Total Recall

Jennifer Lawrence's 10 Best Movies

We look at the 10 best films of the Red Sparrow star.

by | February 28, 2018 | Comments

Oh, mother! With Red Sparrow taking flight this week, we’re looking back on Jennifer Lawrence’s 10 best-reviewed movies!


1. Winter's Bone (2010) 94%

(Photo by Sebastian Mlynarski/Roadside Attractions)

Aside from hardcore fans of The Bill Engvall Show, not many people knew who Jennifer Lawrence was in 2009 — but that all changed the following year with the release of Winter’s Bone, writer-director Debra Granik’s harrowing portrayal of a teenage girl who embarks on a perilous effort to locate her missing father in order to save her disabled mother and younger siblings from being evicted from their meager Ozarks home. Bleak stuff for sure, but limned with a subtle, yet resolute hope — not to mention the ferocity of Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated performance. “Winter’s Bone is a genuine triumph,” wrote Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic, paying it the ultimate compliment by adding that it’s “a great movie with astounding performances so natural, so genuine, that you forget it’s a movie.”


2. American Hustle (2013) 92%

(Photo by Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)

Wigs and prosthetics are often a dead giveaway that an actor (or a movie in general) is trying way too hard to make a sale, and David O. Russell’s American Hustle is full of ’em. Fortunately, all that artifice stops on the surface. David O. Russell’s ’70s period piece, about a real-life FBI sting operation that used a pair of con artists (played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams) to target corrupt politicians, lays the garish hair and wardrobe on thick, but it makes sense in context, and it’s all backed up by a wall of solid performances; just about the entire cast was nominated for Oscars, including Lawrence for her work as Bale’s unstable wife. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a lot of fun: as Colin Covert wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Even at two hours and 20 minutes, the movie doesn’t wear you down. It carries you along with heedless momentum, giddy and exhilarated at its all-American ambition and scam-artist confidence.”


3. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) 92%

(Photo by JoJo Whilden/Weinstein Company)

How do you make a seriocomedy about mental illness without coming across as obnoxious or insensitive? It’s obviously easier said than done (just ask anyone who’s seen Mixed Nuts), but David O. Russell found a way with 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, starring Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as a couple of bruised souls who meet cute after enduring terrible personal tragedies and somehow manage to nurture a connection in spite of the many emotional and circumstantial obstacles between them. While a few critics certainly questioned the wisdom of trying to wring any sort of comedy from such a serious subject, the vast majority applauded Playbook‘s deft treatment of sensitive material, and the Academy agreed — the movie picked up eight Oscar nominations, with Lawrence taking home Best Actress. “It’s Lawrence who knocked me sideways,” wrote David Edelstein for New York Magazine. “I loved her in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games but she’s very young — I didn’t think she had this kind of deep-toned, layered weirdness in her.”


4. The Hunger Games Franchise (77%)

(Photo by Murray Close/Lionsgate)

Why settle for starring in one blockbuster franchise when you can topline two? Already a prominent part of the rebooted X-Men movies, Jennifer Lawrence took the lead for Lionsgate’s adaptation of The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling YA book series about a dystopian future in which boys and girls are forced to fight to the death for a nation’s amusement. Starring as the archer Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence helped bring the books’ rather grim story to life with a soulful performance that went a long way toward setting the Hunger Games films apart from the many likeminded movies that have followed in their wake — and winning consistent praise from critics like the Houston Chronicle’s Amy Biancolli, who wrote of the first installment, “It features a functioning creative imagination and lots of honest-to-goodness acting by its star, Jennifer Lawrence, who brings her usual toughness and emotional transparency to the archer-heroine Katniss.”


5. The X-Men Franchise (75%)

(Photo by Alan Markfield/20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

A year after scoring her breakout role in Winter’s Bone, Lawrence committed herself to several films’ worth of CGI action sequences (and slinking around in little more than a blue bodysuit) when she signed on to play the new Mystique in X-Men: First Class, the first installment in the freshly rebooted X-Men series. An Oscar winner by the time she returned for 2014’s Days of Future Past, Lawrence found herself at the center of a complex time-travel storyline that used her character as the emotional fulcrum for the franchise’s most ambitious attempt yet to place thought-provoking questions of prejudice against an action-fueled blockbuster backdrop. The end result blended sheer popcorn thrills almost seamlessly with the sociopolitical subtext the X-Men comics have always been known for; as the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern marveled, “Everything is of a piece, and it’s dazzling.”


