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Posterized: Natalie Portman

by Nathaniel R

Natalie Portman in a new photoshoot for Diorskin ForeverWhat odd careers child stars eventually look back on. Natalie Portman was an instant sensation when she appeared in The Professional as a junior assassin. When the film was released late in 1994, Natalie was just 13 years old. She became an instant favorite for directors filling their prestige ensembles and by the time she was 18 she was a leading lady and also the mother of Luke & Leia (though the Star Wars prequels contain her worst acting by far). By 23 she was a Golden Globe winner and by 29 an Oscar Best Actress champ. Afterwards she receded as so many actresses who win Oscars in their twenties do (what is there left to strive for?) presumably enjoying their riches and in some cases their new domesticity. Pregnant during her Black Swan Oscar campaign, Portman & her ballet world husband Benjamin Millepied are now the parents of a five year old and she's not seen in public nearly as often as she once was.

(Fun Trivia: did you know that Portman, Millepied and their son Aleph all have birthdays in a single week every June?)

After the jump posters from all of her theatrical releases, except the ones where she played herself or only appeared in cameo or in a section of an omnibus film, and a few notes on her filmography.

How many have you seen?

Act 1 Teenage Prodigy (1994-1999)

Act 2 A List Breakthroughs, Oscar Nominee and Becoming a Leading Lady (1999-2004)

Chapter 3 Adult Stardom But Only Black Swan Truly Rises (2005-2011)

Chapter 4 Post-Oscar Malaise... But New Directions? (2011-Now)

Through it all the movies have been remarkably consistent in their spottiness. Her blockbuster forays have mostly been terrible (doesn't she seem totally bored in the Marvel movies? No wonder she's quit them) and her arthouse films quickly forgotten. But the rare bright spots are so blinding her star shines on. With the release of A Tale of Love and Darkness today, based on the memoirs of the famous Israeli writer Amos Oz, she begins a new chapter as writer/director (though she also plays the secondary role in the film as Oz's mother). She'd experimented behind the camera before for a segment in New York, I Love You (2008) so it appears she liked it.

What do we learn from her career seeing it all lined up like this?
How many of those 30 pictures have you seen?

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Reader Comments (45)

I've seen 17. I consciously skipped the Thor series and the Star Wars reboot or whatever they call it. Her career is in clear regression.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I've seen 14 of these. She was really good in her debut and *fantastic* in both her Oscar-nommed roles, but outside those she's had a really irregular career. I think she signed on to do Thor because she wanted to work with Brannagh (I read an interview in which she said she used to be obsessed with Much Ado about Nothing) and probably the money didn't put her off! But I doubt she realised what she was getting into with the MCU. I for one am looking forward to see her shine in something again/ I'm really curious about the Jackie biopic by Pablo Larrain (also with Greta Gerwig), so fingers crossed it's good!

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

I have a deep fondness for Portman that I can't quite explain. What I notice is that when she works with a strong actor's director, she can be very compelling. (Aronofsky, Minghella, Nichols...heck even Branagh...I disagree on Thor and think she actually seems to be having a great time in that one, loose and playful and smart.) But she definitely seems to enjoy/need a collaborator.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

Heat is the best movie she was in by a landslide, but not because of her.

Closer is easily her best performance, I think. Cold Mountain is second. I really like her in My Blueberry Nights, but Weisz is magnificent that is hard to see another actress in the movie.

I think her work in Black Swan is only ok.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Carlos: Yeah, she almost definitely thought "Oh, I get to work with Kenneth Branagh and this'll be like Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane"? Yes on the first part, not quite on the second. I can almost bet the question that got her to leave was "hey, want to take over this corner of the MCU after Phase 3 ends?" and she went "what!? No! I quit!"

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I've seen 16 or 17 of them. (Honestly, I don't remember if I ever finished The Other Woman but do know I started it!)

She was charming in Beautiful Girls, compelling in Cold Mountain, dedicated in V for Vendetta (a movie I actually enjoy quite a bit), and flat-out superb in Closer and Black Swan. It's too bad Jane Got a Gun didn't fare better (so much potential), and also interesting how many three-year breaks she has taken from films for other pursuits like Broadway, Harvard, and, presumably, just living life.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

A friend tells me that the original script for the second Thor movie had a compelling storyline for Portman, but it was all cut out of the movie in the end. I suspect that, rightly, soured her on the whole superhero franchise thing.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLiz S.

