Natalie Portman, renowned for her remarkable talent and achievements, is widely regarded as one of the most gifted actresses in the 21st century. Born in Jerusalem in 1981 to Jewish parents, Natalie Hershlag, known professionally as Natalie Portman, began her journey in the film industry at the tender age of 12. She had already secured a role in an off-Broadway musical by age 10.
Despite her young age, she continued to grow in her acting career while pursuing a psychology degree at Harvard University. Despite her busy acting schedule, she contributed to the scientific community by publishing two papers in scientific journals.
After facing a setback in her career due to a role in Star Wars that almost derailed her success, Portman made a comeback with Mike Nichols’ film Closer. This role earned her critical praise, an Oscar nomination, and a Golden Globe. In addition, she showcased her talent in Garden State during the same year. Later, she took on more demanding and complex characters.
While she did participate in less memorable Natalie Portman Movies and appeared in a few disappointing comedies, Portman remained dedicated to exceptional projects such as Black Swan and Jackie, where she had performed outstanding performances.
In 2015, Portman undertook the role of a writer and director for A Tale of Love and Darkness, a project close to her heart inspired by the memoir of well-known Israeli author Amos Oz. Also, Portman actively engaged in environmental activism and passionately advocated for gender equality, demonstrating her strong commitment to these causes.
Without delay, let’s take a glance at the 20 Best Natalie Portman Movies and most outstanding performances by the Oscar-winning actress:
20 Best Natalie Portman Movies
20. The Star Wars prequels (1999-2005)
Throughout the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Natalie Portman remained a constant presence, showing the iconic character Padmé Amidala, who transitioned from a queen to a senator. Her character’s transformation played an important role in one of cinema history’s most memorable plot twists.
While Padmé’s extravagant wardrobe, often attended by gravity-defying hairstyles, may be what stands out, it would be a mistake to overlook her strength and great negotiation ability. Padmé’s strength of character and sharp diplomatic skills are not underestimated.
In her portrayal of Padmé, Natalie Portman demonstrated her remarkable presence and commanding presence, fearlessly confronting intimidating alien creatures and even stopping Jedi knights in their tracks. While the performances in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, including Portman’s, faced criticism for the ornate dialogue’s perceived wooden delivery, Portman’s earnestness and strong convictions shine through, even amidst the challenges of the script. The cracks in her performance reveal glimpses of her passion and unwavering commitment to the character. – Emma Stefansky
19.No Strings Attached (2011)
Following her performance in Black Swan, Natalie Portman appeared in a somewhat ill-fated natalie portman romance comedy movies helmed by director Ivan Reitman (known for Ghostbusters) and co-written by Elizabeth Merriweather (creator of New Girl). The film stars Ashton Kutcher as a hopelessly romantic character with privileged connections.
At the same time, Portman portrays an emotionally distant doctor who avoids commitment. Although the chemistry between the two leads, who reconnect after meeting as teenagers at a summer camp, may not be particularly enchanting, both actors deserve credit for their dedicated performances in guiding the complexities of a friends-with-benefits situation that unfolds in their adult lives.
Despite being given a thinly developed character, Natalie Portman skillfully delivers some genuinely humorous lines in the film, such as her comment about a boyfriend named Bones. While No Strings Attached may show its age, the power of its cast, which includes Lake Bell, Mindy Kaling, Greta Gerwig, Jake Johnson, and Kevin Kline, helps to keep it an enjoyable and effortless viewing experience.
18. Knight of Cups (2015)
Much like other Terrence Malick films, Knight of Cups presents a loose narrative structure. Inspired by seven tarot cards, the film follows Rick, a Hollywood screenwriter portrayed by Christian Bale, as he aimlessly navigates the sun-drenched landscape of Los Angeles, encountering executives, film sets, glamorous parties, and numerous women.
Natalie Portman portrays Elizabeth, a married woman engaged in an affair with Rick. While the film relies heavily on breathy voice-overs, Portman infuses even the smallest role with her signature gravitas, as seen in her previous collaboration with Malick in Song to Song.
