Seven Favorite Cate Blanchett’s Performances

I began jotting this list right after I saw Hanna a few weeks ago, but since May 14th, is her 42nd birthday, it’s fitting to publish this today in her honor.

Catherine Élise Blanchett, the Melbourne-born actress seemed to be destined for greatness right from the time she graduated from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art at 23. In just about a year, she had already won Sydney Theatre Critic’s Circle Theatre award for Best Newcomer in Kafka Dances. The first time I saw her must have been in Elizabeth, and immediately I was in awe of her transcendent acting ability and striking screen presence. The film might not have been a masterpiece, but her performance was pretty darn close. The only thing more astonishing than her performance is how The Academy didn’t give her most-deserved Oscar that year.

I have since watched over a dozen films of hers and not a single one of her performances has been disappointing. Even in bad movies — not that she’s been in many of them — she remains a delight to watch on screen. Yes, even Irina Spalko in the ill-conceived Indy 5 doesn’t diminish my admiration of this great actress. Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

The many faces of the great Cate

As I said above, there hasn’t been a single disappointing performance from Blanchett, but these seven are the ones I enjoy the most from her, even if the film itself might not be the greatest. Please bear in mind I have yet to see I’m Not There (I know, I know, it’s in my Netflix queue!) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, so my list might look different once I’ve seen those. Anyway, here they are in order of the film’s release:

  1. The Virgin Queen in Elizabeth
    Blanchett tackled a complex role of Queen Elizabeth I seemingly with ease, from the monarch’s arduous ascension to the throne to her early reign. She’s so comfortable at the center stage, carrying the film on her delicate shoulders with such charisma that you’d be hard pressed to believe it was her first feature film. Both strong and vulnerable, it’s a dazzling breakthrough performance that’s worthy of an Oscar, even to this day, people still think she was utterly robbed (by Gwyneth Paltrow no less!).
  2. Kate Wheeler in Bandits
    Ok, so this isn’t one of the best crime comedy out there, but I thought it was quite entertaining and enjoyable. Cate pretty much stole the show from Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, the two bandits who fell for the run-away housewife they kidnapped. Sporting a spot-on southern accent, her quirky performance was such a hoot to watch. She definitely have a knack for comedy, something I wish she’d do more of to balance her more serious/darker roles.
  3. Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Interestingly enough, most of the actors I love, both men and women, usually have a distinct voice. I absolutely adore Cate’s narration right from the moment she spoke the words “It began with the forging of the Great Rings…” Her luminous beauty makes for a perfect elf-princess who’s wise as well as kind to those who oppose the great evil Sauron. She’s easily one of my all-time favorite character in the entire franchise, so I’m thrilled that she will reprise her character in The Hobbit next year!
  4. Charlotte Gray in Charlotte Gray
    Just another proof that Blanchett can play all kinds of nationalities believably, in this WWII romantic thriller, she played a young Scottish woman who joined the French Resistance to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who’s lost in France. I saw this film a long time ago, but I remember how good Cate was in this. This is the kind of role tailored for someone with her dramatic chops and she does the title role justice. I saw the trailer again earlier today and it made me want to re-watch the movie. Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup are both good in this as well.
  5. Veronica Guerin in Veronica Guerin
    Another title role and this time it’s a biopic of an Irish crime reporter who was murdered by the country’s drug lords in 1996. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. She looks the part and even does the Irish accent convincingly, which is what you come to expect from her. Don’t be put off by Joel Shumacher, it’s actually a great film with a great message of courage and risking one’s life for the good of others.
  6. Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator
    This is the role on everyone’s best-of list and it’s no surprise why. This is Cate at the top of her game, practically transforming herself into a classic Hollywood icon. It’s as if she belonged in this era with that side-part wavy hairstyle, those vintage clothes. Cate stole every scene she was in with her spot-on Hepburn’s mannerism and speaking voice. That dinner scene with Howard Hughes and her family is a downright classic! Finally the Academy recognized her stunning performance and awarded her a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  7. Marion Loxley in Robin Hood
    Sure this movie is quite divisive and not exactly Ridley Scott’s shining hour, but I quite enjoyed it and it definitely has its merits. As I said in my review, Cate’s casting is one of the movie’s major strength. She made me sympathize with Marion almost instantly, and her chemistry with Russell Crowe’s Robin is sweet and affecting. Their scenes together are wonderful to watch, but then again, we’re talking about two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood, not just the ones from Australia.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Susan Jones in Babel
  • Tracy Heart in Little Fish
  • Marissa in Hanna

So happy birthday to my favorite actress… looking forward to more wonderful roles in the future!

