Jane Fonda earned her first on screen credit in 1960 for her role as June Ryder in Tall Story starring opposite Anthony Perkins. Not bad for a first role.
In the decades since, Fonda has been nominated for seven Academy Awards and five Emmy Awards. She's held many titles in Hollywood: she’s been the ingenue, the sex symbol, the disruptor, the fitness queen, and the activist. On screen, she's known for her roles in classics like 9 to 5 (1980) and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), as well as her hit Netflix show Grace and Frankie (2015-2022).
Off screen, she’s known for her work as a political activist, starting in the ‘60s with her controversial opposition to the Vietnam War. Currently, she’s focused on fighting climate change, so much so that when she announced that she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September, she ended her statement with a call to action, encouraging people to vote in the midterm elections and promised to continue her climate activism through cancer treatment.
At 85-years-old, Fonda’s career is hotter than ever. She has three films currently in post-production — including Eighty for Brady, a film that will reunite her with her Grace and Frankie co-star Lily Tomlin. To celebrate her illustrious career, A.frame has gathered 12 essential Jane Fonda films.
Jane Fonda stars opposite Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park, a film about newlyweds who struggle to adjust to their new roles as husband and wife, as well as their new tiny apartment at the top of a six-floor walk-up. Fonda plays Corie Bratter, a free spirit who pushes her more conservative husband Paul (Redford) out of his comfort zone. This would be the first of four times Redford and Fonda would work together.
Jane Fonda played a space traveler in Barbarella, a comic-book film about a woman who goes on a perilous journey across planets to retrieve a laser weapon that could cause mass destruction. The film has earned mixed reviews over the years, with critics debating whether or not Barbarella was a feminist hero or a male fantasy. But like it or not, no one can deny that the imagery of Fonda as Barbarella is absolutely iconic.
Fonda earned her first Oscar nomination for her lead role in Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. Set during the Great Depression, the film follows Robert (Michael Sarrazin), a man who is convinced to join Gloria (Fonda) in competing in a dance marathon under the supervision of a manipulative and deceitful emcee, Rocky (Gig Young). The psychological thriller was nominated for nine Oscars, with Young winning for Best Supporting Actor.
Fonda won her first Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Klute. In the film, she played a New York CIty prostitute named Bree Daniels who becomes wrapped up in an investigation of a missing company executive, and sparks a romantic relationship with the detective on the case, John Klute (Donald Sutherland).
Arguably, one of Fonda’s most controversial works, F.T.A. is a documentary filmed in 1972. The film followed Fonda and Donald Sutherland as they mounted a vaudeville show in towns near American military bases in protest of the Vietnam War. The documentary reportedly includes footage of the show, as well as interviews with service members who spoke out against the war, and was immediately controversial, as it was released the same weekend Fonda’s visit to North Vietnam became public, earning her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.” (She has since expressed regret for parts of the visit, but stands by her trip.) F.T.A. only played in theaters for one week when it was released in 1972, but is now available to stream.
In Julia, Fonda played Lillian Hellman, a playwright who is recruited to smuggle money into Nazi Germany by her longtime friend, Julia (Vanessa Redgrave), an active member of the anti-Nazi resistance. The film earned 11 Oscar nominations, including ones for Best Picture and Best Actress (for Fonda), and won three — Best Supporting Actor for Jason Robards, Best Supporting Actress for Redgrave, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Alvin Sargent.
Fonda won her second Oscar (for Best Actress) for her work in Coming Home, a film about a woman who falls in love with an injured veteran while her husband is fighting in Vietnam. Fonda’s co-star, Jon Voight, also won an Oscar for his work, and the film also won Best Original Screenplay (for Nancy Dowd, Waldo Salt, and Robert C. Jones). Director Hal Ashby was also nominated, as were supporting actors Bruce Dern and Penelope Milford, and editor Don Zimmerman. The film also earned a nod for Best Picture.
In The China Syndrome, Jane Fonda starred opposite Michael Douglas as a television news anchor who uncover a potential nuclear disaster at a power plant. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including a Best Actress nod for Fonda and a Best Actor nomination for Jack Lemmon.
One cannot fully comprehend the impact of Jane Fonda without 9 to 5, a feminist work comedy that empowered women to take a stand against their sexist, opportunistic bosses, and gave the world one of Dolly Parton’s most recognizable tracks, “Nine to Five.” The film starred Parton, Fonda, and Lily Tomlin as a trio of hardworking women who decide to team up to rebel against their boss. The film was a massive hit and secured a place in pop culture history as one of the greatest on-screen team-ups.
On Golden Pond saw Jane Fonda and her father, Henry Fonda, finally appear together on-screen. Henry starred as Norman, an 80-year-old curmudgeon who is starting to have some memory problems, and is pushed to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Chelsea (Jane), when she visits him and his wife, Ethel (Katharine Hepburn), with her new fiancé and his son. Both Henry and Hepburn won Oscars for their leading roles — Jane was also nominated, but did not win — and writer Ernest Thompson also took home an award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Fonda earned her seventh Oscar nomination for her performance in The Morning After, a Sidney Lumet thriller about a woman who wakes up next to a dead man and is incapable of remembering if she killed him or not. Her only ally is a former cop, Turner Kendall, played by Jeff Bridges.
Jane Fonda is famous both on and off camera, and the Emmy nominated documentary, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, attempts to explore why. The film features interviews with the actor and activist, as well as colleagues and family members, and follows her journey from young actor, anti-war activist, workout tape mogul, to Hollywood royalty and climate activist.