The evergreen American-British actress and author, Julianne Moore is well-known for her unique roles in Hollywood. Recipient of an Academy Award, two Golden Globes and two Emmys, Moore is celebrated for her prolific work within the realm of both indie and blockbuster movies, often taking on a character of women with psychological or emotional turmoil. Moore has been a celebrated leading lady while standing out in supporting roles as well in a vast and wide-ranging career to date.
Moore, who has often spoken about her childhood was born to a military family. With that, as many will be well aware, she would have to move home with regularity, a lifestyle that made Moore relatively insecure about herself. Later, however, her upbringing aided her acting career, as she later admitted: “When you move around a lot, you learn that behaviour is mutable. I would change, depending on where I was…It teaches you to watch, to reinvent, that character can change”. Being bullied in her childhood, and later experiencing family issues, Moore went on to write the semi-autobiographical Freckleface Strawberry that went on to become a bestseller.
As somewhat expected, Moore was an industrious and hard-working “good girl” in her youth, one who planned to become a doctor in later life. However, being an avid reader, she slowly started performing on-stage, which developed this innate interest to start an acting career. Andre Gregory’s workshop production of Uncle Vanya proved to be “one of the most fundamentally important acting experiences” which helped Moore to become the actress she is today.
With a slight struggle at the beginning of her career, the enigmatic actor slowly started gaining acclaim and recognition by dint of hard work and perseverance. With her “rare ability to bounce between commercially viable projects like Nine Months to art house masterpieces like Safe unscathed,” Moore has been praised for her versatility and ability to portray any demanding role with effortless ease and grace in what has made her a respected figure “in art houses and multiplexes alike”. Emotional, raw and honest, “nobody sobs from the soul quite like Moore” and, of course, has often been called the “queen of the big-screen breakdown”.
Here, we take a look at the 15 best films starring Julianne Moore.
Julianne Moore’s 15 best films:
15. Chloe (Atom Egoyan, 2009)
An erotic thriller closely adapted from the 2004 French film Nathalie, the plot of Chloe revolves around a middle-aged couple David and Catherine whose ages have caused the sun to set on their sex life. Catherine wants to test David’s loyalty by hiring the seductress Chloe, whom she asks to go and flirt with David. Soon, Chloe develops feelings for Catherine and wants to be with her; the plot starts to spiral from here.
Thrilling and titillating, the film has a certain palpable sexual tension as well as an intriguing game of chase. Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson play the perfect couple, bickering and insecure. Moore’s constant need for attention stems from the insecurities regarding her fading youth. Amanda Seyfried as the lusty titular character is dangerous and seductive. She had been persuaded by the producer to star in the film. Moore said that Seyfried was a “very dependable” acting partner and that they did not have any awkwardness or tension while filming the intimate scenes.
“This business transaction, which is what this was, is over!”
14. Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 2013)
Jon Martello cares only about “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn”. He is a porn addict and can only get off to explicit films despite being sexually active with various women. After getting dumped by the manipulative Barbara Sugarman, he finds himself getting sexually and emotionally proximate to a middle-aged grieving woman, Esther.
In his directorial debut, Gordon-Levitt enacts in the film as the titular character. Both Scarlet Johansson and Julianne Moore received high praise for their performances. Moore delivers a moving performance, providing Jon with the warmth he never received. This film is a brilliant take on how an obsession with erotica might ruin absolutely everything.
“If you want to lose yourself, you have to lose yourself in another person. It’s a two-way thing.”
13. Crazy, Stupid Love (Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, 2011)
In this raunchy character-driven rom-com, Cal Weaver lives the American dream with a wonderful house, a great job, a beautiful wife, Emily, and children. However, Emily soon asks for a divorce due to her alleged infidelity with a co-worker which shatters Cal’s nearly perfect life. Middle-aged and suddenly divorced, Cal decides to immerse himself in the dating pool but gets lost in its fickleness. However, the charming Jacob Palmer enters his life and teaches him how to play the game and be the perfect flirt.
The plot focuses on the stories of each character which makes it an interesting and fun watch. Modern-day dating is portrayed in all its glory—deceptive and capricious. Julianne Moore plays the infidel wife of Cal who later reconciles with him over their shared differences. Overall, the film is light-hearted and funny which makes it quite a pleasurable watch.
“Honestly, I don’t know if I should help you or I should euthanise you.”
