(Photo by Weinstein Company LLC/Courtesy Everett Collection)
If there ever was a life-or-death need to pick a Hollywood it-girl to define the 2010s, Jennifer Lawrence would surely be the one chosen to save our hides. She started the decade with the star-making Winter’s Bone, the rural mystery that marked only her third feature film appearance, nabbing a Best Actress Oscar nomination in the process. 2011 and 2012 came and it felt like Lawrence was everywhere, across blockbusters like X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games, along with Silver Linings Playbook, for which she finally (“finally” meaning five years into a film acting career) won the Academy Award.
Sequels and franchising were the name of the game in the 2010s, so of course she stuck around as Mystique in every X-Men sequel, all the way to the bitter end with Dark Phoenix. Likewise, Hunger Games completed its dystopic story with Lawrence in the lead. In-between, she collaborated twice more Playbook director David O. Russell (Joy, American Hustle), worked with 2010s it-dude Chris Pratt (Passengers), and released against-type material like mother! and Red Sparrow.
In 2020, Lawrence signed up for Adam McKay’s Netflix comedy Don’t Look Up; she and Cate Blanchett will play astronomers who go on a media tour to convince people a meteor will destroy the Earth in six months. Until that comedy shows up in your streaming queue, we’re looking back on all Jennifer Lawrence movies ranked by Tomatometer!
Oh, mother! With Red Sparrow taking flight this week, we’re looking back on Jennifer Lawrence’s 10 best-reviewed movies!
(Photo by Sebastian Mlynarski/Roadside Attractions)
Aside from hardcore fans of The Bill Engvall Show, not many people knew who Jennifer Lawrence was in 2009 — but that all changed the following year with the release of Winter’s Bone, writer-director Debra Granik’s harrowing portrayal of a teenage girl who embarks on a perilous effort to locate her missing father in order to save her disabled mother and younger siblings from being evicted from their meager Ozarks home. Bleak stuff for sure, but limned with a subtle, yet resolute hope — not to mention the ferocity of Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated performance. “Winter’s Bone is a genuine triumph,” wrote Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic, paying it the ultimate compliment by adding that it’s “a great movie with astounding performances so natural, so genuine, that you forget it’s a movie.”
(Photo by Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Wigs and prosthetics are often a dead giveaway that an actor (or a movie in general) is trying way too hard to make a sale, and David O. Russell’s American Hustle is full of ’em. Fortunately, all that artifice stops on the surface. David O. Russell’s ’70s period piece, about a real-life FBI sting operation that used a pair of con artists (played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams) to target corrupt politicians, lays the garish hair and wardrobe on thick, but it makes sense in context, and it’s all backed up by a wall of solid performances; just about the entire cast was nominated for Oscars, including Lawrence for her work as Bale’s unstable wife. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a lot of fun: as Colin Covert wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Even at two hours and 20 minutes, the movie doesn’t wear you down. It carries you along with heedless momentum, giddy and exhilarated at its all-American ambition and scam-artist confidence.”
(Photo by JoJo Whilden/Weinstein Company)
How do you make a seriocomedy about mental illness without coming across as obnoxious or insensitive? It’s obviously easier said than done (just ask anyone who’s seen Mixed Nuts), but David O. Russell found a way with 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, starring Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as a couple of bruised souls who meet cute after enduring terrible personal tragedies and somehow manage to nurture a connection in spite of the many emotional and circumstantial obstacles between them. While a few critics certainly questioned the wisdom of trying to wring any sort of comedy from such a serious subject, the vast majority applauded Playbook‘s deft treatment of sensitive material, and the Academy agreed — the movie picked up eight Oscar nominations, with Lawrence taking home Best Actress. “It’s Lawrence who knocked me sideways,” wrote David Edelstein for New York Magazine. “I loved her in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games but she’s very young — I didn’t think she had this kind of deep-toned, layered weirdness in her.”
(Photo by Murray Close/Lionsgate)
Why settle for starring in one blockbuster franchise when you can topline two? Already a prominent part of the rebooted X-Men movies, Jennifer Lawrence took the lead for Lionsgate’s adaptation of The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling YA book series about a dystopian future in which boys and girls are forced to fight to the death for a nation’s amusement. Starring as the archer Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence helped bring the books’ rather grim story to life with a soulful performance that went a long way toward setting the Hunger Games films apart from the many likeminded movies that have followed in their wake — and winning consistent praise from critics like the Houston Chronicle’s Amy Biancolli, who wrote of the first installment, “It features a functioning creative imagination and lots of honest-to-goodness acting by its star, Jennifer Lawrence, who brings her usual toughness and emotional transparency to the archer-heroine Katniss.”
