“Even as far back as when I started acting at 14, I know I’ve never considered failure.”—Jennifer Lawrence.
American Actress Jennifer Lawrence is one of the biggest Hollywood stars and has established herself as a household name with stellar performances in films like Winter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook and more.
Commercially successful as well as critically acclaimed, she has an Academy Award, three Golden Globes and a BAFTA Award to her name. In 2013, she was named by Time Magazine in their 100 most influential people in the world.
Since she was a child, Lawrence had an inclination towards acting because it helped with her social anxieties. When she 14, she was noticed by a talent scout while vacationing in New York City with her family. In order to facilitate her acting career, she moved to Los Angeles to play guest roles in television shows. Her first major role came as a main cast member on the sitcom The Bill Engvall Show (2007–2009). Although she made her film debut in Garden Party (2008), her major breakthrough came when she played a poverty-stricken teenager in the independent drama Winter’s Bone (2010).
On her 30th birthday, we take a look at some of her best performances in what has been a highly successful career.
Jennifer Lawrence’s 10 Best 10 Films:
10. Passengers (Morten Tyldum – 2016)
This 2016 sci-fi film received mixed reviews and critics were quick to point out a lot of problematic issues. From colonization to sexism, the film dangerously plays with contentious ideas.
Chris Pratt plays the role of a crew member who wakes up from his sleep chamber due to a malfunction. He cannot cope with the loneliness of an inevitably doomed journey so he awakens Lawrence from her sleep as well. Although the film does not manage to bring anything new to the table, the lead performances merit some praise.
“I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t spot it,” Lawrence responded about the film’s criticisms. “I thought the script was beautiful — it was this tainted, complicated love story. It definitely wasn’t a failure. I’m not embarrassed by it by any means. There was just stuff that I wished I’d looked into deeper before jumping on.”
9. Like Crazy! (Drake Doremus – 2011)
Lawrence had a supporting role in this 2011 romantic drama. The film features a complicated relationship between two college students who are separated when the woman overstays her US student visa. Jennifer Lawrence is brilliant as the “other woman” in this dynamic love triangle. The film received critical acclaim when it won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.
The filmmaker Drake Doremus said, “It has been the craziest ride. I mean, this movie was so tiny. It was just basically like, ‘Maybe some people will see this movie. Maybe people will relate to it and maybe it will resonate.’ Then to have this reaction and for it to be now coming out is like a dream come true. “
Adding, “This has been my dream my whole life. It is crazy. It still hasn’t sunk in yet – how special and grateful I am. It is amazing.”
8. Red Sparrow (Francis Lawrence – 2018)
Lawrence stars in this spy thriller about a Russian ballerina who is forced to enter a Russian military task force where she has to seduce an American CIA officer. Although the film was neither a critical nor a commercial success, Jennifer Lawrence puts up a stellar performance and draws us into the tense world of international espionage.
The actress commented on the film’s significance, saying, “The movie is actually more about the emotions that go into that kind of lifestyle, like that anxiety. It’s not glamorising the ‘spy life.’ It seems really stressful. So I was like, ‘How do you tell your kids that you’re spies?’
“And what he told me… or, wait, somebody told me. I heard through the grapevine. No, I’m not gonna give away our government’s secrets. I’m not Donald Trump.”
7. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky – 2017)
Despite its polarizing effect on film critics and audiences, Aronofsky managed to subvert voyeuristic expectations even though he is famous for unsettling his viewers. Lawrence is brilliant as a young pregnant woman whose house and sense of security is increasingly destabilized by a torrent of invaders. The product is a chaotic resonance.
The actress revealed, “I never lose myself in a movie. This is the only time I’ve lost myself. I couldn’t tell my body that none of it was real. I kept on hyperventilating.”
She added, “The most important thing to know about this film before seeing it is that, it’s all allegory. It’s all metaphor that’s tied to this narrative. It’s the creation and decimation of the universe, including Biblical themes and creation of religion.”
6. X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn – 2011)
This was the fifth instalment to the beloved superhero franchise and it marked Jennifer Lawrence’s debut as the enigmatic shape-shifter Mystique. The film was well-received by critics and fans alike and Lawrence is compelling as the mysterious mutant, a performance which helped establish her on-screen persona.