Dear readers, what are your favorite Cate Blanchett’s roles? Please list ’em in the comments.

61 thoughts on “Seven Favorite Cate Blanchett’s Performances

  1. What a lovely tribute to my fellow Taurean 😉 I think my favorite of role of hers at the moment is either Veronica Guerin or Elizabeth I, but there are so many.

    i submit for your consideration: Annie in The Gift. Cate portrays a non-glamourous psychic from the U.S. South (based on Billy Bob Thornton mom!) and does an amazing job. Completely disappears. I saw it immediately after Fellowship and couldn’t believe my eyes.

    I also liked her as Lena in The Good German. I don’t know how to talk about it without giving the whole thing away. Let’s just say, she showed she was not afraid to possibly be unlikeable.

    1. Yay, you’ve seen Veronica Guerin too, she’s amazing in that one isn’t it? She kinda looks like the real journalist, too.

      I think I did see The Gift but it’s so darn spooky. Oh I didn’t know it was based on Billy Bob’s mom, interesting that they reunited again in Bandits. Yep, Cate tends to disappear in her roles, that’s what makes her so compelling to watch.

      Y’know, I did see parts of The Good German but turned it off as it was so boring. I might have to revisit that just for Cate.

      1. i actually cried at the end of Veronica Guerin.

        Agree The Gift is very spooky, not least because Keanu Reeves scares the bejeezus outta me in it. Her accent is great in it i thought. i’ve only seen it once, and afterwards i found i hadn’t locked the side door. paranoia + creepy movie = sleepless night(s)

        I liked The Good German LOL

        PS: Ruth you are the best 🙂

        1. Oh me too! Even though I already read about her story it still came as a shock and man, it was so heart-wrenching! I think I became even more of a fan of Cate’s because of this movie.

          Oy, there’s a reason I try to forget The Gift then, spooky flicks and me just don’t mix, he..he..

          I’ll give The Good German a chance again one of these days, I probably wasn’t in the mood for it at the time.

          P.S. Oh, no biggie girl, good thing the comment didn’t go through right away 🙂

  2. I’ve only seen 2 of these(Aviator and Lord of the Rings) but they were both pretty good(Although between the 2 i think Aviator was the better performance).

    I saw both Benjamin Button(I actually saw this one in theaters with a friend) and I’m not there. I think Benjamin Button had the more memorable performance between those 2

    I am planning on doing a similar post on Nicole Kidman at some point. I just need to watch some more of her movies(and i need to re-watch The Others) before making it

    1. Oh i forgot to mention for me one of her best performances was in Notes on a Scandel. But then overall i really liked that movie, even though seeing Judi Dench throw up was not a pleasant image.

    2. Yeah, her performance as Kate Hepburn has been hailed as one of her best, which considering her resume is quite a feat. But I like her in less glamorous roles as well, that’s why I put Veronica Guerin on there and she’s also tremendous in this Aussie indie Little Fish. Hugo Weaving plays her druggie dad and he’s amazing in that as well.

      Man, I have to rent Benjamin Button one of these days.

      Oh, I’d love to see that post on Nicole, Julian. She’s got quite a varied roles over the years, too.

  3. I gotta go Katherine Hepburn in the Aviator at #1. Many great Hepburn impressions have been done over the years, but to pull one off for 40 minutes all the while making the character seem like a flesh and blood human is one of the greater feats I’ve seen in a long while.

    1. Hi there Keith, yep, amen on all you said. When I saw that it’s as if I saw the real Kate, not just some impersonation.

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        1. actually, Flixy, I think you would enjoy and like NOTES ON A SCANDAL a lot, just as I did. It deals with complex psychological issues and traumas and we both like that in films.

  5. yep, NOTES ON A SCANDAL and GOOD GERMAN should be on the list before VERONICA and CHARLOTTE. She was marvelous as the teacher and the German spy in the first two.

    And when you watch I’M NOT THERE (the worst film I’ve ever seen but most amazing role from Blanchett) and BENJAMIN BUTTON (in which she has the most amazing scenes as ballerina and as a dying woman in her deathbed).

    But her best role ever is the one from ELIZABETH GOLDEN AGE in which she gave a masterclass in acting proving herself as a female Peter O’Toole.

    1. Ha..ha… funny that you called I’m Not There the worst film you’ve ever seen, I take it you’re not a fan of Bob Dylan? 🙂 I’m curious to see it still, not sure why I haven’t seen it yet considering it also stars Christian Bale whom I like a lot!

