Best Cate Blanchett's Movies and Performances, Ranked

Cate Blanchett Turns 55: Her 15 Best Film Performances, From ‘Carol’ to ‘Tár’
Cate Blanchett Turns 55: Her 15 Best Film Performances, From ‘Carol’ to ‘Tár’

From portraying Elizabeth I to embodying the superhero villain Hela, Australian sensation Cate Blanchett is one of the most revered performers of her generation, with some of the most riveting turns in modern cinema.

More from Variety

To celebrate her birthday, Variety ranks her 15 best performances of her career (so far).

Beloved by critics, audiences, and awards bodies, Blanchett has displayed a career aspiring actors dream about. From the beginning of her career, it was evident that we were witnessing one of cinema’s most gifted actresses. Starting in smaller, independent projects such as Cherie Nowlan’s “The Wedding Party” and Gillian Armstrong’s “Oscar and Lucinda,” it was her masterful turn in Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” that wowed the cinematic world, earning her the first of many Oscar nominations.

After portraying another kind of queen, Katharine Hepburn, the Queen of the Oscars, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” she won her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. With more memorable and stunning performances that would garner nominations, such as her work in Richard Eyre’s “Notes on a Scandal,” Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There,” and Kapur’s sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” she won an undeniable Oscar for Best Actress in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” in 2014. Her last two nominations as titular characters stand as some of her most beloved. The first was for the closeted lesbian in Todd Haynes’ love drama “Carol,” alongside an equally invigorating Rooney Mara as her secret beau. The other was as the fictional visceral conductor Lydia Tár in Todd Field’s psychological thriller “Tár.”

We haven’t even mentioned the Oscar nominations she was snubbed for, including “Bandits,” “Veronica Guerin,” and the two most notable, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Anthony Minghella and “Nightmare Alley” by Guillermo del Toro. Nonetheless, with a career that shows no signs of slowing down, this filmography will continue to expand (and get harder to rank).

Read Variety‘s list of Blanchett’s 15 best film performances below, and watch the best scene from each selection.

Honorable mentions: “Bandits” (2001); “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (2022); “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004); “The Missing” (2003); “The Shipping News” (2001)

15. ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ (2008)

Role: Daisy Fuller

Directed by: Paramount Pictures

Written by: Eric Roth, Robin Swicord (based on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The scene that proves it: “Meeting in the Middle”

An undeniable Oscar darling, it’s surprising in hindsight that Blanchett wasn’t among the 13 leading nominations for Fincher’s fantasy drama about a man who is aging backward. As Benjamin’s love interest Daisy, Blanchett finds beauty in the silent moments where she allows the stunning imagery to elevate the work.

14. ‘Babel’ (2006)

Role: Susan Jones

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Written by: Guillermo Arriaga

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The scene that proves it: “Richard, don’t leave me here!”

“Babel” has become an interesting film to dissect since its release. Oscar recognized the astounding performances of Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, but people tend to overlook Blanchett’s physical and agonizing turn. As an American woman who is accidentally shot while traveling abroad, she exudes the excruciating pain of someone going through trauma and the anger and eventual acceptance that she comes by the film’s end. Another breathtaking display of skill on her part.

13. ‘Don’t Look Up’ (2021)

Role: Brie Evantee

Directed by: Adam McKay

Written by: Adam McKay, David Sirota

Distributor: Netflix

The scene that proves it: “I have slept with two former presidents.”

Blanchett’s Fox News/Megyn Kelly-esque figure is sensationally humorous in the Adam McKay world-ending “comedy.” One piece of a sprawling ensemble that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Tyler Perry and Ariana Grande, she chews up the scenery, becoming a highlight for many, even if you were divided on the film.

12. ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)

Role: Galadriel

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson (based on the novel “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Distributor: New Line Cinema

The scene that proves it: “Will you look into the mirror?”

Depending on where you stand on “The Lord of the Rings,” either seeing the three separate titles as one story or as individual entities that stand on their own merits (I’m in the latter), regardless, Blanchett’s angelic Galadriel is a stapled presence in the saga, memorable and equally vital to the story’s complexity.

11. ‘Truth’ (2015)

Role: Mary Mapes

Directed by: James Vanderbilt

Written by: James Vanderbilt (based on the novel “Truth and Duty” by Mary Mapes)

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

The scene that proves it: “Official document, top of the page.”

The fight for the truth in journalism is tantalizing and accessible to a world outside of it with James Vanderbilt’s “Truth,” anchored by Blanchett in the role of CBS “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes. Relentlessly trying to clear her name, and in shared bouts with Dan Rather (played by Robert Redford) and Lawrence Lanpher (played by Dermot Mulroney), she gets to stretch herself within a year that also had her delivering “Carol” and “Cinderella.” Each turn is unique and approached with a precision that not many can do with multiple works side-by-side.

10. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)

Role: Hela

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Written by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kule, Christopher L. Yost (based on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby)

Distributor: Marvel Studios

The scene that proves it: “Hela destroys Mjolnir.”

There have been valid criticisms on the realization of Marvel’s villains, with “bad guys” like Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) standing out from the pack, but the baddest girl of all is Thor’s half-sister Hela, who Blanchett channels with the ferocity and fun of any classical star in cinema.

9. ‘The Aviator’ (2004)

Role: Katherine Hepburn

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: John Logan

Distributor: Miramax / Warner Bros.

The scene that proves it: “Nine holes.”

