Cameron Diaz is one of those actresses who just burst onto the screen completely out of the blue and suddenly become a marketable star. Following her debut in ‘The Mask (1994)’, she has gone on to do many different kinds of films, but is mostly known for her roles in comedies. After going through her entire filmography, I tried my best to judge her skills as an actress. Diaz has very good comedic timing, and is able to elicit a laugh out of the audience with just her on screen presence. She has a special charm that distinguishes herself from other people in the business. The characters she chooses to play in films are usually naive, confused, and gullible women who fall victim to trickery and/or are misdirected rather easily.
She has a tendency to go over the top at times, and mostly it does pay off really well, benefiting the film she is in. For example, in the 2003 movie ‘Vanilla Sky’ her performance highlights the eccentricity of her character, which provides a good explanation for the diabolical actions that she carries out. Other times Diaz can come off an annoying, visible throughout her 2014 film ‘Sex Tape’, where her performance feels unrealistic and needlessly overdone. Below are the top 10 of her best films, selected both by the quality of her performance and the quality of the film as a whole.
In recent years, she hasn’t really been in anything of merit worth mentioning on this list. In fact, the most recent of her films discussed below is one that was released over 10 years ago! Her films continue to perform well at the box office though, and this I believe is attributable to the aforementioned ‘charm’ that she displays in her pictures. I do hope that in the future, the projects she attaches herself to shed light on her many talents and prove that she really can act well when the role is right for her, as the following films have. With that said, here is the list of top Cameron Diaz movies, selected from her vast filmography. You can watch some of these best Cameron Diaz movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. Shrek 2 (2004)
This is a fine example of a very good sequel that is almost as enjoyable as the original. (which is, as you may have guessed, a film that’s ranked a little higher on this list) It picks up from where the last film left of, but instead of piggybacking on the success of ‘Shrek (2001)’, a completely different plot is introduced with new characters, solutions, and jokes. ‘Shrek 2’ has to do with the classic situation of the boyfriend meeting ‘her’ parents for the first time, and the only difference here is that her parents are the king and queen ruling over the kingdom of Far Far Away. Oh, also the fact that their daughter, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and her husband Shrek (Mike Myers) are both green ogres. The film shows the awkwardness and confusions that ensue, and all of that contributes to building up a very entertaining movie.
While not as outstanding as the first, ‘Shrek 2’ is able to distinguish itself from all the other films in the series because of its level of imagination, which is far superior to even its predecessor, evident from its very creative third act (which almost works its ways into becoming a parody due to the many hilarious cultural references). Princess Fiona is given a lot more to do in this film, and Cameron Diaz does her part well. Characters like Puss In Boots and the Gingerbread Man also play a big part in making the film work. ‘Shrek 2’ went on to become the highest grossing film in all the Shrek movies and is the ninth highest grossing animated movie of all time.
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9. Shrek (2001)
‘Shrek’ is the type of film that completely changes everything about certain aspects of cinema and continues to stay relevant years after its release. The ‘aspects’ being referred to in the previous line are comedy, animation, and the demographic being catered to by such films. The protagonist is a short tempered ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) who tries to remove all the fairytale characters and creatures that arrive on his swamp after being exiled by Lord Farquaad of Duloc. Along with a donkey named Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek travels on foot to the royal castle of the Lord, and the film shows the happenings that occur on their adventure.
A childhood favorite of mine, one of the reasons I believe this movie works is because of the well rounded characters. Though nobody in the film cares much for him, we as the audience fall for Shrek because we are able to see past the incorrigible outside and appreciate his care and concern (that he mostly tries to keep a secret) for the world around him. Donkey is most definitely one of the funniest side characters in any movie ever, and he is so well written that we are able to invest ourselves in him too. The emotional weight of ‘Shrek’ is carried out mainly by Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), whose relationship with the ogre and past form major story arcs. Overall, ‘Shrek’ is one of the funniest animated comedies of all time, and its popularity is very well deserved.
