Natalie Portman, who has been making movies since she was a child, has proved to be one of the best actors of our time. What makes her so amazing is her versatility — she’s able to go from rom-coms to dramas to action movies, seemingly without much effort.
This week, Portman won the 2018 Genesis Prize, the so-called “Jewish Nobel.” The $1 million prize money “will be used for grants to organizations involved in promoting women’s educational opportunities, economic advancement, health and safety, and full participation in policy formulation and political activity. A significant portion of the funds will go to programs advancing women’s equality in Israel,” according to JTA.
In honor of the occasion, I’ve ranked my favorite Natalie Portman movies, from best to worst (although in this case, even the worst is magnificent).
1. “Black Swan” (2010)
Portman is the star in Aronofsky’s dark thriller about a ballet dancer struggling with harried depression, eating disorders, and physical and emotional violence and traumas. It is hard to watch her delve into the kind of madness that obscures the line between reality and fantasy. Portman met her dancer husband while shooting “Black Swan” (he was the choreographer on set), and the performance earned her a Best Actress Oscar.
2. “Leon: the Professional” (1994)
This is the film that launched Portman’s career. She was only 11 for most of the filming, which makes her portrayal of Mathilda even more unsettling at times. It’s an intensely felt, haunting and also a strangely sweet tale about coming-of-age.
3. “Jackie” (2016)
This is one of Portman’s most recent films, and it earned her an Oscar nomination this past year. Regardless of how you feel about real life Jackie O., Portman’s performance is mesmerizing and raw — right down to her mannerisms and Boston accent. The film follows a brief moment in time: Jackie’s transition from Presidential spouse to America’s First Widow.
4. “V for Vendetta” (2006)
Portman’s performance in this action-packed political thriller based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel is as entertaining as it is breathtaking. Portman famously shaved her head for this role. Tender and ferocious, it is solid evidence of Portman’s range.
5. “The Other Woman” (2009)
In a nuanced, real and relatable role, Portman plays a woman who has a lackluster relationship with her husband and stepson, following the death of her newborn. We found ourselves rooting for her character, even when we don’t want to.
6. “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2008)
Everyone loves a period piece — and Portman proves adept at this too. (I mean, what isn’t she good at?) Costarring alongside Scarlett Johansson, Portman takes on the role of the antagonist, who is cold and manipulative.
7. “Cold Mountain” (2003)
Set during American Civil War, Portman plays Sara — a farm owner and young widow, left alone with her small child. She is brutally raped in the movie, and while that’s exceptionally hard to watch, Portman makes us cringe in our seats as we realize this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to Sara.
8. “Anywhere But Here” (1999)
This is the perfect movie about mother-daughter relationships. Portman and Susan Sarandon’s characters’ relationship is totally crazy and over the top at times, but it really works. And, you know, we can all relate.
9. “Mars Attacks!” (1996)
While this Tim Burton classic has confused a lot of people (as most campy movies do), the role is a rarity in Portman’s career. It’s hilarious and strange — and also, how can you hate on a movie in which Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close play a couple?
10. “Heat” (1995)
From a crazy awesome cast featuring Al Pacino, Ashley Judd and Val Kilmer, this is a hard film not to love. A young Natalie Portman plays the frustrated stepdaughter of Pacino’s character — and well, you don’t want to miss it.
11. “Closer” (2004)
Portman plays a stripper who is entangled in many love affairs in this psychological drama. While The Atlantic called her performance disappointing, because she appears so “waifish” and innocent, I love the duality Portman’s persona brings to the film overall. The complexities and contradictions speak for themselves. (And also, what does it say for the reviewer to stereotype sex workers?)
12. “Garden State” (2004_
This is the movie your college boyfriend made you watch. Portman’s eccentric, lovable character is so relatable for any and all weirdos out there. The film, in which she stars alongside Zach Braff, truly shows the charm of reaching adulthood. While the film has definitely aged (we’re past the early 2000s), it’s full of emotion and heart-wrenching, unforgettable scenes.