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All Viola Davis Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer

After a decade of bit parts, many of them within the gainful employ of Steven Soderbergh’s production company, Viola Davis broke into the mainstream with a movie-stealing turn – and from Meryl Streep! – in 2008’s Catholic Church child abuse drama Doubt. Davis has all of 10 minutes of screen time in Doubt but earned an Oscar nomination for her work, joining the likes of Ruby Dee for American Gangster or Ned Beatty for Network of Oscar nominees who made the most out of their single-scene appearances. Yet, Davis forms Doubt’s emotional pillar, powerfully delivering social and cultural history that further obfuscates the film’s central mystery.

Davis has been releasing multiple movies a year ever since, frequently playing women of power or high up in their professions, in the likes of Law Abiding Citizen, Knight & Day, Ender’s Game, and Suicide Squad, as Amanda Waller, one of that movie’s rare bright spots. And Davis has frequently reached the same heights as Doubt in Certified Fresh films like Widows, The Help (receiving a Lead Actress nomination), and Fences, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Davis got another Lead Actress nom for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and she returned as Waller for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. And now, we’re ranking all Viola Davis movies by Tomatometer! Alex Vo

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 119583%
Critics Consensus: Framed by a pair of powerhouse performances, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom pays affectionate tribute to a blues legend -- and Black culture at large.
Synopsis: Tensions and temperatures rise at a Chicago music studio in 1927 when fiery, fearless blues singer Ma Rainey joins her... [More]
Directed By: George C. Wolfe

#2

The Woman King (2022)
94%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103683%
Critics Consensus: All hail Viola Davis! The Woman King rules.
Synopsis: The Woman King is the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood

#3

Fences (2016)
92%

#3
Adjusted Score: 108564%
Critics Consensus: From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged -- and still just as powerful.
Synopsis: Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a... [More]
Directed By: Denzel Washington

#4

Widows (2018)
91%

#4
Adjusted Score: 117621%
Critics Consensus: Widows rounds up a stellar ensemble for a heist thriller that mixes popcorn entertainment with a message - and marks another artistic leap for director Steve McQueen.
Synopsis: A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows -- Veronica, Linda,... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 109260%
Critics Consensus: Enlivened by writer-director James Gunn's singularly skewed vision, The Suicide Squad marks a funny, fast-paced rebound that plays to the source material's violent, anarchic strengths.
Synopsis: Welcome to hell--a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst... [More]
Directed By: James Gunn

#6

State of Play (2009)
84%

#6
Adjusted Score: 93134%
Critics Consensus: A taut, well-acted political thriller, State of Play overcomes some unsubtle plot twists with an intelligent script and swift direction.
Synopsis: Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is a rising star in Washington; handsome, unflappable and seemingly honorable, he's seen as his... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald

#7

Prisoners (2013)
81%

#7
Adjusted Score: 90730%
Critics Consensus: Prisoners has an emotional complexity and a sense of dread that makes for absorbing (and disturbing) viewing.
Synopsis: Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) faces a parent's worst nightmare when his 6-year-old daughter, Anna, and her friend go missing. The... [More]
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

#8

Get On Up (2014)
80%

#8
Adjusted Score: 87275%
Critics Consensus: With an unforgettable Chadwick Boseman in the starring role, Get On Up offers the Godfather of Soul a fittingly dynamic homage.
Synopsis: James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) was born in extreme poverty in 1933 South Carolina and survived abandonment, abuse and jail to... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#9

Doubt (2008)
79%

#9
Adjusted Score: 88310%
Critics Consensus: Doubt succeeds on the strength of its top-notch cast, who successfully guide the film through the occasional narrative lull.
Synopsis: In 1964 the winds of change are sweeping through Sister Aloysius' (Meryl Streep) St. Nicholas school. Father Flynn (Philip Seymour... [More]
Directed By: John Patrick Shanley

#10

Trust (2010)
79%

#10
Adjusted Score: 81035%
Critics Consensus: Director David Schwimmer gets some gut-wrenching performances out of his actors but he still lacks the chops to fully ratchet up story tension.
Synopsis: A man (Clive Owen) has difficulty coping with the knowledge that his 14-year-daughter (Liana Liberato) was assaulted by a sexual... [More]
Directed By: David Schwimmer

#11

The Help (2011)
76%

#11
Adjusted Score: 85510%
Critics Consensus: Though it fails to fully engage with its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast -- particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own.
Synopsis: In 1960s Mississippi, Southern society girl Skeeter (Emma Stone) returns from college with dreams of being a writer. She turns... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#12

Troop Zero (2019)
68%

#12
Adjusted Score: 70913%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a charming cast and infectious energy, Troop Zero is more than the sum of its instantly familiar parts.
Synopsis: Misfit Birdie Scouts enter a national competition.... [More]
Directed By: Bert & Bertie

#13
Adjusted Score: 68448%
Critics Consensus: Led by strong performances from Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is a hauntingly original rumination on love and loss.
Synopsis: Following the death of their child, a woman (Jessica Chastain) leaves her husband (James McAvoy) and flees to the suburban... [More]
Directed By: Ned Benson