17. The Thor movies (2011-2022)
In the superhero genre, playing “the girlfriend” is often considered a thankless role, typically devoid of thrilling action sequences unless the character is portrayed as a damsel in distress. Marvel aimed to break this pattern by casting Natalie Portman as the brilliant physicist Jane Foster alongside Chris Hemsworth’s godly Thor in Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 origin movie.
However, in the unfairly criticized sequel, Thor: The Dark World, Jane became an integral part of Thor’s mythology. Although she was sidelined in Thor: Ragnarok, Jane made a stunning and hilarious comeback in Thor: Love and Thunder. Portman’s portrayal of Jane Foster provides an unexpected and comedic counterpoint to Hemsworth’s Shakespearean theatrics, blending science and magic in a delightful juxtaposition.
16. Where the Heart Is (2000)
Honestly, Where the Heart Is may not be considered a great film. With its unconventional premise—a teenager abandoned by her musician boyfriend at a Walmart in Oklahoma and subsequently giving birth there—it could easily be dismissed as cheesy and exaggerated.
However, the movie manages to find its hidden allure, largely thanks to Natalie Portman’s portrayal of the character with the quirky name, Novalee Nation. Despite its flaws, the film becomes worth revisiting due to the presence of Portman and her engaging interactions with co-stars Ashley Judd and Stockard Channing. If you catch it on Lifetime at the right moment, it might evoke emotion.
15. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor movies, Portman portrayed the role of Doctor Jane Foster, a renowned astrophysicist. Jane also served as the love interest for Thor, the god of Thunder. In the initial two Thor films, Jane was depicted as an intelligent and capable character, fitting the typical mould of a love interest in mainstream Hollywood movies.
However, her character lacked depth, often being utilized solely to provide exposition or to serve as a motivating factor for the brooding protagonist, Thor.
Furthermore, Jane Foster was absent from the third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok, which sparked speculation that Natalie Portman might not reprise her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Jane Foster came back in Thor: Love and Thunder, and her character underwent a significant transformation. She no longer served solely as a love interest.
Still, she was instead imbued with superhuman abilities, becoming a superhero in her own right. As the wielder of Mjolnir, the legendary hammer of the god of Thunder, Portman’s portrayal is striking, and she embarks on a compelling and emotionally intense narrative arc.
14. Brothers (2009)
Jim Sheridan’s adaptation of the Danish film by Susanne Bier tells the story of a complex love triangle. Marine Sam Cahill is believed to have died in Afghanistan when his helicopter crashed. His brother Tommy assists Sam’s wife, Grace, and their two children. Over time, Grace falls in love with Tommy, leading to domestic turmoil when Sam unexpectedly returns home.
Portraying the character of Grace is challenging, as she serves as the focal point around which the two brothers’ lives intertwine. Nevertheless, Portman skillfully conveys Grace’s conflicted emotions with subtlety and an authentic sense of depth.
Grace’s profound despair for Sam, unwavering love for her children, and growing affection for Tommy are subtly portrayed from the depths of her being. In fact, Portman and Gyllenhaal’s performances lend a certain presence that helps alleviate the film’s excessive drama and problematic second half, making it more tolerable to watch.
13. Anywhere But Here (1999)
In Wayne Wang’s coming-of-age drama, released in the same year as Natalie Portman’s Star Wars prequels, she showcased her talent in a quieter but remarkable manner. While Portman faced criticism for portraying Princess Amidala, she quietly excelled in Wang’s film, showing a sensitive teenager.
The story, adapted from Mona Simpson’s novel, centres around Adele August, a vibrant and restless woman searching for many opportunities and a more fulfilling existence.
Ann, Adele’s 14-year-old daughter, struggles with leaving home as she finds solace and happiness in her close friend. However, Adele’s overly cheerful and insincere optimism leads both mother and daughter to relocate to Beverly Hills. While the movie may not be outstanding, it is a delight to witness Portman skillfully navigate through various emotionally charged moments.
