Jodie Foster: Top 10 Movies Ranked

Jodie Foster: Top 10 Movies Ranked

Jodie Foster is one of Hollywood's most acclaimed and decorated actresses, with a career spanning over 50 years. She has delivered indelible performances across a wide range of genres, from comedic family films to gothic thrillers, showcasing her emotional depth and versatility on screen.

As Foster continues to captivate audiences with her fierce talent and magnetic charisma, we take a nostalgic look back at her 10 greatest films ranked. From child prodigy roles that demonstrated her precociousness to searing adult dramas tackling challenging themes, these are the definitive must-watch Jodie Foster movies.

10. Bugsy Malone (1976)

Bugsy Malone (1976)

In an early taste of her talent, 13-year-old Foster lights up the screen as the sassy love interest Tallulah in this quirky British musical crime comedy. Set in 1920s New York, Bugsy Malone parodies American gangster films with child actors playing adult roles, armed with whipped cream-shooting “splurge guns” instead of machine guns.

With its playful humour, catchy musical numbers, and sweet tale of first romance, the film became a surprising critical and commercial smash. Foster charms with her feisty performance as aspiring singer Tallulah, holding her own against Broadway veteran Scott Baio as the titular lead Bugsy Malone.

Fun fact: The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song Score, launching director Alan Parker’s highly successful Hollywood career.

9. Five Corners (1987)

Five Corners (1987)

Jodie Foster has a supporting turn in this coming-of-age drama directed by Tony Bill, set in 1960s Bronx. She plays Linda, a young woman exploring her newfound freedom amidst changing social mores about sexuality. But darkness lurks beneath the surface in their neighborhood known as “Five Corners”, threatening the innocence of local youth.

With strong performances and rich period details, the film paints a vivid snapshot of teenage lives at a crossroads. Foster imbues warmth and spunk into her small but memorable role.

Accolades: Five Corners was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1987.


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8. The Mauritanian (2021)

The Mauritanian (2021)

Based on the New York Times bestseller memoir, this powerful legal drama brings to light the nightmarish imprisonment of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian man detained at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years without charge or trial.

Jodie Foster delivers a fierce performance as determined defense attorney Nancy Hollander, who relentlessly pursues justice for Slahi against seemingly insurmountable odds. Her chemistry with co-star Tahar Rahim crackles as their crusade uncovers shocking revelations about human rights abuses and government overreach.

Accolades: The film received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster), bringing this urgent story into the spotlight.

Fun fact: Foster spent months rigorously researching the role of Nancy Hollander to capture her fierce brilliance, including meeting the real-life Hollander for insights.

7. Inside Man (2006)

Inside Man (2006)

In this twisty heist thriller directed by Spike Lee, Foster plays a mysterious fixer recruited to oversee high stakes negotiations between a cunning bank robber (Clive Owen) and dogged NYPD negotiator (Denzel Washington).

With Lee’s signature flair for style and social commentary, Inside Man delivers electrifying suspense as Foster’s coldly brilliant negotiator matches wits against two willful adversaries. Who will emerge victorious from this tense game of cat-and-mouse?

Accolades: Inside Man was nominated at the 2007 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Motion Picture. Clive Owen and Jodie Foster were also both nominated for their performances.

Box office: Made on a $45 million budget, the film was a commercial success grossing over $184 million worldwide.

6. Contact (1997)

Contact (1997)

Foster leads this thought-provoking sci-fi epic as Dr. Ellie Arroway, a brilliant scientist scanning the cosmos for signs of intelligent life. Her journey grows deeply personal when she alone receives an encrypted message from beyond our solar system. What follows is an awe-inspiring voyage across space and time, full of dazzling visuals and profound ruminations about faith versus science.

Foster compellingly grounds Ellie’s crusade in humanity, anchoring cosmological questions about our purpose within relatable hopes and fears. Epic in scope yet intimate at its core, Contact probes both inner and outer mysteries in captivating fashion. An underrated film for sure!

Accolades: Contact received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing, with praise for its spectacular visual effects and production design.


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5. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

In one of her earliest starring roles, a commanding 13-year-old Foster holds her own against industry veterans Martin Sheen and Alexis Smith in this haunting psychological thriller.

