Jennifer Connelly’s Best Movies

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  04 Sep 2015 

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. 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.

actors
10 Hulk
imdb
rating

5.7

Hulk (2003)

Action, Science Fiction

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.

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Bruce Banner, a genetics researcher with a tragic past, suffers an accident that causes him to transform into a raging green monster when he gets angry

actors:
Eric Bana as Bruce Banner   Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross   Sam Elliott as Ross   Josh Lucas as Talbot   Nick Nolte as Father   Paul Kersey as Young David Banner   Cara Buono as Edith Banner   Stan Lee as Security Guard   Todd Tesen as Young Ross   Celia Weston as Mrs. Krensler   Mike Erwin as Teenage Bruce Banner   Lou Ferrigno as Security Guard   Regi Davis as Security Guard   Craig Damon as Security Guard  

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9 Labyrinth
imdb
rating

7.4

Labyrinth (1986)

Fantasy

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.”

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Frustrated with baby-sitting on yet another weekend night, Sarah - a teenager with an active imagination - summons the Goblins from her favourite book, "Labyrinth", to take the baby step-brother away. When little Toby actually disappears, Sarah must follow him into the world of the fairy tale to rescue him from the Goblin King!

actors:
David Bowie as Jareth   Jennifer Connelly as Sarah   Toby Froud as Toby   Christopher Malcolm as Father   Shelley Thompson as Stepmother   Warwick Davis as Goblin Corps   Natalie Finland as Fairy   Shari Weiser as Hoggle   Brian Henson as Hoggle   Ron Mueck as Ludo   Rob Mills as Ludo   Dave Goelz as Didymus   David Alan Barclay as Didymus   David Shaughnessy as Didymus   Karen Prell as The Worm   Timothy Bateson as The Worm  

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8 The Hot Spot
imdb
rating

6.4

The Hot Spot (1990)

Crime, Drama, Thriller, Romance

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.”

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A loner moves in to a small Texas town, finds himself a job, and sets about plotting to rob the local bank.

actors:
Don Johnson as Harry Madox   Virginia Madsen as Dolly Harshaw   Jennifer Connelly as Gloria Harper   Charles Martin Smith as Lon Gulick   William Sadler as Frank Sutton   Jerry Hardin as George Harshaw   Barry Corbin as Sheriff   Leon Rippy as Deputy Tate   Jack Nance as Julian Ward   Virgil Frye as Deputy Buck   John Hawker as Uncle Mort   Margaret Bowman as Woman at Gas Station   Debra Cole as Irene Davey   Karen Culley as Cowgirl   Cody Haynes as Cowboy  

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7 Dark City
imdb
rating

7.7

Dark City (1998)

Mystery, Science Fiction

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.”

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A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.

actors:
Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch   William Hurt as Inspector Frank Bumstead   Kiefer Sutherland as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber   Jennifer Connelly as Emma Murdoch   Ian Richardson as Mr. Book   Bruce Spence as Mr. Wall   Colin Friels as Det. Eddie Walenski   Mitchell Butel as Officer Husselbeck   Melissa George as May   Frank Gallacher as Chief Inspector Stromboli   Ritchie Singer as Hotel Manager / Vendor   Justin Monjo as Taxi Driver   Nicholas Bell as Mr. Rain   Satya Gumbert as Mr. Sleep  

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6 Phenomena
imdb
rating

6.9

Phenomena (1985)

Horror, Thriller

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.”

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A young girl, with an amazing ability to communicate with insects, is transferred to an exclusive Swiss boarding school, where her unusual capability might help solve a string of murders.

actors:
Jennifer Connelly as Jennifer Corvino   Donald Pleasence as Professor John McGregor   Daria Nicolodi as Frau Brückner   Patrick Bauchau as Inspector Rudolf Geiger   Fiore Argento as Vera Brandt   Federica Mastroianni as Sophie   Fiorenza Tessari as Gisela Sulzer   Mario Donatone as Morris Shapiro   Francesca Ottaviani as Nurse   Michele Soavi as Kurt   Franco Trevisi as Real Estate Agent   Davide Marotta as Patua   Dalila Di Lazzaro as Headmistress   Fulvio Mingozzi as Mr. Sulzer  

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5 House of Sand and Fog
imdb
rating

7.6

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

Drama

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.”

