Total Recall: Natalie Portman's Best Movies

We break down the 10 best reviewed films in the Brothers star's career.

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5. Léon The Professional

It would be hard for any actress to ask for a more attention-getting opening scene than one that calls for strolling onto the screen with a black eye and a cigarette dangling out of your mouth -- and that goes more than double for Natalie Portman, who scored the role of The Professional's vengeful Mathilda when she was all of 12 years old. Few actors, let alone those Portman's age at the time, would have been able to summon the world-weary cynicism necessary to portray a young girl who's seen her crack-dealing family mowed down by vengeful DEA agents -- and who then goes on to pursue a terribly inappropriate relationship with the hitman down the hall. Add a borderline insane performance from Gary Oldman into the mix, and The Professional could easily have skidded into B-movie territory; in fact, a few critics felt that's exactly where it belonged. The majority, however, were too entranced by the sweetly deadly chemistry between Portman and Jean Reno to notice the film's flaws. As Time's Richard Schickel wrote, "The bonding of Mathilda and Leon may be among the strangest in the long, tiresome history of odd-couple movies."


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4. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

You think you're under a lot of pressure at the office? Try being Natalie Portman in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and having to play a character who not only gives birth to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but is inadvertently responsible for the creation of Darth freakin' Vader. Where Episode II placed Portman in the thick of a state-of-the-art intergalactic action thriller, Episode III found her relegated mostly to the sidelines -- until the final act, when she was asked to not only give birth to the most important set of twins in all of sci-fi, but make audiences believe she was literally dying of a broken heart. A thankless task, to be sure, and more than a few critics were put off by the many ways George Lucas' script failed to live up to decades of hype and impossible expectations. For others, though, Revenge of the Sith was a perfectly pulse-pounding popcorn flick -- take Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat, who gushed, "It did what I thought was impossible after the previous two films: it made me a Star Wars fan again."


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3. Beautiful Girls

Natalie Portman's first major role called for her to awkwardly try to seduce Jean Reno; a mere two years later, she brought an inestimable spark to Ted Demme's Beautiful Girls by playing a self-proclaimed "old soul" who's nevertheless far too young to catch the eye of Timothy Hutton. Considering that Girls' cast also included such famous names as Uma Thurman, Mira Sorvino, and Matt Dillon, the raves that 15-year-old Portman received for her work as the precocious (and, it must be said, utterly adorable) Marty were even more impressive. Not a lot goes on in this look at the commitment-shy shufflings of thirtysomething men in northern New England, and Beautiful Girls didn't attract much attention at the box office, but there's no arguing with raves from critics like Felix Vasquez Jr. of Cinema Crazed, who wrote, "Portman steals all the scenes with Timothy Hutton and lights up the movie in each and every one of her scenes with her beauty, charm and utter exuberance."


86%
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Fresh

2. Garden State

In the years since it turned into an indie phenomenon, it's become fashionable to mock Garden State for the slew of scripts about morose middle-class dudes it triggered -- not to mention the many sensitive singer/songwriters who found inspiration in its soundtrack -- but Zach Braff's writing/directing debut struck an undeniable chord when it was released in 2004, and even if you were annoyed by the trends State sparked, it isn't hard to see what audiences were responding to. Nor is it difficult to determine why Braff's character, a disaffected Hollywood actor who's returned to his New Jersey stomping grounds for his mother's funeral, would find himself shaken out of his ennui by the joie de vivre of Natalie Portman's character, a hoodie-wearing, Shins-loving compulsive liar named Sam. Sound too quirky by half? Perhaps it is. But it's also, in the words of Tom Long of the Detroit News, "The kind of movie that reminds you why you love movies so much, a film so filled with unexpected energy and ambition and sly intelligence it gives you hope for the future."


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1. Heat

It wouldn't be right to say that Natalie Portman truly "stars" in Heat -- Michael Mann's 1995 crime epic boasts a rather incredible cast, and far more seasoned actors than the teenaged prodigy were relegated to suporting roles. Still, few of those parts had more to do with the character development of Al Pacino's Vincent Hanna, a driven LAPD detective whose troubled marriage to Justine Hanna (Diane Venora) helps drive his stepdaughter (played by Portman) to the brink of suicide. Hanna is the mirror image of Robert De Niro's character, career thief Neil McCauley, and the scene where a horrified Hanna sets aside professional obligations to rush his dying stepdaughter to the hospital reflects McCauley's decision to break a lifelong rule by starting a new, honest life with his girlfriend (Amy Brenneman), and even if audiences knew neither man would ultimately stick to his decision, that didn't undermine the power of those performances -- or Portman's part in raves like the one from the Washington Post's Desson Thomson, who applauded, "As with his other works, [Mann] binds sound, music and pictures into one hypnotic triaxial cable and plugs it right into your brain. He makes this almost-three-hour experience practically glide by."


In case you were wondering, here are Natalie Portman's top ten movies according to the RT Community Tomatometer:

1. Léon The Professional -- 95%
2. Heat -- 94%
3. V for Vendetta -- 91%
4. Garden State -- 91%
5. Paris, Je T'aime -- 89%
6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith -- 85%
7. Beautiful Girls -- 85%
8. Closer -- 80%
9. Cold Mountain -- 79%
10. Everyone Says I Love You -- 79%


Take a look through Natalie's complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Brothers.

