Scarlett Johansson’s 10 Best Performances
2023/08/24

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"Sing 2" hits theaters on Dec. 22 and adds to its already-starry voice cast two-time Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson. It's a perfect fit, as one of the actor's finest performances was lending her voice to the AI system in Spike Jonze's "Her." But the actor has proven herself adept at a wide variety of genres, and we take a look at her 10 best performances from over the years.

Ghost World (2001)

Johansson was a teenager herself when she broke through in Terry Zwigoff's offbeat depiction of disaffected youth, based on the Daniel Clowes comic. Her pitch-perfect performance as Rebecca Doppelmeyer announced the arrival of a major new talent, and was just the precursor for a series of fascinating choices and complex roles to follow.

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Saturday Night Live (2006 – present)

With a Tony Award and Oscar noms, Johansson is on her way to an EGOT, but she's already a member of an exclusive enclave — "Saturday Night Live's" Five-Timers Club. In fact, she's hosted six times, in addition to making occasional cameos, since 2006. She truly is family — she's married to "Weekend Update" anchor Colin Jost — and always up for anything. Highlights include portraying Ivanka Trump in an ad for an "Obsession"-style perfume called "Complicit" and playing Natasha Romanoff in a "Black Widow" trailer (years before the actual spinoff was greenlit) that reimagines the film as a rom-com. And then there's her performance as the mother in question in "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," a fun and twisted take on the holiday classic.

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Under the Skin (2013)

A film that gives the term "slow burn" a good name (many don't), Jonathan Glazer's minimalistic sci-fi tale is a mesmerizing experience that uses an alien story to explore bigger themes on gender and predators. Johansson is a blank canvas as the seemingly single-minded alien life form who seduces and murders men. So much is expressed through Johansson's eyes and face, she's reminiscent of early silent film stars.

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Johansson earned her first (and simultaneously second) Oscar nomination for Taika Waititi's surreal comedy-drama, about a young boy in the Hitler Youth whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Waititi has a very specific style and Johansson absolutely meshes into his world as the boy's tough and loving mother. Playing a woman with many secrets, there are layers upon layers of complexity in every scene as she struggles to put up a patriotic front while also trying to raise a caring son.

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Lost in Translation (2003)

Director Sofia Coppola found the perfect counterpart in Johansson for her Oscar-winning film about two alienated souls who find themselves connecting in a Tokyo hotel. While Bill Murray landed the Oscar nomination and was the subject of much praise (as often happens when a comedic actor does a dramatic role) this is a two-hander and the film only works thanks to Johansson's grounded turn. Her chemistry with Murray is very specific — we have to believe these two are connecting on the deepest level despite their obvious differences — and it's a testament to them both that their pairing has remained one of the most iconic film duos in recent history.

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Marriage Story (2019)

There isn't a false note in Johansson's Oscar-nominated performance as Nicole, one half of the couple at the center of Noah Baumbach's gutting take on marriage and divorce. She more than holds her own against a powerhouse like Adam Driver, playing her ex-husband Charlie, and her lovely monologue to her divorce attorney about the dissolution of their relationship is some of her finest, most heartfelt work. Your sympathies and alliances may veer all over the place during the course of the film, but that's the power of great writing matched with the perfect actors.

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

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Before her Oscar-nominated turn in "Jojo Rabbit," directors Joel and Ethan Coen found a use for Johansson's old-school glamour and deftness for comedy with their 1950s-set Hollywood comedy. Johansson is excellent as an DeeAnna Moran, an Esther Williams-style star who finds herself pregnant out of wedlock and in need of help from a fixer played by Josh Brolin. Though it's only a pair of scenes, one includes a stunning synchronized swimming dance number, and the other is a sweet and funny meet cute with co-star Jonah Hill.

The Prestige (2006)

Perhaps Christopher Nolan's most underrated movie and Johansson's most underrated performance, her work as a magician's assistant caught between two (or three) men is often criminally overlooked. Her Olivia Wenscombe originally works for and falls for Hugh Jackman's Robert Angier, before he sends her to spy on Christian Bale's technically superior Alfred Borden. Olivia's shifting allegiances and the question of who's conning whom come at the audience fast and furious, and Johansson makes every turn believable.

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Her (2013)

Though Johansson never appears on screen, Spike Jonze's futuristic romance simply wouldn't work without her. As the voice of Samantha, the artificial intelligence system Joaquin Phoenix's introverted Theodore Twombly purchases, Johansson gives a layered, nuanced performance that should have earned her an Oscar nomination. Conveying wisdom, emotion and nuance with only her voice, Johansson remains one of Phoenix's best screen partners, despite the fact that they never physically share a scene.

The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

If one had to pick Johansson's best turns as super spy Natasha Romanoff, it wouldn't necessarily be her first appearance in "Iron Man 2" or her standalone movie "Black Widow." Though an ensemble film, it's hard to top her appearance in "The Avengers" — where she first appears as a woman in peril, only to reveal she is really the one interrogating her captors. She shines in scenes with Tom Hiddleston's Loki and with Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, getting to show her brains and brawn. And for an emotional wallop, you can't beat her emotional sacrifice in the finale, "Avengers: Infinity War."

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