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Jeremy Renner’s Best Performances, Ranked

Although Jeremy Renner‘s career did not take off until a little later in his life, he has since become an A-list actor who has worked with some of the greatest directors around. With his performances spanning across all genres and through several movies and franchises, Renner has proved himself as a master of his craft. His acting style is real and gritty, and he has a charisma that makes him a joy to watch on screen. Renner has been nominated for two Academy Awards for his performances in The Town and The Hurt Locker, and his recent Hawkeye series is getting rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. Whether it is action or drama, Renner can do it all and fans are always eager to see his next film.

Updated May 7th, 2023: To keep the article fresh and relevant while his fans wish him continued recovery and success, this article about Jeremy Renner has been updated with additional content.

Renner was born in Modesto, California, and is the eldest of seven siblings. While attending Modesto Junior College, Renner took a drama course and his love for acting began. Renner made his film debut in National Lampoon’s Senior Trip and continued to make guest star appearances on shows like Deadly Games and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. As Renner’s career began to take speed, he began to earn larger roles in films such as Dahmer and S.W.A.T.

Since then, Renner has become a superstar and has been earning the recognition for his talent that he very much deserves. The world reminded him just how loved he was after a near-fatal accident almost ended his career prematurely, and Renner’s magical recovery has been inspiring to watch. After a long and ongoing career, let’s take a look at his best performances, ranked.

13 Captain America: Civil War

Marvel Studios

This is more like an honorable mention than anything else, but it seems only fair to point out Renner’s stellar performance in Captain America: Civil War. Returning as Hawkeye once again, Renner proves why the underrated Avenger is a key-player in any teams’ success. In Hawkeye’s short amount of screen time, Renner commands every scene he is in. He held nothing back in the physicality of his performance, perfectly portraying just how determined Hawkeye was to keep fighting without wanting to seriously hurt his friends. Much like his confident character, Renner’s presence on the team elevated every actor’s performance.

12 Avengers: Endgame

Avengers Endgame - Jeremy Renner
Marvel Studios

Five years after Thanos’ snap, the world and the Avengers are still trying to find a way to bring everybody back. They get a new opportunity when Ant-Man comes back from the Quantum Realm, and they reunite the band together. Avengers: Endgame is a marvelous accomplishment and an incredible finish for a saga 15 years in the making. In the film, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye might have one of the best arcs in the whole movie. He starts by losing his whole family in the snap; becomes Ronin, an executioner of criminals, and becomes a darker character than audiences had ever seen in a Marvel hero. After reconnecting with his old team, or what’s left of them, he begins to find a little bit of hope again. Eventually, he tries to kill himself for the greater good, completely desperate to do anything to bring his family back.

Once Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has sacrificed herself for the soul stone, you can see all the weight and shame of that decision in Renner’s eyes and face. The moment when his wife calls, and he answers happily, must be one of the most human, and underrated moments in the whole film. Hawkeye went from being almost unrecognizable to the hopeful, yet still broken, Avenger that fans grew to love.

11 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse James - Jeremy Renner
Warner Bros. Pictures

Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) has been a fan of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) since childhood. Once he fulfills his dream of being part of his criminal gang, he finds out that not everything is as shiny as he thought, and begins to resent the charismatic outlaw. Renner has a supporting role in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, as James’ cousin, Wood Hite. His character is as cruel as he is evil, especially to Ford in this strange, unique film. After working with Renner on this film, Casey Affleck recommended the actor to his brother Ben for The Town.

10 American Hustle

American Hustle cast
Columbia Pictures

Taking on the role of a politician is no easy feat. Renner masterfully pulls it off as he plays Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito in David O. Russell’s American Hustle. Renner portrays a smart and strategic politician who is passionate about his city. As an actor, it takes a lot of work to get into the mindset of a politician. Renner did his homework, and he is completely convincing as Polito from start to finish. He exudes the confidence and charisma that a successful politician must have to gain power. The film also stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Christian Bale.

9 Hawkeye

Hawkeye and Kate Bishop
Disney Platform Distribution

In the Hawkeye series, Renner proves that he has what it takes to lead a superhero series through his performance and physicality. Renner first took on the role of Hawkeye in the 2012 film, The Avengers. He has since become an important character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite Renner’s charisma and fun acting style, Hawkeye is often one of the least popular Avengers, not necessarily because he is not liked, but because he is often lost in the giant ensemble. He was completely absent from Avengers: Infinity War, but his crucial role in Avengers: Endgame more than made up for it and shined a much-needed spotlight on the archer.

Related: Major Marvel Characters Who Haven’t Gotten An MCU Movie Yet

Although there is concern that the show only exists to replace him with Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), just as Hulk is to give up his spot in the MCU to She-Hulk and Loki is there to introduce the other variations of himself, Hawkeye did give audiences a more intimate look into the character’s life post-Endgame. While Clint Barton is a skilled superhero who takes down bad guys, he is also a loving father trying to do right by his family. Renner dives into a range of emotions throughout the series and proves that he is one of the greatest action stars working.