      Cate looks sooo beautiful in Benjamin Button, she’s almost too pretty for Brad, ahah. Glad to see you agree w/ me on her role in Elizabeth, calling it a masterful performance is really not an exaggeration.

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  7. Her spin as Bob Dylan (aka “Jude”) in I’M NOT THERE was far & away the best thing about that movie – and would make my own top three.

    A solid seven choices here though…great list!

      1. Well…I’m not sure that you do actually.

        her part in the film was brilliant, but on the whole the film is just “so-so”. It’ll appeal to any hardcore Bob Dylan fan, but for anyone else it’ll feel pretty disjointed.

        Proceed with caution!

        1. He..he.. thanks for the warning, Hatter. I’m not a Dylan fan but I like a lot of the actors playing him in this, so if anything, it’ll be amusing to see them portray a variation of the guy.

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  9. Excellent choices Ruth. Cate Blanchett is one of the best actors of her generation. I would have thought Notes on a Scandal would have made your top 7 though – perhaps it is in your top ten?

    1. When I get around to seeing the film it might, but I have three honorable mentions that probably make up my top ten. Not a lot of people have seen her in Little Fish as it’s really a small Aussie indie that might not have been released in the US or UK, but I think people might think it’s on par w/ her acting in Notes On a Scandal. It’s such a raw performance and it’s good to see her using her native accent. Here’s the trailer if you’re interested:

  10. Ted S.

    From your list I’ve only seen three of the films, Lord of the Rings, The Aviator and Robin Hood. I think she’s a very good actress and very beautiful but I’ve only seen a few of her films. I guess my favorite role of hers was in Ron Howard’s underrated western The Missing. She was great in that movie and she’s the lead in a western!

    1. Same boat but I have only seen Robin Hood and LOTR. I guess she was pretty good in Benjamin Button although I absolutely despised that movie. I also saw the forgettable Babel.

      I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t seen more of her movies.

      1. Ted & Castor, I’d recommend the two smaller films where Cate played the title roles Charlotte Gray and Veronica Guerrin to see Cate’s shining hour and she’s got plenty of screen time. She’s good in Babel too, but because she’s not on screen very much, I put that in the HM list.

        @Ted – Oh I hadn’t heard of The Missing, I should check that out. I’m not surprised at all she’s cast in a leading role in a Western, this woman can do anything. She’s the Aussie Meryl Streep!

        1. Ted S.

          Yeah I’ve heard good things about those two films, I’ve never seen Babel though. I saw the director’s film before Babel, 21 Grams, I thought it was good but I decided I didn’t want to see his film after it. Not that his work are bad, just that I didn’t want to invest my emotion in that kind of films again.

          The Missing was quite intense, if you can stand some of the violent sequences then I think you might enjoy it. It’s kind of similar to True Grit, she played a mom searching for her missing daughter and she’s very determine to find her no matter what. Tommy Lee Jones played her estranged father and he was very good in it too.

          1. Babel is quite disturbing, especially the one involving that Japanese girl! I totally understand your feelings about it, I respect 21 Grams but it’s one of those movies that one time viewing is more than enough.

            I’ve put The Missing on my queue, good thing it’s available on streaming. I’ll just close my eyes on the really violent stuff then.

  11. For a 42 year old woman…she still looks as stunning as 20 years old woman 😉

    Cate is one of my favorite actress.

    Great post, Ruth 🙂 looking forward to read your post on my man’s birthday.

    The boring case of Benjamin Button is only worth seeing because of Cate….the movie is sooooooo boring. I fast forward most of the scene till it showed Cate.

    1. I know, she’s got great skin and an amazing figure, clothes look good on her and clearly she loves fashion. I love seeing her on the red carpet because she doesn’t look like a plastic doll like a lot of the other actresses, but she is definitely beautiful.

      Ha..ha.. I haven’t seen your email yet, Nov, would you give me about a week’s heads up to make sure I can fit it into my schedule?

      Yeah, I heard from people how boring Benjamin Button was. One of my colleagues actually walked out of the theater! But I’d give it a chance just for Cate.

      1. What a coincidence, I am now in the middle of writing an email for everyone I have asked (searching everyone’s email through comments)

        If you don’t have any discomfort of seeing Brad Pitt, probably you won’t be as bored as I am;)

  12. Lovely tribute Ruth to one of the modern greats!! I have always loved her work. She is absolutely stunning as well. I am with many others when I say that I loved her in Aviator.

