Jason Schwartzman got noticed by Hollywood and most audiences when, at 18, he starred as the lead in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. Since then, he’s been steadily working as an actor, screenwriter, and musician (Phantom Planet, Coconut Records). He’s also part of the Coppola clan, as he’s the son of actor Talia Shire and producer Mark Schwartzman. As an actor, Schwartzman is sweet, charming, and goofy. He can look like someone who has a happy-go-lucky attitude, but in many roles, he has shown hidden anguish and a prickly demeanor that can give his characters many more dimensions and layers.
Schwartzmann has an eclectic career that mixes all kinds of projects. He can be the lead (Spun, I Heart Huckabees), he can play role characters (Marie Antoinette), he can be a voice actor (Klaus, Neo Yokio), and, in the last decade, he’s also been part of some amazing TV shows (Fargo, Mozart in the Jungle). 2023 could be considered the best year for Schwartzman as he starred in four movies: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Aestroid City, Quiz Lady, and The Hunger Games: A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but also reprised his role as Gideon Graves in the Netflix anime, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. He has had an incredible career, and these are his best performances.
Update January 19, 2024. In honor of Jason Schwartzman’s incredible 2023 lineup, this article has been updated with even more great performances and where each title is streaming.
10 Funny People (2009)
Funny People was Judd Apatow’s third film following the back-to-back hits of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, and it certainly was a darker story than many expected. The film follows George Simmons (Adam Sandler), a successful comedian who discovers he has cancer and is looking back on his life, including how he misses the love of his life, Laura (Leslie Mann). He takes in a young aspiring comedian named Ira (Seth Rogen), and over the course of the film, George gets better and then must decide what he will do with his new lease on life.
Schwartzman Shines in a Supporting Role
Schwartzman plays the role of Mark Taylor Jackson, Ira’s roommate and friend, alongside Leo (Jonah Hill). Schwartzman’s character has become more insufferable to his roommates now that he has become the lead of an NBC sitcom, Yo Teach, where he plays a “cool” teacher. Schwartzman is having a ball playing an LA actor who has bought into his own hype, perfectly capturing a sense of smugness that comes from being moderately successful. Some of the movie’s best lines come from him, and Schwartzman would later tap into this sort of passive-aggressive kindness attitude to hilarious effect in Quiz Lady, released in 2023. Stream on Starz.
9 The Overnight (2015)
A couple, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), and their kid are new to Los Angeles, so when they meet another couple in the park, Kurt (Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), with a kid, they all set up a playdate at Kurt and Charlotte’s house. Once the kids are asleep, the real surprising night begins for all four adults with drugs, alcohol, and maybe even sex. That’s what The Overnight is all about.
A Surprising Performance in a Surprising Film
Schwartzman is great at playing the hipster L.A. parent who looks very secure in himself and what he wants. During the night, the actor peels the many layers of his character and how that security is a facade, and he’s much more vulnerable while still being the one that initiates drug and sexual games for his wife and their new friends. It’s a surprising performance in a surprising film that sadly flew under the radar for many but is worth checking out. Stream on fuboTV
8 The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Three brothers travel across India by train, attempting to bond with each other. That’s it. That’s the story of The Darjeeling Limited. But the film is so much more. It’s a story about bad tourism and fake experiences during travel. It’s a story about the memories we have of our fathers. And, especially, it’s a story about brothers and how, even as adults, they keep having the same dynamics and arguments as they did when they were kids. The film also is about the strange love-hate relationship between them, as they know each other too well.
An Understated Performance
Schwartzman wrote the script with Wes Anderson and his cousin Roman Copolla. He plays Jack, the youngest sibling and writer. All three brothers are a mess, and his character is no different. Still reeling from a breakup (shown in the short Hotel Chevalier), Schwarzman character is lost while trying to find common ground with his brothers. His performance is understated and gets us to empathize with him, being the youngest brother who sometimes gets lost in the shuffle between his two older siblings. Plus, as a fun bonus, Schwartzman gets to reuse his look in this movie for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, where he cameos as Ringo Starr, as both movies were released the same year. Rent on Apple TV, Amazon Video, and Google Play
7 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Miles Morales returns as Spider-Man and travels across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team to face off with their most powerful villain yet.
- Release Date
- June 2, 2023
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse continues the story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), while showing the many Spider-People that inhabit the multiverse, and how their intentions and Miles’ might oppose each other, as the young Spidey wants to save his family, consequences be damned. Schwartzman voices the primary villain, The Spot, a criminal that Spidey sees as “the villain of the week” who aspires to be his arch nemesis and whose powers threaten the entire multiverse.
Schwartman’s Voice Work Shows the Character’s Arc and Evolution
Schwartzman had avoided superhero and blockbuster roles for a while, but 2023 saw him really take the plunge with both Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and The Hunger Games: A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The actor is having a lot of fun playing this antagonist, and he nails the character’s evolution in his voice, as he starts a bit pathetic and strange and becomes much more powerful, fearless, and secure in himself and his powers as the movie moves along, creating a real villain that Miles will have to fight in the threequel. Stream on Netflix
6 Listen Up Philip (2014)
Listen Up Phillip is a movie about a novelist (Schwartzman) whose own success has gone to his head. The buzz for his still-unreleased second novel is not good, and he’s feeling anxious. Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), an older writer and Philip’s idol, offers him his isolated summer house to relax where he can think about his life, actions, and relationship with his photographer girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss).