8 S.W.A.T.

SWAT - Jeremy Renner
Sony Pictures Releasing

Although he has a smaller role in the tense action film, S.W.A.T., Renner steals every scene that he is in. Renner takes the part of Brian Gamble, an ex-S.W.A.T team member who was fired after a pedestrian was injured on the job. Renner is fierce and tough and completely embodies the persona of a ruthless police officer. In the final act of the film, we come to find out that Renner is actually the antagonist of the film. Renner plays a villain with ease due to the gritty and dark persona that he takes on in the movie.

7 Kill the Messenger

Focus Features

Gary Webb was a real-life journalist, who investigated a conspiracy by the CIA to smuggle weapons to South America using drug money. He was discovered dead at 49, with two bullet wounds to the head. This movie tells his story; how he found out about the conspiracy and the anxiousness he felt, as he sensed he was being followed and couldn’t protect his family from something as big as the CIA.

We’re so used to seeing Renner as a supporting player in big franchises, that sometimes we forget he’s charismatic enough to have his own star vehicles. Kill the Messenger is his movie through and through. Renner’s Webb is all anxiety and paranoia, as he uncovers something very big. With every scene, he looks more and more deteriorated, as if the stress of the whole thing is getting to him; but his ideals and journalistic integrity don’t let him stop his investigation and hide. Renner should’ve gotten some award recognition for this tachycardic performance.

6 Mayor of Kingstown

Jeremy Renner in Mayor of Kingstown
Paramount Global Distribution Group

Written and created by Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan, Mayor of Kingstown tells the story of Mike McClusky (Renner) and his family, who are in charge of dealing with several private prisons run in a depressed Michigan town. They move things in and out, create alliances, and keep the peace between the different gangs in all the prisons in town. Sheridan made this star vehicle for Renner, who could prove how good he is at playing grey characters with questionable morals, and their own way of dealing with things.

Although there are supporting appearances by Dianne Wiest and Kyle Chandler, this is Renner’s show, as he must keep the peace between gangsters, while trying not to lose his soul. After an incredible ending to the first season, where Renner’s character took justice into his own hands, the show has been renewed for a second season, and we can’t wait to see what happens next in season two.

5 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol-1
Paramount Pictures

In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Renner plays William Brandt, an IMF analyst who becomes part of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) team in preventing a nuclear disaster. Renner is a natural action star and even offers some comic relief throughout the film, proving that he can take on all aspects of acting. Renner is extremely convincing as an intelligent IMF analyst, and he was a great addition to the Mission Impossible team. Renner reprised his role as Brandt in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

4 Arrival

Arrival - Jeremy Renner
Paramount Pictures

In Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction film Arrival, Renner plays Ian Donnelly, a physicist sent to study a spacecraft that has come to Earth. Renner stars alongside Amy Adams and gives a more somber role in comparison to his action films. Renner convincingly plays an intelligent physicist who is in awe of the alien lifeforms. He gives a fantastic dramatic performance and has great chemistry with Adams from beginning to end.

3 Wind River

Jeremy Renner and Gil Birmingham in Wind River
Acacia Entertainment

In Wind River, Renner plays a Wildlife Service Agent opposite Elizabeth Olsen who uncovers a dead body on a Native American Reservation in Wyoming. Renner’s performance is sensitive and emotional as his character is also dealing with the grief of his dead daughter. Renner touches on many different levels of emotion throughout the film and his chemistry with Olsen is superb. Wind River currently holds an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

2 The Town

The Town with Jeremy Renner
Warner Bros.

Not only does Renner master the Boston accent in Ben Affleck’s The Town; he completely takes on the role of a gritty criminal who robs banks for a living. James “Jem” Coughlin (Renner) is an anti-hero who his friends and family can rely on. At the same time, he will kill without thinking twice, and proves that he can be spontaneous and reckless while carrying out the heists. Renner is untouchable in this film and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in one of Affleck’s all-time best movies.

Related: Jeremy Renner Says Hawkeye’s Superpowers Come from His Family

1 The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker
Summit Entertainment

Renner’s performance as Sergeant William James in Kathryn Bigelow’s war drama The Hurt Locker reinvented his career and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Renner completely embodies his character and shows us a man who is addicted to the rush of life-threatening circumstances. James’ job is to disable bombs, and he does it fearlessly, worrying his fellow soldiers. When James returns home, we see him out of his element, and it is impossible for him to relate to his family. Renner is completely natural in this film and portrays a character who is tough, ruthless, and possibly insane. It’s a thrilling movie, and a must-watch from a woman director.

Jeremy Renner ICU
Jeremy Renner/Instagram

Renner was unfortunately involved in an incredibly serious snowplow accident at the start of 2023. Thankfully, the actor escaped with his life, although he was severely injured. Many fans of his work were concerned if he would ever be able to return to his craft, and while the extent of his injuries and the potential long-term effects of the accident are still in question, he is making promising strides in his recovery. While it is impossible to say if the actor will be able to resume acting in more physically demanding roles, such as Hawkeye, it seems unlikely that Renner is willing to let any injury stop him from doing what he loves.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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