Toni Collette is an Oscar-nominated actress who has become a favorite of both the art house and mainstream crowd, ably hopping back-and-forth between small scale indie fare and big budget crowdpleasers. Let’s take a look back at 12 of her greatest films, ranked worst to best.
Born in 1972 in Sydney, Australia, Collette came to the attentions of American audiences with a star-making turn in “Muriel’s Wedding” (1995), which brought her a Golden Globe nomination as Best Comedy/Musical Actress. She reaped her first Oscar bid in Best Supporting Actress just four years later for “The Sixth Sense” (1999), a supernatural horror flick that scared up massive box office receipts and critical acclaim.
In addition to her Oscar success, Collette earned Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), for which she won the SAG Awards prize for top ensemble. She contended once more at BAFTA for “About a Boy” (2002) and again with SAG voters for the ensemble of “The Hours” (2002). Her performance in another horror film, “Hereditary” (2018), brought her a Gotham award and bids at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. On the TV side, she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the first season of “The United States of Tara,” competing at the SAG Awards for the role. She competed at the Globes and Emmys for the second season, and once more for the TV movie “Tsunami: The Aftermath” (2006).
Tour our photo gallery of Collette’s 12 greatest films, including some of the titles listed above, as well as “In Her Shoes” (2005), “Enough Said” (2013), “Knives Out” (2019) and more.
12. CHANGING LANES (2002)
Directed by Roger Michell. Screenplay by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin, story by Taylor. Starring Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt, Amanda Peet.
Roger Michell’s tense little character study centers on a well-to-do, ladder-climbing Wall Street lawyer (Ben Affleck) and a middle-class, recovering alcoholic businessman (Samuel L. Jackson) who get into a fender bender while they’re both heading to court. When Affleck leaves, Jackson is late for his important custody hearing, causing him to lose his children. So he decides to get back at him by withholding some important documents he left behind, kicking off a brinksmanship game centered on society’s deep-seated racial and class inequalities. Collette costars as Affleck’s cunning mistress, who tries to help him fix his problems.
11. THE WAY, WAY BACK (2013)
Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Annasophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Liam James, Zoe Levin.
This coming-of-age comedy from Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (“The Descendants”) centers on Duncan (Liam James), a shy 14-year-old on vacation with his mother (Collette), her obnoxious boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his daughter (Zoe Levin). Withdrawn and unappreciated, he sparks up a friendship with the staff of a local water park and starts dating an outgoing girl (Annasophia Robb). Sam Rockwell costars as the park manager, who becomes the father figure Carell fails to be. Collette is a standout as a woman torn between the love for her son and a desperate need to have romance in her life with the wrong man.
10. VELVET GOLDMINE (1998)
Directed by Todd Haynes. Screenplay by Todd Haynes, story by Haynes and James Lyons. Starring Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Toni Collette, Christian Bale, Eddie Izzard.
Taking its inspiration from “Citizen Kane” and David Bowie, “Velvet Goldmine” examines the rise and fall of a bisexual glam rocker (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) in 1970s England. A decade later, it’s up to an intrepid reporter (Christian Bale) to figure out what happened to him by interviewing those closest to him, focusing mostly on his relationship with a Kurt Cobain-esque musician (Ewan McGregor). Collette costars as Mandy Slade, an American who marries Rhys-Meyers and has an affair with McGregor. Sandy Powell earned an Oscar nomination for her eye-popping costumes, which recreate the glitz and glitter of the era in stylish fashion.
9. ENOUGH SAID (2013)
Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone.
Sadly, the release of Nicole Holofcener’s romantic comedy was overshadowed by the untimely death of star James Gandolfini, who earned a posthumous SAG nomination for his supporting performance. The delightful and insightful “Enough Said” centers on a divorcee (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who thinks she’s found her dream man (Gandolfini), until she learns that he’s her new best friend’s (Catherine Keener) ex-husband. Suddenly every issue her pal had with her former beau starts to ruin an otherwise perfect relationship. Collette costars as Louis-Dreyfus’s friend, a married therapist in desperate need of some of her own advice.
8. THE HOURS (2002)
Directed by Stephen Daldry. Written by David Hare, based on the novel by Michael Cunningham. Starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson.
The feel-bad movie of the century, “The Hours” is a powerful look at how the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” affects the lives of three different women in three separate time periods: the book’s author, Virginia Woolf (Best Actress winner Nicole Kidman); a 1950s housewife (Julianne Moore) reading it; and a modern day Mrs. Dalloway (Streep) planning a party for a friend (Ed Harris) dying of AIDS. Director Stephan Daldry elicits outstanding performances from the entire cast, including Collette as a depressed housewife with whom Moore shares a tender, forbidden kiss. It’s little wonder the film received a SAG ensemble nomination in addition to its 10 Oscar bids.
