Total Recall

Jennifer Connelly's 10 Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Winter's Tale star.

by | February 13, 2014 | Comments

Jennifer Connelly
She made her debut 30 years ago in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, and since then, it’s been our pleasure to watch Jennifer Connelly grow from a talented young actress into an Academy Award-winning star. This weekend, Connelly helps round out an all-star cast in the supernatural drama Winter’s Tale, and to help mark her appearance in Akiva Goldsman’s magical, century-spanning Manhattan love story, we decided to dedicate our latest list to an appreciative look back at some of her finest performances. It’s time for Total Recall!



62%

10. Hulk

It’s the gamma radiation in his body that makes him the Hulk, but Dr. Bruce Banner is equally defined by his love for Betty Ross, so any Hulk movie worth its salt needs to have a beautiful Betty to go along with its rampaging big green guy. Whatever its faults, Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk picked a terrific Betty in Connelly, who helped anchor some of the movie’s more CGI-driven flights of fancy with her performance as the only woman on Earth capable of soothing Eric Bana’s savage beast. “Audiences expecting to turn off their brains and sit back for another blast of mere eye candy may stagger out of this 138-minute epic wondering what hit them,” gasped Looking Closer’s Jeffrey Overstreet.


71%

9. Labyrinth

George Lucas produced and Jim Henson directed! In 1986, what more could a film fan ask for? Well, for those hoping for more than a bumpy blend of camp and dark fantasy with a surreal David Bowie musical number thrown in, the answer was “quite a lot” — but even if it wasn’t the hit it was cracked up to be, Labyrinth has gone on to become a cult favorite for a lot of easily defensible reasons, including Henson’s always-captivating puppet design and some watchable work from a young Connelly as Sarah, the brave teenager who has to venture into a magical world to save her baby brother after she inadvertently summons goblins to kidnap him. Calling it “An innovative mix of sophisticated puppetry and special effects,” the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven Rea wrote, “Labyrinth has all the components of classic myth.”


73%

8. The Hot Spot

Director Dennis Hopper took an appropriately visual approach to his adaptation of Charles Williams’ novel Hell Hath No Fury, right down to the utterly lovely cast he assembled: Don Johnson, fresh off Miami Vice, as troublesome drifter Harry Madox; a drawling Virginia Madsen as Madox’s boss’s sultry wife; and Connelly as his deceptively wholesome secretary. It’s all more than a little silly, but Hopper definitely understood how to spin a noirish yarn — and how to film a few scenes that left a generation of VHS renters scrambling for the pause button. “Hot Spot will never go down as timeless, neoclassic noir,” admitted Desson Thomson of the Washington Post. “But, with its Hopperlike moments, over-the-top performances and infectious music, it carries you along for a spell.”


76%

7. Dark City

The protagonist who has no memory of his past, but must find a way to evade capture for crimes he’s sure he didn’t commit: It’s a tale as old as noir, but Alex Proyas’ Dark City tells it with singularly stylish flair, starring Rufus Sewell as an unfortunate soul who wakes up in a bathtub, takes a phone call warning him that men are on their way to capture him, and stumbles across a dead woman on his way out the door. Toss in his estranged wife (Connelly), a city where the sun never shines, a human race prone to random comas, and a telekinetic battle between our hero and a shadowy cabal known as the Strangers, and Dark City is unlike any mindbending love story/trippy action thriller you’ve ever seen; as Stephen Holden argued in his review for the New York Times, it’s “so relentlessly trippy in a fun-house sort of way that it could very easily inspire a daredevil cult of moviegoers who go back again and again to experience its mind-bending twists and turns.”


78%

6. Phenomena (Creepers)

Connelly’s brief appearance in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America impressed director Dario Argento, who was so taken that he gave her the lead in his 1984 thriller Phenomena (later edited and retitled Creepers for the U.S. market). Argento later called it his most personal film, but it’s just as weird and thickly atmospheric as the rest of his best work; the storyline centers around a boarding school student (Connelly) whose ability to communicate telepathically with insects piques the interest of an entomologist (Donald Pleasance) who hopes to use her gifts to help catch a serial killer. While it proved too gruesomely surreal for many critics (Jon Pareles of the New York Times quipped that “the best acting is by an expressive, resourceful chimpanzee”), for others it was vintage Argento; “We’re on ground he’s covered before,” admitted Eye for Film’s Jennie Kermode, “but it’s constantly shifting beneath us.”


