Once Jennifer Lawrence burst onto the scene with her performance in Debra Granik's 2010 mystery drama, Winter’s Bone, she became a household name. Lawrence had already had a few small roles in films and she had also worked in television, but she seemed to come from nowhere to wow audiences with her performance as Ree, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role at just the age of 20.
A few short years later in 2013, Lawrence took home the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the romantic comedy-drama, Silver Linings Playbook, having already appeared as Mystique in the X-Men franchise and headlined the first film in The Hunger Games franchise. She's since been in three more films for each of those blockbuster franchises, worked with other accomplished filmmakers — such as Darren Aronofsky and Adam McKay, and received two more Oscar nominations (Best Actress in a Supporting Role for 2013's American Hustle and Best Actress in a Leading Role for 2015's Joy).
Born in Kentucky, Lawrence dabbled in acting as a child before being spotted by a talent scout on a trip to New York with her mother. She eventually moved to Los Angeles, and got her start in small parts in episodes of shows like Monk and Medium before landing a role as a series regular on the sitcom The Bill Engvall Show. Lawrence starred on the series for all three seasons and appeared in every episode. She made her film debut in 2008 in the drama, Garden Party. That same year, she also appeared in The Burning Plain as the younger version of Charlize Theron's character. But it was Winter’s Bone that showcased her talents and charisma, and launched Lawrence to stardom.
Lawrence has been acting in films steadily ever since. And, though she has starred in dramas, thrillers, and action films, there have always been glimpses at her comedic skills both on and off camera. In the new comedy, No Hard Feelings — in theaters June 23 — her sense of humor will be on full display. In it, Lawrence stars as Maddie, a down on her luck woman desperate to make some cash. In danger of losing her home, Maddie agrees to date an introverted young man whose parents have put out an ad on Craigslist to find him someone to go out with.
Below, A.frame presents 10 essential films to watch from Lawrence's career thus far.
Winter’s Bone proved to be Lawrence's breakthrough role as poverty-stricken Ree, doing her best to care for her family in the rural Ozarks of Missouri. When they face eviction, Ree must find her father, who’s missing and involved in criminal activity, leading her on a dangerous path interacting with drug dealers. Lawrence, in only her fourth feature film, anchors the story with an impressive blend of determination and sadness, her Ree burdened at far too young an age with heavy responsibilities. Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and the film also received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Hawkes).
Despite playing a backup romantic option for the lead, Lawrence still makes an impression in the romantic drama Like Crazy. In the film, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) fall in love, but Anna is a university student from the U.K. who overstays her student visa and is barred from re-entering the U.S. The immigration difficulties complicate the central relationship, and they each seek out other people while still pining for one another. For Jacob, that's Lawrence's character, Samantha, who stands out in one of her softer performances, believably heartbroken as the collateral damage in a love triangle.
Lawrence brought the same determination and sadness on display in her breakout role in Winter’s Bone to Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of The Hunger Games franchise. The first film, released in 2012, saw Lawrence leave an indelible impression as Katniss, a teenager volunteering for a deadly televised game in a post-apocalyptic America to save her younger sister. As she fights to survive in an arena filled with fellow teens out for blood, Katniss manages to spark a revolution against a corrupt society. Lawrence grounds the sci-fi thriller, making Katniss a hero not just in the story, but to viewers everywhere.
Silver Linings Playbook was Lawrence's first of several collaborations with director David O. Russell, and it led to her Oscar win for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Lawrence plays Tiffany, a young widow with undisclosed mental health issues who meets Bradley Cooper's Pat, who has bipolar disorder. They begin a rocky partnership in an attempt to score well at a dance competition to settle a bet, while Pat pines for his ex-wife, but end up falling for each other. Lawrence and Cooper work well together on-screen, walking a tricky tightrope of portraying characters struggling with mental health and finding unexpected romance. The film received a total of eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Cooper, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Jacki Weaver, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Robert De Niro.
American Hustle showcases Lawrence's comedic skills with her Oscar-nominated performance for Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, the erratic wife to Christian Bale's Irving Rosenfeld, a con artist. She steals scenes left and right, fitting for a movie about people hustling one another, including Bale, Amy Adams' con artist, Cooper’s corrupt FBI agent, and Jeremy Renner's crooked mayor. She stands out in the ensemble, whether she’s telling off her husband's affair partner, or accidentally breaking a microwave for the umpteenth time. The film received a total of ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Bale, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Adams, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Cooper.
In the revitalized X-Men franchise, Lawrence played the role of shapeshifter Raven Darkhölme aka Mystique. Lawrence had already played the role in 2011's X-Men: First Class. In 2014's Days of Future Past, the new cast along with the previous cast — which meant Hugh Jackman returning as Wolverine — engaged in a time-traveling story that remains one of the most unique in comic book movies. Here, Mystique is in full anti-hero mode, attempting to stop a scientist who would end up creating a dystopia for mutants. Her actions, however, could potentially help to create that dystopia.
Loosely inspired by the true story of inventor Joy Mangano, a self-made millionaire, the comedy-drama Joy stars Lawrence in the title role. We meet Joy in 1990 in Peconic, New York, where she is a wife and mother struggling to care for her family. Joy, determined to vastly improve her circumstances, manages to invent a self-wringing mop. Her attempts to produce and sell her product are stymied by her family, which includes De Niro as her father and Isabella Rossellini as his girlfriend. Lawrence's Joy remains, like many of her other characters, committed to achieving her goal. She is aided along the way by Cooper's QVC executive, who sees something in her and her advanced mop. For her performance, Lawrence was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Darren Aronofsky's take on the relationship between creator and muse, and possibly humans and Mother Earth, saw Lawrence as the titular mother, paired with Javier Bardem's poet, credited as "Him." In the dreamlike narrative, the couple's cozy existence is upended by the arrival of a mysterious couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), and from there, events and scenes spin wildly into the absurd, abstract, and even violent. Lawrence manages the eerie and unsettling tone of the film, keeping her performance grounded as the situations around her escalate, bringing together metaphors and psychological horror.
This spy thriller stars Lawrence as a Russian ballerina recruited to an espionage organization after a career-ending injury. She's soon tasked with extracting information from a CIA operative (Joel Edgerton), but as she becomes more involved, things become naturally more complicated, particularly because part of Lawrence’s training involves "sexpionage" aka seducing people for information. Lawrence balances her spy's steely exterior with a deep vulnerability, giving a layered performance fitting for a character taking on multiple personas.
This quiet drama stars Lawrence as Lynsey, a U.S. soldier who returns home after a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan. While she struggles to recover and rebuild her life, she forms a friendship with a man with similar trauma, played by Brian Tyree Henry. Together, Lawrence and Henry deliver powerful performances showcasing the lingering effects of trauma on people's lives. Critics praised the work of both stars, and Henry went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance.