When it comes to an esteemed actor like Paul Giamatti, there’s no shortage of incredible performances to draw upon while making a list like this. Still, that’s no reason not to celebrate some of his absolute best roles. Let’s dive into some of the best Paul Giamatti performances.
Chuck Rhoades — Billions
After playing Chuck Rhoades for six seasons, Giamatti will be assuming the role one last time for the seventh and final season of Billions, which will premiere on Paramount+ With Showtime on August 11, 2023.
As the exceptionally talented but brash U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades, Giamatti balances the character’s professional ability and the challenging dynamic he has with wife Wendy Rhoades, who works for Chuck’s enemy, Bobby Axelrod. While it’s too early to say how Chuck’s story will end, the upcoming season is sure to be filled with further excellent moments from Giamatti.
Harvey Pekar — American Splendor
Released in 2003, American Splendor follows the life of acclaimed comic writer Harvey Pekar — played by Paul Giamatti. The film covers everything from Pekar meeting illustrator Robert Crumb to the writer’s battle with lymphoma and even features documentary scenes with the real Harvey.
Giamatti nails the role, which got him nominated for several awards and had acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert describe his casting as “perfect.” The actor captures Pekar’s relatable approach to portraying American life perfectly, securing American Splendor as one of the best Paul Giamatti performances.
Jerry Heller — Straight Outta Compton
In Straight Outta Compton, Giamatti plays N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller, who actually filed a lawsuit against several individuals and NBCUniversal itself over his portrayal in the movie. Regardless, Giamatti himself excels in the role, putting his all into the performance.
The contract scene, in particular, is a great display of Giamatti’s talent, as he comes off as especially cutthroat behind a transparent layer of pandering consideration. While people can certainly discuss the accuracy to real-world events, it’s hard to debate that Giamatti sold the material he was given.
Joe Gould — Cinderella Man
Cinderella Man received plenty of acclaim upon its release in 2005, as the Ron Howard-helmed story of James J. Braddock received quite a few award nominations — one of which was a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for Giamatti. As such, it’s not a stretch to say the movie features one of the best Paul Giamatti performances
As Joe Gould, Giamatti gives lead man Russel Crowe all the encouragement he needs to become the world heavyweight champion. As both Braddock’s manager and his friend, Giamatti’s take on Gould is fantastic, conveying a true sense of companionship between the two men.
Ralph — Saving Mr. Banks
The last role to be featured on this list is that of the earnest limo driver Ralph in Saving Mr. Banks. Though some aspects of the movie come from the real story that inspired the film, Ralph as a character was actually an amalgamation of several Disney drivers.
Even then, Giamatti gives the role a truly relatable everyman quality, grounding the film as it follows larger-than-life figures like Walt Disney. Even alongside impressive performances from Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and Colin Farrell, Giamatti comes out as one of the movie’s highlights, making this one of the best Paul Giamatti performances.