘s titular socialite has a disastrous affair with behind the back of her powerful husband Count Karenin (Jude Law). A somewhat underrated period drama that’s definitely worth a watch.
6. Godzilla (2014)
Taylor-Johnson described this monster movie directed by Gareth Edwards (who later made Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as a “big budget art film.” He plays Navy bomb disposal expert Ford Brody, who becomes key to the survival of the human race when Godzilla arises from the sea in Japan. Godzilla did pretty well at the box office, but wisely, Taylor-Johnson opted to skip last year’s poorly received sequel Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Taylor-Johnson made his M.C.U. debut with a quick cameo in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but gets more to do as a main cast member in Joss Whedon‘s second Avengers movie. He plays Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver, a superhero who can run at incredible speed. The role required Taylor-Johnson to bulk up and perfect his own distinctive sprinting style.
8. Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, this psychological thriller is definitely a stylish affair; Amy Adams stars as an art gallery owner who reads a new novel written by her ex-husband and discovers similarities between its content and their defunct marriage. Taylor-Johnson appears in the novel’s “story within a story,” playing a sadistic Texan gang leader who ruins the life of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s vacationing family man. It’s an intense, menacing performance which won him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.
9. Outlaw King (2018)
Taylor-Johnson takes on another role in this entertaining Netflix film about Robert the Bruce, the 14th century Scottish monarch who successfully took on the treacherous English. Pine is great as Bruce – and gets the Scottish accent about right, too – but Taylor-Johnson has the most fun as his maverick ally Lord Douglas, who in an especially manic moment burns his own castle to the ground.
10. A Million Little Pieces (2018)
The Taylor-Johnsons team up again for this adaptation of James Frey‘s controversial rehab memoir – he later admitted to making chunks of it up – that was clearly a passion project: Sam directs, Aaron stars as Frey, and they co-wrote the script together. The reviews weren’t exactly stellar when it opened last year, but there’s no denying the commitment of Taylor-Johnson’s performance and the fiery intensity of some of the film’s bleakest scenes.
Do you have a favorite Aaron Taylor-Johnson performance?