This year, it seems like Natalie Portman has been in movie theaters every week. After receiving an Oscar for her highly acclaimed performance in Black Swan, she has been busy raising her star power in more commercial movies, starring in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached, the stoner comedy Your Highness and just this past weekend, Marvel’s superhero flick Thor. While some may soon start to complain about her overexposure, one can’t deny that the 29-yr old actress has been able to stay relevant in Hollywood over the span of nearly two decades.
Note: Instead of a top 10 this week, we decided to highlight only 6 of her performances because she is still such a young actress and we can’t exactly say that she hasn’t had up and downs over her career.
6. Evey in V for Vendetta
James McTeigue’s adaptation of the graphic novel V For Vendetta saw Portman go to great length to become Evey, even going as far as shaving her head and yelling at some weird dude in a Guy Fawkes mask. Rescued by the masked anarchist known as V (Hugo Weaving), her character slowly realizes that violence may well be acceptable in the face of stiffling oppression. Albeit a bit forced in a couple scenes, it’s a strong performance which helped this dystopian thriller become one of the best graphic novel adaptation of the last decade.
5. Sara in Cold Mountain
It’s only a minor role with about 5 minutes of screen time but Portman’s appearance in Anthony Minghella’s 2006 romantic drama Cold Mountain was one of the most memorable part of the film. She played Sara, a young, grimy widow raising a baby by herself who befriends a confederate soldier (Jude Law) seeking refuge for a night. When three Union soldiers come by her isolated house looking for food, it doesn’t take long for her to realize the gravity of her situation. Showing the desperation and inner-strength to do anything to protect her baby, Portman nails the type of scene she tends to overplay in other movies. For good measure, she also shoots a young Cillian Murphy in the back!
4. Alice in Closer
Natalie Portman won a Golden Globe and received her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Alice in Mike Nichols’s Closer, an adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play. Also starring Jude law, Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts, the film revolves around a romantic rectangle composed by the four actors. Portraying Alice, a young woman who works as both a waitress and a stripper, Portman made the leap from her usual “adorable nice girl” roles to something completely on the other side of the spectrum. Her character’s naivety and need to be loved is constantly palpable and when she learns the truth about Dan, it’s a gut-wrenching moment.
3. Sam in Garden State
Zach Braff’s quirky comedy Garden State decidedly converted a lot of people into Natalie Portman undying fans as it is her most luminous performance to this day. The actress steals the show as Sam, a very good pathological liar with various maladies who meets the main character Andrew at the doctor’s office. Blessed with a golden heart and an adorably free-spirited personality, Sam makes for a funny and endearing presence, pulling viewers into this story of friendship and finding oneself.
2. Nina Sayers in Black Swan
Winning an Oscar for her sublime performance in Black Swan, Natalie Portman’s seemingly innocent charm, fragility and awkwardness made her a perfect match to play Nina Sayers. Her character’s slow mental degradation goes hand in hand with Darren Aronofskly’s peculiar direction to create one of the best viewing experience of 2010. In many ways, Nina Sayers’ emotional struggles are also Portman’s own. As Salon’s Andrew O”Hehir puts it:
Darren Aronofsky uses Portman’s awkwardness to the film’s advantage. It’s hard to tell whether we’re watching Portman wrestling with the Black Swan/White Swan dichotomy, or her character doing so.
While it’s a mostly one-note performance, it’s the kind of flashy portrayal that everyone loves to swoon over. Decades from now, it’s likely that Natalie Portman will be remembered most for this role.
1. Mathilda in Leon (The Professional)
Natalie Portman’s first role at the tender age of 12 was so impressive that it took many years for her to even come close to being this brilliant again. Mathilda becomes an orphaned little girl after her drug-addicted family is murdered by corrupted DEA agents. She is taken in by her neighbor Leon (the excellent Jean Reno), a hitman who teaches her how to kill but gains from her the warmth of being needed and loved. Mathilda is a fascinating character and Portman shows at an early age that she has an affinity for the camera, shining in one wonderful child performance for the ages. Who can forget the scene in which she walks past her apartment, knowing full well happened to her family, and knocks on Leon’s door with tears running down her cheeks? No matter where her career takes her, Natalie Portman will always have Leon.
Are you a fan of Natalie Portman? What is your favorite performance of hers? Vote and comment below!