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Film

Natalie Portman's 10 best performances ranked in order of greatness

Natalie Portman has starred in many iconic projects over the course of an illustrious career, ranging from her early works as a child actor to her involvement in major productions like the Star Wars prequels as well as Marvel films. In addition to those, Portman has also worked on less popular but interesting projects and has directed a few as well.

Born in Jerusalem, Portman was involved in the performing arts from an early age and studied ballet during her school years. Her breakthrough performance came at the age of 12 when she starred in Luc Besson’s 1994 thriller Leon: The Professional. Parallel to her film career, Portman also participated in various acclaimed theatrical productions.

In recent years, she has worked in different domains of the current cinematic landscape – appearing in Marvel films while also collaborating with exciting filmmakers such as Xavier Dolan. This year, she is set to star in the upcoming project Thor: Love and Thunder as well as an upcoming miniseries titled Lady in the Lake.

Here, we explore ten of her greatest performances.

Natalie Portman’s 10 greatest performances:

10. Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)

A Zach Braff rom-com, Garden State features the director as an actor in the service industry who has to return to his hometown after the passing of his mother. Having been dependent on antidepressants and other drugs, he decides to experience life without those substances.

According to Braff, some of the narrative details about this project were actually based on his own life. Portman plays the role of a paralegal who is open about her compulsive lying habits but does not know what motivates her to engage in such behaviour.

9. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005)

This 2005 political action thriller has been immortalised within the frameworks of popular culture. Set in the future where society is controlled by a totalitarian regime, the film chronicles a revolution led by an iconic masked anarchist.

Based on the eponymous comics with a screenplay by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta has resonated with fans all over the world. Portman stars as a TV network employee who becomes intimately involved in the anarchist’s life after being rescued by him.

8. Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)

Michael Mann’s magnum opus is primarily about the legendary battle between an expert heist master (played by Robert De Niro) and an unhinged LAPD detective (Al Pacino) who is obsessed with hunting the intelligent criminal.

Portman plays a minor role but a memorable one, featuring as Lauren, the emotionally unstable stepdaughter of the detective. Having devoted most of his time to his career, he witnesses the dissolution of personal relationships and a devastating suicide attempt by Lauren.

7. A Tale of Love and Darkness (Natalie Portman, 2015)

This 2015 drama was Portman’s noteworthy directorial debut feature, based on the impactful memoir of Israeli writer Amos Oz and it stars Portman as well. Set during an important period of transition in the country, the film chronicles the wide ranging political conflicts in the region.

Although the film received mixed reviews, many felt that Portman was making the natural transition to more directorial projects. Since then, the actor hasn’t worked on other major directorial projects but this one showcases her potential as a filmmaker.

6. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)

A sci-fi horror film by one of the most interesting practitioners of the genre in recent memory, Annihilation is a competent adaptation of the eponymous novel by Jeff VanderMeer. The film wasn’t a hit at the box office but it has continued to draw the attention of fans of the genre.

It follows the experiences of an expedition team who set out to explore a quarantined area where the presence of an extraterrestrial entity has caused the flora and fauna to mutate and undergo biological transformations in unprecedented ways.

5. Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

Starring the likes of Portman and Jude Law, Brady Corbet’s musical drama is flawed in many ways but it features one of Portman’s finest performances. She stars as Celeste, a student who manages to survive a violent high school shooting.

After performing a song at a memorial service, she finds fame and success as the song becomes a popular hit. The film examines the various elements of Celeste’s identity as she comes to terms with public life and the unshakeable trauma of her past.

4. Jackie (Pablo Larrain, 2016)

Portman’s portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy is regularly cited as one of her most famous renditions. It reconstructs the difficult experiences of the First Lady immediately after the infamous assassination of the President which shocked the entire country.

Partially based on an interview conducted by Theodore H. White, Jackie is a commendable mainstream effort which attempts to explore the machinations of grief. For her work, Portman received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

3. Closer (Mike Nichols, 2004)

Mike Nichols’ 2004 drama Closer is actually a cinematic translation of screenwriter Patrick Marber’s eponymous play. Structured as a modern revision of an opera by Mozart, the film conducts an intense psychological analysis of the romance genre.

Imagining a psychosexual framework within which the central characters operate and their lives intersect, Closer is a highly effective cinematic experience curated by Nichols. Portman’s performance was singled out by critics and she received multiple major accolades.

2. Leon: The Professional (Luc Besson, 1994)

Even though this is the film that announced Portman’s entry into the world of cinema, the actor has a highly complicated relationship with the film. It has become a cult classic but in the initial stages of the production, Besson’s 1994 work sexualised the child that Portman was playing.

Most of those parts were taken out but the core aspects of the unusual relationship between a twelve-year-old girl and a professional hitman form the basis of this film. Right from the start, Portman proved that she had considerable acting talent.

1. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

The most complex performance of Portman’s career, Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 psychological thriller gave the actor the perfect platform to dig deep into her understanding of the craft of acting. She stars as a young ballet dancer who is cast as the innocent White Swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

The duality of the major roles in the production leads to a deadly split in the psyche of the dancer who struggles to distinguish between the fiction of her world and reality after immersing herself in the production and its unending dark demands.