Jennifer Connelly's Top 20 Movies: Ranked

Jennifer Connelly's Top 20 Movies: Ranked
Jennifer Connelly's Top Movies

Jennifer Connelly has captivated audiences for decades with her versatility and memorable performances across a range of genres. Having made her film debut as a child actor in the 1980s, Connelly has since established herself as one of the most acclaimed and decorated actresses of her generation.

Career Summary
Total Films 61
Awards Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award
Genre Split Drama (36%), Fantasy/Sci-Fi (25%), Romance (10%), Thriller (10%), Other (19%)
Most Frequent Collaborators Darren Aronofsky (Director - 3 films), Joaquin Phoenix (Actor - 3 films)
Acting Periods Child actor (1984-1986), Ingenue (1987-1995), Leading lady (1996-2010), Character actress (2011-present)


  • Connelly has an extensive repertoire of 61 films spanning 38 years, from her debut in 1984 to her most recent role in 2023.
  • She started as a child actor in the mid 1980s, appearing in films like Phenomena, Labyrinth and Some Girls.
  • Her breakthrough came in the early 1990s with acclaimed films like The Hot Spot, The Rocketeer and Career Opportunities.
  • The late 1990s saw her transition to more mature, complex roles in independent films like Inventing the Abbotts, Dark City, and Waking the Dead.
  • Her most acclaimed work was in Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind in 2000-2001, earning her an Oscar and global recognition.
  • The 2000s continued her run of indie dramas and thrillers like House of Sand and Fog, Little Children, Blood Diamond and Reservation Road.
  • The 2010s saw some blockbuster outings like Noah, Alita: Battle Angel and mainstream dramas like Virginia and American Pastoral.
  • She revisited her blockbuster roots recently with Top Gun: Maverick and continues to work on prestige indie films like Bad Behaviour.
  • Throughout her career, Connelly has shown tremendous range - from fantasy like Labyrinth to gritty dramas to sci-fi spectacles.
  • She has worked with acclaimed directors like Ron Howard, Darren Aronofsky, Ed Harris and emerged as one of the most respected actresses of her generation.

In summary, Connelly's extensive and varied filmography underscores her versatility, reputation for quality work, and evolution from ingénue to powerhouse over an illustrious near 40-year career.

With roles in thought-provoking dramas, sweeping romances, and spectacular blockbusters, Connelly has shown incredible range and talent. She has received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award. Let's take a look back at Jennifer Connelly's 20 greatest films that highlight her illustrious career.

20. Reservation Road (2007)

Reservation Road (2007)

In this emotional family drama, Jennifer Connelly and Joaquin Phoenix delivered riveting performances as parents coping with tragedy. After their son is killed in a hit-and-run accident, their lives become consumed by grief, guilt, and the desire for justice or vengeance. Connelly impressively captured her character's complex anguish and moral struggle. Her scenes with Phoenix crackled with intensity. Though overlooked by many, Reservation Road showed Connelly's ability to convey raw human emotion.

"Jennifer Connelly is the main reason to see this movie. She turns in another quietly devastating performance." - Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

With its themes of loss and moral ambiguity, Reservation Road marked compelling, if solemn, work for Connelly.

19. Shelter (2014)

Shelter (2014)

This indie thriller allowed Connelly to tap into darker, more duplicitous territory. She starred as Hannah, a psychiatrist giving shelter to her niece (played by Hannah Arterton) who is fleeing a dangerous cult. But Hannah's motivations turn out to be far more sinister. Connelly portrayed the shifting nature between protector and predator masterfully. Her performance was unsettling yet grounded, eliciting both empathy and wariness from the audience.

"Connelly is icily excellent here..." - Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

The clever narrative twists and Connelly's nuanced acting made Shelter an under-the-radar gem.