74%

5. House of Sand and Fog

Based on Andre Dubus III’s brutally sad novel, House of Sand and Fog finds director Vadim Perelman taking the audience on a grim — but altogether compelling — odyssey of intractable conflict between a recovering addict (Connelly) and the Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley) who purchased her house in an auction sale triggered by a tax misunderstanding with the county. Neither side is wrong, but neither character is totally sympathetic, and as their shared intransigence raises the awful stakes, Perelman makes the viewer complicit in the inexorable conclusion. “In the current political climate, it’s required viewing,” wrote Glenn Lovell for the San Jose Mercury News. “We all need to think about tolerance and how, like sand, it can slip through our fingers.”


74%

4. A Beautiful Mind

Following her critically lauded appearance in Requiem for a Dream, Connelly reunited with her Inventing the Abbotts producer, Ron Howard, for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, in which Howard directed a dramatization of brilliant mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr.’s struggles with mental illness. Starring Russell Crowe as Nash and Connelly as his wife Alicia, Mind proved a critical and commercial sensation, earning more than $300 million in worldwide grosses and netting eight Academy Award nominations (four of which it took home, including Connelly’s Best Supporting Actress win). Although she’d been migrating toward more serious adult fare for years, A Beautiful Mind announced Connelly’s evolution from young star to grown-up thespian on a worldwide stage; as A.O. Scott noted in his review for the New York Times, “Ms. Connelly [is] keen and spirited in the underwritten role of a woman who starts out as a math groupie and soon finds herself the helpmeet of a disturbed, difficult man.”


79%

3. Requiem for a Dream

Like the Hubert Selby, Jr. novel from which it’s adapted, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream is certainly not for everyone. An unflinching look at the misery of addiction, Requiem follows the hellish descents of a widow named Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and Harry’s friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). After 102 minutes, all four characters have been pretty well run through the wringer; Burstyn winds up institutionalized, Leto loses an arm, Wayans has to go cold turkey in a jail cell — and Connelly crosses paths with Big Tim, played with thoroughly skeevy élan by Keith David. Good taste prevents us from getting into the exact nature of their relationship; suffice it to say that Connelly’s character arc demonstrates that some people will do just about anything to get their fix, and David’s performance reminds us that other people will stop at nothing to take advantage of an addict. “Never have we been taken this close to the edge, and never have the characters teetering over it elicited so much sympathy,” wrote Eugene Novikov of Film Blather. “Requiem is difficult to watch, but it richly rewards those who stay with it.”


80%

2. Little Children

The middle aughts found Connelly selecting a series of markedly grim scripts, from House of Sand and Fog to Dark Water, Blood Diamond, and Reservation Road — and including Little Children, writer/director Todd Field’s adaptation of the Tom Perrotta novel about a suburban community whose beautiful facade masks untold conflicts — and whose carefully calibrated order is disrupted by the arrival of a registered sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley). It’s the kind of yarn that’s been spun countless times over the last few decades, but many critics still took fresh pleasure from this particular telling — including J.R. Jones, whose Chicago Reader review argued, “the characters are drawn with such compassion their follies become our own and their desires seem as vast as the night sky.”


81%

1. Pollock

A longtime passion project for Ed Harris, Pollock offers filmgoers a warts-and-all biopic of painter Jackson Pollock, an artistic genius whose process was as infamously messy as his personal life. The project’s director as well as its star, Harris rounded out Pollock‘s cast with tremendously talented actors, including Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jeffrey Tambor, and Connelly — who played Pollock’s muse and extramarital paramour, Ruth Kligman. Harris was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award and Harden won Best Supporting Actress, leading a film full of fine performances that inspired Margaret A. McGurk of the Cincinnati Enquirer to write, “If ever there were an artist to prove that the art is bigger than the artist, it was Jackson Pollock. Like him, this film embraces pain and chaos and self-loathing and returns beauty.”


In case you were wondering, here are Connelly’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. A Beautiful Mind — 93%
2. Requiem for a Dream — 93%
3. Blood Diamond — 90%
4. Labyrinth — 86%
5. Dark City — 85%
6. House of Sand and Fog — 83%
7. Little Children — 82%
8. Waking the Dead — 78%
9. Higher Learning — 75%
10. Pollock — 74%


Take a look through Connelly’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Winter’s Tale.

