Jennifer Lopez's 10 Best Movies
In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Boy Next Door star.
10. Maid in Manhattan (2002) 39%
Lopez teamed up with Ralph Fiennes and The Joy Luck Club director Wayne Wang for this 2002 romantic comedy, which told the story of a hotel maid (Lopez) who finds herself swept up in a romance with a politician (Fiennes) even though he -- gasp! -- doesn't know she cleans up after people for a living. Based on a John Hughes story, Maid in Manhattan is the sort of sunny, charming, perfectly critic-proof movie that tends to do very well at the box office in December -- which is just what happened here. Despite largely negative reviews from critics who carped that its predictable plot was beneath its stars' talents, Maid cleaned up to the tune of over $150 million in worldwide grosses. Not all the press was bad, though: Rich Cline of Film Threat conceded to the film's charms when he wrote, "When we catch ourselves sighing at the end, we get mad that we've fallen for this same old formula all over again. But mad in a nice way."
9. Parker (2013) 41%
Give Jason Statham a shotgun and a few quips and he's capable of wringing movie magic out of even the most hackneyed script, and Jennifer Lopez has proven her way with a good crime thriller before. Putting them together with Oscar-nominated director Taylor Hackford for an adaptation of Donald E. Westlake's Flashfire, the 19th entry in his bestselling series of novels about the master thief known as Parker, looked like great pulpy fun for genre fans -- on paper, anyway. In reality, Parker was neither a critical nor a commercial success, trudging its way to less than $20 million at the box office while enduring a hail of withering scorn from scribes (opined Rex Reed for the New York Observer, "Mr. Statham is to acting what Taco Bell is to nutrition"). A big part of the problem, according to many reviews, was that Lopez's character was shoehorned in -- and subjected to a series of insulting and/or misogynistic plot contrivances. Still, for some, Parker proved a sufficiently entertaining diversion during a dreary era for action fans; as Steven Rea quipped for the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Take that, Nicholas Sparks."
8. Jersey Girl (2004) 41%
After the complete disaster that was Gigli, nobody was asking for another Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez movie -- which probably goes a long way toward explaining why 2004's Jersey Girl was dead on arrival before anyone had even seen a frame of film. It's unfortunate, because writer/director Kevin Smith was branching out here, moving outside the "View Askewniverse" for the first time with a sweet story about a single dad (Affleck) and his struggle to square his career ambitions with his obligations to his daughter (Raquel Castro) while falling in love -- maybe -- with a foxy video store clerk (Liv Tyler). As for Lopez? She really isn't in much of the movie, but the shadow of Bennifer loomed large over the production anyway, as well as the stony disbelief of critics who refused to accept Smith's more sentimental side. But for scribes like Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer, the change from Clerks to Jersey Girl was a welcome one: "Even as the critic in me raged against the clichés, I found a big old lump in my throat and blinked back a few tears."
7. The Cell (2000) 45%
She's chiefly known for romantic comedies, but for awhile around the turn of the century, Lopez made a point of branching out into more diverse fare -- like 2000's The Cell. Nominally speaking, this Tarsem Singh-directed thriller starred Lopez as a groundbreaking child psychologist, but that only scratches at the surface of The Cell's bizarre, nightmarish second act, which plunges viewers -- and Lopez's character -- into the twisted mind of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio). In an effort to locate his next victim before the prison he's left her in fills with water, Lopez enters D'Onofrio's fractured psyche, where she encounters a surreal landscape filled with intense (and often intensely disturbing) visuals. According to a sizable number of critics, Singh's fondness for S&M-inspired eye candy overwhelmed the plot -- but for others, The Cell was an absorbingly disquieting experience. Film Blather's Eugene Novikov was one of the movie's staunchest defenders, calling it "the year's first masterpiece, an insanely ambitious movie that miraculously fulfills every one of its ambitions."
6. Shall We Dance? (2004) 46%
Lopez got one of her early breaks as a "Fly Girl" dancer on Fox's In Living Color, but few of her films have taken advantage of her dancing ability. A notable exception: 2004's Shall We Dance?, which pairs her with Richard Gere in a remake of Mayasaki Suo's Shall We Dansu? Marketed as a romantic comedy, Dance? is really something more -- a portrait of an aimlessly dissatisfied man (Gere) who finds friendship with a dance instructor (Lopez) who helps him rekindle the spark that's been missing from his personal life and his marriage. There's a love story here, but it's really between Gere and Susan Sarandon, who plays his wife. This alone makes Dance? a more thoughtful, mature film than much of what passes through theaters, but for a lot of critics, it couldn't help but compare unfavorably to the original. Still, for others, Dansu's Americanization wasn't necessarily a bad thing; as Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel wrote, "The central idea -- that losing yourself in a small, private world can help you to better engage the larger world -- isn't lost in translation."
