10 Good Natalie Portman Movies

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Natalie Portman Movies

As I write this article, Natalie Portman is only days away from what should be her first Oscar win. Nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Black Swan, everyone seems to agree that she’s a surefire lock to take home the industry’s highest honor.

But Portman, while still young, is no newcomer to the business. She’s been plugging away for over 16 years, playing everything from spirited daughters to emotionally conflicted strippers. And while her beauty is quite evident, there’s also a brain lurking beneath those good looks. In 2003, she graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

The following list contains the 10 best Natalie Portman movies so far, at least in my opinion. In the case of those movies where she has a limited role, the quality of the motion picture also factored into the equation. If you disagree with my choices, feel free to voice your opinion in our comments section (just keep it civil).

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You’ll notice that none of the Star Wars films are included. While this might enrage some fanboys, their exclusion was a deliberate choice on my part. They’re embarrassingly bad movies, filled with hackneyed dialogue and racially offensive stereotypes. While Portman does her best with the role of Padme Amidala, it’s hard to overcome wooden co-star Hayden Christensen and the mind-numbing presence of Jar Jar Binks.

The Professional (1994) – Also known as Leon, this Luc Besson thriller stars Jean Reno as a lonely hitman who carries out assignments in the New York City area. But his daily routine of watching Gene Kelly movies and watering his plant is disrupted when the family of neighbor Mathilda Lando (Natalie Portman in her feature debut) gets massacred by a gang of crooked DEA agents (led by the manic Gary Oldman). After giving her shelter, Leon is soon talked into showing her the tricks of his trade so she can gain revenge. While the relationship between the 12-year-old Mathilda and the grown Leon may make more sensitive viewers uncomfortable, The Professional remains a stylish flick awash in blood, anguish, and friendship.

Heat (1995) – While LAPD homicide detective Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) plays a cat-and-mouse game with professional thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), his step-daughter (Portman) suffers through a number of personal problems. But this family matter is just scenery, as the main focus of the film is on the impending collision between the cops and a well-disciplined and well-armed gang of robbers. When that confrontation finally occurs, be prepared for one of the greatest shootouts in cinematic history, courtesy of director Michael Mann. The excellent supporting cast includes Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Amy Brenneman, and Mykelti Williamson.

Anywhere but Here (1999) – Portman received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ann August, a teenager who moves with her mother, Adele (Susan Sarandon), from a small Wisconsin town to the prestigious neighborhoods of Beverly Hills. While Ann wants nothing more than to attend college, Adele dreams of her daughter becoming an actress. This, as well as Adele’s habit of living beyond her means, leads to a number of conflicts between the August women and plenty of chances for well-acted scenes. Based on the novel by Mona Simpson.

Where the Heart Is (2000) – Based on the novel by Billie Letts, this over-the-top tale of a young girl’s maturation allows a strong female cast to show off their abilities. Chief among them is Natalie Portman as Novalee Nation, a pregnant teen who’s abandoned at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart by her boyfriend. With no money and no friends, she crashes at the store, eventually delivers the baby, and becomes a celebrity in the process. She also meets a number of friends along the way, including an abused nurse (Ashley Judd), a kind-hearted woman named Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), and a library worker (James Frain) who’s caring for his alcoholic sister. With characters named Brownie, Praline, and Americus, Where the Heart Is seems to be stretching at times, but Portman’s strong performance more than makes up for Letts’ eccentric Southern stereotypes.

Closer (2004) – Portman and Clive Owen received Oscar nominations for their part in this film about four good-looking people engaged in deception, lust, and occasional moments of love. Portman plays an American stripper who moves to London in an attempt to start over, but she becomes engaged in a number of ill-fated relationships during her stay. Jude Law and Julie Roberts round out the appealing cast, and this Mike Nichols film remains an option well-suited for adults seeking a challenging commentary on relationships. Plus, guys obsessed with Natalie Portman get to see her dance on a pole.

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Garden State (2004) – Zach Braff wrote, starred, and made his directorial debut in this critically-acclaimed film which also captured a Grammy for its use of everything from The Shins to Simon & Garfunkel. Braff is Andrew Largeman, a struggling actor who returns home to New Jersey following the death of his mother. He reunites with a childhood friend who’s now a thieving gravedigger (Peter Sarsgaard) and falls for a pretty epileptic who also turns out to be a compulsive liar (Portman). Meanwhile, the layers of Andrew’s loneliness are peeled back, revealing an emotionally fragile individual who’s been overmedicating for years thanks to his psychiatrist father (Ian Holm). Love amidst the twenty-something set has never seemed more painful…or poignant.

V for Vendetta (2006) – Portman made the news when she shaved her head for the role of Evey Hammond, a young woman who falls in with a masked revolutionary named “V” (Hugo Weaving). Permanently disfigured and possessing amazing physical abilities, V intends to rally the citizens of Britain together in order to overthrow the fascist government which rules through fear and misinformation. He’s also looking to avenge a past wrong, methodically killing anyone who was involved. Evey, meanwhile, is forced to abandon her life of relative comfort and experience the hell of captivity and torture. James McTeigue directs with plenty of visual flair, and the emotional performances from Portman and Weaving (not to mention Stephen Rea, John Hurt, and Stephen Fry) help make V for Vendetta a worthy adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) – Fans of Wes Anderson will be pleased by this soul-searching tale of three estranged brothers (Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson) who come together and travel across India via train to reunite with their mother. There are the expected emotional entanglements, of course, as each man must come to terms with various personal problems. Portman only has a small role, appearing as one of the character’s ex-girlfriends, but the overall quality of the film warrants an inclusion on this list.

Brothers (2009) – While the plot of Brothers is interesting enough on its own, the performances from the three leads are what really propel it to the next level. Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire in an Oscar-nominated role) is a loving husband and father of two young girls; He’s also a Marine about to head off to Afghanistan. When he’s believed to have died in a helicopter crash, his wife (Natalie Portman) and his ex-con brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) bond over their shared grief. But Sam is still alive, and the events he endured while in captivity transform him into an empty shell filled with rage and paranoia. A heartbreaking tale of the complexities of love and the horrors of war.

Black Swan (2010) – Of all the Natalie Portman movies, this one was tailor-made for an Oscar win. The subject of our article stars as Nina Sayers, a ballerina driven to the breaking point by her desire to succeed and please those around her. Chosen to play the lead role in a performance of Swan Lake, Nina must contend with an ambitious understudy (Mila Kunis), a controlling mother (Barbara Hershey), and an amorous director (Vincent Cassel). As she succumbs to hallucinations and a growing sense of paranoia, this Darren Aronofsky film provides a spellbinding look at mental illness and the price paid for artistic success. Open to numerous interpretations, Black Swan will have viewers discussing its true meaning for years to come.

Expect many more Natalie Portman movies in the coming years, as the talented and lovely actress is just 29-years-old as of this writing. All the films listed above can be found at your local video store, or you can just become a member of Netflix and have them delivered right to your door. We do receive a small commission if you choose the latter option, but that doesn’t add one extra penny to your final cost.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 12:28 pm and is filed under Good Movies, Movie Babes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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