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!


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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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

Interview international Podcast Premiere Dates football mission: impossible obituary harry potter strong female leads Women's History Month Disney Channel Tubi name the review interviews Logo Lifetime doctor who medical drama biopic Fox Searchlight godzilla Lionsgate Action documentaries quibi concert spanish stoner Travel Channel zombie Sony biography Pop BBC America 2019 Cartoon Network 72 Emmy Awards PlayStation 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards parents Pacific Islander aapi YouTube Premium italian Broadway halloween james bond Pride Month diversity scene in color Martial Arts versus broadcast saw Musicals Instagram Live video on demand comic books Spring TV elevated horror Disney Plus Classic Film Reality FOX police drama basketball nature Black History Month AMC Emmy Nominations scene in color film series PBS The Academy child's play APB historical drama what to watch Black Mirror YouTube Red social media dramedy TV Land rotten movies we love CBS All Access spinoff teaser Awards Hulu disaster french Superheroes a nightmare on elm street rt labs Pop TV marvel cinematic universe TCA worst know your critic summer TV preview kong 24 frames OWN Marvel Mystery Mindy Kaling El Rey Video Games Trivia toronto cooking Pirates telelvision cartoon Best Actor LGBTQ south america christmas movies jamie lee curtis Lucasfilm zero dark thirty Awards Tour zombies Best Director First Reviews book adaptation festival art house HBO Go BET Awards Television Critics Association Schedule Mary Tyler Moore adventure superman Watching Series gangster Focus Features trophy halloween tv legend dceu E3 Paramount Network series Disney streaming service Hallmark Christmas movies romantic comedy spider-verse TV renewals Sci-Fi Tumblr screenings ABC satire jurassic park slashers USA Network Geeked Week space Elton John 73rd Emmy Awards 71st Emmy Awards Mary poppins Best Actress fast and furious target scene in color Nominations Film HFPA Drama ID revenge Mudbound GLAAD Britbox Cannes sports critics Warner Bros. obi wan Tokyo Olympics scary movies TIFF screen actors guild video toy story TV movies joker breaking bad Captain marvel hist spain live event ghosts Country Shondaland scary RT21 DC Comics Indigenous psychological thriller Pixar Trophy Talk DirecTV japan VICE Walt Disney Pictures GIFs Apple TV+ Prime Video Year in Review Horror LGBT USA Columbia Pictures Peacock cancelled TV shows Kids & Family canceled TV shows Netflix Christmas movies Rock E! WarnerMedia dexter The Walking Dead Ovation australia Summer Funimation CW Seed Chernobyl Starz serial killer First Look Pet Sematary hispanic South by Southwest Film Festival classics Sneak Peek comedies casting MCU black OneApp scene in color series crime drama wonder woman Thanksgiving Song of Ice and Fire new zealand Holidays festivals Paramount Pictures The Purge Comic Book Academy Awards trailers Cosplay anime sequel miniseries ABC Signature FXX Turner Classic Movies Fantasy cops BBC One Nickelodeon TCA Awards Heroines MTV adenture Character Guide Baby Yoda mockumentary archives YA SundanceTV lord of the rings Apple BAFTA Binge Guide royal family nbcuniversal Amazon Prime IFC Films Native TCA 2017 TLC NYCC Winter TV MGM comiccon Tags: Comedy Sundance Crunchyroll sopranos cults golden globe awards CBS A24 Christmas Star Trek TruTV period drama Calendar witnail cinemax deadpool king kong mutant genre National Geographic The CW Hallmark Lifetime Christmas movies nfl Emmys Toys Ellie Kemper Paramount blockbuster indiana jones asian-american talk show HBO Teen docuseries sag awards The Walt Disney Company 45 Certified Fresh Rom-Com RT History VOD Best Picture thriller tv talk Amazon women SXSW 2022 HBO Max DGA TCM Tomatazos Comics on TV Epix Paramount Plus Sundance TV reboot indie Infographic Film Festival olympics 79th Golden Globes Awards foreign DC Universe rt labs critics edition comics Alien Animation CNN Rocky Photos 1990s BBC Disney+ Disney Plus stand-up comedy golden globes unscripted franchise japanese prank Trailer universal monsters marvel comics facebook Exclusive Video latino slasher kids Discovery Channel SDCC Showtime streaming movies cancelled television hispanic heritage month American Society of Cinematographers Countdown singing competition comic Tarantino Marvel Television Comedy Central hidden camera Star Wars Celebration discovery sequels ABC Family SXSW razzies justice league rom-coms X-Men technology directors popular batman 4/20 Rocketman Extras Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt live action 93rd Oscars chucky stop motion Hollywood Foreign Press Association renewed TV shows Netflix Marathons Esquire boxoffice Polls and Games leaderboard films dogs Stephen King Box Office AMC Plus anthology 2017 binge scorecard travel Grammys 20th Century Fox 21st Century Fox Dark Horse Comics pirates of the caribbean New York Comic Con crime thriller cancelled heist movie Writers Guild of America A&E werewolf boxing TV One Avengers Best and Worst Syfy remakes rt archives Endgame Western ratings kaiju Election IFC monster movies See It Skip It emmy awards dc Television Academy twilight mob theme song romance dragons laika reviews San Diego Comic-Con game of thrones President docudrama Ghostbusters movie Holiday debate TV blaxploitation Turner blockbusters composers TNT Universal book Fall TV Crackle Spectrum Originals aliens suspense CMT sitcom Set visit VH1 rotten spider-man vs. The Arrangement NBA Bravo MSNBC Superheroe news Hear Us Out 2015 Food Network summer preview hollywood Red Carpet Spike feel good spy thriller true crime TCA Winter 2020 Oscars supernatural mcc History Brie Larson worst movies Winners cars Mary Poppins Returns 99% ViacomCBS 94th Oscars adaptation canceled Amazon Prime Video Wes Anderson Chilling Adventures of Sabrina dreamworks Fox News 2021 black comedy 007 war king arthur Adult Swim action-comedy critic resources transformers science fiction Comedy Universal Pictures ESPN IMDb TV Super Bowl FX on Hulu Marvel Studios superhero crime Legendary GoT comic book movie Freeform dark free movies Neflix Sundance Now independent WGN ITV new star wars movies PaleyFest Arrowverse all-time spanish language game show animated Star Wars high school Masterpiece documentary best Reality Competition BET NBC television 2020 DC streaming service Shudder fresh The Witch Vudu 90s summer TV streaming Creative Arts Emmys new york Acorn TV Fargo comic book movies venice award winner Anna Paquin criterion crossover children's TV psycho streamig Family Sony Pictures Apple TV Plus Comic-Con@Home 2021 posters finale cancelled TV series Quiz target Biopics Oscar 2016 young adult YouTube richard e. Grant Music Opinion Nat Geo based on movie cats Musical political drama TBS die hard vampires natural history Disney FX Amazon Studios politics movies 2018 Image Comics green book Valentine's Day robots