Finally, here's a side of Natalie we never knew existed... until Saturday Night Live dared to show it to us (it's censored, but let the faint of heart be wary):

Comments

BrianMN

Brian Nallick

I WAS going to make a joke about Attack of the Clones not being in the list.
But it IS in the list. ??????
She deserved an Oscar just for being able to keep a straight face through the love scenes with Anakin the mannequin.
"I-love-you-Padme"
"My - heart- is -beating-for-you.......-Padme" LMAO!!!
C3PO showed more emotion.

Dec 1 - 01:50 PM

Dave J

Dave J

As this site has pointed out, she always seem to get either second or thrd billing. But when she gets first billing, the film doesn't even do well at the box office.

Dec 1 - 01:55 PM

Isaiah R.

Isaiah Rivera

I LMAO'd when I watched the Natalie Portman Rap

Dec 1 - 02:16 PM

Lauren S.

Lauren Scoville

lol! me too, she's awesome just for shocking us all with her potty-mouth.

Dec 2 - 02:49 PM

Premo Beat

John Noto

Shame that Leon is rated below Episode III.

Dec 1 - 02:20 PM

Chad P.

Chad Palmer

All 3 Star Crap movies were on here, but not Mars Attacks? That was a classic!

Dec 1 - 02:26 PM

Sean A.

Sean Avolio

I couldn't agree with you more! Mars Attacks(!) is a classic and belongs on this list.

Dec 1 - 03:20 PM

Colyn B.

Colyn Bowman

Of her movies V for Vendetta and Leon the Professional are my favorite. Garden State was an enjoyable, and original flick though I will give it that.

Dec 1 - 02:33 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

That rap is actually available uncencored.


THE PROFESSIONAL is a movie that's been begging for a sequel, with Natalie taking up the gun. C'mon!

Dec 1 - 02:58 PM

thisisallwehave

Edgar Gonzalez

That would be sweet.

Dec 1 - 07:55 PM

inactive user

Jared King

What a babe. "V for Vendetta" is one of my top 10 favorite films easily.

Dec 1 - 03:12 PM

inactive user

Jared King

And "Heat" is one of my all time favorites...I want her.

Dec 1 - 03:17 PM

Escapefromalcatraz

william thresher

I am with TomWaitsJr on this one - That is a great idea! A sequel that wouldn't suck!

Dec 1 - 03:15 PM

inactive user

Jared King

And "Heat" is one of my all time favorites...I want her.

Dec 1 - 03:17 PM

Sean A.

Sean Avolio

I couldn't agree with you more! Mars Attacks(!) is a classic and belongs on this list.

Dec 1 - 03:20 PM

Guille T

Guillermo Torres

I love Natalie... in all her works, even if the movie sucks.

V is great, one of my top 10

Dec 1 - 03:28 PM

rt-ryan

Ryan Fujitani

tomwaits: Yeah, we were aware the uncensored version was available, but I figured the version we put up would be more appropriate than an NSFW version. We are family-frindly here at RT, after all. :-)

Dec 1 - 03:43 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Ryan,

I think you made the right choice. The uncensored version is DEFINATELY NSFW.

Dec 1 - 04:03 PM

Earman

Christopher Beckham

No Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium? LOL. Actually, I would take that over Phantom Menace.

Come to think of it, the worst part about Revenge of the Sith was the dialogue between Padme and Anakin.

I would put Leon, Heat and Beautiful Girls in order because those roles basically introduced her and established her as a legitimate acting talent.

Dec 1 - 04:19 PM

John W.

John Woods

Wow, she really did make some good ones didnt she!

Dec 1 - 04:48 PM

BLaCKWoLF

BLaCKWoLF .

Leon, Heat, Star Wars, V for Vendetta, not bad at all to have on your filmography. She was awesome in Leon and Heat and I have liked her in pretty much everything else that she has done since then.

Dec 1 - 05:14 PM

John D.

John Debono

I have to ask why Paris, Je T'aime isn't on the list? Doesn't that have an 85% rating?

Dec 1 - 05:44 PM

mclobstabush

Matt Crabtree

She wasn't in Paris, Je T'aime for very long I don't think.

Dec 2 - 09:13 PM

ColinTheCimmerian

Colin Hay

I love me the Natalie. Right up there with Jennifer Connelly and Sarah Michelle Gellar as my biggest Hollywood crushes. And she's a dam n good actress too (Star Wars notwithstanding, but when you consider how many good actors underperformed in those movies, ya gotta figure the direction and writing had something to do with it). It's amazing how many great movies she has in her filmography, considering the relative shortness of her career.

BTW, is anyone else surprised Revenge of the Sith has an 80% tomatometer? I'm not saying it wasn't great in its own way, but it's not the kind of movie that I would expect to be held in high regard by critics. In fact I'm surprised at how high all the Star Wars prequels' tomatometers are. Methinks a lot of critics can't help but give the thumbs-up to Star Wars movies, even if it is against their better judgment.

Dec 1 - 06:47 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Gotta agree Colin, I think a lot of folks wanted Star Wars to be good and feared fanboy backlash, couple that with the fact that Revenge of the Sith was so much better than the other two I think the 80% can be attributed to a sigh of relief more than anything.

Dec 1 - 07:40 PM

jimyyu y.

jimyyu yuan

Dec 1 - 07:38 PM

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