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Paul Giamatti’s Top 10 Movies and TV Shows, Ranked From ‘Billions’ to ‘Cinderella Man’

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There are some actors who, when you see them on screen, you think, “Who’s that guy, and where have I seen him before?” With Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows, on the other hand, is unmistakable. His gravelly voice and expressive eyes have made him one of the most recognizable men in Hollywood.

The 57-year-old veteran actor may often be typecast as the “friend” of the main character/protagonist or a shameless businessman, but his abilities go far beyond his ‘usual’ curmudgeon-like roles. It was just announced that he’ll be joining the Star Trek franchise when it debuts its new Paramount Plus streaming series, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy (like his memorable role in Howard Stern’s 1997 biopic Private Parts as Howard’s antagonistic boss — referred to as “Pig Vomit” — he’s playing an antagonist) as well as a TV adaption of the horror franchise Hostel.

But before his illustrious career began, Paul Giamatti was born to actress mom Toni and literary professor Bart on June 6, 1967, in New Haven, Connecticut. He was the youngest of three children. And if Giamatti was destined for success, he sure had a good example of it to look up to: His father became Yale University’s youngest president, published six books and later became the commissioner of major league baseball.

Giamatti attended Yale University, where he obtained a master’s degree in fine arts from the college’s famed drama school and performed in local theater productions, honing his craft. He eventually made his way to Broadway, starring in the 1995 production of Arcadia. Two years later, he’d get his big movie break with a supporting but unforgettable role in Private Parts as the NBC radio exec who constantly harasses and butts heads with Stern over his crass delivery.

That led to small roles in blockbusters like Saving Private Ryan and My Best Friend’s Wedding and eventual leading roles in dozens of movies and TV shows. Today, Giamatti is still scoring big roles — as well as another Golden Globe and his first Best Actor Oscar nod for his part in The Holdovers (he was previously nominated for supporting actor for his role in Cinderella Man in 2006).

He has earned critical acclaim for many other films and TV shows despite not taking home the coveted trophy. PBS said earlier this year, “In whatever [Giamatti] appears in, he makes an impression,” and Vulture called him a “hardworking and reliable character actor who’s been delivering Oscar-worthy performances for decades.”

With his growing and diverse profile of movies and shows, he’s certainly made an impression on us, too! Here are our top 10 favorite Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows — ranked.

10. The Illusionist (2006)

In this complex 2006 flick, Giamatti plays a conflicted police inspector who becomes entangled in the mysterious and intricate world of Eisenheim the Illusionist, played by Edward Norton. The plot centers on Giamatti’s fascination with the illusionist’s supernatural abilities, almost to a fault, as he’s unable to properly do his job upholding the law. Critics praised his performance and ability to bring depth to this important character.

9. Planet of the Apes (2001): Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows

Only Paul Giamatti could make a villain likable through humor. In the 2001 film Planet of the Apes, directed by Tim Burton, he plays Limbo, an orangutan who serves as a trader and slave dealer in a society ruled by intelligent apes. He held his own alongside major actors at that time, like Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter, impressing critics and fans alike.

8. Win Win (2011)

Giamatti stars as Mike Flaherty, a struggling attorney and high school wrestling coach who faces a moral dilemma when he becomes the legal guardian of an elderly client to gain a financial benefit. Considered one of his standout roles, the actor shows the complexity of this ‘regular Joe’ character as he struggles to keep his family afloat and mentors a troubled teen wrestler.

7. Billions (2016-2023): Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows

Another starring role for Giamatti is the popular Showtime series Billions. Giamatti stars as Charles “Chuck” Rhoades, Jr., a powerful and tenacious U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The show revolves around the intense rivalry between the morally ambiguous Rhoades and hedge fund manager Bobby “Axe” Axelrod. The actor’s portrayal of Chuck captures the character’s relentless pursuit of justice and personal sacrifices, adding to the show’s dramatic tension and intrigue.

6. John Adams (2008)

This 2008 HBO miniseries earned him several awards, including a Golden Globe and a SAG Award. Giamatti stars in the titular role, portraying the second President of the United States. The series is based on David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography John Adams, and spans several decades, chronicling Adams’ journey from a passionate patriot during the American Revolution to his presidency and later years.

5. The Holdovers (2023): Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows

About a prestigious boarding school set in the 1970s, the film earned Giamatti his first and much-deserved Best Actor nod. He portrays Paul Hunham, an unlikeable teacher who is forced to remain on campus during the Christmas holidays to supervise a handful of students who cannot return home. Among them is the particularly rebellious and troubled Angus, and the school’s head cook, Mary, who is dealing with her own grief.

4. Sideways (2004)

Another critical and commercial success for Giamatti, with him starring as Miles Raymond, a struggling writer and wine enthusiast who embarks on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country with his best friend (Thomas Haden Church). The trip is Jack’s last hurrah before his impending wedding, and it becomes a journey of self-discovery and personal growth for both men. Giamatti brings a raw authenticity to the role, capturing Miles’ vulnerabilities, insecurities, and dry wit as he grapples with depression, a failed marriage and an unpublished novel.

3. Private Parts (1997): Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows

The movie that put Giamatti on the map centers around Howard Stern’s rise to radio fame, based on his memoir of the same name. Giamatti’s portrayal of Kenny Rushton, nicknamed “Pig Vomit” by Stern, is memorable for its intensity and abrasiveness as a blunt, controlling, and often antagonistic figure who clashes with Stern’s irreverent and boundary-pushing radio style.

2. Man on the Moon (1999)

Jim Carrey and Paul Giamatti are an unlikely yet winning comedic combo in this Andy Kaufman biopic. The film chronicles the life and career of the famed performance artist, known for his unconventional comedy and eccentric persona. Giamatti plays Bob Zmuda, Kaufman’s loyal friend and writing partner, who is deeply involved in his elaborate and often controversial performances.

1. Cinderella Man (2005): Paul Giamatti movies and TV shows

This 2005 Ron Howard blockbuster earned Giamatti a Critics’ Choice and SAG Award for his portrayal of boxing manager Joe Gould. The moving film was rooted in the real-life Great Depression and based on the true story of James Braddock (Russell Crowe), a boxer who rises from obscurity to become a champion and a beacon of hope for struggling Americans.

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