12. Suburbicon (George Clooney, 2017)
While the brilliant Coen Brothers co-write the script for this film, the director makes a mess of it by trying to balance heavyweight issues like a murder mystery, racism and social satire together. Although Julianne Moore, Matt Damon and Oscar Isaac deliver compelling performances, as does the young Noah Jupe, the dubious injustice and the social inequality and immorality is unsurprisingly predictable. Moore deserves special mention for playing two roles deftly; it is hard to imagine a demure and dignified Moore transforming herself into a cold-blooded, greedy murderer.
The film revolves around Gardner Lodge who recedes with his paraplegic wife Rose, her twin sister Margaret and his son Nicky. Greed and lust force Gardner to make drastic and impulsive decisions that bear heavy consequences. Amidst a racially charged unequal and unjust society, Gardner tries to flee from his actions with the ope of redemption.
“I have to make decisions like what’s best for the family.”
11. Hannibal (Ridley Scott, 2001)
Based on Thomas Harris’ novel, the film is based on the eponymous protagonist Dr Hannibal Lecter, notoriously known for his cannibalistic practices. Mason Verger, an affluent child predator who was paralysed and disfigured by Lecter, seeks revenge and appoints FBI Agent Clarice Starling to catch the doctor. As the plot progresses, Starling realises that Lecter is elusive and evades arrest easily by dint of intelligence and wit.
Starling and Lecter share a complicated relationship. Anthony Hopkins is phenomenal as Hannibal and Julianne Moore provides a perfect balance and support. Gary Oldman as the vicious Mason Verger is sinister and lusting for revenge, which ultimately leads to his downfall. With Hariss’ permission, Ridley Scott changed the ending because he “couldn’t take that quantum leap emotionally on behalf of Starling. Certainly, on behalf of Hannibal—I’m sure that’s been in the back of his mind for a number of years. But for Starling, no. I think one of the attractions about Starling to Hannibal is what a straight arrow she is.”
“People don’t always tell you what they are thinking. They just see to it that you don’t advance in life.”
10. The Big Lebowski (the Coen brothers, 1998)
The most iconic film in the Coen brothers back catalogue is no doubt their cult classic, The Big Lebowski, a stoner, crime comedy starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore.
Rarely known for her comedy roles, Moore’s performance in the Coen brothers classic is somewhat of a mini marvel, playing the role of Maude Lebowski with a brilliantly silly deadpan approach. Playing the entirely sincere and pompous modern artist, Moore steals every scene she appears in, becoming increasingly funny throughout the film as she interacts with Jeff Bridges clueless, ‘Dude’.
“Does the female form make you uncomfortable, Mr. Lebowski?”.
9. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
Joining the likes of Tom Cruise, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy and Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore plays the role of Linda Partridge in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble masterpiece.
Attuned to working with such large casts having worked on the likes of Boogie Nights and Hard Eight, Paul Thomas Anderson was more than capable of handling himself for 1999s Magnolia. A tribute to Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Moore plays the remorseful wife of a TV producer in a performance that somehow elicits sympathy despite her character being such an irredeemable mess. It’s a feat only Julianne Moore could achieve.
“Don’t call me “lady”. I come in here, I give these things to you, you check, you make your phone calls, look suspicious, ask questions”.
8. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1994)
From Robert Altman, the same director behind Nashville, Gosford Park and The Long Goodbye, Short Cuts follows the day-to-day lives of several suburban Los Angeles residents as they experience the love and heartache of the big city
With an enormous ensemble cast that boasts the likes of Andie MacDowell, Tim Robbins, Jack Lemmon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Downey Jr. and, of course, Julianne Moore, Short Cuts is one of Altman’s most underappreciated films. Known for Moore’s explosive monologue in which she reveals her feelings towards her cheating husband in a fit of rage, Altman’s film shows the actor in one of her most expressive and emotional roles.
“Are you cheating Ralph?”. “No, Marian. You cheat. Remember?”.
7. Gloria Bell (Sebastian Lelio, 2018)
Divorcee woman, Gloria, is free-spirited and independent, spending her time drinking and dancing at clubs. One night she meets Arnold and they instantly stir up an unexpected romance. However, Arnold’s duties to his ex-family and his lack of commitment soon becomes an issue for Gloria which hampers their courtship.
Moore is indeed glorious as Gloria in this film. She portrays the character’s independent nature and insecurities with effortless ease. She is humiliated and wounded by the new man in her life but that does not deter her from living life the way she pleases. Refreshing and honest, according to Lelio, “Julianne giving her interpretation of the character is not only a huge honour, but it’s also irresistible. It’s going to be like jazz, you’ll feel the spirit of the original story but it’ll be re-invigorated and vital”. Moore is resplendent, transcendent and a delight to witness as she journeys from heartbreak to freedom, in the film.