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8. Any Given Sunday (1999)
A twist in her career as Diaz takes on an opposing role, ‘Any Given Sunday’ is a film directed by Oliver Stone about the ‘behind the scenes’ of American football and what goes into making each game work. The film is edited and filmed in such a way so as to give off the effect of an actual football game. It is fast paced and darts from place to place throughout its runtime, due to which reason it feels very refreshing. The film follows Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), the coach of The Miami Sharks, who have been on a continuous losing streak for quite a troubling number of matches. Adding to that the sudden loss of two players on account of injury puts D’Amato in quite a pickle, and he is unable to provide reasonable solutions for the arising problems to the owner of the team, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) who makes the situation worse by trying her hand at influencing the team management.
This film is a sports drama and is quite the entertainer, but it does suffer from problems like a lack of character development and depth. Even though it is an interesting watch, the film ultimately isn’t very memorable. That being said, it has got a very fresh and innovative style, and it is quite inspiring for those who enjoy or play the sport. The relationship between D’Amato and the players is realistically handled as well. Overall, ‘Any Given Sunday’ is a satisfactory film that is saved by its charismatic actors and talented director.
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7. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
In this romantic comedy that went on to define the style of almost all romantic comedies following it, Julia Roberts plays the protagonist named Julianne Porter, a woman who tries her best to ruin the wedding of her male friend (who she is secretly in love with). At the time of its release, ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ was a smash hit at the box office and received generally positive reviews. Over time this appreciation has slightly wavered, mainly due to the many movies that copied certain elements from this film and used it over and over again, thus converting them into cliches.
Despite its flaws, this movie is a very entertaining experience and comes packed with some hilarious moments as well as a wonderful soundtrack. The innocent nature of the movie is also sweet, even though the characters may seem too naive and unrealistic at times. Cameron Diaz, who plays the bride, makes good use of her acting talents and provides some added humor on her part. One notable example is the scene at the Karaoke bar, where Diaz’s character slowly receives confidence over her (terrible) singing voice, a gradual process that is made funny due to her comedic timing.
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6. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Vanilla Sky’ works like a dream. It is one of director Cameron Crowe’s most distinctive films, despite it being the remake of a Spanish film titled ‘Abre Los Ojos (1997)’. It’s a psychological science fiction thriller of sorts that has to do with a man and his connection with his memories. There’s something about the creamy surrealistic style of this picture that I admire. Unlike other directors who venture into these kind of films like David Lynch, Michel Gondry, etc. Crowe’s execution feels a lot more conventional and straightforward. The plot has to do with a prisoner named David Aames (Tom Cruise) who recounts his past with a psychologist from a prison cell, and goes on to talk about the relationships and confusions that he had to go through.
Cameron Diaz was nominated for both the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globe Award for her performance in this film as Julie Gianni, Aames’ ex-girlfriend. One of the better written characters that Diaz has ever played, Gianni embodies the feelings of jealousy, rejection, and revenge as she sees him falling for another woman, played by Penelope Cruz. The role is very well acted and you can actually see the sense of normalcy slowly deteriorarting in the character as she slowly starts to go insane, which leads to the many problems that happen in Aames’ life and keep the film interesting. ‘Vanilla Sky’ is a movie that makes you think and feel. Though slightly flawed in its writing and pace, the film manages to evoke the intended emotions and will leave quite the impression on its viewers.
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5. The Mask (1994)
With one of the greatest film debuts ever that skyrocketed Cameron Diaz’s career and made her a household name, ‘The Mask’ is as crazy as a film can be. The plot has to with a man named Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) finding a mask lying in the river which, when worn, grants the wearer with extreme hyperactivity, a quirky persona, superpowers, and a green face. There is only one problem: they lose all control over themselves. The film follows Ipkiss as he switches between shy and awkward when not wearing the mask and completely bonkers when he is.
‘The Mask’ is one of those comedies that will live on for a long time, because of the hilarious concept and the equally hilarious way in which it is portrayed on screen. Jim Carrey revolutionized slapstick comedy and sight gags with his actions and “rubber” face, and no film is it more visible than in this one. Cameron Diaz plays the love interest, and her character is more of the mysterious-seductive type. She brings her all into the role and when watching the film, it becomes quite clear as to why we she is as popular and admired as she is today.