The 25 Most Timeless Romance Movies from the 1990s
I have watched my fair share of rom-coms and tearjerkers. I’ve compiled this definitive list of the 25 best romance movies from the 1990s for you

18. Inventing the Abbotts (1997)

Inventing the Abbotts (1997)

Set in 1950s Illinois, this drama focused on two working-class brothers falling for the wealthy Abbott sisters, played by Connelly and Liv Tyler. Though overlooked at the time, Connelly shone in one of her earlier mature roles. As the mysterious Eleanor Abbott, she displayed refinement and vulnerability as her character becomes conflicted by love and loyalty. Connelly's chemistry and romantic entanglements with co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup formed the heart of this turbulent period piece.

"Connelly gives a luminously lovely performance." - Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

An evocative setting and love triangle allowed Connelly to emerge as a leading lady in Inventing the Abbotts.

17. Higher Learning (1995)

Higher Learning (1995)

In John Singleton's ensemble campus drama, Connelly demonstrated her versatility as Taryn, a shy, sheltered freshman who transforms into a radical activist. The actress boldly captured her character's complex arc, from naive and introverted to impassioned, outspoken, and reckless. Connelly compellingly traced Taryn's trajectory into extremism driven by new political awareness and trauma. She stood out even in a cast including Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, and Michael Rapaport.

"Connelly confirms star potential in a tricky role that calls for wide emotional range." - Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

Higher Learning marked an early indication of Connelly's knack for portraying transformation and internal conflict.


Michael Jeter’s Top 10 Most Memorable Movie Roles
Though he tragically passed away in 2003 at the age of 50, Jeter left behind an impressive filmography filled with scene-stealing performances.

16. Dark Water (2005)

Dark Water (2005)

This supernatural thriller saw Connelly give an understated but emotionally charged performance as Dahlia, a single mother embroiled in a sinister landlord dispute. As the disquieting mystery surrounding Dahlia's apartment unfolds, Connelly movingly depicted her escalating desperation and protective maternal instinct. The film allowed Connelly to merge her arresting screen presence with raw feeling.

"Connelly holds the screen effortlessly with a performance layered in subtext, tactile detail and unspoken dread." - Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

Subtly impactful, Connelly further showcased her gravitas and depth in the moody Dark Water.

15. Phenomena (1985)

Phenomena (1985)

At just 14 years old, a young Jennifer Connelly already displayed intriguing talent in Italian horror maestro Dario Argento's Phenomena. She played Jennifer, a boarding school student who uses her telepathic bond with insects to investigate murders. Though flawed, the surreal film gave Connelly an early opportunity to carry a film with her magnetic screen presence and haunting beauty.

"Connelly shows remarkable confidence and maturity." - Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Despite its eccentricities, Phenomena indicated the promise of an emerging star in Jennifer Connelly.

14. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

After a 36-year gap, Connelly took on the role of bar owner Penny Benjamin in this blockbuster sequel. Though a small role, she added gravitas and an emotional anchor as the love interest of Tom Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Connelly made her scenes intimate and impactful, conveying longing, passion, and concern through subtle expressions. Her rapport with Cruise gave the film heart, and she capably handled the challenge of following Kelly McGillis from the original.

"Connelly makes the absolute most of her limited screen time." - Peter Debruge, Variety

Though brief, Connelly's turn in Top Gun: Maverick reminded audiences of her ability to convey depth and capture chemistry.

13. Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

In Robert Rodriguez's visually stunning manga adaptation, Connelly took on the nurturing maternal role of Dr. Chiren, a scientist who becomes entangled in Alita's quest for identity and vengeance. Through motion-capture performance, Connelly movingly expressed her character's inner conflict between cold pragmatism and renewed empathy. She provided an emotional anchor in the CGI-heavy spectacle.

"Connelly grounds the movie with grave nuance and conviction." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

As Dr. Chiren, Connelly ably balanced sci-fi genre fare with genuine pathos in Alita: Battle Angel.