    So beautiful, and she fitted into the glamour of that era so well.

    She has got it alright!!


    1. Thank you Custard! She’s definitely one of my cinema icons, even at a young age of 42 her acting is already legendary.

      I love how she looks perfect in whatever era, whether vintage or modern.

  13. Wonderful post! When you see I’m Not There. you will definitely change this list! It’s not my fave film with Cate (it surely is great) but her perfomance in it is fantastic!

    1. Thanks Lesya. Yep I will definitely rent I’m Not There just to see Cate… it’s not really my cup of tea but it’s bizarre enough it’ll surely be entertaining.

  14. My favorite Blanchett role: as Simon Pegg’s girlfriend in “Hot Fuzz”.

    Ok, I’m kidding… actually, my favorite one of hers is “I’m Not There”. That was an amazing bit of acting. And second for me is “Coffee and Cigarettes”.

    She’s such a stupendous actress. Great job, Ruth!

    1. Ha..ha.. no I didn’t think you’re kidding John. Y’know I actually recognized her even under that helmet, she has a distinct pair of eyes and voice. I haven’t seen ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ though.

      Thanks John!

    2. Dave

      John, nice pickup in Hot Fuzz. I actually caught that in the theater. I’m that good. lol. Her eyes are so dynamic I didn’t even need the voice.

      Watching her go toe-to-toe with Judy Dench in Notes On a Scandal was electric. Should have been a Lifetime movie. Don’t you think. Well played ladies.

      Kiera Knightly also acquitted herself quite nicely acting across from Dame Judy in Pride & Prejudice. My favorite Jane Austin movie by far.

  15. mcarteratthemovies

    I’m glad to see that “Veronica Guerin” cracked the top 5 — really stellar work from Blanchett. She was so intense throughout the whole film, and I love that the character herself is not very likable — stubborn, driven to the point of recklessness.

    1. Another vote for Guerin, yay! Yes, stellar is the word, Meredith. She’s kinda obsessed in this and at times I even yelled at the screen for her to take a moment and reconsider the repercussions, y’know. But at the same time, I admired her for fighting for something she believed in… and for the good of others.

  16. 43 comments and no mention of her role in the Talented Mr. Ripley? She was perfection in that movie, and it’s great to see the Oscar contenders for Best Actress in 1998 together and Blanchett stealing Paltrow’s man and thunder.

    I saw the Good German in theatres and the story went way over my head. It seemed like people evoking an older style but forgetting to actually tell a story or to give something new to the audiences.

    1. Well we’re waiting for you to mention it, Paolo 🙂 Y’know, it’s strange for me to say this because how I feel about Cate but I honestly can’t remember her being in that movie. Bizarre I know, but no doubt she steals Paltrow’s thunder, I mean she’s the better actress any way you look at it.

      I remember thinking The Good German was stylish but it just chugged along so darn slow I had no patience for it so I turned it off. If Cate had come on screen sooner I might’ve given it a chance.

      1. Paolo just beat me. I love her Meredith Logue (it’s in my top 5 supporting performances of 99). It’s a surprisingly moving bit performance and it’s a fine complement to Paltrow (who’s excellent too). But that entire film is just beautiful.

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  18. Charlotte Gray is my no. 1 favourite ! Great list yet again, got to love the Cate Blanchett shout outs, she’s absolutely brilliant and so down to earth and cooky. Love it. She and Julianne Moore are my favourite actresses.

    1. Glad to hear, Anna. I saw that a long while ago and watching the trailer again makes me want to rewatch it. Cate really is spectacular and Julianne is a great actress, too.

    1. Well you are a man of excellent taste, Asrap. I LOVE Audrey as well, she’s beautiful, talented and has a good heart for charity. Can’t beat that!

  19. Is it me or is Cate Blanchett completely timeless and just doesn’t age? She’s literally luminous! Combined that with a fantastic talent, amazing actress.

    Love that you picked up on her role in Robin Hood – I think I come down on the side of being a fan of the film. It was solid, not great, but her interpretation of Marion was one of my favourites. Along with Galadriel and Katherine Hepburn. A real chameleon.

    1. No, not just you. She really is luminous and a natural beauty. I can’t stand actresses who use Botox like her fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman. She looks like a darn robot!!

      Yay! Glad you like Robin Hood, too. It’s got so much crap for some reason and granted it’s not as great as Gladiator but like you said, there are some great things about it and Marion’s casting is one of them.

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