Unlike many actresses, Blanchett embraces unlikable characters, resisting the temptation to soften them. Her assertive gait and quizzical gaze in this drama about a convicted felon’s trial prove that she’s the real deal as a dramatic force. She is a joy to watch, conveying so much through a stolen glance or simple body language. She’s at her best in Malick’s ethereal Knight of Cups and in his film noir adaptation The Missing.
Paradise Road (1997)
A tale of resistance against oppressive forces, this Bruce Beresford film depicts a group of women forming a vocal orchestra in their prison camp. The movie is realistic on a physical level, but its delineation of characters can be frustratingly pro forma. Glenn Close and Frances McDormand stand out, but Blanchett is the film’s heartbeat.
Mary Mapes, the dogged news producer who pursued the Dan Rather story, is an unusual yet effective role for Blanchett. She reveals the inner life of her character without resorting to extravagant accents or tics.
Oscar and Lucinda (1998)
Director Gillian Armstrong (Little Women) jukes up a wry period drama out of Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel. Blanchett, a crisp Gene Tierney look-alike, and Fiennes, who’s more snazzy than usual, play off each other well; Armstrong coaches a twitchy geekiness from Fiennes and a frisky Pfeiffer-esque sensuality from Blanchett.
It’s an early showcase for Blanchett, who has since proven herself as one of the most versatile actresses working today. She starred as Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and more recently, as an agoraphobic former socialite in Blue Jasmine.
Elizabeth is the full-blooded British period drama that brought Blanchett to international attention. The film’s depiction of the titular queen as she navigates British royal politics is rich and suspenseful.
Whether she’s playing newscasters or hobos, CEOs or puppeteers, Blanchett brings energy to monologues that draw inspiration from 20th-century manifestos in director Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto. Her towering performance is a reminder of just how talented and accomplished she is. She walks to a beat here, elevating everyone around her, including co-stars Nina Hoss and Bobby Cannavale.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
It’s easy to take Blanchett for granted, but she’s capable of pulling off some astonishingly demanding roles. She brings a sense of calm to this Italian-set murder mystery, a wholly engrossing piece that showcases her range.
In this devilishly stylish adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic novel, she plays guileless socialite Meredith Logue, the unwitting pawn in Tom Ripley’s web of lies. Anthony Minghella’s follow-up to The English Patient is a deliciously twisty tale of murder and intrigue. It’s also a showcase for her impressively expressive face.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Blanchett’s turn as a neurotic former socialite in this comedy movie proves she can be funny without sacrificing her dramatic depth. Allen’s script reveals more than one side to his characters, showing that class stratification doesn’t have to be a black-and-white affair.
In this Oscar-winning film, Blanchett is a force to be reckoned with as a woman who loses her way in life. She also delivers a hilarious Bob Dylan impression, imbuing the artist’s quicksilver wit and burnt-out weariness with deep compassion. This is a career highlight.
The Gift (2000); Bandits (2001)
Blanchett’s spectral intensity suffuses this moody thriller. She stars as Annie Wilson, a widowed psychic scraping out a living in a backwater Southern town. Despite the fact that her clients think she’s in league with Satan, her psychic endowments allow her to understand their troubles.
While the film is ultimately a disappointment, it showcases Blanchett’s ability to do period work without resorting to camp. She possesses an authentically sultry sensuality that suits the noir setting. The film also features a stellar cast including Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Giovanni Ribisi and Hilary Swank.
Charlotte Gray (2001)
Gillian Armstrong directed Blanchett in this adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel about a Scottish woman recruited to aid the French Resistance during World War II. The film also stars Rupert Penry-Jones, Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup.
This early work from the Oscar winner demonstrates the range of her talents. She delivers her lines with resolute strength and undeniable intelligence, but the movie lacks emotional depth. The film was dumped by distributors soon after its release. Fortunately, it has found a home on Blu-ray. The DVD includes an interview with the director and cast.
The Missing (2003)
Blanchett is a marvel to watch when she’s firing on all cylinders, and this performance as a neurotic former socialite is a perfect example. She’s simultaneously melancholy and snotty, critiquing the privilege and luxury that famous people take for granted.
It’s easy to take this Australian actress for granted, but every now and then a filmmaker gives her a challenge that reminds us of her dexterity and shape-shifting abilities. Todd Field’s engrossing drama about a lesbian fictional composer is one such time.
She also did a terrific job playing multiple roles in Adam McKay’s satirical film Manifesto.
Veronica Guerin (2003)
The late Irish journalist was a real-life heroine whose pursuit of Dublin’s crime lords helped to put them out of business. But this cliche-laden, Jerry Bruckheimer production doesn’t give Blanchett much room to work her magic as the title character.
Her performance is nevertheless impressive, and she’s supported by a solid cast that includes Colin Farrell, Brenda Fricker, and Ciaran Hinds. Still, this is another film that could have been much better. It’s not even close to the John Mackenzie-directed When the Sky Falls, which was more grittier and deserved greater distribution.
The Life Aquatic (2004)
Despite a stellar cast—including regular Anderson collaborators Jeff Goldblum and Owen Wilson—this earnest, well-meaning period picture is too overburdened by tedious history. Blanchett does her best, though she lacks the spark of her work in Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.
This Depression-era thriller gives Blanchett a meaty role as the cunning liar who spots Stanton Carlisle’s tortured illusionist weaknesses. She also gets the best moments in del Toro’s other film, Nightmare Alley.