Hey Nathaniel, this will probably come out TOTALLY STALKERISH but Portman does not live in Paris anymore she moved back to LA. There were a few headlines about it as her husband left his high profile ballet role in Paris after less than a year in the job, and did not hold back on his criticisms of his workplace atmosphere, so they moved back.

I've seen about 7 or 8 of those films. Her upcoming slate seems to be really interesting. The Jackie biopic by Pablo Larrain, Planetarium a french film which is also going to Venice, along with the Alex Garland film, and further ahead the HBO series and the Ruth Bader Ginsberg film.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

I like Natalie Portman, but during the year of her Oscar run for Black Swan I found it odd that the dominant narrative seemed to be that her win was the culmination of a fabulous, prestigious career. I never understood that, even while generally liking her as an actress. Seeing this posterized post on her kind of throws into sharp relief how false, or at least misguided that dominant narrative in 2010 was.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Just over half, including 13 of the first 15. Of the 2nd half, only her worthy win in "Black Swan" and her bored work in "Thor 1 and 2". Missing "ESILY" and whatever "Freezone" was.

I can't say she's someone I look forward to watching, but she's rarely bad. Except those "Star Wars" films, and that might have been because of those head dress outfits. She couldn't move for fear of being crushed by them!

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Kieran Scarlett -- Tell me all about it!

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette B.

She's just one of those MTV girls. She acts all superior cuz she went to college!

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEklund sister

I've seen 15. I love her almost without reservation: She's smart, driven, and kind of low-key wacky, but most importantly she doesn't seem to like playing the celebrity game in the usual way, preferring to focus on the things that are really important to her.

She tends to do her best work with strong directors, and I'd frankly like to see her give in to her auteur lust more. Closer is, by a pretty good margin, her finest performance, followed by Leon and Black Swan (very committed, and it's a film and performance that I adore, but the film makes better use of her established persona than she does of pushing her boundaries), and Garden State (her loosest work), which I actually think is undervalued quite a lot now.

It's interesting to me that she gets stuck with the "child star" label when she didn't really become a star until her teens, and even then was never really a "star" in the sense that that word usually implies. She always struck me as more of an "actor" than a "star", and certainly never fit the typical "child star" narrative (except for the franchise forays, which are regrettable in many ways, although I kind of like her in the first Thor). She's grounded in a way most stars - let alone child stars - aren't, and I think that's why I like her so much, even when her films and performances are so uneven.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

20 films total.

She is amazing in Leon, Cold Mountain, Garden State, Closer and Black Swan.
I also liked her in V for Vendetta, but I need to rewatch.

Really hoping that Annihilation and Jackie are great films.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I've learned that she's tried mainstream stardom, but she's just another casualty of a system where dumb movies are made for dumb men. When you think about it, there are a lot of actresses around that 30-35 year range that seemed on the road to mega-movie stardom but have somehow fallen short. Instead when a role could easily be filled by a woman in that age range, producers are seeking actresses in their 20's. Watch out Lawrence, Stone, Larsen, 30 is coming.

By all rights, 34-year old Kirsten Dunst should be the biggest star on the planet right now. Arguably (but not really) the most popular American actress in her 30's is ScarJo. Why? Because she's almost exclusively an action star.

Go find your voice Natalie. There are plenty of strong female mentors still doing great work into their 40s, 50s, and 60s (mostly on television), and primarily because they made decisions like the one you just made with Marvel.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

14. Leon, Mars Attacks!, Black Swan... and the others I'd rather not mention. :X

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

Seen in their entirety: 11
Loved: Black Swan
Liked: Heat
Hated: Garden State

She strikes me as someone for whom acting is nothing more than a thing she does because she can and not because it's her life, which isn't necessarily bad and would account for her CV inconsistencies.