(Photo by Alan Markfield/20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
A year after scoring her breakout role in Winter’s Bone, Lawrence committed herself to several films’ worth of CGI action sequences (and slinking around in little more than a blue bodysuit) when she signed on to play the new Mystique in X-Men: First Class, the first installment in the freshly rebooted X-Men series. An Oscar winner by the time she returned for 2014’s Days of Future Past, Lawrence found herself at the center of a complex time-travel storyline that used her character as the emotional fulcrum for the franchise’s most ambitious attempt yet to place thought-provoking questions of prejudice against an action-fueled blockbuster backdrop. The end result blended sheer popcorn thrills almost seamlessly with the sociopolitical subtext the X-Men comics have always been known for; as the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern marveled, “Everything is of a piece, and it’s dazzling.”
(Photo by Fred Hayes/Paramount Pictures)
Anyone who’s ever attempted a long-distance relationship knows they can be hell, and writer-director Drake Doremus knows that pain more intimately than most — as evidenced by Like Crazy, the winsome romantic drama he and co-writer Ben York Jones weaved out of their real-life long-distance broken hearts and turned into a starring vehicle for Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. When the movie opens, he lives in L.A. and she’s a visiting British exchange student, and although falling in love is easy, their permanent addresses aren’t — especially after she overstays her student visa and is exiled to the U.K., driving the couple apart long enough for him to start a new relationship with someone who doesn’t live across the Atlantic (Jennifer Lawrence). While the story’s broad contours may be familiar, Doremus and his sharp cast handle the formula with aplomb; the result is what the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday deemed “A serious, deeply felt romance for an audience Hollywood most often bombards with raunchy sex comedies and video-game adaptations.”
(Photo by Paramount Pictures)
Truly challenging mainstream cinema is typically in short supply regardless of the era, and in our current franchise-driven times, that’s arguably truer than ever. So no matter how it ended up being received by critics, writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s mother! offered a wide release worth celebrating in 2017 — a story that dared to challenge, and outright provoke, audiences while offering little in the way of traditional narrative compensation. Starring Lawrence as a woman whose seemingly bucolic existence with her husband (Javier Bardem) is upended by the arrival of some mysterious guests (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris), the movie was greeted with some of the most wildly divisive reactions of the year — although most critics were more than happy to be baffled, Aronofsky-style. The end result, as Glenn Kenny argued for RogerEbert.com, functions as “A hallucination that’s also an angry cry about the state of this world, but most importantly, a cinematic experience of unique proportions.”
(Photo by Summit Entertainment)
In the years after his fall from public grace following several bouts of bizarre and generally offensive and/or ill-advised behavior, Mel Gibson needed a project that could help regenerate a little goodwill by taking him out of his dramatic wheelhouse and reminding audiences that he could still act — and he got one in the form of The Beaver, a directorial effort from Gibson’s friend Jodie Foster that gave the Lethal Weapon star the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a guy who responds to a series of horrible personal setbacks by developing what appears to be an alternate personality channeled through a beaver puppet on his hand. It’s the kind of left-field premise you have to see to believe, especially given that Foster rounded out her cast with likable pros like Anton Yelchin (as Gibson’s embarrassed son) and, of course, Jennifer Lawrence(as the classmate he’s afraid to get too close to because of his weirdo dad). Destined for the commercial margins and dismissed as too tonally disjointed by some critics, The Beaver was nevertheless hailed as a dam fine film by the majority — including Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who wrote, “The film is amusing, then melancholy, then weirdly funny, then not. It’s a quiet, measured work.”
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell worked Hollywood magic together with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, so you can hardly blame them for reuniting again — especially to film the stranger-than-fiction real-life story of Joy Mangano, the entrepreneur who became a self-made millionaire after inventing the Miracle Mop. Lawrence and Russell’s undeniable rapport, brought to bear on a classically uplifting story with a postmodern twist, made Joy look like an awards contender — as did the rest of the movie’s terrific cast, rounded out by fellow Russell vets Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper. With all those top-shelf ingredients, the lukewarm reaction to the movie couldn’t help but feel disappointing; still, Lawrence fans shouldn’t come away disappointed by her performance, which drew applause even when the film around her didn’t. “In the end, Joy is more slender and inconsequential than Russell probably intends it to be — it wears its ideas rather than embodying them,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek for Time. “But Lawrence keeps the channels of communication open, every minute, with the audience.”
