Jordan Peele’s newest horror outing Nope bombards theaters on July 22, finally allowing fans to decode the mysterious alien invasion film that has been teased for months. The film stars Peele’s Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, the excellent English actor who recently earned his first Oscar award for his inspired turn as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah.
Although Kaluuya gained prominence following his performance on Black Mirror in 2011, his filmography dates back to 2006, with most of his highly-acclaimed movies coming in the past five years. To dig a little deeper, movie fans on Letterboxd have weighed in on Kaluuya’s cinematic high points.
10 Johnny English Reborn (2011) – 2.8/5
In a rare chance to flash his comedic acting chops, Daniel Kaluuya co-starred opposite the iconic Rowan Atkinson in the satirical spy sequel Johnny English Reborn, which finds the bumbling secret agent taking on international assassins targeting China’s leader, Xiang Ping. Kaluuya plays Colin Tucker, an MI7 agent who becomes Johnny’s assistant and eventual partner.
While most on Letterboxd agree that the film isn’t as good as the original Johnny English, Burrows makes a good point by stating “some of the spy parody in Johhny English is only mediocre, but alongside Atkinson’s Bond-wannabe buffoonery is a top-notch cast of straight-laced foils who play along perfectly – Daniel Kaluuya, Dominic West, Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson…they’re all note-perfect.”
9 Cass (2008) – 2.9/5
Based on a true story, Jon S. Baird’s crime movie Cass traces the unlikely rise of Cass (Nonso Anozie), a Jamaican orphan adopted and raised by wealthy White British parents in London, who climbed the ranks to become one of the most powerful British hooligans. For his part, Kaluuya portrayed Cass at the age of 14.
While the film has garnered mixed reviews on Letterboxd, Scott Rudd declares Cass to be “the Citizen Kane of football hooligan films, until a movie about One Eye Baz (Barrington Patterson). But class to see Daniel Kaluuya in an early role.”
8 Random (2011) – 3.3/5
Debbie Tucker Green’s BAFTA-winning TV movie Random follows an ordinary day in the life of a Black family from South London that is forever altered by a senseless act of violence. Kaluuya plays Brother, giving a precociously effective turn in the avant-garde stage play adaptation that blends filmic and theatrical qualities.
While Kaluuya’s performance is lauded, most Letterboxd users single out Nadine Marshall’s starring role and voiceover narration as Sister, with Logan Baker noting “Nadine Marshall is a revelation, and helps this odd-comedy-descending-into-heartbreaking-drama become something special.”
7 Shoot The Messenger (2006) – 3.4/5
Daniel Kaluuya made his screen debut in the 2006 TV movie Shoot the Messenger, which Letterboxd considers among his best movies to date. However, it’s David Oyelowo, who stars as Joe, a Black teacher in South London. He is falsely accused of hitting a White student and faces severe public backlash.
Despite the difficult subject matter and his limited screen time as Reece, orzoelso states “teen Daniel Kaluuya had 10 lines and still stole the show.” Simon Costello seconds the notion, adding “could not get behind the main character or this film one bit…Clive Rowe and Daniel Kaluuya’s cameos steal the show.”
6 Widows (2018) – 3.5/5
Steve McQueen’s Widows is a stylish and cerebral heist picture about four female strangers in Chicago who, to clear their mounting debt, conspire to pilfer $5 million from the house of a local politician with ties to the mob. Kaluuya stars as Jatemme Manning, a terrifying mob enforcer for his brother Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry).
For such a minor but memorable role, praise for Kaluuya’s performance doesn’t get better than having filmmaker Sean Baker beam about his work on Letterboxd, saying of Widows: “entire cast is great. Daniel Kaluuya is the stand-out for me. Guy has range.” The film shines a light on Kaluuya’s more antagonistic role, which proves effective even with his limited screen time.