Kieran, I was heavily in Portman's camp during the 2010 Oscar season and honestly struggle to recall her narrative as the "career honor." I thought the angle was more her physical dedication to the role. Were people actually saying that she was (over)due?

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Aww I liked WHERE THE HEART IS! haha.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

I've seen 13, though I totally forgot she was in HEAT and MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (the latter rather underrated, I remember thinking, but clearly don't remember as well as I thought!)

I go back and forth on her - she's clearly intelligent and can be very good as an actress, but I don't think she has much range. She exudes this delicate and, yes, privileged air that she can't quite seem to suppress though she can sometimes subvert it (see, e.g., BLACK SWAN).

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

She has talent, but I just don't find her very compelling to watch. Closer and Cold Mountain are her best work. Not a huge fan of her Oscar win--that film is loony and not in a good way.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I feel Portman really lucked out with The Swan ... her work before and after was fair but nothing to write rave reviews about .. maybe she will be able to jump-start her career again...

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

She just doesn't have that star quality,she is not a leading lady like a Lawrence or Winslet is,so right in the right role and so adrift in the wrong one.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

sigh... I had such a nerd crush on her when Star Wars came out.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentertom

I've seen 14. She was terrible in the Star Wars movies. She was luminous in Beautiful Girls.

I loved her in Garden State. The awkwardness of the character captured something about her she generally avoids. I also loved her in Cold Mountain--she stole that movie.

And Black Swan of course.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

I'm a semi-dedicated Portman follower. Cannot call myself a fan yet. I've seen 12 of her films.
I think she's a very dedicated actress who has not been great at choosing her roles.

Fully support her Black Swan Oscar win.
I would've been happy with a Kidman win that year, she was phenomenal.
As well as with a Bening win.
Portman, however, was also great.

Nina earns the bonus points for being mental, alone, kinda frigid, while aiming for stardom. Just a more unorthodox mess than Becca & Nic (I had to IMDb Kidman and Bening's character names).

Nina you can't not remember, just like Jasmine.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

@Troy H. Good point. The perceived physical demands/difficulty of the role drove Portman to that win. I'm talking about the perception of Natalie Portman's filmography (divorced from 2010) as a prestige filmography. As much as I like her, the actual titles in her filmography don't really support that perception IMO. I didn't communicate that very well.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKieran Scarlett

Eleven, and her work in the first one is my favorite, followed by Cold Mountain.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Everything but: Brothers, The Other Woman, No Strings Attached, Jane Got a Gun, and A Tale of Love and Darkness. No mention for her short in New York, I Love You as she was one of the few good things in that awful film and what about her first short film as a director in Eve w/ Lauren Bacall, Olivia Thirlby, and Ben Gazarra?

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

I've seen twenty of Ms Portman's films and boy, has she made a lot of stinky films with the worst being "My Blueberry Nights".. My favorite is still her first, "(Leon) The Professional".

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

I've seen 10 films and I've always felt a little distant from her performances. Obviously Black Swan is her best, but she made her segment in My Blueberry Nights come alive. I've always been intrigued by Goya's Ghost even though the film doesn't really work.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAdamA

Is it just me, or does her son look like Darren Aronofsky? I don't see how that blonde kid came out of her and the ballet dancer.

My advice for Natalie is to not worry about Marvel, and use her clout for some good meaty female parts. You know, the kinds of roles that Streep used to do in her 30's.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Cleo

Natalie has bad choice in projects (as these posters make clear) but, outside of the Star Wars films and Thor films, she is never bad. It is rare for an actress to knock it out of the park in middling projects/films, and let's face it, that's all the majority of these were ever going to be.

Interesting she is moving to TV, in general, I don't think that is good news but we will see. Maybe her filmography will take after Julianne Moore, consistently working, making TONS of bad films but also a great one every now and then.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterWhatWhat

When she is on, she is ON. Her best adult performances -Closer, Black Swan and Garden State (YES, re-watch it and focus on how the hell she made that role work) - are all amazing and completely different from each other. See how she's really not one to do the same darn thing over and over again.