#14

Ender's Game (2013)
62%

#14
Adjusted Score: 71529%
Critics Consensus: If it isn't quite as thought-provoking as the book, Ender's Game still manages to offer a commendable number of well-acted, solidly written sci-fi thrills.
Synopsis: When hostile aliens called the Formics attack Earth, only the legendary heroics of Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) manage to attain... [More]
Directed By: Gavin Hood

#15
Adjusted Score: 62251%
Critics Consensus: It's amiable, and it does a surprisingly good job of sidestepping psych ward comedy cliches, but given its talented cast and directors, It's Kind of a Funny Story should be more than just mildly entertaining.
Synopsis: Stressed by adolescence, 16-year-old Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental-health clinic. Unfortunately, the youth wing is closed,... [More]
Directed By: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

#16

Knight and Day (2010)
52%

#16
Adjusted Score: 60466%
Critics Consensus: It's pure formula, but thanks to its breezy pace and a pair of charming performances from Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Knight and Day offers some agreeably middle-of-the-road summer action.
Synopsis: June Havens (Cameron Diaz) chats up her charming seatmate on a flight out of Kansas, but she doesn't realize that... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 54497%
Critics Consensus: Charming romantic leads and esteemed supporting cast aside, Beautiful Creatures is a plodding YA novel adaptation that feels watered down for the Twilight set.
Synopsis: In the small town of Gatlin, S.C., teenage Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) sees his static world shaken by the arrival... [More]
Directed By: Richard LaGravenese

#18
Adjusted Score: 53302%
Critics Consensus: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has a story worth telling, but it deserves better than the treacly and pretentious treatment director Stephen Daldry gives it.
Synopsis: Oskar (Thomas Horn), who lost his father (Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, is convinced... [More]
Directed By: Stephen Daldry

#19

Lila & Eve (2015)
40%

#19
Adjusted Score: 40825%
Critics Consensus: Lila & Eve gets some mileage out of its formidable stars, with Viola Davis in particular proving that she will commandingly commit to any material, but this is a revenge flick served stale due to a lackluster script.
Synopsis: After the senseless murder of her son (Aml Ameen), a grief-stricken mother (Viola Davis) joins forces with another woman (Jennifer... [More]
Directed By: Charles Stone III

#20

The Unforgivable (2021)
39%

#20
Adjusted Score: 42145%
Critics Consensus: The Unforgivable proves Sandra Bullock is more than capable of playing against type, but her performance is wasted on a contrived and unrelentingly grim story.
Synopsis: Released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime, Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock) re-enters a society that refuses... [More]
Directed By: Nora Fingscheidt

#21

Eat Pray Love (2010)
36%

#21
Adjusted Score: 43349%
Critics Consensus: The scenery is nice to look at, and Julia Roberts is as luminous as ever, but without the spiritual and emotional weight of the book that inspired it, Eat Pray Love is too shallow to resonate.
Synopsis: Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) thought she had everything she wanted in life: a home, a husband and a successful career.... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Murphy

#22

Won't Back Down (2012)
35%

#22
Adjusted Score: 38164%
Critics Consensus: Despite the best efforts of its talented leads, Won't Back Down fails to lend sufficient dramatic heft or sophistication to the hot-button issue of education reform.
Synopsis: Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) are two women from opposites sides of the social and economic... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Barnz

#23

Blackhat (2015)
33%

#23
Adjusted Score: 39760%
Critics Consensus: Thematically timely but dramatically inert, Blackhat strands Chris Hemsworth in a muddled misfire from director Michael Mann.
Synopsis: After a Hong Kong nuclear plant and the Mercantile Trade Exchange in Chicago are hacked by unknown perpetrators, a federal... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 35324%
Critics Consensus: Derivative and schmaltzy, Nicholas Sparks' Nights in Rodanthe is strongly mottled by contrivances that even the charisma of stars Diane Lane and Richard Gere can't repair.
Synopsis: When Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) arrives at the coastal town of Rodanthe, N.C., her life is in chaos. There, she... [More]
Directed By: George C. Wolfe

#25
Adjusted Score: 29440%
Critics Consensus: Divided between sincere melodrama and populist comedy, Madea Goes to Jail fails to provide enough laughs -- or screen time -- for its titular heroine.
Synopsis: After a high-speed car chase, Madea (Tyler Perry) winds up behind bars because her quick temper gets the best of... [More]
Directed By: Tyler Perry

#26

Suicide Squad (2016)
26%

#26
Adjusted Score: 51592%
Critics Consensus: Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren't enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.
Synopsis: Figuring they're all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret... [More]
Directed By: David Ayer

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 31601%
Critics Consensus: Unnecessarily violent and unflinchingly absurd, Law Abiding Citizen is plagued by subpar acting and a story that defies reason.
Synopsis: Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is an honorable family man, until the day his wife and daughter are murdered in a... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

Featured image: Jessica Miglio / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection