We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
As proclaimed in her rap for The Lonely Island, “It’s Portman, motherf**ker!”
This weekend, now Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman adds another aggressive role to her repertoire with the new comedy Your Highness, which has her playing a violent warrior on the road for vengeance against those who have killed her family. With an expansive career of feature film roles that range from a little girl with a gun fetish to a fragile ballerina with psychological issues, The Scorecard Review has attempted to rate the best roles from Portman’s in honor of Her Highness.
7. Jack’s Ex-Girlfriend in The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Recap: This film from Wes Anderson took his style and relatively usual casting (Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson) to India for this story about three brothers who seek to connect with one another during a trip through the country after their father’s passing.
Reason: It was inevitable that Portman would be in a Wes Anderson movie. And while this appearance is brief, (she has a longer part in the prequel short Hotel Chevalier) it still stands as a relatively important moment for her acting resume. Portman’s appearance in a Wes Anderson movie was like destiny, and the amount of screen-time given to her for this movie gives her an even more omnipotent aspect, along with the way that her character lurks in the back of the mind of Schwartzman’s character Jack. She haunts this movie, a testament to her physical presence in whatever time she is given.
6. Laura Dandridge in Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
Recap: A magical little underrated musical from Woody Allen (he himself sings “I’m Through With Love” from Some Like It Hot), this movie populated its romantic storyline with a big cast, featuring the talent of Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, and of course, Natalie Portman.
Reason: Portman’s appearance here is brief, but for its time limit, leaves a good mark for the audience. While most of the movie features adults dealing with love, falling in and out of it, Portman’s Laura provides the perspective of a teenager, where heartbreak can be possibly even more painful due to its uncertainty of what’s next. Echoing Allen’s incredible moment from earlier in the movie, she sings out tearfully her own version of “I’m Through With Love,” and brings us all back to our own memories of similar rejection and complete fear of loneliness.
5. Grace Cahill in Brothers (2010)
Recap: This remake of the Susanne Bier Danish drama featured three rising stars, each with experience in intense drama – Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman.
Reason: A slightly underrated movie, Brothers is steered by two explosive performances from the male leads, but equally requires the power of Portman to keep things in check. Not having to shave her head, sing, or even turn into a black swan, Portman does a credible dramatic job here portraying a grieving widow who attempts to regain balance after losing her husband. This performance works for its strength in normalcy.
4. Evey in V for Vendetta (2006)
Recap: An adaptation of the Alan Moore graphic novel, this film directed by James McTeigue and scripted by The Wachowskis (who did The Martix) brims with anarchy at the lead of its main character V, played by Hugo Weaving. Natalie Portman plays a young woman who becomes an ally for the masked character, and does some of his dirty work in the process.
Reason: At this point, Portman wasn’t entirely new to the action drama mixing, but one could certainly argue that she hadn’t been in such a demanding action role since a movie like Leon: The Professional. In V for Vendetta, Portman goes all out here, from shaving off her hair to screaming her head off as a person caught between order and chaos, while being complacent to whatever strange things V wanted her to do.
3. Alice in Closer (2004)
Recap: Clive Owen, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Natalie Portman worked with director Mike Nichols to create this incredible horrorshow of relationships, rife with infidelity and unforgivable pain. In my book, it’s one of the scariest movies of 2004.
Reason: It will be a long, long time until Portman is able to top a performance like this when it comes to romantic roles. In Closer, she has the same ghostliness that she’d later portray in Darjeeling Limited, but the difference here is that you have to confront this ghost face to face. With her presence heightened by extraordinary usage of Damien Rice’s song “The Blower’s Daughter,” Portman takes on the presence of the persons in our life that we have love and lost, and reminds us of both the giddy times of playfulness, and the moments in which it seemed like the world was ending. She’s the person who shook up our world in amazing ways. In all aspects, we certainly can’t take our eyes off of Portman, even if it her performance is so good that it hurts.
2. Mathilda in Leon: The Professional (1994)
Recap: Luc Besson did something rather remarkable with Leon: The Professional – he created a man who could either be an action hero, or the tragic quiet older man who lives in our apartment building. On top of that, he expressed Leon’s humanity by having him work with a child who becomes his little apprentice.
Reason: Natalie Portman dove into The Professional with the same young-girl fearlessness of Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby, and immersed from the violent film as a young girl to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Mathilda represents the audience’s desire to constantly get to “the good stuff,” while being face to face with a person whom violence could not be any more real or soul-draining. Although her family was killed by drug thugs, violence still doesn’t stand as something totally real to her. On top of that, Mathilda has great confusion about maturity, as portrayed in a few comical or awkward scenes in which Mathilda attempts to develop every young kid’s sexual self-esteem. However, she does it by dressing up and singing like Madonna. Regardless of wherever Portman’s career takes her, she and we will always have The Professional to remind us of how immediately talented Portman is.
1. Nina Sayers in Black Swan (2010)
Recap: In her Oscar-winning performance, Portman plays a hard-working ballerina who suffers from mental and physical problems when she tries to play both white swan and black swan in a presentation of Tchaikovksy’s “Swan Lake.”
Reason: Decades later when we talk about Natalie Portman, Black Swan will be the film in which her talent is still associated with. Portman shows incredible technique in this performance, as both a stunning actress and an astonishing ballerina. Portman does a phenomenal job working with all shades of darkness in this film. Looking skinnier than usual, Portman’s cheekbones are on display, making her look more mature than we’ve seen before. They remind us that we are looking at someone that resembles a classic actress, and will also soon be one herself.