These days, actress Robin Wright is likely best known for her six seasons as Claire Underwood on “House of Cards.” Her character’s trajectory on Netflix’s often-rancid take on underhanded politics saw her ending up becoming the 47th President of the United States after co-star Kevin Spacey was forced to leave the show due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Wright collected six Emmy nominations as Best Drama Actresss and two for being an executive producer on the show. Wright also earned directorial stripes while calling the shots behind the camera for 10 episodes as well.
That experience led her to make her directorial film debut with “Land,” in which she played Edee, a woman filled with suicidal thoughts after suffering a tragic personal loss. She decides to go off the grid while moving into a grungy cabin in amongst the scenic mountains of Wyoming. Her attempts to chop wood, hunt for food and using an outhouse prove to be beyond her ability to adapt. But, eventually, this steadfast hermit who is cut off from the rest of the world engages with Demian Bichir’s Miguel, who teaches her survival skills while also re-engaging her sense of humanity.
Tour our photo gallery ranking the 12 greatest movie roles for Wright, including “The Princess Bride,” “Forrest Gump,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Unbreakable” and “Wonder Woman.”
12. “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” (2009)
Wright’s performance is the best thing about this dramedy directed and written by Rebecca Miller that focuses on her Pippa, a middle-age mother and wife who is wed to Herb, a much older man who is a noted publisher (Alan Arkin). When she and her husband move to a retirement community, Pippa’s troubled past begins to haunt her. She connects with Chris (Keanu Reeves), the unhappily married son of her female neighbor and close friend. Suddenly, Pippa begins to awaken from her midlife slump and reclaims her inner wild child of her youth while possibly heading for a nervous breakdown.
11. “Unbreakable” (2000)
In M. Night Shymalan’s moody superhero thriller, Wright plays Audrey, the separated wife of security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who is the sole survivor of a terrible train crash and gets away scot-free with no injuries. That leads him to believe he has superhuman abilities. He befriends comic-book store owner (Samuel L. Jackson), who suffers from a congenital bone disease and uses a wheelchair. He helps David learn more about his special powers. The premise is intriguing and ends with a typical Shymalan twist, but Wright is basically wasted in ex-spouse and mother mode here.
10. “White Oleander” (2002)
Teen Astrid’s life is upended when her mother Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) murders her cheating beau with a poison made from white oleander and is sentenced to life in prison. Astrid (Alison Lohman) ends up living with foster mother Starr Thomas (Wright), a former stripper, a recovering alcoholic and born-again Christian. At least she is cast in a rather colorful role. When Astrid has an affair with Starr’s live-in beau, she begins to drink again and ends up shooting Astrid in her shoulder before she runs away with her boyfriend.
9. “Nine Lives” (2005)
Written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, the drama follows nine connected tales, each featuring a different woman. Wright’s Diana, who is quite pregnant, bumps into her former flame Damian (Jason Isaacs) during a late-night grocery run. Both are married and their banter is initially awkward as they fill in the blanks of their subsequent lives. But the meeting becomes more poignant when Damian reveals he is sterile before he kisses Diana’s belly. Wright and Isaacs do a beautiful job of showing the flow of emotions that this reunion has created. Their single-take vignette is the stand-out of the nine tales. Wright would be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for supporting actress.
8. “State of Grace” (1990)
This neo-noir crime drama directed by Phil Joanou was the first time Wright co-starred with her eventual second husband Sean Penn, who plays an Irish-American undercover cop who returns to Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. He reunites with his old pal Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman, the standout in the cast), whose brother, Frankie (Ed Harris), is part of a gang and rekindles his relationship with his sister, Kathleen, played by Wright. A drunken Jackie ends up killing three members of a rival Italian gang and much death, despair and bloodshed results. Alas, the film had the bad luck of opening the same week in theaters as Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” but the movie has since become a cult classic.
7. “The Playboys” (1992)
In the 1950s, a headstrong Irish unwed mother-to-be Tara Maguire (Wright) defies Father Malone, her town’s local priest, by refusing to name the father. She eventually gives birth during Sunday mass and the priest tries to coerce her to marry Brendan Hegarty (Albert Finney), a much older constable. But when a troupe of traveling actors comes to town who call themselves “The Playboys,” Tara catches a member stealing one of her chickens. She makes him pay for it while he falls head over heels for her. Tara strikes up a romance with Tom (Aidan Quinn) while Hegarty plots to come between the two. The highlights are the roughshod and comical performances of “Othello” and a staging of “Gone with the Wind.”