Schwartzman Weaponizes His Charm
As Philip, Schwartzman shows that his charm can be weaponized, as he becomes a narcissistic, neurotic, insufferable, snippy, guy. He pulls it off brilliantly. According to Complex, Schwartzman explained why he ended up playing this prickly character: “That was kind of exciting to me, that it felt like a different thing. I felt like I was reading something… that felt more uncommon.” Certainly not the biggest title in Schwarztman filmography, but that should not count it out and is in fact, one of his best. Stream on Peacock
5 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a bass player without much ambition until he sees Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in his dreams and falls madly in love with her. Unfortunately, her exes want to destroy him. In Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Edgar Wright delivers a mesh of genres and formats that combine comic books, indie music, and video game fights. Schwartzman plays, in video game parlance, the final boss. He’s Ramona’s most insufferable ex-boyfriend, Gideon Graves, and the last obstacle for Scott to defeat in order to win her heart.
The Actor Is Fun Playing the Final Boss
Schwartzman has a lot of fun being an awful person and toxic boyfriend that’s all fake smiles and is comically evil (his fury as he just swallowed gum is still one of the biggest laughs of the movie). The cast had such a fun time shooting the film that they did a table read reunion for the 10th anniversary and reunited once again for an anime series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, which acted as both a sequel and remake of the original series, which not only let Schwartzman show off his voice talents but expanded upon the character of Gideon in exciting new ways. Stream on Netflix
Here’s Every Edgar Wright Film, Ranked
4 Bored to Death (2009)
Bored to Death was Schwartzman’s first role on TV. He played Jonathan Ames as a sweet, goofy writer who prefers the idea of being a detective to his real life. A struggling writer decides to moonlight as an almost private detective, following the methods he has read in his favorite detective novels. He’s not very good at it. He’s not cynical but sweet, prefers rosé to bourbon, and has never been in a fight.
Schwartzman Plays a Sweet, Goofy Writer
This procedural-literary-detective-comedy also featured Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis and was just a delight, a nice new take on the cozy detective mystery. The trio were so fun together and complemented each other’s energies so well that we’re still hoping for a new project for the three of them to reunite. Bored to Death ran for three seasons and not only did Schwartzman star in the series, but his band Coconut Records also did the theme song. Stream on Max
3 The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
The Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of the best stop-motion animated movies ever and Wes Anderson’s first entry into this format. In the film, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) has promised his wife that he’ll stop stealing. But his past follows him everywhere. This animated gem might be Clooney’s most imaginative caper film (and that’s saying a lot). The voice cast is stacked, but it’s Schwartzman who stands out the most as Ash, Mr. Fox’s son.
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The Actor Stands Out In an Incredible Voice Cast
One of many Wes Anderson performances, this marked Schwartzman’s first voice acting role. His empathetic performance, full of enthusiasm, and quirky line reading make his character the heart of one of Roald Dahl’s best movie adaptations, proving why Schwartzman has such a big voice acting career. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great movie with a great cast, with Schwartzman being one of many pieces in the ensemble. Stream on Max
2 Asteroid City (2023)
- Release Date
- June 23, 2023
- Tom Hanks , Margot Robbie , Scarlett Johansson , Adrien Brody , Jeffrey Wright , Bryan Cranston , Bill Murray , Jeff Goldblum , Edward Norton , Liev Schreiber , Hope Davis , Jason Schwartzman , Steve Carell , Willem Dafoe , Hong Chau
Schwartzman has worked many times with Anderson, as the director was the first to give the actor a leading role in Rushmore. This time, Anderson has gifted Schwartzman an incredible dual role, as his characters are the ones with more meat in the bone in the film. Asteroid City is a kaleidoscopic story by Wes Anderson as every actor is two characters, the one playing in the story of Asteroid City, and the actors playing those parts in 1960s New York. In both worlds, Schwartzman plays the lead character(s): Augie Steenbeck and Jones Hall.
Anderson Gifts the Actor Two Great Characters
Schwartzman is the lead, playing two different kinds of roles and giving his all to both. His role of Augie Steenbeck in the “play” world is filled with sadness, a widower who has trouble admitting to his kids their mother died while starting up a relationship with a movie star played by Scarlett Johannson. Meanwhile, the role of Jones Halls is the “actor” playing Augie Steenbeck and gives a beautiful scene alongside Margot Robbie. Schwartzman has been one of Anderson’s most frequent collaborators, and this is the biggest collaboration since Rushmore and certainly a standout in his career. Stream on Amazon Prime Video
1 Rushmore (1998)
- Release Date
- December 11, 1998
Rushmore was Schwartzman’s first role, and it’s still his best. In it, he shows he can be sweet, romantic, and lovely but also obsessed, mean, and furious. Max (Schwartzman), an over-achieving, ambitious, sincere student, falls in love with one of his teachers. As he’s still young and all that feels new, he asks Herman (Bill Murray), the father of some schoolmates, for advice on how to win her attention. The movie becomes a competition between both to win the teacher’s heart.
His First Role is Still Schwartzman’s Best
Schwartzman was only 18 when Rushmore came out, which makes it more impressive that he is able to go toe-to-toe with Bill Murray. This is not an easy task for anyone and even less for a newbie, but he succeeds. It may be in part because he was very much like the character. In Dazed, Schwartzman explained that he got to audition because they were looking for someone who was a playwright and in love with an older woman, and at the time, he was both. Rushmore is the movie that put both Schwartzman and Wes Anderson on the map, and not only did it result in many great collaborations, but it also signaled the launch of two of the most exciting voices in film. Rent on Apple TV, Amazon Video, and Google Play