Finally, here’s a clip of Connelly narrating the audiobook version of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky:

Tag Cloud

2019 diversity Hallmark satire singing competition Set visit name the review comiccon joker romance TNT Family Classic Film anthology indiana jones National Geographic crime thriller Bravo a nightmare on elm street miniseries Chernobyl Action Mudbound Disney Plus cinemax Holidays Sundance video on demand critics toy story BBC 2015 blockbuster police drama Mary poppins Dark Horse Comics TBS what to watch Winter TV Marvel elevated horror dragons fast and furious Netflix Christmas movies Syfy die hard Rocketman natural history documentaries Holiday mission: impossible MSNBC thriller nature Sci-Fi classics rotten movies we love Western Freeform HBO Hallmark Christmas movies Best and Worst Masterpiece 4/20 canceled TV shows Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2017 MTV 2018 justice league cooking GIFs DC Universe cancelled TV series Christmas Tubi psycho space disaster foreign christmas movies documentary TCA Winter 2020 dc Lifetime stoner Comedy Central Rom-Com Amazon Studios green book Nat Geo adaptation Animation San Diego Comic-Con breaking bad USA 2016 Star Trek Pop TV cats Stephen King romantic comedy technology Showtime ratings independent The Witch rotten USA Network anime Cartoon Network SXSW Esquire reboot Lucasfilm directors Certified Fresh OWN Spring TV renewed TV shows 21st Century Fox Discovery Channel Comics on TV CNN Adult Swim spain Valentine's Day Sneak Peek nbcuniversal Photos ESPN Black History Month Martial Arts Opinion spider-man harry potter sag awards Summer ITV NBC Marvel Television CMT RT21 SDCC period drama Tumblr Ovation DirecTV The Purge Crackle Emmy Nominations Sundance Now Sony Pictures New York Comic Con X-Men ABC DC streaming service IFC Films MCU Heroines Oscars PBS Awards Disney cancelled TV shows Walt Disney Pictures Musicals The CW sitcom Song of Ice and Fire Mary Tyler Moore series medical drama crossover Acorn TV finale Teen obituary parents social media History Paramount Network hispanic Amazon Prime BAFTA richard e. Grant Baby Yoda Shondaland cancelled television Character Guide television Drama VH1 twilight FX on Hulu festivals Cannes Election Sundance TV See It Skip It Spike 71st Emmy Awards VOD Netflix WGN Awards Tour stop motion Calendar emmy awards all-time Grammys Apple PaleyFest Paramount E3 Britbox witnail Writers Guild of America YouTube Red Women's History Month book revenge Apple TV Plus strong female leads DGA Kids & Family news jamie lee curtis Fox News Pirates political drama Turner movies Fantasy Logo mockumentary The Arrangement halloween BET Awards CW Seed blaxploitation YouTube Music Television Critics Association Anna Paquin TLC Epix dceu cancelled Academy Awards Podcast screen actors guild E! vampires spy thriller El Rey Shudder TIFF Horror Reality docudrama movie Hulu golden globes TV scary movies HBO Go Hear Us Out free movies unscripted Disney+ Disney Plus hist Starz latino Musical comics war Spectrum Originals Avengers BET FX Turner Classic Movies facebook A24 Super Bowl HBO Max aliens Countdown comedies laika children's TV OneApp Premiere Dates TCA Elton John Comic Book DC Comics Mary Poppins Returns FXX Brie Larson Pixar binge Ellie Kemper Film serial killer Marvel Studios TruTV ABC Family Lionsgate zombies crime drama CBS All Access Pet Sematary 2020 Film Festival Disney Channel historical drama ghosts Year in Review based on movie Star Wars science fiction Cosplay LGBTQ BBC America crime Infographic SundanceTV composers Superheroes Creative Arts Emmys cults Pop Nominations cars Food Network hollywood Disney streaming service Nickelodeon indie award winner superhero TV Land Schedule YA kids Extras child's play Crunchyroll TCA Awards Country game of thrones mutant Trailer transformers biography zero dark thirty cops YouTube Premium NYCC TCA 2017 video Lifetime Christmas movies tv talk sequel Apple TV+ Black Mirror animated Ghostbusters WarnerMedia Marathons BBC One boxoffice streaming dramedy spanish language theme song Mystery Winners asian-american spinoff Trivia dogs Polls and Games Binge Guide reviews discovery teaser Red Carpet Biopics Video Games Rocky best A&E GLAAD screenings versus PlayStation casting criterion Interview cartoon true crime quibi Watching Series GoT Fall TV Television Academy First Reviews supernatural dark Tomatazos batman LGBT Tarantino Reality Competition travel Superheroe Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt RT History worst Thanksgiving Amazon Vudu Travel Channel universal monsters psychological thriller werewolf TV renewals adventure CBS Quiz franchise 007 Toys robots Funimation The Walking Dead 45 doctor who chucky 20th Century Fox south america 24 frames Mindy Kaling comic Arrowverse AMC films Endgame slashers Amazon Prime Video Emmys First Look Comedy Box Office President Universal Captain marvel FOX talk show Trophy Talk Peacock politics sports 72 Emmy Awards Rock zombie concert Warner Bros. APB Pride Month American Society of Cinematographers game show stand-up comedy VICE IFC canceled TCM Columbia Pictures