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Behrani, an Iranian immigrant buys a California bungalow, thinking he can fix it up, sell it again, and make enough money to send his son to college. However, the house is the legal property of former drug addict Kathy. After losing the house in an unfair legal dispute with the county, she is left with nowhere to go. Wanting her house back, she hires a lawyer and befriends a police officer. Neither Kathy nor Behrani have broken the law, so they find themselves involved in a difficult moral dilemma.

actors:
Jennifer Connelly as Kathy   Ben Kingsley as Behrani   Ron Eldard as Lester   Frances Fisher as Connie Walsh   Kim Dickens as Carol Burdon   Shohreh Aghdashloo as Nadi   Jonathan Ahdout as Esmail   Navi Rawat as Soraya   Kia Jam as Ali  

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4 A Beautiful Mind
imdb
rating

8.2

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Drama, Romance

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.”

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At Princeton University, John Nash struggles to make a worthwhile contribution to serve as his legacy to the world of mathematics. He finally makes a revolutionary breakthrough that will eventually earn him the Nobel Prize. After graduate school he turns to teaching, becoming romantically involved with his student Alicia. Meanwhile the government asks his help with breaking Soviet codes, which soon gets him involved in a terrifying conspiracy plot. Nash grows more and more paranoid until a discovery that turns his entire world upside down. Now it is only with Alicia's help that he will be able to recover his mental strength and regain his status as the great mathematician we know him as today.

actors:
Ed Harris as William Parcher   Russell Crowe as John Nash   Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash   Christopher Plummer as Dr. Rosen   Paul Bettany as Charles   Adam Goldberg as Sol   Josh Lucas as Hansen   Anthony Rapp as Bender   Jason Gray-Stanford as Ainsley   Judd Hirsch as Helinger   Austin Pendleton as Thomas King   Vivien Cardone as Marcee   Jillie Simon as Bar Co-Ed   Victor Steinbach as Prof. Horner   Tanya Clarke as Becky   Thomas F. Walsh as Captain   Jesse Doran as General   Kent Cassella as Analyst   Patrick Blindauer as MIT Student   John Blaylock as Photographer   Roy Thinnes as Governor   Anthony Easton as Young Man   Cheryl Howard as Harvard Administrator   Josh Pais as Princeton Professor   David B. Allen as John Nash Teenager   Michael Esper as John Nash Young Man   Erik Van Wyck as Princeton Student  

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3 Requiem for a Dream
imdb
rating

8.4

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Drama

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.”

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The hopes and dreams of four ambitious people are shattered when their drug addictions begin spiraling out of control. A look into addiction and how it overcomes the mind and body.

actors:
Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb   Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb   Jennifer Connelly as Marion Silver   Marlon Wayans as Tyrone C. Love   Christopher McDonald as Tappy Tibbons   Louise Lasser as Ada   Marcia Jean Kurtz as Rae   Janet Sarno as Mrs. Pearlman   Suzanne Shepherd as Mrs. Scarlini   Mark Margolis as Mr. Rabinowitz  

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2 Little Children
imdb
rating

7.6

Little Children (2006)

Drama, Romance

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.”

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The lives of two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages, a registered sex offender, and a disgraced ex-police officer intersect as they struggle to resist their vulnerabilities and temptations.

actors:
Kate Winslet as Sarah Pierce   Patrick Wilson as Brad Adamson   Jennifer Connelly as Kathy Adamson   Gregg Edelman as Richard Pierce   Sadie Goldstein as Lucy Pierce   Ty Simpkins as Aaron Adamson   Noah Emmerich as Larry Hedges   Jackie Earle Haley as Ronnie J. McGorvey   Phyllis Somerville as May McGorvey   Helen Carey as Jean   Mary B. McCann as Mary Ann   Trini Alvarado as Theresa   Marsha Dietlein as Cheryl   Sarah Buxton as Slutty Kay   Chadwick Brown as Tony Correnti   Adam Mucci as Richie Murphy   Erica Berg as Richard's Secretary   Catherine Wolf as Marjorie   Raymond J. Barry as Bullhorn Bob   Chance Kelly as Pete Olaffson  

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1 Pollock
imdb
rating

7.0

Pollock (2000)

Drama, Romance

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.”

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A film about the life and career of the American painter, Jackson Pollock.

actors:
Ed Harris as Jackson Pollock   Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner   Tom Bower as Dan Miller   Jennifer Connelly as Ruth Kligman   Bud Cort as Howard Putzel   John Heard as Tony Smith   Val Kilmer as Willem DeKooning   David Leary as Charles Pollock   Robert Knott as Sande Pollock   Stephanie Seymour as Helen Frankenthaler  

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