(Photo by Phase 4 Films courtesy Everett Collection)
Lawrence picked up her first major film role in The Poker House, a grim drama marking Tank Girl star Lori Petty’s debut as a writer-director. While few saw it at the time, there’s no denying Petty’s great taste in casting — aside from Lawrence, playing the oldest of three sisters subjected to deplorable living conditions by their deeply troubled mother (Selma Blair), House also features an early appearance from Chloe Grace Moretz, as well as a disturbing turn from Bokeem Woodbine as the mother’s reprehensible pimp. “The Poker House is one of the most personal, wounded films in years,” wrote John Wheeler for L.A. Weekly. “That it is also one of the most confused reflects how deeply it springs from the psyche of its director.”
This week, get your Miley Cyrus fix with Hannah Montana’s feature-length trip to the big screen (Hannah Montana The Movie), or do a complete 180-degree turn with the latest Hollywood horror remake (Last House on the Left). Director James Toback goes the documentary route with boxing’s Iron Mike (Tyson), while David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer continues the family legacy for eccentric thrills (Surveillance, starring Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman). Actress Lori Petty makes her directorial debut with a personal indie drama (The Poker House) while Tilda Swinton turns in a powerhouse performance as an alcoholic kidnapper (Julia). An ’80s sci-fi gaming classic makes its way to Blu-ray (The Last Starfighter) and we take a look at a trio of Toho reissues and new TV on DVD inside!
The power of Hannah Montana cannot be denied. After a solid critical reaction to her ‘tween-fueled Best of Both Worlds Concert movie, Disney star Miley Cyrus brought her onscreen alter ego into theaters again, this time in a feature-length film. Cyrus stars as Miley Stewart, a Tennessee teenager who moonlights as the uber-popular pop singer, Hannah Montana; when her increasing celebrity threatens to take over Miley’s ego, her country music singing dad (played by Cyrus’s real-life country music singing dad, Billy “Achy Breaky Heart” Ray — stay with us here) takes her back to the homestead to get back to her roots. Teen sitcom clichés and plenty of Disney pop tunes ensue, making this a guaranteed hit among the young Hannah Montana faithful — if not among older audiences and critics. A generous menu of special features include bloopers, deleted scenes, director commentary, and more, and even the stodgiest of detractors can’t resist the disc’s piece de resistance, which you can watch exclusively here on Rotten Tomatoes: a how-to lesson on doing the Hoedown Throwdown Dance (“Pop it, lock it, polka dot it…”)!
Next: File under improbable –Ingmar Bergman gets the torture porn treatment?
While nobody was really clamoring for a remake of Wes Craven‘s marginally-celebrated 1972 exploitation horror pic — the original Last House on the Left only earned 65 percent on the Tomatometer — Hollywood served up the revenge story yet again, making good use of the recent boom in torture porn sensibilities for which modern audiences seem to have an appetite. (Interestingly, many argue that Craven’s first LHOTL is far more gruesome.) Garret Dillahunt stars as the ringleader of a vicious band of criminals; Monica Potter and Tony Goldwyn are the parents of his victim who decide to turn the tables. Critics were in part repulsed by the remake’s brutality and lack of intelligence, resulting in a hard-to-watch attack-vengeance tale ultimately not worth the ordeal. For the same story done better, check out Ingmar Bergman‘s Oscar-winning 1960 film, The Virgin Spring (94%), the medieval rape-and-revenge pic that inspired the first Last House.
Next: Carradine’s posthumous sea dog period comedy comes to DVD
A “horrid piece of filmed dinner theater” — (Scott Foundas, LA Weekly). An “arthritic romantic comedy” — (Ronnie Scheib, Variety). The raves keep comin’ for this misbegotten adaptation of a 1904 novel by Joseph Lincoln, which posits three grumpy old men — David Carradine, Bruce Dern, and Rip Torn — as a trio of septuagenarian sea captains looking for a house wife in Cape Cod, circa 1905. An abundance of turn of the century mariner slang and Mariel Hemingway‘s performance as the object of the Boys’ domestic desires might help keep things interesting, but you’ll likely wonder why this adaptation was made at all.
Next: James Toback gets up close and personal with Iron Mike in Tyson
Director James Toback (Fingers, Bugsy) detours into documentary film with this well-received portrait of infamous boxer Mike Tyson. Iron Mike himself provides much of the film’s commentary in intimate interviews that reveal the complex psyche of the man who became the undisputed heavyweight champion at age 20, served time in jail for rape, had his own 8-bit video game, and mounted a career comeback before biting off part of his opponent’s ear in 1997 on live television. Premiere footage and a commentary by Toback highlight the special features.
Next: Is director Jennifer Lynch (Surveillance) as twisted as her father?
Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman star as Feds investigating a roadside killing in this Rashomon-esque thriller, directed by Jennifer Lynch. To preface, take a look at Lynch’s pedigree (her father is David) and her past work (she won a Razzie for her debut, Boxing Helena — a movie in which a woman has her limbs amputated by a lover). Critics say Surveillance is appropriately perverse, gory, and twisted, which you might find either good or bad, depending on taste; they also say a last-act twist threatens to undermine the whole affair. Decide for yourself which side of the Fresh/Rotten divide it belongs on.
