Cate Blanchett is one of the greatest actresses in cinema history and easily the finest of her generation. Like Hepburn and Jane Fonda before her, and alongside the greatest of all time Meryl Streep, Blanchett brings a ferocious intelligence to each role, one that you can see her in her eyes. She gives herself completely over to each part she plays. With honesty and conviction, she makes the role her own, and there is no visible “acting”…she becomes the character.
You could feel the attention going to the screen during that first screening of Elizabeth (1998), you just knew you were watching something astounding happen, an actress had made a huge leap forward, a major career being born. In the years to follow that first Oscar nomination, Blanchett was comfortable with leads and supporting turns, stealing more than one film with her impressive range. She was terrific in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) as the smiling soon to be (no doubt) victim of the serial killer, and then gave a smashing performance as an evil mother-wife with sociopathic tendencies in The Shipping News (2001) one of the most haunting performances I have ever seen. That smile, my God, that terrifying, “I have you” smile is among the most frightening in movies, and yet no one saw the film.
She would balance her work between mainstream studio films with an edge and indies for the next ten years, working with an array of directors which would include Peter Jackson, Tom Twyker, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Todd Haynes, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, and Steven Spielberg to name a few.
In that time she would give impressive performances in a number of films, most notably her Oscar winning portrayal of Hepburn in The Aviator (2004), as Galadriel in both The Lord of the Rings trilogy (01-02-03) and again in The Hobbit (12-13), the pioneer woman in the west who goes searching for her kidnapped teen in The Missing (03), the doomed reporter in Vernoica Geurin (03) who came far too close to the Irish mob, as the older teacher who has an affair with a student in Notes on a Scandal (06), again as Elizabeth I in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), incredibly as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There (07), in The Curious Care of Benjamin Button (08), as Marian in Robin Hood (2010), impressively the Russian villain in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (08), and her award laden work in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (13) for which she won every major acting award available to her, including the Oscar, the Golden Globe, the SAG Award, and honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics. With that series of honors she equalled an honor won by only a select few, including the likes of Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep. Here is the list of top Cate Blanchett movies, selected from her impressive filmography. You can watch some of these best Cate Blanchett movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. The Shipping News (2001)
Though she has literally a few moments on screen they are unforgettable. As the promiscuous Pedal, who marries, bears a child with a man, and then shamelessly sleeps around with anyone who looks at her, her treachery knows no bounds. With one look she has a man, and then slowly breaks him down. She is a terrifying woman, blessed with beauty, sex appeal and knows how to use them to trap men to do her bidding. She has nothing but contempt for the human race and one sees it in her eyes, and when she attempts to sell her daughter.
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9. The Missing (2003)
A film that is almost forgotten, Ron Howard’s western was among the best films of the year, yet sadly failed at the box office despite some very positive reviews, especially for Blanchett. As Maggie, a healing woman in the old West she is reunited with her long estranged father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who has gone native. She asks him to help her to find her daughter, kidnapped by natives to be sold in Mexico as a sex slave. Spiky and angry the film is unlike anything Howard has ever done, which might have frightened viewers, but I loved the film and thought Blanchett deserved an Oscar nomination for her superb performance.
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8. Veronica Guerin (2003)
Perhaps because no one really talks Joel Schumacher seriously, the film did not do very well with audiences, but critics were sharp to point out that Blanchett was outstanding in the film, based on the true story of the Irish reporter who was murdered for getting too close to the Irish mob and its boss. Curious, smart and eventually careless not to heed the warnings she receives, Guerin gets far too close and eventually is killed for her actions. Excellent work from the lady.
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7. I’m Not There (2007)
Initially I worried it was gimmick casting, the moment she struts on screen as the Dylan-esque singer, she totally inhabits the character and IS Dylan while on screen. Making no real effort to present herself as male, she simply is, and we are won over.
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6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Though the film stars Brad Pitt, and he received an Oscar nomination, the best performance in the film was Blanchett as the woman he loves. Told in flashback by an ancient woman (Blanchett) on the eve of Hurricane Katrina, she recounts to her daughter the love story between she and Benjamin, a man for whom life and again runs backwards. Born elderly, they eventually connect in their forties, though she will age while he will regress. She is haunting in the film, deeply in love with a man she knows will one day be little more than a child for her to care for.
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5. The Aviator (2004)
Martin Scorsese cast her as Katherine Hepburn in his superb film about the early life of Howard Hughes, and Blanchett was understandably terrified. Yet she had no reason to be as she captured every nuance of Hepburn and gave a great, truly inspired performance. The film looks at the romance between Huges and Hepburn, and her gradual pulling away from him as she fell hard for Spencer Tracy and became frightened of the Hughes mania. She is perfection in the part.
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4. Truth (2015)
Cast as Mary Mapes, the TV producer who along with news anchor Dan Rather was brought down by a false report that they should have checked out, Blanchett is fierce and tough, a woman in a man’s world and who knows what she has to be to survive, and she has always been that. Blindsided by what happens to her, she cannot comprehend how it happened, or more importantly how she let it to happen because she understands as it is unfolding it means the end of her career and or Rather’s, a man she both admires and respects.
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3. Elizabeth (1998)
Early in the film we see her dancing, at play outside, and enjoying her life of solitude. Crowned Queen of England we then see the growth in her as a person and leader, knowing that she holds the power of life and death in her hands and wielding each with terrible caution. She understands more than anyone around her, that she needs not to give herself to a man but to England and that is what she does, wiping out her enemies in one fell swoop, and uniting England. Far more intelligent and wise than anyone thought her to be, Blanchett captured the genius of a woman born to rule.
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2. Notes On a Scandal (2006)
Disturbing little film about a school teacher who befriends an older teacher who has romantic designs on her, and then viciously exposes her for having an affair with a student after blackmailing her for a time. Blanchett is superb as the younger woman, knowing what she is doing is wrong, but then is stunned at the level of treachery the older woman, brilliantly played by Judi Dench who lashes out at her. Profoundly disturbing and downright frightening at times.
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1. Blue Jasmine (2013)
As a Blanche Du Bois inspired character we watch this woman slide into a full mental breakdown brought on by the loss of her marriage, her social standing and her money, but mostly her disillusions about herself and the life she leads. Shaking, given to talking to herself, lying to cover the truth about her past, denying who she ever was, it is an astounding performance, one of the greatest in film history that saw her win every single major award that year. The final scene is haunting, because we know this woman is utterly damned to what she is in those final sequence, one of those sad people we see talking to themselves, hearing voices and seeing people, haunting and deeply moving.
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