Natalie Portman celebrates her 38th birthday today (June 9), as well as a career bringing to life the complexities of her characters on the big screen. Born Natalie Hershlag in 1981 to an American mother and an Israeli father, the family moved to U.S. in 1984 and set up in Long Island, New York.
After a brief stint with modelling, Portman secured her first acting role in Léon (1994) starring opposite French actor Jean Reno. It was the first film in which her character had a troubled backstory and complex relationships with adults, which resulted in the actress changing her surname to Portman, her maternal grandmother’s surname. This helped her escape unwanted attention due to the sexual undertones in the film.
Next, she appeared crime thriller Heat (1995). Portman went on to supporting roles in Beautiful Girls (1996) and Mars Attacks! (1996), before appearing as Queen Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace (1999). Her character appeared in further sequels in 2002 and 2005, making her a part of the Star Wars canon.
During this time, she also starred in Anywhere but Here (1999) and Where the Heart Is (2000), followed by Garden State (2004) and Closer (2004). The latter earned her a Golden Globe for best supporting actress.
In 2005, Portman starred in dystopian fantasy V for Vendetta, in which she was a broadcaster turned revolutionary. Her shaven head made her icon. She then went onto star in My Blueberry Nights (2007), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) and Brothers (2009).
Portman, opposite Mila Kunis, starred in thriller Black Swan (2010), which won her an Academy Award for best actress. Later, she portrayed a scientist in Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), and took a romantic role in No Strings Attached (2011).
Portman also starred in Knight of Cups (2015) and Jane Got a Gun (2016), followed by Jackie (2016)—a film about Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after her husband’s assassination—and then Song to Song (2017), which is a romantic drama set against the Austin, Texas, music scene.
In 2018, she led a largely female cast in Annihilation (2018), a sci-fi thriller in which she played a biologist who goes on a dangerous secret mission.
To celebrate Portman’s contribution to entertainment and her birthday, Newsweek has analyzed data from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to compile her best 10 movies.
Score: 67 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 77 / Metacritic: 57
Plot: Thor causes a war and is banished to Earth where he falls in love with Portman’s character.
Also starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston
What critics said: “Thor is on much safer ground here on Earth. The tone is immediately different: more relaxed; comic, not cosmic.” CNN
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Score: 74 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 80 / Metacritic: 68
Plot: Not the one with sand. Anakin Skywalker meets his destiny while trying to protect the love of his life and their unborn child.
Also starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid
What critics said: “Episode III mainly is what it is—the climax of a sometimes grand adventure that’s more than the sum of its parts, yet much less than it might have been.” Wall Street Journal
Garden State (2004)
Score: 76.5 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 / Metacritic: 67
Plot: A depressed man removes himself from his medication when his mother dies and goes back home.
Also starring: Zach Braff, Peter Sarsgaard and Ian Holm
What critics said: “Mr. Braff, Ms. Portman, Mr. Sarsgaard and Mr. Holm never strike a false note as a remarkably coherent acting ensemble, and it is good to see Ron Leibman again in the small role of Doctor Cohen.” The Observer
Paris Je T’aime (2007)
Score: 76.5 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 87 / Metacritic: 66
Plot: A film with 18 short stories about Paris.
Also starring: Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi and Sergio Castellitto
What critics said: “The best is saved for last: Payne’s 14th arrondissement takes its time to create a Parisian epiphany that both pokes fun at an American tourist (Margo Martindale) and finds grace in her acceptance of a fragile moment of transcendence.” Seattle Times
Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
Score: 79 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 79 / Metacritic: 0
Plot: The ins and outs of a family focusing on love and divorce.
Also starring: Goldie Hawn, Woody Allen, Drew Barrymore
What critics said: “It’s a world of both serene privilege and surreal possibility, and it offers a delightful and witty compendium of the filmmaker’s favorite things,” New York Times
Score: 81 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 / Metacritic: 76
Plot: A thief, vowing never to get involved in a relationship he can’t walk away from in 30 seconds, finds himself falling for a lady he doesn’t think he can walk away from.
Also starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer
What the critics said: “When Pacino’s loud, bruised cop and De Niro’s canny crook stare at each other, you can read something spent and weary in their eyes and voices. The heat is hell. So are their jobs—but somebody’s got to do them.” Chicago Tribune
Beautiful Girls (1996)
Score: 81.5 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 79 / Metacritic: 84
Plot: A high-school reunion in a snowy New England town brings together a band of former classmates who go from tavern to tavern discussing sex and relationships.
Also starring: Matt Dillon, Lauren Holly and Timothy Hutton.
What critics said: “Beautiful Girls is always in touch with reality but never drowned in it.” TIME Magazine
3. Black Swan (2010)
Score: 82 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 85 / Metacritic: 79
Plot: A dancer finds herself competing for the top spot in Swan Lake, losing her sanity in the process.
Also starring: Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey
What critics said: “Darren Aronofsky has made one of those rare movies that gets right in your face and demands a response: Love me, hate me, just don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” Globe and Mail
2. Annihilation (2018)
Score: 83 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 88 / Metacritic: 79
Plot: A female strong team take on a secret mission.
Also starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson
What critics said: “Annihilation is some heady nightmare fuel, but its most striking quality may be how little it has in common with the current trends in mainstream science fiction.” Buzzfeed News
1. Jackie (2016)
Score: 84 / 100
Rotten Tomatoes: 87 / Metacritic: 81
Plot: A portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady
Also starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig and John Hurt
What critics said: “[Portman is] at her best here in the moments when Jackie is quiet, when the grief, anger and doubt are in her face more than in her words.” NPR