12. Mulholland Falls (1996)

Mulholland Falls (1996)

Set in 1950s Los Angeles, this neo-noir crime drama featured Connelly as the alluring mistress of a powerful man who turns up dead. Though largely a supportive role, Connelly lit up the screen with her lush beauty and charisma. She ably captured the period glamour and femme fatale essence of her enigmatic character Allison Pond, while hinting at hidden depths. Connelly held her own against heavyweight co-stars Nick Nolte, Melanie Griffith, and John Malkovich.

"Connelly oozes sensuality, vulnerability and danger." - Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

Connelly proved scene-stealing in the stylish and tense Mulholland Falls.


Sharon Stone’s Top 10 Movies Ranked
Join us on an Opulent Odyssey through Sharon Stone’s Top 10 Masterpieces, through multiple decades and genres.

11. The Rocketeer (1991)

The Rocketeer (1991)

This comic book adventure marked one of Connelly's early blockbuster roles as aspiring actress Jenny Blake, the girlfriend of a stunt pilot turned unlikely superhero. Connelly displayed charm and spirit as the character became caught up in cliffhanger exploits. Though a damsel in distress plotline, Connelly brought wit and passion to the role while demonstrating a classically Hollywood, girl-next-door appeal.

"Connelly is luminous as Jenny." - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

A delightful retro popcorn flick, The Rocketeer gave Connelly a chance to shine in a period blockbuster.

10. Pollock (2000)

Pollock (2000)

In this biopic about painter Jackson Pollock, Connelly took on a grounded, dramatic role as Ruth Kligman, the young muse and mistress who has an affair with the troubled artist. Connelly compellingly portrayed her character's ambitions and ardor as well as the damaging toll of Pollock's inner demons. Her scenes opposite Ed Harris crackled with passion and volatility. Connelly earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work.

"Connelly gives a sharp, skillful performance." - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

With emotional honesty and magnetism, Connelly excelled as Ruth in the biographical Pollock.

9. Only the Brave (2017)

Only the Brave (2017)

Based on a true story, this moving drama saw Connelly play Amanda Marsh, wife of a firefighter who leads an elite crew. Connelly effectively captured her character's strength and love tempered by anxiety and fear for her husband's safety. Though not a glamorous role, Connelly grounded the film with subtle depth and relatable emotion. Her scene reacting to tragic news was utterly heartbreaking.

"Connelly delivers a superb, wrenching moment that encapsulates all the pain and pride in these firefighting families." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

In Only the Brave, Connelly again demonstrated her ability to portray quiet strength and capture characters based on real people.

8. House of Sand and Fog (2003)

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

As Kathy Nicolo, a recovering addict whose house is wrongfully auctioned off, Connelly gave one of her most shattering performances in this grim character drama. Over the course of her character's continued misfortunes, Connelly compellingly depicted Kathy's desperation and crushing despair. It was an emotionally raw and risk-taking performance that earned Connelly a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

"Connelly grabs hold of the role with frightening desperation." - Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Connelly fearlessly plumbed dark emotional depths as the tragically troubled Kathy in House of Sand and Fog.

7. Little Children (2006)

Little Children (2006)

Re-teaming with co-star Joaquin Phoenix, Connelly starred as Sarah Pierce, an unfulfilled suburban housewife who begins an illicit affair with a lonely neighbor. Connelly brilliantly balanced her character's maternal tenderness, simmering resentment, sexually charged yearning, and self-loathing over her choices. She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her complex, bravura performance.

"Connelly gives a stunning portrayal of a sleepwalker shaking off her zombie life." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

With Little Children, Connelly confirmed her stature as one of the most compelling dramatic actresses working today.

6. Blood Diamond (2006)

Blood Diamond (2006)

In this politically charged action-thriller, Connelly played Maddy Bowen, an idealistic journalist investigating the illegal diamond trade in 1990s Sierra Leone. Connelly convincingly portrayed Maddy's bravery, empathy, and integrity amid harrowing circumstances. She provided nuance and conscience to balance Leonardo DiCaprio's cynical diamond smuggler. Her role was integral to the film's wider messages about corruption and accountability.