“I’ve always been the one worrying about them. And they’ve never worried about me, at all. It’s a really lonely feeling.”
6. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
In 2027, society is on the verge of disintegration due to two decades of infertility and lack of repopulation. When a deluge of asylum seekers intercept the British boundaries, they are detained by the government; Kee a pregnant refugee is saved by civil servant Theo Faron, who goes to unimaginable extents to save the mother-to-be and her child.
Theo Faron is the prescient, “archetypal everyman” who is devastated by the death of his son, Dylan, in the flu pandemic. The absence of fatherhood compels him to be Kee’s saviour. The film has an underlying theme of hope and faith. While decades of hopelessness brings about the despairing nature of society, Kee (Moore) as the harbinger of new life is the only source of hope in sullen times. Cuaron uses brilliant scores to bring out the social unrest and the general barrenness in the story. Silence is used as a strong weapon to add poignance to the film. Cuaron is adept at extrapolating current issues into a dystopian narrative which makes the film even more believable and engrossing.
“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices.”
5. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson 1997)
A period piece, the film revolves around Eddie Adams who enters the porn industry, with success and a carefree lifestyle, he is introduced to drugs which lead to his downward spiral. The film also focuses on other people and their place in the industry.
The film exposes the secrets of being a pornstar and the kind of life led by them. Moore plays the role of Maggie or ‘Amber Waves’ whose career and lifestyle choices lead her to lose her child’s custody. Wonderful performances by her, Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg and the rest of the cast make Boogie Nights a disturbingly funny and engrossing film, one of the acclaimed auteur Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpieces.
“Heaven sent you here to this place, Dirk Diggler. You’ve been blessed.”
4. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
A lesbian couple, Nic and Jules, each give birth to Laser and Joni using the same anonymous sperm donor. Laser is intrigued to meet his actual father and enlists the help of his sister Joni. Eventually, they find Paul, an organic food restaurateur, who grows invested in the kids and decides to get involved in their lives. Chaos ensues when Jules and Paul are attracted to each other which tears the happy couple apart, giving rise to tensions amidst the family members.
The film is a brilliant and endearing take on the institution of marriage and the drab and drudgery that might lead a relationship to seem mundane after years of togetherness. Paul is a dash of freshness which probably attracts Jules. Moore was nominated for the Best Actress award due to her brilliant portrayal of the lovelorn yet conflicted Jules.
“It’s hard enough to open your heart in this world. Don’t make it harder.”
3. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)
Julianne Moore’s performance in Todd Haynes’ enigmatic classic, Safe is by no means an easy one, having to portray a woman who develops multiple chemical sensitivity and is forced to leave her world of comforts behind.
It’s a strange, bizarre film that may just be Todd Haynes’ very best, starring Julianne Moore in a truly compelling lead role. Featuring alongside an impressive cast including, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris and Jodie Markell, Moore delivers a standout performance in Haynes extraordinary film. Exploring themes of modern consumerism and the contemporary obsession with beauty and wellness, Safe is a highly underrated masterpiece.
“I don’t take drugs or drink or… I don’t even like coffee very much. I’m just a total milk-o-holic”.
2. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Nominated for several Academy Awards, including a nod for Julianne Moore for Best Actress, Far From Heaven pays homage to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk, from the likes of All That Heaven Allows to Imitation of Life.
The film itself is set in 1950s Connecticut and follows a housewife who faces a marital crisis and mounting racial tensions when she falls for her gardener. Starring alongside Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert and Viola Davis, Julianne Moore’s lead performance is nothing short of immaculate, bringing all the class and beauty of Hollywood’s golden age to a culturally pertinent tale.
“That was the day I stopped believing in the wild ardor of things. Perhaps in love, as well. That kind of love. The love in books and films. The love that tells us to abandon our lives and plans, all for one brief touch of Venus”.
1. Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, 2014)
In this delicate and heartwarming film, Julianne Moore plays the eponymous character Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at Columbia University, who is diagnosed with the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. While her family grapples with the sudden shock and as Alice rapidly deteriorates, Alice attempts to win the race against time, trying to retain her memories as hard as possible.
This film is a real tearjerker. It deals with the issues with great dignity and poise. Moore, who was already the directors’ first choice for the role, spent four months preparing herself for the role. She delivered a powerful and astonishingly touching performance, sad enough to move the audience to tears. Honest and sensitive, this is inarguably the best performance of her career, winning her the Best Actress Award at the Academy.
“What if I see you, and I don’t know that you’re my daughter, and I don’t know that you love me?”