Total Recall: Scarlett Johansson's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the We Bought a Zoo star.
The Coen brothers went neo-noir for 2001's The Man Who Wasn't There, drafting a stellar batch of character actors (including Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Jenkins, Tony Shalhoub, and Frances McDormand) to tell the story of a barber (Thornton) whose placid-seeming suburban post-WWII existence unravels into a crazy tangle of blackmail, murder, and one very precocious teenage girl (Johansson). The black-and-white Man failed to make much of an impression at the box office, but it enthralled critics like ReelViews' James Berardinelli, who praised it as "An unconventional, unpredictable thriller that Hitchcock probably would have enjoyed."
Take a fairly sharp late-period script from Woody Allen and a beautiful cast that makes a love quadrangle out of Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and Rebecca Hall, and the awards pretty much hand themselves out. Example: Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which might have been able to generate its $96 million worldwide gross simply on the strength of all that sex appeal even if it hadn't earned a stack of glowing reviews from critics like Roger Ebert, who enthused: "He is a little like Eric Rohmer here. The actors are attractive, the city is magnificent, the love scenes don't get all sweaty, and everybody finishes the summer a little wiser and with a lifetime of memories. What more could you ask?"
With a beautiful family, a nice house in the suburbs, and a healthy career, Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid) is feeling pretty good about his life. And then it all goes topsy-turvy: his wife (Marg Helgenberger) announces she's pregnant, the company he works for is bought out, and his much younger new boss (Topher Grace) starts dating his 18-year-old daughter (Johansson) behind his back. Clearly, In Good Company's premise is fraught with soapy domestic melodrama, and according to some critics, that's all it had to offer -- but for most, the solid cast and sensitive work of director Paul Weitz made the film more than the sum of its parts. In fact, according to the New York Observer's Andrew Sarris, it was "not only the best American picture of 2004, but also the most grown-up movie to come from Hollywood in recent years."
2. Ghost World
She's taken on a fairly wide variety of roles, but for the most part, Johansson has stuck with mainstream film projects. Not so Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, a bleakly funny adaptation of the Daniel Clowes comic book about a pair of teenage misfits (Johansson and Thora Birch) whose casually mean-spirited prank on a lonely middle-aged man (Steve Buscemi) has unforeseen consequences on their friendship. A cult and critical favorite, Ghost World is certainly a far cry from future big-budget Johansson films like The Island and The Spirit -- and that's just fine with Angie Errigo of Empire, who wrote, "This is 'teen comedy' of startling sophistication -- with horribly funny bits as well. A true original, with sharp humour, subtle detail and painfully realistic characters."
Thanks to her much-derided appearance in The Godfather III, Sofia Coppola was still the butt of many film fans' jokes when she helmed Lost in Translation -- but all that changed once the glowing reviews started pouring in, capped off with her Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. But Coppola wasn't the only one who earned praise for this quiet little picture; Bill Murray received some of the best reviews of his career (not to mention a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award) for his softly melancholic portrayal of a movie star whose crushing ennui has set him adrift in a sea of unfulfilling relationships and paycheck projects. He's oh-so-gently jolted from his reverie by a fellow unhappy traveler played by Scarlett Johansson -- and who can blame him? -- but that's pretty much all that happens here, something pointed out by the handful of critics who gave Lost in Translation unfavorable ratings. For the 95 percent of critics who loved it, though, Translation was something special; Variety's David Rooney spoke for many when he said its "balance of humor and poignancy makes it both a pleasurable and melancholy experience."
In case you were wondering, here are Johansson's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. The Prestige -- 90%
2. Lost In Translation -- 84%
3. Ghost World -- 81%
4. The Man Who Wasn't There -- 81%
5. Iron Man 2 -- 80%
6. A Love Song for Bobby Long -- 79%
7. Match Point -- 78%
8. Vicky Cristina Barcelona -- 73%
9. The Horse Whisperer -- 70%
10. The Island -- 67%
Finally, here's Ms. Johansson in the video for Bob Dylan's "When the Deal Goes Down":