She plays Rynn Jacobs, a precocious young girl living in isolation with her enigmatic father. But when nosy neighbors begin uncovering grim secrets, Rynn must take drastic measures to protect her hidden world. Director Nicolas Gessner masterfully ratchets up tension as deception gives way to disturbing revelations.

Accolades: Foster received critical acclaim for her mature performance, including a special mention at the highly competitive Moscow International Film Festival.

Fun fact: Screen legend Bette Davis was so impressed by Foster’s performance that she sent her flowers and a note praising her work.

4. Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver (1976)

No list of Foster’s iconic performances is complete without Martin Scorsese’s gritty masterpiece, Taxi Driver. As the vulnerable prostitute Iris Steensma opposite Robert De Niro’s explosive lead, the 12-year-old (age when cast) Foster radiates equal parts wounded innocence and hardened defiance.

Scorsese harnesses visceral realism to explore themes of isolation and psychosis against the decaying backdrop of 1970s New York City, catapulting Foster to fame with scenes that retain their disturbing power decades later. With a haunting score and Oscar-winning screenplay, Taxi Driver remains a towering landmark of American cinema.

Accolades: Taxi Driver took home Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and received 4 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Foster.

Box office: Made on a modest $1.9 million budget, the film earned over $28 million domestically during its initial theatrical run.


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3. The Accused (1988)

The Accused (1988)

Based on actual events, The Accused marks another courageous choice for Foster as a woman seeking justice after being brutally gang raped in a bar while patrons cheer on. She delivers a raw, emotionally devastating performance conveying the complex trauma and social stigma surrounding sexual assault.

As district attorney Kathryn Murphy, her crusade against victim-blaming and ‘boys will be boys’ attitudes rings powerfully true even 30 years later. With tense courtroom drama and themes ahead of their time, The Accused earns its place as one of Foster's most memorable dramatic roles.

Accolades: Foster won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actress for her virtuoso performance, alongside numerous other accolades. Co-star Kelly McGillis also earned Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

Box office: With critical praise and award buzz propelling interest, the film significantly exceeded its $6 million budget by earning $32 million in US box office revenue.

2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Jonathan Demme's chilling crime thriller catapulted Jodie Foster to superstardom with her indelible turn as FBI agent Clarice Starling. Tasked with enlisting the help of demonic serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), her ensuing battle of wills remains etched in film history. With masterful storytelling and taut psychological suspense, Demme pulls no punches in his devastating vision of good versus evil.

Matching wits with Hopkins’ legendary Lecter as his cunning mind games escalate, Foster aces every complex emotional beat on the knife’s edge between revulsion and empathy. Their white-knuckle exchanges retain spine-tingling power over 30 viewings later. A monumental achievement in acting and direction, The Silence of the Lambs ushered in a new era for Foster—and the horror genre itself.

Accolades: The film swept the 1992 Academy Awards with wins for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. Foster also won Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for her iconic turn as Clarice.

Box office: Made for $19 million, The Silence of the Lambs was a runaway commercial smash bringing in over $272 million globally. It remained among the top 10 highest grossing films of 1991.

1. Little Man Tate (1991)

Little Man Tate (1991)

The #1 Jodie Foster film (director bonus points!) remains her passionate directorial debut, exploring the joys and struggles of raising a child prodigy. She delivers a heartfelt performance as Dede Tate, a working-class single mother whose bond with her gifted 7-year-old son Fred (Adam Hann-Byrd) comes under strain when academia beckons.

With emotional truth and compassion, Foster examines profound questions of parental expectations, childhood dreams deferred, and the sacrifices we make for those we love. More than displaying her talent behind the camera, Little Man Tate reveals her soul.

Accolades: While Foster was disappointingly snubbed by The Academy, the film received multiple industry honours, including the Youth Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Box office: With critical acclaim and Foster’s star power behind it, the modest $11 million production quadrupled its budget at the box office.

Most compelling scene: In a poignant third-act moment, Fred glimpses a vision of his humble mother sitting alone, reminding us of his need for unconditional love despite extraordinary gifts.

And there you have it: the definitive ranking of Jodie Foster's 10 best films, highlighting her 50-year journey from child star to powerhouse auteur. It's a towering filmography filled with courageous choices, vulnerability, and strength in equal measure—much like Foster herself.

Which of her iconic performances lingers most in your memory? Are there any you feel deserve a reappraisal or rewatch? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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