7. IN HER SHOES (2005)
Directed by Curtis Hanson. Screenplay by Susannah Grant, based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner. Starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Ken Howard, Candice Azzara, Norman Lloyd.
Curtis Hanson’s funny and heartwarming family drama centers on two sisters — one a straight-laced attorney (Collette), the other a wild-child party girl (Cameron Diaz). A calamitous falling out ensues when Diaz trashes her sister’s apartment, steals her money and sleeps with her boyfriend. Left with nowhere else to go, she turns to a grandmother (a scene-stealing Shirley MacLaine) she never knew existed and moves into her retirement home. But this is no doddering old woman: rather, she’s a tough-as-nails broad who teaches her granddaughter some valuable life lessons that help bridge the divide between the two disparate siblings.
6. KNIVES OUT (2019)
Written and directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer.
We wouldn’t dare spoil the many surprises of Rian Johnson’s murder mystery throwback, which twists and turns like a corkscrew in the back. Let’s just say it centers on Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), an insanely wealthy pulp novelist who invites his large, highly dysfunctional family to his mansion for an 85th birthday bash. When the elder novelist turns up dead, it’s up to intrepid detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to find out which relative did the old man in. Collette plays Harlan’s daughter-in-law, Joni Thrombey, a lifestyle guru who quickly becomes one of Benoit’s prime suspects.
5. ABOUT A BOY (2002)
Directed by Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz. Screenplay by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, based on the novel by Nick Hornby. Starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult.
In adapting Nick Hornby’s bestseller, Paul and Chris Weitz find the perfect vehicle for Hugh Grant’s particular brand of charm, fashioning a delightful entertainment about an irrepressible cad who finally learns to grow up. Lifelong bachelor Will Freeman (Grant) is suddenly thrust into adulthood when he starts caring for a young boy (Nicholas Hoult) whose mother (Collette) suffers from suicidal depression. Although most of the praise goes to Grant and Hoult, Collette steals the show as a kind flower child ill at ease with the world around her. The role brought her a BAFTA nomination as Best Supporting Actress, though the Academy ignored her.
4. MURIEL’S WEDDING (1995)
Written and directed by P.J. Hogan. Starring Toni Collette, Bill Hunter, Rachel Griffiths.
Collette broke through with a starring performance in P.J. Hogan’s tender, warm-hearted romantic comedy. Set in the Australian outback, it centers on social outcast Muriel (Collette), who spends her days listening to ABBA and dreaming of marriage, despite having never been on a date. One day, she steals some money from her parents and embarks on a road trip from small town Porpoise Split to the big city of Sydney, where she hopes to start her life anew. Collette carries the film on her shoulders, proving a capable, fascinating leading lady in every frame. The role brought her a Golden Globe nomination as Best Comedy/Musical Actress.
3. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006)
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Written by Michael Arndt. Starring Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin.
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s road trip comedy hit audiences like a ray of sunshine, lighting up the summer box office and tickling the fancy of Oscar voters. It centers on a dysfunctional family — led by matriarch Collette — traveling cross-country in a VW bus on their way to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, where their youngest daughter (Abigail Breslin) is a contestant. The film won the SAG Ensemble prize, plus Oscars for Alan Arkin’s supporting performance as the raunchy grandfather and Michael Arndt’s original screenplay. Collette also contended at BAFTA as Best Supporting Actress, though the Academy snubbed her.
2. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Haley Joel Osment.
M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” scared up massive box office receipts, as audiences flocked to find out what the final twist would be. Yet decades after its release, the film still manages to haunt us even after its secrets became well known. Bruce Willis stars as a child psychiatrist helping a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to “see dead people.” Collette is heartbreaking as the kid’s single, working class mother, who loves her son despite his supposed mental problems. The role brought her an Oscar nomination in Best Supporting Actress, while the film contended in five additional categories, including Best Picture.
1. HEREDITARY (2018)
Written and directed by Ari Aster. Starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne.
Collette carries Ari Aster’s debut feature on her shoulders, shining in a rare lead role as a woman on the brink of a total breakdown. She plays Annie, who’s grieving after the death of her mentally-ill mother. Yet that’s the least of her troubles, as she finds her family is haunted by a strange demon brought about by her mom’s relationship with the occult. Aster and his star keep us guessing as to whether or not this is real or all apart of Annie’s imagination, and Collette is mesmerizing as she walks that tightrope. Despite earning rave reviews and Best Actress bids at the Indie Spirits and Critics Choice Awards (plus a Gotham victory), Collette was snubbed at the Oscars — which is downright frightening.