Best Actress of the Decade, Entry No. 2: Natalie Portman

To celebrate the last decade 2010-2019 we are counting down the best actresses and discussing some of their most notable and memorable performances of the last decade. With the help of Film Twitter, the ITOL team have selected 30 actresses. Entry No. 2 is Natalie Portman, and writer Michael Frank discusses his favourite performances by Portman over the last decade.

By Michael Frank

For many moviegoers, the only actress last decade outside of Toni Collette that has truly sent shivers down your spine is Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” as a ballet dancer convincing you to never take up ballet as a hobby. Portman transforms into an unrecognizable character, one that delves into the mania, ego, and power struggles seeping in the realms of art. Giving one of the wildest performances in this 21st century, Portman becomes another person in a performance that dazzles and mystifies, scares and surprises, convincing you that this is the most important movie you’ve seen in quite some time. 

If that were Portman’s only standout performance of the last couple decades, we would still have reason to commend her. In this one performance, she displayed an emotion of helplessness, one of folding into oneself, diving deep into the corners of will and obsession. This character continues to be replicated by the likes of Miles Teller in “Whiplash” and Elisabeth Moss in “Her Smell”. She set the standard and that standard is gold. 

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Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)

Portman transforms into an unrecognizable character, one that delves into the mania, ego, and power struggles seeping in the realms of art. Giving one of the wildest performances in this 21st century.

Her stardom extends far beyond “Black Swan” and the insanity exhibited in the film though. Her calm and restrained frustration shines in “Jackie”, giving another Oscar nomination along with her win for “Black Swan”. Her role as First Lady Kennedy turned out to be one of the most underappreciated of 2016, and it provided us with a lens into Portman’s aging persona. Instead of playing the young and passionate dancer, she morphed into a measured and respected politician and mother, a person that weighs the consequences rather than making decisions without thinking. We’ve seen Portman grow into a reputable actress, and someone we are happy to see on screen. 

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Natalie Portman in Jackie (2016)

She has been in our lives for over 25 years, cropping up in “Heat” and “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” along with being a hipster icon for her role in Zach Braff’s “Garden State”. She’s more than an actor and has used her fame and platform for social activism, fighting for animal rights, environmental changes due to climate change, anti-poverty ideals, and the importance of believing and championing women. For some she’s just a great actor, but for most, she’s a hero, an icon, a leader, and a role model. 

In terms of influential actresses in the last two decades, Portman remains near the top of the list, and though her last Oscar run was about four years ago, she will likely be back in the conversation sooner rather than later.

Portman’s career spans genre and type, more recently appearing appearing in Marvel movies, sci-fi thrillers like “Annihilation”, and head-spinners like “Vox Lux”. She can play any and every role and almost always makes the film a bit better, possibly her greatest strength. She brings a certainty to a film, a guarantee that you’ll be watching good, if not great, acting by a top-tier performer. She gives you that assurance.

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Natalie Portman in Vox Lux (2018)

In terms of influential actresses in the last two decades, Portman remains near the top of the list, and though her last Oscar run was about four years ago, she will likely be back in the conversation sooner rather than later. An actress that transforms and transcends feelings, characters, and movies, Natalie Portman is one of our finest, and let’s make sure we don’t forget that.

What’s your favourite performance by Natalie Portman? Let us know in the comments!

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