5 Queen & Slim (2019) – 3.6/5
Kaluuya gives one of his most affecting performances in Queen & Slim, a truly moving romantic road movie that also explores the horrors of racial profiling and police brutality. The story tracks Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya), a mismatched couple whose first date is interrupted by a police stop. When the officer is quick to pull the trigger, Slim acts fast in self-defense, leaving Queen and Slim on the run from the law.
While molly notes that “Daniel Kaluuya is the best actor of this generation I think,” Matt Neglia goes a bit deeper, adding “Queen & Slim is beautiful, raw, vivid, and stirring, but above all, humane. Director Melina Matsoukas and screenwriter Lena Waithe have given us a searingly impactful and honest story that features phenomenal chemistry and performances by Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith.”
4 Black Panther (2018) – 3.7/5
Acclaimed movie director Ryan Coogler‘s Black Panther took the world by storm in 2018 en route to becoming one of the most critically and commercially successful movies of the year. The triumphant story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his dogged mission to protect his gorgeous home planet of Wakanda and its invaluable Vibranium resource has been universally praised for its excellent ensemble, world-building, and messaging.
While Kaluuya makes the most of his role as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s best friend and head of the Border Tribe security, many on Letterboxd mournfully celebrate the lasting contributions of Chadwick Boseman, the true heart and soul of the movie that will continue to be felt for ages. Though Kaluuya only has a supporting role, he leaves an effective presence in the film, showcasing his character’s vengeance for his parents’ death and contrasting views with the Wakandan king.
3 Sicario (2015) – 3.9/5
Helmed by venerated movie director Denis Villeneuve from a Taylor Sheridan script, Sicario is a clever morality play that follows Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt), an upstart FBI agent pressed into action along the U.S./Mexico border to bring down the head of a drug cartel. Kaluuya plays Reggie Wayne, Kate’s inexperienced FBI partner.
With no shortage of praise on Letterboxd, Silent Dawn articulates the sentiment well, saying of the film “With (Roger) Deakins’ soul-searing cinematography, Johan Johansson’s heart-exploding score, and Villeneuve’s tracking mindset of ‘firecracker’ pops and splattering eruptions; Sicario is an experience that will enthrall any fan of artfully presented gloom.” Kaluuya’s character is killed off in the first few minutes, but it does factor in Kate’s motivation to track down the cartel to seek justice for her fallen colleague.
2 Judas And The Black Messiah (2021) – 4.0/5
Kaluuya won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for brilliantly bringing Fred Hampton to life with grit and grace in the fact-based Judas in the Black Messiah, an eye-opening historical drama that traces FBI agent Bill O’Neal’s (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltration of the Black Panthers.
Earning over 4,600 likes for her trenchant insight, demi adejuyigbe notes how director “Shaka King takes a crucial moment in history that could feel so cloying and unfocused in the hands of a less careful director, and give us a smart, uncompromising about fear and power.” More effusively, Fran Hoepfner adds “in my opinion, we do not have a more entrancing, magnetic, fizzling, romantic, riveting, endlessly watchable actor in our generation than Daniel Kaluuya.”
1 Get Out (2017) – 4.2/5
A rare landmark event whose critical and commercial success aligned like few others, Jordan Peele flipped the horror genre on its head with the deeply disturbing Get Out, a movie that explores racial subjugation in the most terrifying ways imaginable. Kaluuya gives one of his best performances as Chris, a Black man who senses something amiss when visiting his White girlfriend’s seemingly idyllic family for the first time.
On Letterboxd, Tasha Robinson makes a salient point by saying “This movie is funny. This movie is political. This movie is intelligent and wicked, and very, very calculating. This movie is sometimes visually stunning and impeccably acted. But mostly, it’s scary as hell.” As for Kaluuya’s work, Todd Gaines rightly notes that “Daniel Kaluuya is lights out in the lead. He carries every single scene he’s in. It’s his movie, and he’s going to be a star.” Kaluuya’s breakthrough performance as Chris never falls short of showing the horrors yet determination of survival. It has since sparked a collaboration between him and Peele, with Nope as their latest.