6. “Blade Runner 2049” (2017)
This intriguing though complicated sequel to the 1982 original sci-fi thriller is directed by Denis Villeneuve and features Ryan Gosling as new blade runner Officer K, who works for the L.A. Police Department. He finds a buried secret that just might destroy society and decides to hunt down Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired blade runner who hasn’t been seen in 30 years. Wright plays K’s superior Lieutenant Joshi who gives him the duty to prevent a war between replicants and humans. He ends up defying her orders and she is killed by a female replicant.
5. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011)
This somber psychological crime thriller is based on the best-selling 2005 novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Directed by David Fincher, it stars Daniel Craig as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who is a target of a libel case, and Rooney Mara as computer hacker and kinky goth-girl Lisbeth Salander, who he hires to help him with an investigation into the 40-year disappearance of the grandniece of a wealthy oldster Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer). Wright’s role is Erika Berger, Blomkvist’s business partner and editor-in-chief of Millennium magazine. She is also his occasional married lover.
4. “Forrest Gump” (1994)
This Best Picture Oscar winner directed by Robert Zemeckis stars Tom Hanks as the slow-witted, child-like, Alabama-born Forrest. He is encouraged by his mom (Sally Field) to live a normal life. That includes becoming a college football star, fighting in the Vietnam War, captaining a shrimp boat and falling for his childhood love Jenny Curran. Abused as a child, Jenny’s path through life is not easy, as she embraces the hippie lifestyle, free love and various other social movements and fads along the way – including picking up a bad drug addiction. Forrest returns to his hometown in 1976 and proposes to Jenny. They make love, but she leaves the next morning. Jenny reaches out to him again in 1981 and introduces him to his son Forrest Jr. It turns out that she suffers from an unknown disease that might be Hepatitis C. They wed, but she dies a year later while Forrest is left to raise their child.
3. “Wonder Woman” (2017)
This long-in-the making film about the female DC Comics superhero is directed by Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Godot in the title role. Her Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson), who was raised on the hidden island of Themyscira, home to a race of women warriors known as the Amazons. Wright plays Diana’s aunt Antiope, a general in the Amazon army who is tasked to oversee her training as a warrior. Wright has said the message of the film goes beyond female empowerment. It’s about love and justice.” She had to get in physical shape while doing horseback riding, weight training and martial arts. Wright reprised her role in 2020’s “Wonder Woman 1984.”
2. “Moneyball” (2011)
This biographical sports drama directed by Bennett Miller shows how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, came up with a formula that allowed him to recruit undervalued players and come up with a new winning approach to the game. Wright plays Beane’s ex-wife Sharon, who is raising their 12-year-old daughter that leads to scenes that help to humanize Pitt’s character. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
1. “The Princess Bride” (1987)
This charming and quite quotable post-modern fairy tale directed by Rob Reiner and based on William Goldman’s novel is a favorite of a legion of fans. A grandfather (Peter Falk) reads a book to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) about a farmhand named Wesley (Cary Elwes) and a lovely young lady named Buttercup (Wright) who reside in the kingdom of Florin. Whenever she makes a request of the farmhand, he replies, “As you wish.” He goes overseas to seek his fortune so they may marry, but his ship is raided by a pirate and it’s thought that he is likely dead. Five years hence, she is being forced into marriage to a prince but is rescued by a Spanish fencing master Inigo Montoya (Mandy Pantinkin), a short Sicilian named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and the giant Fezzik. Eventually, Buttercup and Westley — who had been disguised as The Man in Black — reunite. Wright, whose lone film credit was 1986’s “Hollywood Vice Squad,” was cast late in the process after several English actresses tried out but were rejected. Reiner and casting director Jane Jenkins invited the actress to meet Goldman at his house. She dressed for the occasion with a little white summer dress and her flowing blonde hair cascading down as the sun formed a halo around her head. Goldman’s reaction? “Well, that’s what I wrote.”