Natalie Portman started starring in movies as a child, and has continued to do so for decades after. She finally won an Oscar for 2010’s Black Swan, she’s had two fantastic raps for Saturday Night Live, and she became a director in 2015. Let’s take a look back through her career.
Here are the top 10 movies from the career of Natalie Portman.
Black Swan is a psychological thriller about the ballet. No, really. It follows Portman as a ballerina as she tries to get the leading role in Swan Lake, and has her deal with an overbearing mother, other ballerinas, and her own mental issues. It is very tense, it has some terrifying and gorgeous visuals, and the ballet scenes are really well choreographed. This is the film that won Portman her first Oscar. It was deserved.
Brothers follows a family after the presumed death of one of their own. It ultimately winds up being about three people: two brothers and one of their wives. One of the brothers is a soldier who is gunned down overseas. The family has to deal with that grief and then move on from it. When he suddenly makes a return … it causes more tension than one might expect, given the feelings of the people involved. It’s a heavy drama with a lot of dialogue, but the acting and the emotions make it a great watch.
Closer is a drama following four characters and the various relationships they have with each other. The characters wind up very well-defined due to the way that the film’s dialogue works. They ask each other a lot of questions, sometimes for minutes at a time. We get to know them very well. They’re wonderfully acted, too, which is an obvious help. So when the plot happens to them, we understand and care about them. It’s very interesting and engaging.
I feel like Garden State has become the de facto example of a “hipster” movie, and I get why. Its lead is a loser who doesn’t do anything, it has a manic pixie dream girl, and the music choices are very … well, hipster-y. Does any of that stop it from being pretty funny, and maybe even moving, if one can relate to it? No. It’s an enjoyable movie, even with all of those elements – assuming their inclusion isn’t an automatic turn-off. For some people, they will. But for most? Probably not. And for them, it’ll be enjoyable.
Admittedly, Heat isn’t a “Natalie Portman movie” so much as it’s a great movie that happens to include Natalie Portman. She’s not in it for a ton and is billed way down on the cast list. She plays the stepdaughter of the Al Pacino character, a depressed teenager. And while the movie isn’t about her, she has at least one pivotal moment. Of course, the movie is a classic, containing some of the best work from Pacino and Robert De Niro. It’s a crime movie that follows characters on both sides of the law. If you haven’t seen it, you should do that.
I didn’t say all of the movies had to be feature-length productions, so I’m including Hotel Chevalier, a short prequel to The Darjeeling Limited – and, in my opinion, a better movie than the film it’s preceding. It follows two people, former lovers, as they get together in a Paris Hotel room. It’s poignant and engaging, and even though it’s only 13 minutes long, it feels like it has more to offer about the way people interact than the entirety of The Darjeeling Limited.
In 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Jackie details what happened to Jackie Kennedy after the murder. It’s framed primarily as flashbacks, as Jackie grants a rare interview. Natalie Portman plays the lead, and she’s as good as ever. She makes the film work, really; without a strong lead actor, it would risk getting boring. And special shout out to the cinematography and score, which help elevate Jackie even further up the totem pole.
Léon the Professional
Léon the Professional contains the other “big” role for Portman as a child, and this one actually earns that title. She’s in the movie a lot and is a primary member of the plot. She plays a kid who befriends a hitman, Léon of the title. And their friendship, as well as the training he gives her, is the crux of the movie. The hitman stuff is fun, but the relationship scenes between the girl and the killer are just as compelling.
Also: Gary Oldman plays an over-the-top cartoon villain, and that’s always fun.
My Blueberry Nights
Director Wong Kar-wai made his English-language debut with My Blueberry Nights, a film that feels foreign in many aspects. It’s based on his short film, which isn’t English, and that’s probably why. It’s stylish and artistic, with lots of slow-motion shots and lighting that just doesn’t feel “right,” when compared to most English-language movies. It works as an effective drama about a woman making a journey of self-discovery. But it’s mostly a mood piece, one that revels in the way it makes you feel and the way that it looks.
V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is an engaging political thriller. It’s set in an alternative universe where a fascist regime has taken over the UK. It follows a freedom fighter and a working-class woman who gets caught up in his crusade. Its politics may … not always be the best, but it’s always interesting, it contains a decent amount of action, and the acting is great. The dialogue is electric, and its ideals are, typically, noble. The world it paints is fully realized, and it has strong characters. It’s great.