“I am ashamed to say I auditioned three times before I even watched any of the movies,” Lawrence admitted. “And then after I watched the movies, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been doing it all wrong, why are they calling me back?’”
Matthew Vaughn said he cast Lawrence because “she could pull off the challenging dichotomy that Raven faces as she transforms into Mystique; that vulnerability that shields a powerful inner strength.”
5. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross – 2012)
Based on the popular novel series by Suzanne Collins, the 2012 sci-fi film presents a futuristic dystopia rife with class conflicts and authoritarian tendencies. Lawrence plays the role of the strong female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, who voluntarily participates in the cruel, gladiatorial death circus of the rich as a rebellion against their ignorant exploits.
While speaking about her character, Lawrence said, “She’s a warrior. She’s this hero that doesn’t mean to be a hero. She’s a symbol of revolt, and freedom, and hope … a futuristic Joan of Arc.”
She also spoke about the universe the film is set in, “It’s about a government that has control over its people by keeping them separated and hungry and weak so that they can’t fight back which is completely real in so many countries. Fortunately in this story the people become angry enough to fight back.”
4. Joy (David O. Russell – 2015)
David O. Russell’s 2015 biopic was based on the story of Joy Mangano, a struggling Long Island single mom who became one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs. Lawrence is honest, vulnerable and admirably resilient as Joy. Her commendable performance earned her a fourth Academy Award nomination as well as her third Golden Globe Award.
In an interview, Lawrence said, “The whole inspiration came from such a pure place of wanting to celebrate the unsung heroes of the household, women that forfeit their entire lives for their families and love them very much, but also love themselves and have their own desires. And that’s okay.”
“When I met her (Joy Mangano), I was really spellbound by her presence,” Lawrence recalled. “She doesn’t have any airs—she’s very normal, but she’s incredibly powerful. David and I both walked out of the room and were like, there she is.”
3. American Hustle (David O. Russell – 2013)
Jennifer Lawrence plays the whimsical and naïve wife of a con-artist in this 2013 drama about crime, money and the convoluted American Dream. Her character, Rosalyn, is a threat to the whole scam operation but has problems with simple kitchen tasks, resulting in an engaging comedic presence. Lawrence’s performance earned her an Academy Award nomination. She won the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards as Best Supporting Actress
“I had been working a lot and a vacation seemed important until I met Rosalyn,” Lawrence said “and then there was nothing in the world I wanted to do more and I realized this would be more refreshing than an actual vacation. David sent me the script, and then we just started creating her piece by piece.
“He has this amazing contagious energy that makes me feel like, whatever he asks, you go for it. Even the kissing scene with Amy. I said, ‘David, no.’ He says, ‘trust me, it will work. No, David. Even after we did it I thought, no way.’ And then I see it, and it absolutely does work. I can’t explain [the dynamic between us], but his incredible fire just pushes you to do things you didn’t know you were capable of.”
2. Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik – 2010)
Debra Granik’s independent film gave Lawrence her breakthrough role and transformed her presence in the industry from a supporting actress in a small sitcom to the second youngest Academy Award nominee of all time.
Set in the Ozark mountains, Lawrence plays the role of a young woman who desperately tries to keep her family together while managing her father, a drug dealer. This remains one of her most memorable performances of her career, moving and poignant.
Lawrence spoke about why she was interested in playing the role, “My mom read the book (by Daniel Woodrell), five, some six years ago. And when she read it she said, ‘Jennifer, if they ever make this into a movie, you’d be perfect for it.’
“And you know, I didn’t listen to her, because she’s my mother, but five years later I got the script and the audition.”
1. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell – 2012)
Jennifer Lawrence plays the highly nuanced and complex role of Tiffany, a troubled young woman who suffers from psychological disorders. She strikes up a beautiful and bizarre relationship with Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), a man who has his fair share of mental problems as well. Lawrence won the Academy Award for this film at the age of 22, making her the second youngest woman (behind Marlee Matlin of Children of a Lesser God) to ever win the Oscar for Best Actress.
The actress praised the character she plays in the 2012 film, saying, “One of the biggest things about Tiffany is her fearlessness, and yet she’s also very aware. Most people who are fearless aren’t aware of the worst-case scenario. They’re not aware of the consequences.
“But she’s both. She’s ferocious, fearless, and she’s aware of everything, and I thought that was fascinating. I wanted to go into the audition with David O. Russell that way.”