Her performance is so exceptional that she manages to outshine seasoned actress, Susan Sarandon, stealing the spotlight in the film.
12. Annihilation (2018)
Alex Garland’s Annihilation is a film adaptation of the initial book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. The story takes place in an area known as “The Shimmer,” a perplexing anomaly resulting from a celestial object crashing into Earth. Every living creature and plant appears to have undergone alterations or mutations within this zone.
Numerous military and research teams have entered the electromagnetic fields of the Shimmer, but none have returned. However, biologist and former soldier Lena, portrayed by Natalie Portman, embarks on a daring mission into the Shimmer alongside a team of specialists.
Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Lena in Annihilation captures a woman grappling with profound grief and loss. Her performance is an emotional anchor, providing a strong foundation for the film’s weighty science-fiction themes.
Following Annihilation, Portman took on the role of an astronaut in the unconventional sci-fi drama Lucy in the Sky. However, her screen presence in Lucy in the Sky did not leave as remarkable an impression as her captivating performance in Annihilation.
11. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Adapted from Philipa Gregory’s novel of the same name, Justin Chadwick’s provocative 16th-century drama may have taken liberties with historical accuracy, but it remains an engaging watch. Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson portray the Boleyn Sisters, Anne and Mary, who are urged to pursue and engage in relationships with Henry VIII to safeguard their family’s wealth.
As a result, the two sisters find themselves entangled in a fierce competition to win the King’s affection.
Portman’s portrayal of Anne in The Other Boleyn Girl showcases a cunning, assertive character who embodies proto-feminist ideals. On the other hand, Johansson’s Mary is depicted as a seductive and innocent young woman.
Anne Boleyn is a historical figure who elicits strong and divergent opinions, and Portman’s dynamic performance flawlessly captures Anne’s vulnerability and unwavering determination. Her exceptional acting skills compensate for certain shortcomings in the narrative, elevating the film’s overall impact.
10. Jane Got a Gun (2016)
In Gavin O’Connor’s somewhat disappointing Western action drama, Jane Got a Gun, the standout element is undoubtedly the performances. Natalie Portman takes on the role of the title character, Jane, a resilient frontierswoman with a troubled history. Portman skillfully portrays Jane’s inner torment and unwavering determination, capturing the essence of a solitary individual.
Set in 1871, New Mexico, the film revolves around Jane’s battle against the notorious outlaw John Bishop, portrayed by Ewan McGregor, with the help of her former lover Dan, played by Joel Edgerton.
Brian Duffield’s screenplay for Jane Got a Gun gained recognition by being featured on the prestigious Blacklist in 2011, which showcases noteworthy yet unproduced scripts. The project had notable director Lynne Ramsay, known for her work on We Need to Talk About Kevin, attached to it for some time.
However, subsequent revisions to the screenplay and O’Connor’s lacklustre direction made the film a mediocre Western. Portman starred in the film and took on the role of one of its producers.
9. V for Vendetta (2005)
Natalie Portman takes on the role of Evey Hammond in James McTeigue’s action-packed thriller, V for Vendetta. Evey starts off as a passive young woman but undergoes a profound transformation under the influence of V, the revolutionary hero.
The enigmatic and masked protagonist, V, represents an idea rather than an individual as he seeks revenge and fights against the oppressive British regime in a futuristic setting. Within the narrative, Portman’s portrayal of Evey serves as an emotional anchor, grounding the audience and providing a relatable perspective.
While it may not be considered Portman’s most remarkable role, her performance in V for Vendetta is hindered by the limited depth of her character in the story. Nevertheless, the highly talented actress effectively portrays a heroine who undergoes a gradual process of political awakening.
Overall, the film itself is regarded as excellent. However, Portman’s not dazzling performance still contributes to the movie’s overall success.
