“The written word can be powerful and beautiful – but films transport us to another place in a way that even the most evocative words never can” – Saorise Ronan
Gradually becoming an acting powerhouse over the course of her already impressive career, the Irish-born Saorise Ronan is a charming figure of contemporary filmmaking, having already collaborated with filmmaking icons Peter Jackson, Wes Anderson, and Greta Gerwig.
Breaking out in Joe Wright’s Atonement, for which she earned herself a supporting actress nomination at the mere age of 13, Ronan has forged an early acting career marked by multiple forays back in time to period-piece England.
Though she may have found her feet in such roles, performances in Ladybird, Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel have each shown her versatility and promising future as a multifaceted actress capable of action, comedy and much more.
On her 27th birthday, let’s look into the actor’s illustrious career so far with a definitive list of her 10 best cinematic performances.
Let’s get to it.
The 10 best Saorise Ronan films:
10. The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson – 2009)
Better known for his ventures into Middle-Earth, and even for his gloriously gory early horror films, in 2010, Peter Jackson had a somewhat tumultuous time adapting Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.
Starring Ronan in the leading role, the spiritual story follows her character, ‘Susie Salmon’ and her efforts to seek revenge for her own murder, as she manipulates her family’s life whilst in purgatory. Though the film itself is a little uninspired, Ronan’s performance, particularly given her young age of 13, is certainly impressive, managing to easily ground a fantastical story.
9. Atonement (Joe Wright – 2007)
A critical and commercial success upon its release, Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement threw Saorise Ronan into centre stage, earning her the first Oscar nomination of her career.
Ronan plays ‘Briony Tallis’, a young English girl who believes she saw her family gardener commit a crime against her sister (Keira Knightley), despite the fact that the two are lovers.
Only appearing in the first half of the film, her performance in this epic period drama set in during World War II is mesmerising, garnering nominations at both the Bafta and Golden Globes, an early indicator of the great success that was to follow.
8. Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman – 2017)
This staggeringly beautiful hand-drawn animation from Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman is a moving portrait of the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, and a landmark film for arthouse animation.
Closely mimicking the art and style of the artist in question, the film itself depicts a young man who visits the last hometown of Van Gogh to deliver him his final letters. A fictional account of the artist’s death, focusing on his last letter to his brother, Loving Vincent remains a grand, transporting piece of cinema, largely due to its impeccable animation style.
With that being said, the voice work from Ronan, as Marguerite Gachet, the daughter of Van Gogh’s doctor, is marvellously brought to life by the actress, with her relationship with the titular character proving to be the most enchanting aspect.
7. Hanna (Joe Wright – 2011)
Still in the early stages of her own acting career, Ronan once more collaborated with Joe Wright, four years after Atonement, to appear in her very own leading role.
In the cleverly crafted film, Ronan plays a young girl raised by her father to be the perfect assassin and her journey as she tracks an intelligence agent across Europe.
Well-known for her quaint roles in quiet period dramas, Hanna well illustrates Saorise Ronan’s range as a ruthless action-star, embracing the lead role where she perfectly balances the line between a murderous killer and a naïve young girl.
6. Ammonite (Francis Lee – 2020)
Premiering at the 2020 London Film Festival, Francis Lee’s Ammonite is an aching tale of romance starring acting royalty Kate Winslet beside a young Saorise Ronan.
On the Southern coast of England in the 1840s, Ammonite tracks the story of real-life palaeontologist Mary Anning (Winslet), who takes in a young woman (Ronan) sent to the coast to recover from depression, unknowingly sparking a relationship that would forever change their lives.
A passionate love story that flourishes on the tumultuous English coastline, Francis Lee’s film brings the astonishing tale of Mary Anning to life, thanks to the fervent relationship that blossoms between the two lead actors.
5. Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke – 2018)
In an adaptation of the life of the former queen of Scotland, and more accurately the book by John Guy, Saorise Ronan plays a leading role in the gorgeously depicted period drama.
Transformed into Mary Stuart, Ronan’s powerful portrayal tracks the tale of the Queen’s cousin who becomes imprisoned and facing execution after attempting to overthrow Elizabeth I.
It’s a compelling story, made complete by the visually stunning set design, makeup, hair and costumes, which tighten the piece together and make host for the explosive rivalry between the two lead characters.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson – 2014)
A grand ensemble cast joined Saorise Ronan in Wes Anderson’s predictably eclectic 2014 film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring familiar mainstays of the director including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Jeff Goldblum.
Wonderfully inventive, Anderson’s film is a colourful tale of a concierge (Ralph Fiennes) at the stunning Grand Budapest Hotel, who becomes embroiled in a deadly conspiracy surrounding a priceless painting.
Ronan plays the love interest, Agatha, of the bellboy. It’s a charming, theatrical role that tasks the actress in a largely comedic film where she fails to become swallowed by the might of those around her and shines as a memorable character in her own right.
3. Brooklyn (John Crowley – 2016)
Thanks to John Crowley’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name, Ronan would earn herself her first best actress nomination at the young age of just 21.
The romantic period drama tracks Ellis (Ronan), who immigrates to 1950s Brooklyn from Ireland and becomes torn between the life and lover she once knew, or the promise of that which beholds her.
Receiving international plaudits, Crowley’s film, and particularly Ronan’s enchanting central performance, transported audiences back to the mid-20th century and established Ronan as a powerful leading force in conjunction.
2. Little Women (Greta Gerwig – 2019)
Sweeping audiences off their feet and back to the romance of the 1800s, Greta Gerwig’s spellbinding Little Women earned six nominations at the 2020 Academy Awards, including a leading actress nomination for Ronan.
Adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s iconic American coming-of-age novel, Gerwig modernises the classic tale and puts Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen together within a formidable ensemble cast.
As Jo March, Ronan recalls the story of her and her sisters’ upbringing against the constraints of womanhood and does so with effortless charm, bringing an endearing honesty to her character whilst grounding the story with a central tale of heartache.
1. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig – 2017)
As the endearing Lady Bird McPherson in Greta Gerwig’s breakout coming-of-age comedy, Saorise Ronan slips into the life of a girl balanced between childhood and adolescence.
Set at the break of the new millennium, the eccentric lead character is an artistic rebel, battling her mother (Laurie Metcalfe) in teenage angst whilst yearning for credibility and a creative future at her new college.
Her portrayal of the central character would bring a second Oscar nomination for a leading role. She was unfortunate to miss out, drawing the humour and poignancy from the film’s script to create a truly captivating tale of teenage angst.