She is a very interesting and unique actress so let's hope more work goes her way (instead of casting Lawrence in older roles, cast Portman!). I have some big mixed feelings about her going to TV - instead she should be steadily employed in projects with potential and good directors in film after Black Swan.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

I've seen 8, strange I felt I've seen more, and she was good in 3, (Black Swan excluded).

She's someone having a decent career despite being a formal child star.

She is just so neutral.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMingy

12 (mostly the big, mainstream ones). I think she's boring to be perfectly frank; not compelling in the least. Having said that, Black Swan and Knight of Cups is probably her best work.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

@Kieran: The perceived physical demands/difficulty of the role drove Portman to that win.

LOL, so wrong. Her win has aged incredibly well and most view it as one of the most deserving best actress winners we've had recently.

Some winners do have an able assist from a gimmick or career momentum; such as Charlize uglifying herself or Winslet being so overdue and playing a baity character in a prestige flick. Not in this case though. If anything it is harder for a stylized/genre/horror performance to get recognized and it is a testament to Portman and Arronofsky that she did. We should cheer. I wish the academy would embrace those types of performances more often as they tend to get passed over year after year no matter how incredibly strong they are (just look at all the great horror and sci-fi performances we've had over the years that never won enough traction).

Nothing against them at all, but it would have been much easier on paper for the academy to go with the overdue narrative for Bening in the lesbian drama or the meaty role of a mom with dead son who cries a lot in Kidman.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

I think she is one of the most underserve oscar winner EVER, I really don't get the "Black Swan" love.

August 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

From 2000 - onwards, I'd rank the best actress winners as such:

1. Cate Blanchett
2. Natalie Portman
3. Julianne Moore
4. Hilary Swank
5. Kate Winslet
6. Brie Larson
7. Reese Witherspoon
8. Jennifer Lawrence
9. Halle Berry
10. Nicole Kidman*
11. Helen Mirren

*disclaimer: If the Kidman performance here was for Birth, she would be either #1 or #2 on this list.

Charlie Theron
Marion Cotillard
Sandra Bullock
Meryl Streep

note: This list is based on the ranking of the performances against eachother NOT their relative strength against their competition in each of their years.

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPinoccio

I've seen twelve plus 'The Phantom Edit' (a 2 hour edit of the three Star Wars prequels, and boy is it confusing if you haven't seen the movies before you watch it).

I think she was promising as a young actress (Leon, Heat, Beautiful Girls) but I think she is downright terrible in 'Closer', and pretty good in 'Black Swan' - 'Black Swan' to me is in the category of 'she did as well as any decent actress would have done with the material' (i.e. more of the role than the performance led to her Oscar win).

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca


Portman's filmography is filled with alpha male titles. A Star Wars trilogy. Heat and The Professional. A young actress involves herself with movies approved by the patriarchy that is Hollywood of course she has an edge over an actress whose choices are lean more feminine.

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I have seen 12. I've for the most part found her pretty fascinating to watch. I would say that my three favorites that I have seen are Black Swan, Closer, and V for Vendetta. These three movies and her performances in them I love more and more as time goes on.

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

A nice even 15. Some real blind spots in there though.

I'm surprised no one is mentioning Brothers. She's great in that movie. Plus, the movie constantly breaks the fourth wall and all of the characters are constantly stopping in the middle of their dialogue to tell her character how beautiful she is. It's amazing. She is that stunning.

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrady

I definitely recall, aside from the "physical transformation" aspect, the whole "working from a young age/respected career" angle as well. Which is definitely strange looking at her filmography.

I don't agree with her win aging well either. I feel at the time people were like "yeah, Natalie, woo. yeah, reward Black Swan" and now i feel like people are kinda like "she's a limited actress...she was decent in that movie. it was the role." But I guess that could be said of almost all actresses and their successes.

August 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I've seen relatively few mainly because I've never been drawn to her. She tries hard, and she is intelligent. But I'm much more of an Annette Benning fan so .. I've learned to live with her win.

I find myself hoping that she finds her way, the business is fickle and actresses get discarded so easily. Bon Chance.

August 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I've seen 15. Mainly she was okay, no more, no less.
She was in Everyone I love you? I didn't recognized her.
But we share the same birthday (9th June), so that's nice.

August 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

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