Girl Week 2019: My Top 10 Female Performances of the 21st Century

As promised, I'm back with another entry for Girl Week 2019, the amazing blogathon hosted by Dell @ Dell on Movies that celebrates women in films. As you probably know if you are a steady follower, I'm not a big fan of lists. Actually, I hate making lists because I kinda feel bad about rating one more than another. I did make an exception today as I decided to rate my top 10 female performances of the 21st Century and, although they all are great, the first spot is the greatest performance of all-times in my book (forgive me if I missed some major performances, I procrastinated and didn’t have a lot of time to make this). Without further ado...

#10 Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"

In David Fincher’s thriller, Rosamund Pike plays one of Gillian Flynn’s creations, Amy Dunne, a sweet, next-door type of woman who suddenly goes missing, and she does more than justice to Flynn’s interesting and complex character. A nice and innocent woman who embodies the image of perfection on the outside, Amy slowly shows her true colours as she in fact is a selfish, manipulative bitch. Pike plays the character in such a chilling and mesmerising way, and brings to the screen a perfect blend of innocence, sexiness and batshit craziness.

#9 Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"

In Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a stubborn, tenacious, smart and hardworking CIA agent who obsessively tries to hunt down Usama bin Laden. Chastain captures to perfection every single aspect of Maya’s personality, but it’s when it comes to conveying the character’s emotional state and her vulnerability that she gives her best as she is beyond heartbreaking.  

#8 Lady Gaga, "A Star Is Born"

A Star Is Born isn’t only Bradley Cooper’s first time behind the camera, it’s also Lady Gaga’s first acting performance and she is mind blowing. Her portrayal of Ally, a sweet and innocent aspiring singer who falls for the wrong guy, is so charming, genuine and heartbreakingly emotional. Ally is a woman who has always had to take care of the men in her life — first her father, now her husband — and thanks to Gaga who brings to the role plenty of depth she comes off as her own person rather than a woman defined by her men.

#7 Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

In Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a grieving mother and frustrated mother seeking justice for her daughter. McDormand is a force to be reckoned with — it might be humour that comes out of her mouth, but it’s pure pain and suffering that she delivers through her eyes.  

#6 Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave"

Despite being just the supporting actress in Steve McQueen's second film, Lupita Nyong'o blew everyone away, me included, with her performance as Patsey, a young African-American slave, and proved to be better than most leading actresses of recent years. She captures the character's youthfulness and heart in such a delightful way, but it's when it comes to conveying the pain and struggle she endures on a daily basis, especially since she becomes the easy target of white people, that's when her performance reaches its peak at it's gut-wrenching and emotional.

#5 Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"

In David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany, a depressed young woman trying to find a way out of her issues. Lawrence plays the character with such ease as she gives a charming, smart, cynical, funny and emotional performance with just the right amount of crazy. 

#4 Lupita Nyong'o, "US"

Jordan Peele’s second feature has Lupita Nyong’o playing two characters, mother and wife Adelaide and her shadow, the terrifying Red. Nyong’o takes two relatively thin characters — they are both horror stereotypes as they are your typical heroine and your typical villain — and brings to them plenty of dimension and depth. It’s in the role of Red that she excels as she gives an intense and terrifying performance made of uncanny movements and a raspy voice. 

#3 Charlize Theron, "Monster"

Before seeing Patty Jenkins's Monster, to me, Charlize Theron was a (gorgeous) actress who had played more  (Mad Max: Fury Road) or less (The Italian Job) challenging and complex characters. Now, she's the incredible force of nature who played transformed into Aileen Wuornos, the Dayton Beach prostitute convicted and executed for killing six men. Not only she matched Wuornos physical aspect by gaining weight, shaving her eyebrows, wearing contacts and prosthetic teeth, she perfectly captured her mannerism and, especially, Aileen's lost, tortured, damaged soul. 

#2 Margot Robbie, "I, Tonya"

In Craig Gillespie’s biopic, Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding, the first American to ever complete a triple axel in a (skating) competition. But she is not just a professional skater, she’s a young woman who’s been bullied and pushed by her own mother for her entire life and, to escape from her, ends up in an abusive relationship/marriage. Robbie completely disappears into the role and gives a performance that is funny, dramatic, emotional and physical (she learnt how to skate in order to give a more accurate portrait). Her Tonya is fearless, vulnerable, sad and poignantly flawed, and the performance, especially in the court scene, is truly heartbreaking. 

