Since hitting the Hollywood scene as a child actress in her debut role as a child assassin in Leon: The Professional (1994), Natalie Portman has never shied away from daring roles onscreen.
From the compassionate leader Queen Amidala to a ballerina on the brink to a magical hammer-wielding superhero/astrophysicist, Portman's filmography is an eclectic tapestry. Portman's expressive eyes, sharp genius and carefully crafted delivery radiate off the screen in whatever role she decides to play. In her decades-long career, she has one Oscar win, for Black Swan (2010), as well as two more nominations, for Closer (2004) and Jackie (2016).
It's humans vs. aliens. In the battle for dominance, who will win? Portman stars as the President's young daughter Taffy Dale. It's a bit of a subdued comedic role for Portman, who plays a cool headed teen who remains a little too chill after aliens make themselves known on Earth, but a great footnote in her sprawling filmography. The movie is helmed by Oscar nominee Tim Burton and supported by an impossibly stacked cast with Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pam Grier and Annette Bening, to name a few.
Directed by Wayne Wang and written by Academy Award winner Alvin Sargent, this mother-daughter drama stars Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon as an eccentric mother who moves to Beverly Hills with her astute teenage daughter (Portman) after growing tired of their humdrum small-town life in Wisconsin. It's a good coming-of-age dramedy for Portman and a great exploration of trying to find love and meaning in your life at an older age for Sarandon. If you aren't crying because of the sheer talent onscreen, you will be thanks to legendary composer Danny Elfman's score.
While not No. 1 in critic circles, it is No. 1 among those of us who thrive on delightful (and slightly melodramatic) teen romance movies. Where the Heart Is centers around Novalee Nation (Portman), a pregnant 17-year-old who decides to secretly live in an Oklahoma Walmart for survival after being abandoned there by her boyfriend. It's a heartwarming coming-of-age story that demonstrates that even at a young age, Portman had a stellar acting range. The cast is stacked with movie stars, including Ashley Judd, Sally Field, Joan Cusack and Stockard Channing, and was written by Oscar-nominated screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Splash, A League of Their Own).
A bit of taboo comes to Naboo when Queen Padmé Amidala falls for Jedi Anakin Skywalker. Casting Portman as the young headstrong leader was a great choice. In this epic franchise, she plays a woman who falls hopelessly in love with a man who will become one of the galaxy's most formidable foes and tries to save him in the process. Portman's expressive eyes, that tender forbidden kiss and her ability to command scenes with authority and heart really make you feel for Padmé's tragic love story.
Directed by Oscar winner Mike Nichols, Closer is a slow-burning story about the intoxicating dangers of love at first sight and the disintegration of relationships. In Closer Portman plays a seductive and jaded stripper who is both tired and empowered by the way she is perceived by men. This complexity of hers will later have a damning effect on the relationships of those around her. The movie co-stars Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen. Closer is the film that garnered Portman her first Oscar nomination.
V for Vendetta marks Portman's first appearance in a comic book adaptation and her first time donning a British accent. Here she plays the badass and vengeful Evey Hammond, who teams up with the British rogue V (Hugo Weaving) in order to overthrow the oppressive British government. This movie was a departure for Portman, who had usually been running the romance and drama circuit. She told NPR that she was drawn to the film's political and "provocative" ideas about discriminatory labels.
If you combined Portman's work in V for Vendetta and Closer, you'd get the fictionalized historical romance drama The Other Boleyn Girl. The movie follows the salacious rise and tragic fall of Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII and mother to Queen Elizabeth I. Portman's innate charm and dark-sided coyness similar to what she brought to Closer help portray Anne just as dynamically as she was documented in history books — as a woman of great attractiveness and determination who was good at political seduction and intrigue. The movie also stars Eric Bana, Eddie Redmayne, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The critically acclaimed psychological thriller Black Swan follows the descent of a woman into madness. Portman's (purposefully) tortured acting inspires shock and awe as she plays a ballerina overwhelmed by potential competition for the lead role in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Portman's ability to display a wide range of emotions like hysteria and apathy in a matter of seconds is equal parts interesting and terrifying in a story about the love of your craft and the dangers of perfection. This movie earned Portman her first Oscar win for Best Actress.
In her second comic-book adapted role, Portman plays plucky astrophysicist Jane Foster. After discovering the titular God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) on Earth while conducting one of her experiments, she aims to befriend the man in order to figure out the secrets of the cosmos. Portman's Jane is equal parts awkward and charming as she tries to flirt with and learn from Thor while he faces Earth-demolishing threats. She would reprise the role two additional times, in 2013's Thor: The Dark World and 2022's Thor: Love and Thunder.
Diretor Pablo Larraín's Jackie focuses on a very specific week in the life of First Lady Jacqueline "Jackie" Kennedy. In the week following the shocking 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jackie must unpack not only the trauma of the event but also redefine the legacy of her late husband. Portman's ability to convey the human and political complexities she experiences in the face of a spiraling nation is always inspiring to watch.
Vox Lux is an interesting movie that can serve as a cautionary tale about the perils of fame and celebrity. The film documents (with narration by Willem Dafoe) an innocent girl's rise to fame at the cost of great tragedy and corruption. This movie is not for the faint of heart, as it deals with some pretty heavy subject matter. Portman plays a self-indulgent pop star who berates those around her (and sometimes with good reason). Next to Black Swan, this could be considered one of her darkest roles to date. This film also reunites Portman with her Closer co-star Jude Law.
In Alex Garland's sci-fi horror mind trip Annihilation, Portman plays a former soldier and biologist named Lena who joins a mission to uncover the mysteries inside a glimmering dome that is causing mutated disturbances in the ecosystem it inhabits. As she did in her haunting role in Black Swan, Portman brings a gripping performance here as a woman who undergoes great psychological stress and mania on behalf of her own self-discovery.