Next: Tilda Swinton’s tour de force turn in Julia
Tilda Swinton‘s performance as a struggling alcoholic takes center stage in Erick Zonca‘s Julia, a kidnapping thriller and character study that lets the usually-buttoned up Oscar winner let loose. Julia is addicted to partying and substance abuse, trapped in a downward spiral that leads her to accept a neighbor’s proposition to kidnap a young boy from his cushy home in Mexico, until a series of unfortunate events throw everything into chaos. Swinton fans should jump at the chance to watch the actress play out-of-control — a woman under the influence, as it were — in a film that has drawn comparisons to a Cassavetes flick on a rager.
Next: See, something good did come of In the Army Now…
Years after meeting In Living Color‘s David Alan Grier (presumably when they both starred in the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now), actress Lori Petty teamed up with her old friend to script this semi-autobiographical story based on her own childhood, which also marks Petty’s debut as a director. The familiar realm of indie dramas about abused and/or neglected kids toughing it out amidst unsavory adult types gets a jolt thanks to a trio of young actresses (Jennifer Lawrence, Sophia Bairley, and Chloe Grace Moretz) who, critics say, carry the picture with strength and nuance. Lawrence in particular shines as the 14-year-old protagonist Agnes, who is left to care for her younger siblings when their drug-addicted prostitute mother (Selma Blair) and dubious father figure (Bokeem Woodbine) fail them, and worse. Petty herself provides a commentary track.
Next: The Last Starfighter lands on Blu-ray!
There are those who champion The Last Starfighter as an unassuming landmark of ’80s science fiction, significant even while overshadowed by bigger, flashier, more memorable flicks of its kind. We think you guys just love it because (along with TRON and our sentimental fave, The Wizard) it legitimized those hours of obsessive video gaming as essential training, inevitably to come in handy when called upon by a higher power. Director Nick Castle (who would go on to direct the live-action Dennis the Menace movie, Major Payne, and script August Rush) employed impressive-for-the-era special effects in the tale of a trailer park teenager named Alex (Lance Guest) whose hobby of playing the Starfighter arcade game pays off when an alien from the planet Rylos reveals that the game was a test, and that Alex is to be the next “starfighter” in an intergalactic war. Looking back on The Last Starfighter now, the ’80s stylings are charming (to put it kindly), but even though it doesn’t quite hold up 25 years later, it’s a fun blast from the past on Blu-ray. Tons of retrospective features, a filmmaker commentary, and image galleries make for a comprehensive collection of bonus features.
Next: A Toho Studios trifecta!
Gojira fans, take note: the Japanese monster known stateside as Godzilla wasn’t the only camp-tastic science fiction hero to come out of the wacky world of Japanese cinema, circa 1960. Serving up three newly remastered genre classics from the makers (director Ishiro Honda and special effects pioneer Eiji Tsuburaya) and home (Toho Tokyo Studios) of such kaiju classics as Godzilla, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is releasing The Icons of Sci-Fi: Toho Collection. In The H-Man (1958), radioactive bomb testing turns people into oozing, infectious slimy blobs; in Battle in Outer Space (1959), a sinister alien race use enhanced weapons and mind control to attack Earth. Finally, in Mothra (1962), the famous psychic, moth-like God and frequent Godzilla opponent is introduced, defending her island of worshippers from their capitalist kidnappers. While the collection is woefully short on bonus features, the films have been meticulously restored and offer multiple subtitle options.
Next: Gossip Girl, Sons of Anarchy, Swayze’s Beast and more TV on DVD
It’s a huge week for new TV on DVD releases, so we’ve collected them all here for your one-stop perusal. For starters, check out Season 1 of Patrick Swayze‘s recently cancelled show, The Beast, in which he plays an FBI agent of dubious methodology (A&E cancelled the show after one season due to Swayze’s declining health). The 2000-2001 exploits of Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and Maggie Simpson also hit DVD, though beyond a guest starring spot from boy band *NSYNC, we’re hard pressed to recall any of that season’s specifics (The Simpsons Season 12). Fresher in our minds is the explosive debut season of Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy (Season One), FX’s Hamlet-with-bikers starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Sutter’s wife, Katey Sagal. We’d also recommend picking up Season 3 of Dexter, in which Dex battles a frenemy and contemplates marriage. For lighter fare, there’s Season 3 of the campus dramedy Greek, along with the most OMG-inducing show of all: Gossip Girl Season 2, which includes the flashback episode leading to the would-be spin-off, Valley Girls.
Until next week, happy renting!