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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Photograph: Courtesy ParamountLara Croft: Tomb Raider

The 12 best Angelina Jolie movies

The best Angelina Jolie movies highlight the actors’ talent in everything from action to drama to docs

Written by
Andy Kryza
Written by
John Marshall
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Angelina Jolie is a great many things: Hollywood royalty, humanitarian and director among them. But she’s also more often than not the most memorable thing in otherwise meh films. She is magnetic enough that she’s the sole reason we remember films like Wanted and Gone in 60 Seconds. And when she’s is paired with the right material, she can be riveting.

In advance of her Marvel debut in Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, we picked 12 of Jolie’s best performances. Each features a standout turn from an actress whose very presence is enough to elevate everything around her.

Best Angelina Jolie movies

  • Film

While Girl, Interrupted is widely regarded as an uneven film with a shaky grasp on mental illness, Jolie’s performance articulates the shallow charm and cold calculation of a clinical sociopath with total aplomb. Jolie is a jittery force of nature in her limited screen time, making such an impact on Logan director James Mangold’s film that she completely overshadowed poor Winona Ryder’s attempted comeback performance. The actress would receive her first (and to date, only) Academy Award for her work as Lisa Rowe, the role that launched her into superstardom. 

  • Film
  • Drama

Not to be mistaken for the George C Scott-starring horror classic, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling stars Jolie as Christine Collins, a character based on a real-life woman of the same name whose nine-year-old son, Walter Collins, went missing without explanation in 1928. Jolie’s moving performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a psychological drama that divided audiences, and put off critics, but nonetheless features one of her most devastating turns. 

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Gia (1998)
Photograph: HBO

3. Gia (1998)

Jolie has been sweltering on the sidelines for some time before she broke out in a huge way courtesy of this HBO original film about the rise and tragic death of model Gia Carangi. Jolie inhabits the trouble starlet with ease, positing her as at once perfectly at home in the tumultuous world of ’70s fashion, and an utterly alien force of chaos. It’s an underseen tour-de-force biopic performance that still ranks among her best work. 

  • Film
  • Thrillers

How a performer as distinct as Jolie continues to strike out in the action realm is a frustrating mystery, but Salt is yet another franchise non-starter following the fizzling of Wanted and Tomb Raider. Pity, too, because Jolie proves to be infinitely watchable as globe-trotting bruiser Evelyn Salt in this fleet, wholly enjoyable Bourne clone. Jolie famously stepped into the role after Tom Cruise dropped out, ably scowling at baddies and executing the kind of stunts that are usually Ethan Hunt’s stock in trade. Bummer we never got to see what Jolie’s Salt could do in a better film. 

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  • Film

Doug Liman’s action comedy sparked a thousand tabloid stories, but all the behind-the-scenes action between Jolie and Brad Pitt tends to overshadow the fact that Mr & Mrs Smith is a rock-solid piece of slam-bang escapism. Liman takes what he learned from The Bourne Identity and puts it to kinetic use across the bullet-riddled spy romp. It helps, of course, that the stars' chemistry translates smolderingly to the screen. In hindsight, the bits where they’re trying to kill each other may have stemmed from their real-life relationship too.

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

The film that launched a parade of Disney-villain origin stories, Maleficent brings a sympathetic eye to Sleeping Beauty’s evil queen, with Jolie rocking the iconic horns and exuding a chilly menace to give the kiddies nightmares. The CG additions, like the film itself, are gorgeous and creepy – and often startlingly real. But what really carries the movie is Jolie, who slips into the role of the glamorous antihero seamlessly. At least that’s the case with Maleficent. The less said about the sequel the better.

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Kung Fu Panda (2008)
  • Film
  • Animation

Jolie’s first foray into voice acting came in the forgettable Shark Tale, but she scored a more iconic character as the acrobatic Tigress in DreamWorks’ gorgeously animated martial-arts comedy. As the leader of a cadre of anthropomorphic animal warriors, Jolie’s stoical delivery lends gravitas to the whole affair, serving as a serious counterpart to Jack Black’s antics.

  • Film

After Jolie snagged her Oscar for Girl, Interrupted, Hollywood had no idea what to do with her, so it tossed her into the types of middlebrow paperback thrillers typically reserved for Ashley Judd, among them forgettable hits The Bone Collector and Taking Lives. Mike Newell, however, knew how to bottle the lightning of Jolie’s more playful side, pairing her with John Cusack, then-beau Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett for this talky, oddly endearing tale of feuding air-traffic controllers. It’s proof that Jolie can do great things when she’s given more to do than smolder and act erratically, and her jagged edges here point to an untapped comedic potential few, if any, have seized upon since. 

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  • Film

The pseudo-tech plot of this thriller is antiquated to say the least – and that Jolie’s character, Kate, has disastrously cropped hair and goes by the hacker moniker ‘Acid Burn’ doesn’t help viewers take this extremely ’90s thriller more seriously. But for what it lacks in realism, Hackers brings in aesthetics – it’s a slick, stunning portrayal of ‘90s computer nerds trying to (what else?) save the world.

  • Film

Jolie was an inspired choice to bring the iconic video game heroine to life, nailing both the pseudo-intellectualism and the acrobatic gunplay of a character who is essentially a buxom Indiana Jones. But Jolie seems to be having fun in the tight trousers, rocking an appropriately wonky English accent and rubbing elbows with real-life dad Jon Voight. If only the film (or its sequel) was having as much fun as its lead, perhaps Tomb Raider could have beat the videogame curse. 

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