5. An Unfinished Life (2005) 53%
Mark Spragg's novel got the Lasse Hallström treatment in this 2005 adaptation, which stars Lopez as a widowed single mother who tries to escape an abusive relationship by fleeing to the Wyoming ranch of her estranged father-in-law (Robert Redford). Co-starring Morgan Freeman, Josh Lucas, and one very threatening bear, An Unfinished Life shuffled around Miramax's release schedule for years, and when it finally reached theaters in September 2005, neither its reviews nor its box office totals reflected the high-priced talent assembled to bring it to the screen. Though filmgoers were indifferent and many critics felt it was too sentimental and predictable, for some scribes, An Unfinished Life was a movie rich with quiet pleasures. Wrote Will Harris of Bullz-Eye, "This is a phenomenal character study of the grief of a father and the guilt of a friend. If you find it's unfolding too slowly for you, just focus on the wonderful performances by Redford and Freeman, and they'll pull you through."
4. U-Turn (1997) 59%
Oliver Stone took a noir detour with this twisty thriller, which embroiled Lopez in a sweaty imbroglio involving her psycho husband (Nick Nolte), an eight-fingered drifter (Sean Penn), a violent maniac (Joaquin Phoenix) and his girlfriend (Claire Danes), an unscrupulous mechanic (Billy Bob Thornton), and the town sheriff (Powers Boothe). As you might guess given all the players, U-Turn is a story cluttered with sex, thievery, and double crosses -- and one as luridly violent as Natural Born Killers -- and all that plotting left some critics pining for the days when Stone was more interested in the lives and deaths of American presidents. For others, though, it was a straight-ahead treat: In the words of Time Out's Geoff Andrew, "Penn turns in a crisp, unfussy comic performance, Lopez vamps like a scorpion in heat, Nolte sustains a pretty good John Huston impression, and Thornton is mighty peculiar as the mechanic from hell."
3. Blood and Wine (1997) 61%
A year before her breakout with Selena, Lopez scored one of her earliest film roles in Bob Rafelson's Blood and Wine, the third leg of the loose trilogy he and Jack Nicholson started with Five Easy Pieces. A noir thriller about an adulterous jewel thief (Nicholson) and his duplicitous partner (Michael Caine), Blood and Wine didn't ask Lopez to do much besides add the storyline's requisite erotic heat; fortunately, she was more than up to the task, playing Nicholson's Cuban mistress-cum-accomplice with the same sort of smoldering verve she'd bring to the screen in Out of Sight two years later. Though it didn't enjoy much commercial success, or the same sort of critical status afforded Five Easy Pieces, Blood wasn't without its fans. Applauded Nick Davis of Nick's Flick Picks, "Bob Rafelson sends this movie out like a hissing flare from the island of the nearly-forgotten, and if justice had prevailed, moviegoers would have answered the call."
2. Selena (1997) 64%
The shocking murder of singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez had barely faded from the headlines when this Gregory Nava-directed biopic reached theaters in 1997, and sensationalism aside, it isn't hard to see what drew Hollywood to the story -- during her brief career, Selena showed all the makings of a huge star, and her death only intensified the devotion of her fans. For Lopez, the opportunity to portray Selena was the chance of a lifetime -- a bittersweet reunion with Nava, who gave her a small part in 1995's My Family, for a starring role in the most high-profile production of her career. Though Selena was rightly criticized for taking a reverential approach to its subject, even its harshest critics were quick to praise Lopez for her glowingly confident performance. As Jean Oppenheimer wrote in her review for Boxoffice Magazine, "Jennifer Lopez is sensational. She not only looks remarkably like the real star, but she radiates the same incredible energy, warmth, style and magnetism for which the young pop singer was known."
1. Out of Sight (1998) 93%
When Jennifer Lopez wore a barely-there dress at the Grammy Awards in February 2000, she dropped jaws around the world -- but for anyone who'd had the pleasure of seeing her with George Clooney in 1998's Out of Sight, a skimpy Versace gown and some double-sided tape couldn't compare to the way Lopez had burned up the screen as U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco. There's a reason Entertainment Weekly voted this the sexiest movie of all time, and it boils down to the ingredient Roger Ebert identified in his review: "At the center of the film is the repartee between Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, and these two have the kind of unforced fun in their scenes together that reminds you of Bogart and Bacall." With his adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel, director Steven Soderbergh could have created just another heist flick, but Lopez and Clooney's chemistry, along with Scott Frank's razor-sharp screenplay, takes it to another level. As Sisco, Lopez gets to alternate between tough and vulnerable, all while being lovingly lit by Soderbergh and cinematographer Elliot Davis; meanwhile, Clooney's screen presence had evolved from "moonlighting TV star" to "certified leading man." As Radheyan Simonpillai noted in his review for AskMen.com, "Soderbergh finds the perfect equilibrium between mainstream entertainment and arty panache, lacing this heist movie/romantic comedy with character-motivated time shifting, prominent freeze-frames, a funky soundtrack and an all-around hip vibe."
Finally, here's Lopez warning us, the general public, not to be duped by her (admittedly impressive) collection of bling, as she remains essentially unchanged in the years since her meteoric rise from humble origins: