Over the past decade, the impressive trajectory of Daniel Kaluuya whose meteoric rise in Hollywood has been solidified by a fascinating selection of roles. Started in the theater with plays like: sucker punch before moving to television in the British series Hides In the late 2000s, the British actor has amassed a stellar roster of notable performances since his big breakout role in Out. Between his work in several short films such as Jonah and Two single bedshe successfully landed roles in major US projects and even recently had a stint hosting Saturday Night Live. Of Jordan Peele‘s no officially in theaters, here are Kaluuya’s best performances and where to stream them.
Where it all started for the golden collaboration between Kaluuya and Peele, Out was the film that catapulted both actor and director to new heights of recognition in Hollywood. Kaluuya starred as Chris Washington, a photographer who goes on a journey to visit the family of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), only to discover their dark secret that targets and endangers black people. The horror thriller is considered an iconic film in the cultural zeitgeist that provided sharp social commentary on racism with a compelling and unpredictable plot.
Kaluuya even earned his first Oscar nomination for his performance that turned Chris into a grounded and recognizable protagonist that audiences looked forward to throughout the entire movie. Chris’s suspicions grow into real fear and despair as everything unravels with Rose’s real motives.
Black mirror (2011)
In one of his earliest roles, Kaluuya was part of the first season of the satirical anthology series, black mirror, in the second episode titled “Fifteen Million Earnings”. He plays the character of Bingham “Bing” Madsen, a man who lives a dystopian lifestyle of people living in locked cells with TV screens constantly showing advertisements or superficial entertainment. They are also required to cycle on exercise bikes to earn a form of currency called “merits” that will help them meet their needs. Breaking the repetitive routine, he makes contact with a new inmate named Abi Khan (Jessica Brown Findlay) and enjoy her singing. Blinded by his feelings for her, he spends 15 million earnings for her to audition for a talent show and possibly grow into a more luxurious lifestyle. When Abi finds no success, and it looks like Bing has wasted his earnings, he snaps and realizes the corrupt nature of the system.
Kaluuya delivers a memorable performance as the episode’s underdog protagonist, who begins very quietly and closes due to the isolating and desensitizing nature of their lifestyle. As he once again embraces his humanity in bonding with Abi, it is only when he becomes disillusioned with the exploitative class system they live in. Bing’s frustrated speech sums up everything that’s wrong with the earnings system and results in the signature ironic ending that most black mirror show episodes.
In front of Steve McQueenthe robbery drama, widows, Kaluuya takes on a dark role as Jatemme Manning. He is the brother of Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry), a crime boss and politician, and works as his mafia enforcer behind the scenes. The pair serve as the film’s antagonists against the group of titular widows summoned by Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis). The misfit group sets out to carry out a heist to solve their financial problems that resulted from their late husbands’ involvement in criminal activity.
In an impressive star-studded cast, Kaluuya stands out as the menacing and violent force fueling Jamal’s political aspirations. He leads a crusade to pave the way for his brother’s victory, who conflicts with Veronica’s plans and eventually reaches a dangerous climax. This is one of the few roles where Kaluuya has traded the good man for a more nefarious character, but it can easily be agreed that he played the part of Jatemme very effectively in this film.
Ryan Coogler‘s Black Panther marked Kaluuya’s entry into the MCU as W’Kabi, a close confidant of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the chief of security for the border tribe. He comes across as a very loyal and hardworking fighter, similar to his wife, Okoye (Danai Gurira), who is the head of the all-female special forces group, the Dora Milaje. Kaluuya presents W’Kabi’s personal and professional conflict, especially when Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) enters Wakanda to challenge T’Challa’s claim to the throne. With faltering faith in T’Challa’s abilities as a leader, W’Kabi switches his alliance to Killmonger whose ideology promises more effective solutions. Finally, the clash between T’Challa and Killmonger ripples through Wakanda as the tribes battle each other as well. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, W’Kabi hands the fight over to Okoye as the two choose between their love or loyalty to the throne.
Kaluuya maintains a track record of portraying American characters beginning in Denis Villeneuvethe thriller movie Sicario. He played the role of Reggie Wayne, the idealistic FBI partner of Special Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). The two are recruited by a government task force led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and are then thrown into the deep end of the gray and lawless mission to stop a Mexican cartel.
Despite having a small part, Kaluuya’s chemistry to Blunt captures the deep trust and camaraderie between the two agents who stick to their principles of doing things by the book. He embodies the physicality of the rookie cop during the tense action scenes, but also carries the dedication of Reggie, who has a law degree, combined with his field experience.
Another notable lead role of Kaluuya includes his role in Queen & Slim as Ernest “Slim” Hines. The crime drama takes on a modernized Bonnie and Clyde tone in which Slim and Anjelah “Queen” Johnson (Jodie Turner-Smith) go on the run after an incident with a police officer. The film presents the complicated and fraught scenario in which both protagonists find themselves alone because of the racially oriented harassment they first received from the police. Ultimately, the film questions which side of the law is to blame and how Queen and Slim are more victims than criminals, despite what the media portrays.
Kaluuya’s palpable chemistry with Smith is at the heart of the story as their relationship develops from an innocent Tinder date with superficial bickering to complete trust and dependence on each other for their survival. The twists and turns in the film ensure that the audience is invested in their fight against the police. He also captures Slim’s incredible transformation as a straightforward citizen who embraces the strange liberation like a convicted outlaw.
Finally, Kaluuya’s award-winning role in the biographical crime drama Judas and the Black Messiah where he portrayed the Black Panther Party (BPP) chairman, Fred Hampton. He reunited with Out co-star Lakeith Stanfield who played the titular Judas, Bill O’Neal, who infiltrated the Black Panther Party as an FBI informant. Set in the late 1960s in Chicago, at the height of the civil rights movement, the film explores the legacies entwined between these two figures and Bill O’Neal’s complex involvement in Fred Hampton’s tragically short-lived service as the BPP spokesperson.
Kaluuya has a commanding presence as Hampton, especially when he delivers the impassioned speeches that motivate all BPP followers. Despite being constantly threatened with his outspoken call for justice, Hampton remained a calm and lawful leader even when O’Neal’s actions ultimately put him in danger. Hampton’s humanity is shown through his romantic relationship with fellow BPP member, Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback). As mentioned, Kaluuya earned his second Oscar nomination and even won in the Best Supporting Actor category. He also won a Golden Globe, SAG Award and a BAFTA for his role in the film.