“I always say every single moment that has led me to this moment has made me who I am” – Kristen Stewart
Having performed in front of the camera since she was a young child, Kristen Stewart has always had a natural gift for acting, something which mainstream audiences would realise following her breakout role as Bella Swan in the immensely popular Twilight series. Though whilst she may be best known for these five commercially giant films, her recent endeavours have seen her excel in the independent film market starring in movies from legendary directors such as Woody Allen, Kelly Reichardt and David Fincher.
This break away from the mainstream spotlight may have something to do with Stewart’s own interests away from the centre stage, herself stating that “I never wanted to be the centre of attention—I wasn’t that ‘I want to be famous, I want to be an actor’ kid.”
She added: “I never sought out acting, but I always practised my autograph because I love pens. I’d write my name on everything.” It’s exactly the kind of quirk that audiences have come to expect of her often unconventional characters, with a charming, endearing nature.
With a wide range of on-screen skills and a plethora of genre experience to draw from, let’s take a look at her 10 best films.
The 10 best Kristen Stewart films:
10. Adventureland (Greg Mottola – 2009)
From Superbad director Greg Mottola, Adventureland is a quirky coming-of-age story that would help to establish the careers and styles of both Kristen Stewart and co-star Jesse Eisenberg.
The quirky tale follows a college graduate (Jesse Eisenberg) in the summer of 1987 who takes a job at an amusement park to pass the months away, only for it to put him through a significant dry-run of life in the real world. Kristen Stewart plays the chilled-out love interest of Eisenberg, a role which she effortlessly slips into whilst bringing all her natural charm and wit.
9. Into the Wild (Sean Penn – 2007)
Based on the non-fiction novel of the same name by Jon Krakauer, chronicling the life of the traveller Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild is a powerful, heartbreaking tale of finding one’s identity.
The film tracks McCandless’ adventures across North America and the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s, including his passing through a rundown town where he meets Tracy, played by Kristen Stewart. It may only be a passing, supporting role for Stewart, but her honest, soulful portrayal of McCandless’ kindred spirit is truly powerful, particularly considering Christopher’s isolation from reality and a significant other.
8. Camp X-Ray (Peter Sattler – 2014)
Veering outside of her Hollywood typecast, Stewart’s role in Peter Sattler’s Camp X-Ray is one bubbling with raw emotion.
Sattler’s directorial debut follows a soldier (Stewart) who is assigned to Guantanamo Bay where she befriends a man who has been potentially wrongfully imprisoned. It’s a transfixing film and a powerful performance from Kristen Stewart whose character is forced to question her own morals and integral beliefs in order to seek justice.
7. Happiest Season (Clea DuVall – 2020)
From dark, brooding drama to a light holiday romance, Kristen Stewart steps into a comedy role for Clea DuVall’s surprisingly charming Happiest Season.
A refreshingly realistic LGBTQ romantic comedy, Stewart plays Abby who has been invited to her girlfriend’s family Christmas gathering whilst the parents are unaware that the two are in a relationship.
A heartwarming story of love and acceptance, particularly during the Christmas season, Stewart’s performance perfectly encapsulates the sweet, charming attributes of her character.
6. The Runaways (Floria Sigismondi – 2010)
Inspired by the real-life story of the rock band of the same name, The Runaways features an uncharacteristically sombre performance from Kristen Stewart as one of the two lead singers.
The coming-of-age story follows the teenage rock group The Runaways and the central relationship of the two lead band members, Cherie (Dakota Fanning) and Joan (Kristen Stewart) as their dreams and naivety are explored.
Encapsulating the enthusiasm, ambition and eccentricities of the real-life Joan Jett, Stewart steals the limelight ahead of her co-star, fully embracing the life and soul of the 1970s rocker.
5. Panic Room (David Fincher – 2002)
Following his success with Fight Club, David Fincher’s fifth major feature film Panic Room starred a young Kristen Stewart as the daughter of a family fighting for survival.
Written by legendary Hollywood scriptwriter David Koepp, the film stars Jodie Foster as a divorcee settling into a new home who is forced to use a secret panic room upon the intrusion of sophisticated burglars.
Only 12 at the time of filming, Stewart’s performance is excellent considering her age, forming a convincing relationship with ‘mother’ Jodie Foster to create a powerful and intense, claustrophobic thriller.
4. Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas – 2014)
The first of two films from Olivier Assayas on this list, Clouds of Sils Maria received plaudits from film festivals across the globe, including most notably a nomination for a Palme d’Or at Cannes 2014.
Written and directed by Assayas, the film follows an A-list film star ‘Maria Enders’ (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) who engage in a romance during the revival of the play that launched Maria’s career.
An intimate and challenging role, Stewart creates an intricate character to draw from, one layered with sexual complexity which would ultimately earn her a historic César for best supporting actress, becoming the first American actress to win the French award.
3. Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland – 2014)
Julianne Moore may steal the show here for her Oscar-winning, heartbreaking portrayal of a suffering mother, but the supporting cast truly helps to elevate the material, namely Kristen Stewart as Moore’s fictional daughter.
Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a linguistics professor and hardworking mother whose life is thrown into turmoil when she is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Based on the excellent debut novel from Lisa Genova, this award-winning adaptation features a compelling performance from Kristen Stewart whose powerful relationship with the titular mother is at the heart of the story. It’s a performance with significant subtle heft.
2. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas – 2016)
Breaking free from her role as a supporting actor, Kristen Stewart’s second collaboration with director Olivier Assayas put herself front and centre, helping to earn the film a Palme d’Or nomination as a result.
The psychological thriller follows Maureen (Stewart), a personal shopper in Paris who refuses to leave the capital until she can make spiritual contact with her deceased twin brother. It’s a haunting film, grounded by Stewart’s terrific performance, creating a tangible and inspiring central character, despite the characters strange, seemingly supernatural beliefs.
1. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt – 2016)
One of cinema’s greatest female working directors, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women is a powerful ensemble drama that never quite received the plaudits it deserved.
Written by Reichart, the film is based on three short stories from Maile Meloy’s collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, chronicling a trio of intertwining narratives each set in America’s Northwest.
Stewart plays an education law teacher who springs up a relationship with ranch-hand Jamie (Lily Gladstone) one of her adult pupils and is totally emotionally engrossed in the role, stealing the attention from her co-stars with natural charm and expertise. Her portrait of a complicated, enigmatic woman is powerfully moving.