"Connelly lends the film integrity." - Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

Purposeful and impassioned work by Connelly helped make Blood Diamond a thoughtful action movie with a conscience.

5. Labyrinth (1986)

Labyrinth (1986)

Connelly has cited her role as Sarah Williams, a teenager on a fantastical quest to rescue her baby brother in this cult classic fantasy, as a favorite early part. Just 15 years old at the time, she displayed maturity and charisma while anchoring the wild, imaginative story. Connelly balanced sarcastic rebellion and dreamy wonder as her character navigates the labyrinthine realm of the Goblin King Jareth, played by David Bowie.

"Connelly carries the film with confidence and spirit." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

A seminal film for 80s kids, Labyrinth announced Connelly as a compelling young star on the rise.

4. Dark City (1998)

Dark City (1998)

Connelly shone in this highly stylized sci-fi noir as Emma, an alluring nightclub singer who becomes entwined with an amnesiac suspected of murder. Connelly ably blended 50s glamour, luminous beauty, and haunting sorrow in her portrayal of Emma. She served as a quintessential noir femme fatale but with a human, vulnerable core that cut against genre expectations. Though overlooked on release, Dark City has grown in stature as a cult sci-fi landmark.

"Connelly is perfectly cast, achingly melancholic and believably alluring." - Jonathan Romney, The Guardian

With Emma, Connelly crafted an evocative sci-fi take on classic noir archetypes.

3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky's harrowing addiction drama featured a shattering turn from Connelly as Marion Silver, a woman caught in a destructive spiral of heroin addiction and prostitution. Connelly boldly stripped away vanity to play Marion's grueling physical and emotional descent in gut-wrenching fashion. It was a fearless, devastating performance that earned Connelly serious critical plaudits and awards buzz.

"Connelly gives a great, gasp-inducing performance." - Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Raw, relentless, and utterly compelling, Connelly's work in Requiem for a Dream announced her as a creative force to be reckoned with.

2. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

As Alicia Nash, the steadfast wife of schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, Connelly gave the most acclaimed performance of her career, winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She movingly charted Alicia's emotional journey through adversity with subtle grace and quiet strength. Despite the fact-bending screenplay, Connelly grounded the film with authentic love and resilience. Her acceptance speech touchingly honored Alicia, who was in the audience.

"Connelly gives the anchoring performance here, quietly dazzling." - Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine

Portraying a real-life figure, Connelly's nuanced work made A Beautiful Mind inspiring and humane.

1. Career Achievement

While individual performances showcase her skills, Connelly deserves recognition for the cumulative impact of her filmography. Few actors transition so naturally from ingenue to serious dramatic powerhouse as Connelly has.

From quirky indie films to cerebral dramas to big budget spectacle, she has proven adaptable yet distinct. Connelly disappears into roles, yet retains luminous screen presence. She can convey both strength and fragility. Her evolution from youthful promise to mature excellence makes her an iconic Hollywood leading lady.

Career highlights like Requiem for a Dream, A Beautiful Mind, and Little Children cement Connelly as one of the most compelling actresses of her generation whose dedication to her craft remains undimmed by time. Regardless of individual titles, Connelly's body of work displays an exhilarating and affecting range that ranks her among Hollywood's greatest contemporary screen talents.

Throughout her decades-spanning filmography, Jennifer Connelly has exhibited fearless creativity, emotional truth, and captivating star power. From teen ingenue to serious dramatic force, she has crafted an eclectic body of work that exemplifies both versatility and dedication to quality. The films above span blockbusters and intimate indies, highlighting Connelly's ability to inhabit diverse roles. While she hates watching her own performances, audiences worldwide have been richly rewarded, with surely more great films still to come. Jennifer Connelly remains an illuminating, empathetic, and enthralling presence on screen.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please consider checking out more of our content. New articles are released weekly. Your support means the world to us.

Happy Viewing!