Before Jenna Rink, before Elektra Natchios, before Dr. Eve Saks and Vanessa Loring and Stacey Sampanahoditra, Jennifer Garner made her film debut in the 1997 comedy, Deconstructing Harry, in a role credited as "Woman in Elevator."
Garner may forever be best known for starring as Sydney Bristow on the small screen — earning four Emmy nominations in five seasons of the ABC spy series, Alias — but her filmography proves that she is one of the most versatile actresses working today, as likely to star in a rom-com as an action flick as a period drama as an indie film.
On April 17, Garner marks a milestone birthday as she turns 50. To celebrate, A.frame is running down some of her best work on the big screen.
Before being cast in Michael Bay's WWII romantic drama, Garner's most prominent work on the big screen had been in Dude, Where's My Car? Here, she plays an army nurse and confidante to Kate Beckinsale's romantic lead. The film was released in theaters in 2001, the same year that Alias premiered, launching Garner into stardom. Pearl Harbor, meanwhile, earned four Oscar nominations and won for Best Sound Editing.
After seeing her on Alias, Steven Spielberg cast Garner for a small but key role in his biopic of con man Frank Abagnale Jr. Garner plays the model and call girl Cheryl Ann, who sets out to seduce Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) when they meet at a swanky hotel, but winds up as yet another of his marks. Catch Me If You Can earned two Oscar nominations.
Shortly after Tobey Maguire swung into cinemas as Spider-Man but before Batman Begins and Iron Man would change comic book movies forever, the blind lawyer and vigilante Daredevil got his shot at the big screen. Ben Affleck played the titular superhero with Garner as the martial arts assassin Elektra Natchios — a role she would reprise in her own spin-off sequel Elektra two years later.
13 Going on 30 is a Big-esque fantasy about an unpopular teen who wishes herself into adulthood. Come for the "Thriller" dance number, stay for the too-cute romance between Garner's Jenna Rink and Mark Ruffalo's boy next door. Among future romantic comedies like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Arthur, 13 Going on 30 remains the quintessential Jennifer Garner rom-com.
Elliot Page captured all the quirk of Diablo Cody's zeitgeist-defining screenwriting debut, playing a 16-year-old facing an unplanned pregnancy. But Garner is the unlikely heart of the movie, as the would-be adoptive mother of Juno's unborn baby. Juno earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and Cody won for Best Original Screenplay.
In director Jean-Marc Vallée's Ron Woodroof biopic, Garner plays (the fictional) Dr. Eve Saks, a sympathetic physician treating AIDS patients in 1980s Texas. She also provides the movie with one of its best exchanges:
Ron: I don't want a nurse. I want a doctor. I want a godd**n doctor now!
Eve: Well, how can I help you?
Ron: You f**king deaf, lady?
Eve: No, I'm a f**king doctor.
Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, and won both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto their first Oscars (for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively).
Garner reunited with her Juno director, Jason Reitman, for the 2014 comedy drama Men, Women & Children, but that same year also saw her starring in his father Ivan's sports drama, Draft Day, which marked the elder Reitman's final film.
The film centers on Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner), the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns, during one particularly stressful day leading up to the NFL draft. Garner plays Ali, his not-so-secret girlfriend and the team's salary-cap expert.
The Greg Berlanti-directed rom-com features Garner and Josh Duhamel as parents to the eponymous Simon (Nick Robinson), a high schooler making his way out of the closet. Garner's Emily Spier is the mom every queer kid dreams of, and with five words, the actress cemented her status as a gay icon: "You get to exhale now."