Natalie Portman has pretty much been a top actress in Hollywood since I can remember, but does she deserve all of the hype? Portman took home her first and only Oscar for her role as Nina in Black Swan, but that doesn't mean she didn't have it coming for years. Despite her enormous talent, she remains to be one of those actresses that people either love or hate. There really isn't any in between with her from what I have observed.
Despite the haters, she has displayed a consistent level of versatility and has proven she can just about play any role and do it well. With this list we will focus on her massive career as a whole and rank the performances she has given us since she debuted at the young age of 11. Unlike other lists I have done this one will be in order from worst to best and it will only include films that I have personally seen. It won't include any short films she's done either.
However, seeing that we are talking about Natalie Portman here don't assume that just because something is at or near the bottom that it's horrible. She's one of the rare actresses that hasn't really had a horrible performance. In other words, Natalie is just that good.
Let's get started!
20. Your Highness (2011)
Yeah, let's not and say we did. Personally I didn't like Your Highness much at all but aside from that, it just came across as mostly unfunny and dumb. Sorry.
19. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007)
It's a children's movie and a weird one. Let's just leave it at what it is.
18. Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars was pretty much what launched Portman's teenage career into adulthood, but that doesn't mean it necessarily started off strong. However, you can't really blame Portman for the cheesy dialogue, a badly cast child lead, ridiculous supporting characters, and an overall CGI dump with George Lucas' name on the wrapping. Padme got better, but I think we can all agree that Star Wars as a whole wasn't the strongest point of Natalie Portman's career.
17. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
This movie is insane and if you haven't ever seen it I would say watch it at least once just for some giggles. Portraying the famous mistress and future wife of King Henry VIII, Portman's version of Anne Boleyn was a bit too much. Between a painful English accent and an overall madness to her, it just comes across as downright hilarious at times. It's one of those things you want to like but you just can't.
16. Where the Heart Is (2000)
I honestly don't dislike this movie as a whole, but in comparison to other roles it just falls at the bottom. Portman does well enough playing an abandoned, pregnant teenager who gives birth inside a Wal-Mart (cue country song), but as I said it just falls to the bottom of the barrel when all is said and done.
15. Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
Attack of the Clones is far from the best of the prequel trilogy, but while Portman was an improvement over The Phantom Menace it still wasn't enough. Her performance was pretty concrete throughout and it's not until the action sequences where you feel any sort of connection to Padme.
14. Mars Attacks! (1996)
Good for her character's one-liners, but she just wasn't in it enough to justify putting this higher up one the list.
13. No Strings Attached (2011)
No Strings Attached was released almost simultaneously with Friends with Benefits, but with that came several comparisons. Most thought Friends with Benefits edged out the competition and Mila Kunis was a more likeable female lead than Natalie Portman and I would agree to a point. This definitely showed Portman's comedic talent, but as a whole it could have been so much better. But then again, I don't think anyone could have been opposite Ashton Kutcher and be likeable.
12. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Not a bad performance, but at the same time she just was not as likeable as she was in the first installment of Thor. Portman brought some new life to Jane Foster in a believable way and while she has great chemistry with Chris Hemsworth, it didn't show as much in The Dark World which is unfortunate considering she has a more important role to play in this movie. It just felt like a moment of, "well I did agree to do sequels so I guess I might as well show up."
11. Cold Mountain (2003)
Rather short but sweet. Portman's portrayal of an assumed widow during the Civil War was captivating and definitely leaves a mark on you after the movie is over.
10. Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Now that I've gotten that unforgettable quote out of my system.
This was easily the best performance Portman delivered during the Star Wars prequels and it was probably her most captivating to a point. Badly written dialogue aside, the Padme we got with Revenge of the Sith was the Padme should have had the whole time. Unfortunately she didn't show up until the very end and we didn't have her too long. I could argue that Padme is one of the most ruined characters in the Star Wars franchise, but we will save that for another day. For what it was Portman did a good job here.
9. Thor (2011)
Like I already mentioned, I thought Portman gave us a great Jane Foster. She's awkwardly nerdy and it's absolutely adorable. The way she brought this character to life gives us view as to why Thor finds her so endearing and also what makes her so attracted to him. Easily one of my favorite characters Portman has portrayed.
8. Anywhere But Here (1999)
I feel like Anywhere But Here is often forgotten to most people and it's a shame because it's actually a really good movie as a whole. Portman shared the screen with Susan Sarandon in this mother-daughter story of acceptance and growing up. Portman's portrayal of Ann August was believable, emotional, and very easy to relate to. She brought the character to life on multiple levels and it's truly one of her best performances to date.
7. Brothers (2009)
Another film that I feel is a bit underrated, Brothers brought Portman into some fresh new territory as she plays the wife of a US Marine thought to be killed in action. This was one of the first, if not the first, time we saw Portman in a more adult role handling the duties of a wife and mother left to move forward alone as her husband is deployed to Afghanistan. Sharing the screen with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire, she definitely had a lot to work with and she did a fantastic job.
6. Hesher (2010)
Hesher is one of those movies you just have to see to understand, but for what it's worth I really thought for what it was worth that Portman gave a great performance. She was believable in her character and she had a lot of depth if you paid enough attention.
5. V for Vendetta (2005)
Great movie. Great cast. Great script. Great everything... just greatness all around.
Personally, this should have been Portman's first Oscar win but we all know how the Academy is with movies like this. She plays Evie, a young woman who is taken under the influence of a masked revolutionary named V in an attempt to overthrow the tyranny and oppression in a futuristic London. Portman put everything into this and it's obvious as you watch it. Her fear, dedication, and emotion is believable to a point where it can move you to tears. Plus she shaves her head on screen which wasn't as common then as it can be now.
4. Closer (2004)
Closer gained Portman her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and although she lost that doesn't mean this is a performance to overlook.
Portman plays Alice, an American who lands abroad and suddenly enters a relationship with an indecisive and rather unhappy young journalist played by Jude Law. In a story filled with dishonesty, infidelity, sexual tension, deceit, and pain, there is truth with Alice in a way that you won't understand until you get to her moment of clarity. A great performance and one of the best characters she's brought to life on screen.
3. Leon: The Professional (1994)
Portman's Hollywood debut wasn't a typical supporting role in a smaller film such as a horror romp or family comedy. She broke onto the scene with a bang at the age of 11 when she landed the female lead role in Luc Besson's crime thriller, Leon: The Professional.
Portman played Mathilda, a 12-year old who is taken in by an assassin after her family is murdered. The way she channeled this character is unbelievable enough, especially considering her age at the time. You can see she sense of curiosity and wonder that she naturally brings into the character and it plays off Jean Reno's character of Leon as they feed off each other in an attempt to work together and understand one another. It's just a joy to watch.
2. Garden State (2005)
Yet another movie that should have earned Portman an Oscar (damn it, Academy). Garden State not only is a movie you should just sit down and watch right now, but it gave us one of my favorite Portman performances to date.
Here she stars opposite Zach Braff as Samantha, an epileptic pathological liar who comes across Braff's character Andrew by complete chance. The way she captures Sam is fantastic and it's in a way that is so believable you feel like she's a friend you had in high school. The raw emotion brought into the character and into the situations is something that I don't think I can even fully describe. It's just absolutely fantastic.
1. Black Swan (2010)
Did you expect any different? It might seem cliche to say the Oscar-winning performance is the best one, but in this case it truly is. With Black Swan, Natalie Portman earned her first Oscar and took us so far deep into the psyche of a young ballerina that it's almost frightening at times. Portman plays Nina as she lands a coveted role in her company's upcoming production of Swan Lake. Nina's sanity and dedication is pushed to the limit as she struggles to reach perfection in capturing both the black and the white swan.
The thing I love about Black Swan in general is the way you can go on and on trying to analyze the details and a lot of that comes from Portman's portrayal of the Swan Queen. The way she leads us into the mind of this ballerina is captivating and scary and there isn't really a dull moment where you know who she is going to be in the next scene.
The other aspect of this performance was Portman's physical and off-screen dedication to it. She molded her body into a ballerinas by losing weight, toning her muscles, and taking ballet lessons. Although she did have a stunt double, a good majority of the dancing in the film was performed by Portman. It deserved all the recognition in the world and there is a reason she was unbeatable in awards season.
Do you have a favorite performance by Natalie Portman or simply disagree with my list? Leave a comment below!