8. Beautiful Girls (1996)
In Ted Demme’s stylish comedy-drama, a group of childhood friends come together to prepare for their upcoming school reunion. The story revolves around their journeys as they grapple with identity crises and confront various personal challenges. Timothy Hutton takes on the role of Willie, a 29-year-old pianist who is unhappy and struggling.
Natalie Portman portrays Marty, a charismatic and intelligent 13-year-old girl who develops an infatuation with Willie. Despite the Lolita-inspired storyline, the film manages to navigate this potentially uncomfortable dynamic with finesse, ensuring that no discomfiting moment is present.
Their friendship or connection goes beyond the physical realm, with Marty perceiving herself as an “old soul7.” Portman’s captivating performance, on the other hand, received some backlash for potentially perpetuating the idea of young girls being interested in adult themes.
However, her portrayal in this fictional world is both wise and humorous, striking a delicate balance that evokes sweetness without crossing into cringe-worthy territory.
7. Garden State (2004)
Natalie Portman delivers her most humorous and eccentric on-screen character in Zach Braff’s indie romance. Braff portrays Largeman, a waiter and aspiring actor who returns to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. Largeman has been relying on medication to numb himself from the overwhelming chaos of the real world and the difficulties he faces with his overbearing father.
While back home, he attempts to mend his relationship with his father and reconnects with his old school friend Mark, who works as a gravedigger. During this time, he encounters the delightfully quirky and sweet Sam, whose vivaciousness serves as a soothing balm for his existential turmoil.
While not considered a standout in American indie cinema, Garden State does have moments where its narrative feels sentimental and lacking in depth. However, the film’s significance lies in Natalie Portman’s performance, which led to the popularization of the term ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl in pop culture.
Portman’s portrayal of Sam received criticism for embodying a character whose sole purpose seems to be assisting the male protagonist in his personal growth. Even Portman herself later acknowledged this as a “troubling trope.” Nonetheless, Portman’s captivating presence in the film is undeniably appealing and hard to resist.
6. A Tale of Love and Darkness (2015)
A Tale of Love and Darkness marks Natalie Portman’s debut as a writer and director. The film is an adaptation of Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, which delves into his childhood experiences. Portman, who patiently waited nearly ten years to bring this project to life, also takes on the central role of Fania, Oz’s mother.
The story is set in the tumultuous backdrop of war-torn Jerusalem during the 1940s and 1950s, specifically focusing on a small, crowded apartment. This narrative explores personal and national struggles, painting a poignant picture of the times.
A significant part of the allure of A Tale of Love and Darkness stems from Natalie Portman’s poignant and evocative portrayal of Fania. Through her sensitive and haunting performance, Portman captures Fania’s dreams of a different Israel, which contrasts sharply with the harsh reality of armed conflict and despair. Portman’s directorial skills shine through as she elicits remarkable performances from her fellow actors, further enhancing the film’s overall impact.
5. Vox Lux (2018)
Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux provides a psychological exploration of the complex fictional pop star Celeste Montgomery. As a teenager, Celeste discovers solace in pop music. Still, a harrowing and traumatic event, a school shooting, propels her towards a career in singing.
The story follows her from performing at the memorial service to her meteoric rise as a pop superstar, delving into the captivating yet devastating journey she embarks upon.
In Vox Lux, Natalie Portman portrays the 31-year-old Celeste, a caustic and obnoxious pop star struggling with drug addiction. Much like her roles in Black Swan and Jackie, Portman’s portrayal of Celeste revolves around a woman deeply affected by fame and the spotlight.
Notably, Portman showcases her singing abilities for the film and flawlessly embodies her character’s self-destructive and unhinged nature.
4. Closer (2004)
In Mike Nichols’ penetrating exploration of relationships, Natalie Portman, at the age of 23, delivers a compelling performance as Alice, an emotionally vulnerable young woman longing to leave a toxic relationship behind. Occasionally working as a stripper, Alice becomes entangled with the two primary male characters, portrayed by Jude Law and Clive Owen.
