I doubt that you’d get any argument that Cate Blanchett is one of the world’s great actresses, both on stage and screen. The sheer versatility she has displayed in her performances on film especially has made her one of the world’s most sought-after screen stars over the past two decades.
Blanchett has been nominated for seven Academy Awards with two wins for “The Aviator” (2004) and “Blue Jasmine” (2013), prevailing as a supporting actress the first time and then as a lead. She has received nine Golden Globe nominations with three wins for “Elizabeth” (1998), “I’m Not There” (2007) and “Blue Jasmine.” Blanchett has also earned 14 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations with three wins for “The Aviator,” “Blue Jasmine” and as part of the ensemble cast of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003).
Blanchett returned to the nation’s movie screens in late 2017 for the latest Marvel Comics release, “Thor: Ragnarok,” the third in the “Thor” series and one of the best-reviewed Marvel entries ever. The praise extended to Blanchett’s performance as the evil Hela (Goddess of Death), which she had to deliver in a motion capture suit. But let’s face it — is there any other screen great who could deliver this kind of performance wearing antlers on her head? I don’t think so.
Antlers aside, here is our take on Blanchett’s 12 best screen performances ranked from worst to best. See if you agree by clicking through our photo gallery above and reading about each film below.
12. THE SHIPPING NEWS (2001)
Lasse Hallström’s film adapted from Proulx’s best-selling novel received mixed reviews at best, but Blanchett garnered significant attention for her supporting role as Petal, a gregarious woman who weds inksetter Quayle (Kevin Spacey) in upstate New York in what appears to be a storybook marriage. However, many years later, their union is anything but happy with a bitter Petal sleeping around behind Quayle’s back. Blanchett’s ease in transitioning from one phase of a character’s life to a very different one made critics sit up and take notice.
11. THE HOBBIT series (2012, 2013)
The first of the two-film “Hobbit” series, “An Unexpected Journey,” takes place some 60 years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in which Blanchett first appeared as Galadriel, “the mightiest and fairest of all the elves that remained in Middle-Earth,” according to the books’ author J.R.R. Tolkien. Galadriel is an elf possessing great power and becomes a confidant of Gandalf (Ian McKellen). As in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Peter Jackson’s direction emphasizes spectacle but never loses character, and in Blanchett and McKellen’s performances, they make the most of their characters.
10. THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999)
In Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel, Blanchett takes on the supporting role of Meredith Logue, an American socialite whom Ripley (Matt Damon) fools into believing that he is wealthy heir Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), whom Ripley has just murdered. Blanchett offers an air of regal sophistication to Meredith, who begins falling for Ripley and is shocked when Ripley, afraid that he’s about to be unmasked, breaks up with her. Though it’s early in Blanchett’s film career, she more than holds her own among this distinguished cast.
9. ELIZABETH (1998) and ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE (2007)
Blanchett burst onto the world’s film scene with her acclaimed portrayal of Elizabeth I, both early in her reign in “Elizabeth” and in the later years of her time on the throne in “The Golden Age”. Though Blanchett at the time of “Elizabeth” was known primarily for her stage work, both films, especially “Elizabeth,” promised that she was going to be a major player on the film scene as well. “Elizabeth” garnered Blanchett her first Golden Globe Award, as well as her first nominations for the Oscar and the SAG Award. And for “The Golden Age,” she earned her fourth Oscar nod, her sixth Golden Globe nomination and her 10th SAG nod as well.
8. BABEL (2006)
In director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s multi-storied panorama, Blanchett portrays Susan Jones, an American tourist traveling with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt), and the pair is traveling in Morocco in an effort to heal their marriage, which has been shaken by the death of their infant to SIDS. While on a tour bus, Susan is inadvertently shot by a pair of young boys, and as she clings to life, Richard sets out on a time-sensitive quest to get her the medical care that she needs. For her performance in “Babel,” Blanchett received her ninth Screen Actors Guild nomination.
7. THE LORD OF THE RINGS series (2001, 2002, 2003)
Although “The Hobbit” takes place 60 years earlier, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, as directed by Peter Jackson, hit the nation’s screens first, and audiences got their first taste of Blanchett’s take on Galadriel, the kind but powerful co-ruler of Lothlórien. Though her performance continued to be a standout in the trilogy’s second film, “The Two Towers” (2002) and the third, “The Return of the King” (for which Blanchett won her first SAG Award as part of that film’s ensemble cast), it was arguably in the series’ first installment, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” where Blanchett made her freshest and most lasting impression as the benevolent elf queen Galadriel.
6. I’M NOT THERE (2007)
Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There” provided Blanchett a unique acting opportunity as one of six actors (and the only woman) to offer their take on the essence of Bob Dylan. Blanchett’s section sets up Dylan as a character called Jude Quinn and covers the period when Dylan goes electric at the Newport Jazz Festival and is booed when he follows the same path on a tour of the UK. There’s no attempt at androgyny here — it’s just Blanchett channeling Dylan. For her fascinating turn as “Jude” (the best performance in the movie), Blanchett was honored with her second Golden Globe Award, her fifth Oscar nod, and her 11th Screen Actors Guild nomination.
5. THE AVIATOR (2004)
Blanchett won her first Academy Award for her performance as screen legend Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s look at the iconic Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio). What was wonderful about Blanchett’s interpretation was that it was not an impersonation as so many imitators have done, but instead she seemed to embody the screen star, not just in her voice but in her physicality as well, walking confidently in slacks in a way that few of her contemporaries ever attempted. For her performance as Hepburn, Blanchett also won her second Screen Actors Guild Award and was nominated for her fourth Golden Globe Award.
3. NOTES ON A SCANDAL (2006)
Whenever people think of the great Cate Blanchett performances, they occasionally overlook this 2006 gem of a film directed by Richard Eyre and written by Patrick Marber. Blanchett plays Sheba Hart, a new art teacher at a London comprehensive school who comes under the amorous eye of spinster history teacher Barbara Covett (Judi Dench). When Barbara learns that Sheba is having an affair with a 15 year-old student, she uses that information against Sheba to her own ends. Although the lion’s share of attention went to Dench for her performance-against-type, watch what Blanchett does here, creating a character who wants to befriend a colleague only to have that turn against her. For her performance as Sheba, Blanchett received her third Oscar nomination, her fifth Golden Globe nod and her eighth SAG nomination.
2. CAROL (2015)
Blanchett reunited with her “I’m Not There” director Todd Haynes for “Carol,” in one of her most acclaimed performances as Carol Aird, a wealthy New Jersey housewife who accidentally leaves her gloves at a New York store. A clerk, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), returns the gloves, and in gratitude, Carol, who is undergoing a painful divorce, invites Therese out for lunch. Both women have an immediate attraction for one another, and they begin a relationship that ends unhappily. Maybe. For her performances as Carol, Blanchett earned her seventh Academy Award nomination, her ninth Golden Globe nod, and her 14th Screen Actors Guild nomination.
1. BLUE JASMINE (2013)
To my mind, this is the very best performance that Blanchett has put on film to date. When she was signed to do a Woody Allen movie, I believe most of us thought we had some idea what to expect, but it was the enormity of what she did with the character of Jasmine Harris, a woman who was living on top of the world with her Bernie Madoff-type husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) when he is busted by the Feds and the government takes all of the couple’s money that caused many of us to do a double take at her remarkable skills. Though Jasmine is tapped out, she flies to San Francisco (in first class, of course) to live with her not-so-well-off sister Ginger (Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins), but those close to Ginger begin to question Jasmine’s motivations. It’s a stunning performance, which brought Blanchett her second Academy Award, her third Golden Globe Award and her third Screen Actors Guild Award.