Few would argue against the idea that Cate Blanchett is one of the great actresses of her generation. The sheer versatility she has displayed in her performances on film has especially made her one of the world’s most sought-after screen stars over the past three decades. For 2022, she received her eighth career Oscar nomination for “TAR.”
In 2021, in the span of just a few weeks, she displayed her signature multi-talent: For Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up,” Blanchett turned herself into a cable news host in the vein of Megyn Kelly or Mika Brzezinski to score major laughs in the biting comedy; for Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” Blanchett transformed into a 1940s femme fatale who gets one over on an overconfident con man (Bradley Cooper).
Blanchett has two Academy Awards wins for “The Aviator” (2004) and “Blue Jasmine” (2013), prevailing as a supporting actress the first time and then as a lead. Blanchett has also earned 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). Beyond the big screen, she received Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations for playing Phyllis Schlafly in “Mrs. America.”
Tour our photo gallery featuring Blanchett’s 16 best feature film performances ranked from worst to best.
Some original text written by Tom O’Brien.
17. WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? (2019)
Director: Richard Linklater. Writers: Richard Linklater, Holly Gent, Vince Palmo. Starring Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Emma Nelson, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne.
In Richard Linklater’s latest film, Blanchett plays Bernadette, a reclusive architect who lives in a ramshackle Seattle home with her husband Elgin (Billy Crudup) and teenage daughter Bee (Emma Nelson). Bee desperately wants to have a family vacation in Antarctica, but the prospect of hauling her family to the South Pole only raises Bernadette’s anxiety level, so she ups her medications to a dangerously high level, forcing an intervention from her family. The prospect of being placed in a mental hospital prompts Bernadette to disappear, fleeing secretly to Antarctica herself. The film is not first-rate Linklater, but Blanchett’s presence can help to make even the oddest material feel compelling.
16. THE SHIPPING NEWS (2001)
Director: Lasse Hallström. Writer: Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on the novel by Annie Proulx. Starring Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett.
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.
15. OCEAN’S 8 (2018)
Director: Gary Ross. Writers: Gary Ross, Olivia Milch. Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Akwafina, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter.
Gary Ross’ spinoff of the Steven Soderbergh remakes of the “Ocean’s” comedy heist movies takes a major turn when the late Danny Ocean’s con artist sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) emerges from prison and immediately begins to plan for a new heist. She assembles a new all-female crew headed up by her longtime partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) to snatch the legendary Toussaint necklace, worth $150 million and set to be worn by film star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) on the red carpet of the Met Gala. Ross keeps much of the playful tone of the initial Soderbergh trilogy, and Blanchett appears to be having a blast as Bullock’s partner-in-crime.
14. THE HOBBIT series (2012, 2013)
Director: Peter Jackson. Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro. Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett.
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.
13. DON’T LOOK UP (2021)
Rarely has Cate Blanchett gotten to play true comedy, so it’s almost exhilarating to watch her score genuine laughs in Adam McKay’s bleak satire. As a cynical cable news host whose more focused on having a fling with the handsome scientist (Leonardo DiCaprio) who comes on her show with warnings about the end of the world than actually informing viewers about the threat, Blanchett is a scene-stealer in a movie full of them.
12. THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999)
Writer/Director: Anthony Minghella, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
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.
11. NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2021)
Working with acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro for the first time, Blanchett plays a quintessential femme fatale in “Nightmare Alley,” and affects the archetypes signature flourishes with expertise and ease. Rarely has the actress had such devilish fun onscreen, creating a memorable antagonist who proves to be the most fearsome creature in a movie of ne’er-do-wells and oddities.
10. ELIZABETH (1998); ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE (2007)
Director: Shakpar Shakur. Writers: Michael Hirst (“Elizabeth”) & William Nicholson, Michael Hirst (“The Golden Age”). Starring Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush.
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.
9. BABEL (2006)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu. Writer: Guillermo Arriaga. Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi.
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.
8. THE LORD OF THE RINGS series (2001, 2002, 2003)
Director: Peter Jackson. Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair (for “The Two Towers” only). Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett.
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.
7. I’M NOT THERE (2007)
Director: Todd Haynes. Writers: Todd Haynes, Oren Moverman. Starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger.
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
6. THE AVIATOR (2004)
Director: Martin Scorsese. Writer: John Logan. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda.
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.
5. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)
Director: David Fincher. Writer: Eric Roth. Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond.
“Benjamin Button” provided Blanchett with another unique acting challenge in the role of Daisy Fuller, a dancer whose life romantically intertwines with Benjamin (Brad Pitt). The major problem with their bond is that, while Daisy is growing older chronologically, Benjamin is at the same time growing younger. Under David Fincher’s direction, Blanchett is able to capture the confusion of a woman who is in love with a man but unable to make peace with the fact that as the years progress, he is getting farther and farther away in age from him. For her performance as Daisy, Blanchett earned her 12th Screen Actors Guild nomination.
4. NOTES ON A SCANDAL (2006)
Director: Richard Eyre. Writer: Patrick Marber. Starring Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy.
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.
3. CAROL (2015)
Director: Todd Haynes. Writer: Phyllis Nagy, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson.
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.
2. BLUE JASMINE (2013)
Writer/Director: Woody Allen. Starring Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay.
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.
1. TAR (2022)
Directed and written by Todd Field. Starring Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noemie Merlant, Mark Strong, and Julian Glover
Cate Blanchett failed to win her third Oscar – and second Best Actress award – for Todd Field’s “TAR,” but that doesn’t make her work in the film any less remarkable. As the fictional composer Lydia Tar, Blanchett turned in her most memorable work yet, creating a character as indelible as Daniel Plainview or Charles Foster Kane. “TAR” allowed Blanchett to showcase all her talents: it’s darkly funny and often very sinister, and all but invites the audience to empathize with a problematic figure during her downfall. Blanchett won numerous awards for her “TAR” performance, including Best Actress at the Critics Choice Awards and BAFTA Awards and top acting honors from the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association. “I’ve had the good fortune of working with extraordinary directors on really interesting films, but I’ve never had such a deep and rich collaboration. There was something really immersive about this one, beyond anything I thought possible outside the theatre,” Blanchett said of “TAR.” “I’ve never encountered a story like this. Or a character like this. She inhabited my dreams.”