Portman’s fearless portrayal commands the film, alongside career-best performances from Owen, Law, and Julia Roberts. With her captivating eyes and enchanting smile, Portman elevates the story’s unpredictable twists and turns to another level.
Following the “Star Wars Prequel” trilogy, Natalie Portman publicly acknowledged that her role in “Closer” was crucial in revitalizing her career. It was a pivotal moment that led to her first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress that same year.
3. Leon: The Professional (1994)
In her remarkable film debut, Natalie Portman launched her illustrious career with Luc Besson’s unconventional action-drama. Despite fierce competition from over 2,000 aspiring girls, the determined and serious 12-year-old Portman effortlessly stood out and secured the role. “Leon: The Professional” follows the story of Mathilda, a remarkably mature 12-year-old girl whose entire family, including her younger brother, is tragically murdered in a drug-related incident.
Fueled by a desire for revenge, Mathilda forms an unlikely alliance with her neighbour, a childlike hitman with a surprisingly compassionate side.
The depiction of a complex relationship between Mathilda and Leon in “Leon: The Professional” stirred significant controversy, with some interpretations highlighting an uncomfortable undercurrent of sexuality. However, Natalie Portman’s incredibly skilful performance adds depth and nuance to her character, elegantly unravelling the deep emotions within Mathilda.
Portman’s haunting portrayal defies simplistic and puritanical interpretations, showcasing her remarkable talent and dismissing any ignorant misinterpretations. Additionally, Gary Oldman’s captivating and delightfully exaggerated performance as a villain adds an extra layer of brilliance to the film, making it an engaging and beautiful cinematic experience.
2. Jackie (2016)
“Jackie,” set in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, delves into the profound grief experienced by the widowed First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. The film also sheds light on Jackie’s significant influence in shaping her husband’s legacy.
Natalie Portman dedicated months to thoroughly researching Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in preparation for her role as the iconic Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
Portman’s commitment to authenticity extended to working with a dialect coach to master Jacqueline Kennedy’s distinctive accent. Being the same age as Jacqueline during JFK’s assassination, Portman skillfully uncovers the vulnerability and humanity behind the iconic figure. Director Pablo Larraín delivers a more piercing and nuanced portrayal than conventionally polished biopics.
Portman’s portrayal of the titular character is a remarkable effort to bring Jacqueline to life as a relatable and palpably human individual. Particularly noteworthy are the scenes in which she confidently confronts the probing questions of the vigilant journalist, portrayed by Billy Crudup.
1. Black Swan (2010)
Aronofsky’s psychological thriller and body-horror masterpiece, Black Swan, revolves around Nina Sayers, a timid and fragile prima ballerina. She must confront her inner demons and tap into her dark side when allowed to perform the lead role in a ballet.
While the film may not provide the most realistic depiction of the challenges within a ballet company, Aronofsky’s direction explores the intricate connection between passion, emotion, and the relentless pursuit of technical perfection. The film is rich with metaphors related to female sexuality, adding depth to the narrative.
Portman’s Oscar-winning performance as Nina delves deep into the character’s psychological unravelling. She seamlessly embodies the role of a professional dancer, skillfully portraying a delicate balance between innocence and malice.
Before Black Swan, Portman wasn’t widely recognized for her immersive character portrayals. However, in this film, she wholeheartedly embraces the role, showcasing Nina as both a victim and a predator in her obsessive pursuit of perfection.
Looking ahead, Portman has an exciting lineup of projects on the horizon. She is set to work with acclaimed director Todd Haynes for the first time in his upcoming film May December, following his previous successes with Safe and Carol. Also, Portman will be taking on a prominent role in the mini-TV series Lady in the Lake, based on Laura Lippman’s mystery novel. Furthermore, she is actively involved in the production and lending her voice to a character in the animated feature Foxy Trotter, which promises a fun and lively adventure.
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