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4. Gangs of New York (2002)
Martin Scorsese’s 2002 film is a revenge story from up front, but at its core it is a tale about the distress arising out of a lack of brotherhood. Set in the 19th century, ‘Gangs Of New York’ tells the story of two separated groups of people residing next to each other in New York and shows the repercussions of their enmity towards each other. One is a gang of Irishmen led by a man named Alexander Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the other is a gang of Natives, led by Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). The film tell its story in a smooth fashion, so as to keep its audience invested for two and a half hours, and the massive production value definitely makes it something to behold.
The film lacks impressiveness in its writing though, and the first act isn’t as interesting as the following two. Still, this movie is well worth your time because Scorsese finds a way to allow his energetic style to shine throughout and because of this the film becomes extremely entertaining. Although put up against the extraordinary performances of great actors like DiCaprio and Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz (who plays Jenny Everdeane, a pickpocket and the love interest) levels with them and portrays her character with depth, relatability, and real emotions.
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3. Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000)
This is a movie that’s quite unlike anything else that Cameron Diaz has ever been in. It is an anthology film consisting of 5 short films with stories taking place in the same neighborhood at the same time to different women. They affect the lives of each other in as subtle a way as possible, and each of the five segments follow one of these women as they go through experiences about which they are unable to talk about and express their feelings for until they reach a certain breaking point. The film displays itself as poetic and calming, helping the viewer in making assumptions about the characters without every bit of information being spoon-fed to them.
The movie isn’t perfect – its characters can seem rather unrealistic at times and the events that occur in their lives could have been portrayed better – but it definitely is a must-watch, because it makes one think about themselves and the causes of having emotions which they keep a secret. Diaz plays the role of Carol, a blind woman (who is the sister of a detective named Kathy) in the fifth and last segment of the film. Rodrigo Garcia, the director, cleverly moves along the narrative in such a way that each short film trains one for the next. In the first, all the feelings that the main character goes through are spoken about, but in the last, none of it is ever discussed. Diaz’s character tells a very beautiful and moving tale to wrap the film up perfectly at the end.
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2. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
No filmmaking duo mixes crude humor with sweet stories like the Farrelly Brothers do. ‘There’s Something About Mary’ is a romantic comedy at heart, but it doesn’t feel like one because it never really falls into any of the typical cliches associated with the genre. The story is as simple as can be, about a man named Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) who tries to track down a woman he went to prom with in high school by hiring a private detective (Matt Dillon) to assist him. The film received positive reviews and was nominated for several awards as well, including a Golden Globe.
What the film succeeds in accomplishing is the creation of interesting situations. From a scene involving a very painful zipper-related accident that Stiller’s character goes through in the bathroom of his prom date’s house to a scene in a car involving a hitchhiker who acts very peculiar, the film never loses steam and keeps the audience entertained and laughing. Cameron Diaz plays Mary Jensen, Stroehmann’s prom date and dream girl. All throughout the first act, there is this mysterious aura surrounding her character, which is one of the best roles of Diaz’s career. This lack of openness makes her all the more interesting as the film moves along. The Farrelly brothers haven’t made many memorable movies in recent years, but this is one that will never be forgotten for years to come. It’s disgusting, original, charming, funny, cute, and an absolute heck of a good time!
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1. Being John Malkovich (1999)
If there’s anyone out there who knows how to tell a story, it’s Charlie Kaufman. His films are imaginative, intellectual, and intriguing. ‘Being John Malkovich’ sports a wildly creative plot executed brilliantly by director Spike Jonze. The path that it takes to tell its already confusing story about a bunch of people who manipulate the actions of a popular actor (John Malkovich) by travelling into his mind is both innovative and unconventional. The film grabs its audience by the collar and pulls them into its fantastic world which, after they have arrived, none of them wish to leave.
Cameron Diaz gives a stunning performance as Lotte Schwartz, one of the people who travel into Malkovich’s mind. Despite the film being anything but grounded in reality, the emotions she portrays through her character feels genuine and authentic. The entire cast is splendid, but Diaz specifically proves herself to be an extremely talented actress here. ‘Being John Malkovich’ has the rare ability to make the audience go through several vastly different emotions during its runtime, and the film pushes one to ponder upon the complexity of the human psyche.
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