#1 Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

If Natalie Portman is one of my favourite actresses, it's because of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Here Portman plays Nina Sayers, a delicate, frail young ballerina in New York City whose every move is controlled by her mother, a former ballerina who had to give up her career to raise her. When she is cast to portray two similar and yet opposed characters, the White Swan and the Black Swan, Nina slowly descends into very dark places. Portman excels at portrays Nina, beautifully capturing the contrast of good and evil. She delivers Nina's nervousness and frustration about her own inability to be wild, loose and imperfect, which is the opposite her mother always wanted from her, and she embraces Nina's dark side brilliantly. Every movement of hers, even the way she breathes add depth and dread. 


  1. I love these! Rosamund was iconic as Amy and I'm glad to see Natalie at the top of the list. I love Black Swan.

    1. I’m glad you do! And yay, more love for Natalie and Black Swan 😁

  2. OK, with the exception of A Star is Born (which I have yet to see), I can say yes to all of these performances.

    1. Please watch it, I’m sure you’ll love the movie and Lady Gaga.

  3. Some GREAT performances here. I've seen them all, except Lady Gaga's (yet), and they are all fantastic. And I'm definitely here for the Lupita love. Portman was great in Black Swan, and I'm not arguing that as a top choice, but I could just as easily have seen her work in Jackie in its place.

    Of course, there are so many others that could've been included. Some others I also love:

    Brie Larson Room
    Viola Davis, Fences
    Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
    Octavia Spencer, The Help
    Elizabeth Olsen, Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene
    Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect
    Cate Blanchett, Carol
    Noomi Rapace, Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Rooney Mara, U.S. version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Allison Janney, I, Tonya
    Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
    Toni Collette, Hereditary
    Mo'Nique, Precious

    Thanks for this!

    1. I know it’s insane but I didn’t love, love Natalie in Jackie. She was great but she wasn’t Black Swan good in my opinion.

      I haven’t seen Requiem for a Dream yet but those you picked are some great performances. I actually felt very bad about leaving out Brie Larson and Mo’Nique.

  4. Love all the choices except for JLaw and Chastian :P Rosamund is too low!

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t like them. And I cannot tell you how bad I felt for putting Pike in 10th place. That’s why I hate making lists!

  5. I love making lists but they fill me with anxiety because I know I'll have missed something or someone.
    Absolutely adore your list, couldn't agree with you more but now I know that Black Swan is going to be on my Blind Spot list for 2020. I can't avoid it any longer!

    1. You haven’t seen it?! Please 2020 hurry haha anyway, I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

  6. Interesting list. All decent work, excepting Us which I haven't seen yet, though I'd rank Jennifer Lawrence's work in Winter's Bone above Silver Linings.

    Also Lady Gaga didn't do much for me in A Star is Born. She was good but I wasn't blown away by her work especially compared to Janet Gaynor and particularly Judy Garland in the other versions of the tale. Streisand's version and performance, love her though I do, is a vanity project not worth discussion.

    You inspired me to make a list of my own and we match in two places, though with different rankings.

    Charlotte Rampling-45 Years
    Charlize Theron-Monster
    Natalie Portman-Black Swan
    Julie Christie-Away from Her
    Kristen Scott Thomas-I’ve Loved You So Long
    Charlotte Rampling-Under the Sand
    Joan Allen-The Upside of Anger
    Rachel Weisz-The Deep Blue Sea
    Cate Blanchett-Blue Jasmine
    Imelda Staunton-Vera Drake

    1. Omg Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea was soooo good! How did I miss her?!

  7. Ottime scelte, compresa quella di Lady Gaga (il film per me è mediocre, ma la sua interpretazione è bellissima). E ti adoro per aver messo al primo posto la mia amata Natalie <3

  8. Awesome list! Every role and performance here is iconic in their own way, either for the actress or as an Oscar nominee. Love seeing Lupita's performance for Us included on here too. Even though it's fairly new, it's hard to not see it listed as a great performance after this decade is over.

    1. I'm glad you share my opinion on Lupita's performance in US. She is terrific there and I feel like she doesn't get enough recognition for it.

  9. Great list, Sonia! Lupita is definitely undoubtedly one of the greats. I'm glad to see JLAW made the cut, although I always felt BCoops was much stronger than her in this movie (still floored he didn't win), but this is the ladies category, so I get it :)

    1. Thank you! Bradley was great too, but personally I loved Jennifer more.

  10. Yeah, Natalie Portman at #1! :)

    Anyways, ten amazing (& crazy) performances.

  11. nice! Not one I disagree with. I might add Viola Davis or Rooney Mara in place of Gaga, but that's just being nitpicky on my end. Excellent choices!

    1. I wanted to include Viola Davis but there were other performances I liked more so she sadly didn't make it.