The only actress to ever portray a former Oscar winner and win an Oscar for it, Blanchett shines within the compounds of Martin Scorsese’s take on Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.” Portraying Katharine Hepburn, she perfects the quirks and peccadillos of the movie matron, who won four Academy Awards during her career.

8. ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ (1999)

Role: Meredith Logue

Directed by: Anthony Minghella

Written by: Anthony Minghella (based on the novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith)

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The scene that proves it: “Oh my God! I hardly even recognized you.”

While many will understandably cite director Anthony Minghella’s best picture winner “The English Patient” (1996) as his gift to cinema, as time forges on, I’m continuously brought back to his devilishly stylish and captivating “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” showcasing the career-best performances from Matt Damon as Tom Ripley and Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, who was nominated for best supporting actor. Much of the delight rests upon the brief but impactful moments Blanchett gets to sprinkle in as Meredith Logue, an unknowing chess piece in Ripley’s web of lies. Whether it’s her calling out to him as he sits at lunch or seeing him on the back of the boat in the film’s final moments (leading to Peter repeating the haunting phrase, “Tom is crushing me”), she’s lusciously divine, and a great example of what masters can do with little time, which the late Philip Seymour Hoffman also demonstrates as Freddie Miles.

7. ‘I’m Not There’ (2007)

Role: Jude

Directed by: Todd Haynes

Written by: Todd Haynes, Oren Moverman

Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

The scene that proves it: “The press conference”

The imagination and interpretations of Bob Dylan may not be a home run in Todd Haynes’ echelon, but Cate Blanchett’s work stands as best-in-show. With a large ensemble, she finds the inner workings of a complex individual with a musical backdrop.

6. ‘Notes on a Scandal’ (2006)

Role: Sheba Hart

Directed by: Richard Eyre

Written by: Patrick Marber (based on the novel by Zoë Heller)

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures (now Searchlight Pictures)

The scene that proves it: “Help you collect your cat…”

There’s no misstep with Blanchett as the teacher who begins a relationship with one of her students in Richard Eyre’s dramatic thriller “Notes on a Scandal.” Except for being nominated in supporting actress, when she’s a co-star with Judi Dench who was nominated in lead, it’s a performance that has aged gracefully over the years and one you can pick up on new things with each additional viewing.

5. ‘Elizabeth’ (1998)

Role: Elizabeth I

Directed by: Shekhar Kapur

Written by: Michael Hirst

Distributor: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

The scene that proves it: “I am no man’s Elizabeth.”

Fully realized, gripping and larger-than-life, Blanchett’s searing biographical interpretation of the early years of Queen Elizabeth I is simply profound. The role let the world know she was a force in the Hollywood industry. Winning the Golden Globe for best actress (drama), she came up just short of Gwyneth Paltrow’s work for “Shakespeare in Love” at the Oscars, which coincidentally brought in a win for Judi Dench, who also played Queen Elizabeth and would later become her co-star in “Notes on a Scandal.” Bringing the audience through the arc of Elizabeth’s rise to power, she finds every ounce of the figure’s mannerisms and conflict.

4. ‘Nightmare Alley’ (2021)

Role: Dr. Lilith Ritter

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan (based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham)

Distributor: Searchlight Pictures

The scene that proves it: “I’ll live.”

Blanchett shepherds grace and a hypnotic trance that has the viewer hanging on every single word she releases in Guillermo del Toro’s dark thriller. Exuding fantastic chemistry against Bradley Cooper, she sets the screen ablaze. She’s vital in key moments like exposing the “magic” in her entry during the film’s second half or giving a fierce look after getting choked by Cooper’s Stanton, delivering a simple one-liner…I’ll live. Simply brilliant.

3. ‘Carol’ (2015)

Role: Carol Aird

Directed by: Todd Haynes

Written by: Phyllis Nagy (based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith)

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

The scene that proves it: “I love you.”

Blanchett dives into Todd Haynes’ beautiful portrait of love, thoughtfully manifested on the shoulders of the work of his two leads, which includes Rooney Mara. Transporting the audience to a time we can only see in our dreams, Blanchett showcases a strength that isn’t exhibited too often in LGBTQ period dramas. Under the protection of screenwriter Nagy’s loving words and Carter Burwell’s sonorous composition, she maximizes her acting techniques to respectfully and lovingly guide the viewer through this heartbreaking tale. Nominated for best actress, she was recognized alongside Jennifer Lawrence (“Joy”), Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”), Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”), and winner Brie Larson (“Room”).

2. ‘Tár’ (2022)

Role: Lydia Tár

Directed by: Todd Field

Written by: Todd Field

Distributor: Focus Features

The scene that proves it: “If you want to dance the mask, you must service the composer.”

Cate Blanchett walks to a rhythmic beat in Todd Field’s psychological drama which sees the Australian performer portraying a lesbian fictional composer. Among her most committed and visceral turns, the woman has no limits to what she can do under the thumb of a killer filmmaker such as Field. While the movie is focused on her, it’s how the performance is elevated by those around her notably Nina Hoss as her wife Sharon.

1. ‘Blue Jasmine’ (2013)

Role: Jasmine

Directed by: Woody Allen

Written by: Woody Allen

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

The scene that proves it: “Tip big, boys.”

In the performance of her career so far, Blanchett is the true architect of writer and director Woody Allen’s distant cousin creation of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Dominating in each scene, her towering turn is fixated on your cinematic memory, elevating the execution of her co-stars, most notably Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins and the sadly ignored Bobby Cannavale. Blanchett won her first best actress Oscar (second overall), topping an incredible lineup that included Amy Adams (“American Hustle”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”) and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”).

Best of Variety