Cate Blanchett, born in Melbourne, Australia in 1969, became a star in her native Australia almost as soon as she graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in 1992. She starred in several stage plays and television shows before making her first film in 1997.
As early as 1998, she was seen as a star thanks to her Academy Award nominated turn in Elizabeth. After that she worked steadily, making several films a year. As she and her husband have now set up the Sydney Theater Company, choosing to spend more time raising her children in Australia, she plans to make fewer films. Here then are 15 films with Cate Blanchett that you must see.
15. Charlotte Gray (2001) dir. Gillian Armstrong
Cate Blanchett stars as the title character, who works as a medical receptionist in London in WWII. He meets an RAF pilot and they quickly fall in love, though he has to end his leave and go back to the war. When Charlotte finds he has died in action, she becomes a resistance agent thanks to her fluent French. She is working to save Jewish children in hiding in Vichy France, leading to some unusual discoveries.
This is a film that truly shows how the resistance worked in World War II, and it had excellent cinematography and was filmed on location in France.
Cate Blanchett plays a tough and tenacious character in this. While many critics were not fond of the film, they all praised Blanchett’s performance as natural and very much like the women who worked as resistance fighters. A fine combination of determination and sadness, she plays all the bits well. This is definitely a film to be seen from this actress.
14. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) dir. Jim Jarmusch
A film in eleven segments, these are mainly two person scenes with people discussing all sorts of things while for the most part drinking coffee and smoking. In the segment “Cousins,” Cate Blanchett plays both parts; herself and a fictional cousin Shelly. They are in a hotel lounge and it is obvious they talk only because they are related. Shelly tells Cate about her boyfriend Lee, who plays in an industrial band. As she leaves, Kate tells Shelly she hopes to meet “Lou” one day.
The different segments are interesting in the conversations and the cast involved, including several musicians, though they seldom talk about music.
Cate does very well in differentiating between the two characters. As herself, she plays a more aloof and hard-edged version of herself. As Shelly, she plays a cousin who can barely hide her disappointment of not having the life Cate does, and is far more interested in talking about herself and her boyfriend than talking to Cate. Cate received praise for the role and several award nominations.
13. Heaven (2002) dir. Tom Tykwer
Philippa (Cate Blanchett) plants a bomb in the trashcan of an office, but it is emptied soon after and explodes in an elevator, killing 4 people. She explains to the police that she is an English teacher trying to kill a drug kingpin who has been dealing to the children she teaches. She is assisted by the police interpreter, Filippo, who falls in love with her. He also assists her in other ways to live out her goals.
A multinational co-production, this was written by the Polish writers of the 3 Colors series. It has a beautiful atmosphere and its cinematography was widely praised.
Cate does an excellent job in this film, in some scenes speaking Italian flawlessly and really showing her passion as a schoolteacher who will do anything to protect her students from drugs, even to take the law into her own hands. In the US, this film received limited theater releases, as it was an art house film, but it won several German film awards, including Best Actress. It’s ripe for rediscovery. Find this film and watch it!
12. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) dir. Anthony Minghella
Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is on a cruise ship on the Atlantic when he meets Heiress Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett). He is on a mission where he is supposed to encourage Dickie Greenleaf to come home, but plots a more nefarious scheme. He tells Meredith that he is Dickie and she takes him for his word. Later they meet in Italy where she still believes he is Dickie. Tom and his lover, Peter, take a cruise to find that Meredith and her family are on board, this leads to a twist ending.
Based on the 1955 novel, this is an exciting movie filled with twists and turns. Matt Damon is excellent in the title role.
Cate has a supporting role as a young socialite that meets Tom on board and believes him to be the rich Dickie. Their paths cross at other points as well, especially on a later cruise where, unless something is done, she will figure out he is not Dickie. This is a film that needs to be on your watch list if you like psychological thrillers.
11. Veronica Guerin (2003) dir. Joel Schumacher
Veronica Guerin (Cate Blanchett) is a crime reporter for the Irish Sunday Independent newspaper. Seeing what drugs have done to the young people of Dublin, she decides to expose the drug kingpins. She starts by interviewing the young people on the street that shoot up, then starts working with a low level drug dealer. As she gets closer to the truth, her family becomes a target. After appearing in traffic court, she is murdered as she drives home.
This was based on a real person and real incidences. The drug dealers were caught and received lengthy jail sentences, and the Irish government set up special divisions to work on cleaning up the drug trafficking.
This film is exciting and fast-paced. Cate Blanchett gives an excellent performance as a reporter who will stop at nothing to do her part in helping to clean up the streets of Dublin. Tenacious, driven, but loving and tender with her family, she comes across as a real person. She was nominated for several Best Actress awards, including The Golden Globes. This film is really one to watch.
10. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) dir. Wes Anderson
While Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is working on his current documentary, his best friend is eaten by a Jaguar Shark. In tribute, Steve decides that his next documentary will be finding and killing the shark. We see the crew on the ship, plus a reporter going with them, Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), who is visibly pregnant with her married boss’ child. She will chronicle the journey. She also causes a fight between Steve and his possible son, Ned, who is a pilot. They go through many dangers before the unexpected ending.
Think Jacques Cousteau mixed with Jaws and you will have an idea of this film. By turns funny, exciting, and dramatic, the framing device of presenting the documentary at a film festival works well.
Cate Blanchett, pregnancy padding and all, does a great job as the reporter, asking pertinent questions and showing herself to be just as tough as the men. While this film did not do well at the box office, it is ripe for rediscovery.
9. Babel (2006) dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Babel is a film of four interconnected stories that are told in a nonlinear fashion. In Morocco, a family buys a high powered rifle from a neighbor so they can shoot the jackals that are attacking the goats. The father sends the two sons out with the rifle to watch the goats.
The two boys are competitive and are testing the rifle when they shoot at a bus, unknowingly hitting passenger Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett), an American on vacation with her husband Robert (Brad Pitt). The boys realize what they have done and flee. Robert takes charge and tries to get Susan to a hospital. Will he get there in time?
An international co-production, this film shows that different cultures are not all that different, whether it’s Morocco, Japan, Mexico or the US. All the stories are involved with each other as the rifle goes from Japan to Morocco and Richard and Susan’s nanny is part of the Mexico story.
Cate Blanchett gives a strong performance as Susan Jones. She and her husband have taken this vacation to Morocco to work out their problems, but then Susan is shot, and convincingly, Cate plays the struggle for her life. In many ways it was compared to the film Crash, but this is considered a far better film.