6. Like Crazy (2011) 71%

(Photo by Fred Hayes/Paramount Pictures)

Anyone who’s ever attempted a long-distance relationship knows they can be hell, and writer-director Drake Doremus knows that pain more intimately than most — as evidenced by Like Crazy, the winsome romantic drama he and co-writer Ben York Jones weaved out of their real-life long-distance broken hearts and turned into a starring vehicle for Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. When the movie opens, he lives in L.A. and she’s a visiting British exchange student, and although falling in love is easy, their permanent addresses aren’t — especially after she overstays her student visa and is exiled to the U.K., driving the couple apart long enough for him to start a new relationship with someone who doesn’t live across the Atlantic (Jennifer Lawrence). While the story’s broad contours may be familiar, Doremus and his sharp cast handle the formula with aplomb; the result is what the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday deemed “A serious, deeply felt romance for an audience Hollywood most often bombards with raunchy sex comedies and video-game adaptations.”


7. mother! (2017) 69%

(Photo by Paramount Pictures)

Truly challenging mainstream cinema is typically in short supply regardless of the era, and in our current franchise-driven times, that’s arguably truer than ever. So no matter how it ended up being received by critics, writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s mother! offered a wide release worth celebrating in 2017 — a story that dared to challenge, and outright provoke, audiences while offering little in the way of traditional narrative compensation. Starring Lawrence as a woman whose seemingly bucolic existence with her husband (Javier Bardem) is upended by the arrival of some mysterious guests (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris), the movie was greeted with some of the most wildly divisive reactions of the year — although most critics were more than happy to be baffled, Aronofsky-style. The end result, as Glenn Kenny argued for RogerEbert.com, functions as “A hallucination that’s also an angry cry about the state of this world, but most importantly, a cinematic experience of unique proportions.”


8. The Beaver (2011) 62%

(Photo by Summit Entertainment)

In the years after his fall from public grace following several bouts of bizarre and generally offensive and/or ill-advised behavior, Mel Gibson needed a project that could help regenerate a little goodwill by taking him out of his dramatic wheelhouse and reminding audiences that he could still act — and he got one in the form of The Beaver, a directorial effort from Gibson’s friend Jodie Foster that gave the Lethal Weapon star the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a guy who responds to a series of horrible personal setbacks by developing what appears to be an alternate personality channeled through a beaver puppet on his hand. It’s the kind of left-field premise you have to see to believe, especially given that Foster rounded out her cast with likable pros like Anton Yelchin (as Gibson’s embarrassed son) and, of course, Jennifer Lawrence(as the classmate he’s afraid to get too close to because of his weirdo dad). Destined for the commercial margins and dismissed as too tonally disjointed by some critics, The Beaver was nevertheless hailed as a dam fine film by the majority — including Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who wrote, “The film is amusing, then melancholy, then weirdly funny, then not. It’s a quiet, measured work.”


9. Joy (2015) 61%

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)

Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell worked Hollywood magic together with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, so you can hardly blame them for reuniting again — especially to film the stranger-than-fiction real-life story of Joy Mangano, the entrepreneur who became a self-made millionaire after inventing the Miracle Mop. Lawrence and Russell’s undeniable rapport, brought to bear on a classically uplifting story with a postmodern twist, made Joy look like an awards contender — as did the rest of the movie’s terrific cast, rounded out by fellow Russell vets Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. With all those top-shelf ingredients, the lukewarm reaction to the movie couldn’t help but feel disappointing; still, Lawrence fans shouldn’t come away disappointed by her performance, which drew applause even when the film around her didn’t. “In the end, Joy is more slender and inconsequential than Russell probably intends it to be — it wears its ideas rather than embodying them,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek for Time. “But Lawrence keeps the channels of communication open, every minute, with the audience.”


10. The Poker House (2008) 63%

(Photo by Phase 4 Films courtesy Everett Collection)

Lawrence picked up her first major film role in The Poker House, a grim drama marking Tank Girl star Lori Petty’s debut as a writer-director. While few saw it at the time, there’s no denying Petty’s great taste in casting — aside from Lawrence, playing the oldest of three sisters subjected to deplorable living conditions by their deeply troubled mother (Selma Blair), House also features an early appearance from Chloe Grace Moretz, as well as a disturbing turn from Bokeem Woodbine as the mother’s reprehensible pimp. “The Poker House is one of the most personal, wounded films in years,” wrote John Wheeler for L.A. Weekly. “That it is also one of the most confused reflects how deeply it springs from the psyche of its director.”

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