North Carolina-born Julianne Moore has just received her fifth Academy Award nomination for “Still Alice” and could very well be on her way to winning for the first time. But her career has already extended far beyond awards recognition, providing some of the greatest performances of the past three decades of film.
Having graduated from Boston University, Moore’s career began with a fairly obscure big screen debut in Tales from the Dark Side, but has grown into one of the most prolific acting careers in Hollywood today. Demonstrating great range and even greater depth, she has never failed to make a strong impression on her audience.
After garnering rave reviews and an ever-growing fan base, Julianne Moore has firmly established herself as one of contemporary cinema’s greatest actresses. Here’s a look at some of her best work.
15. Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
Middle-aged husband and father Cal (Steve Carrell) now finds himself back on the market when his wife Emily (Moore) asks for a divorce and reveals her affair with another man (Kevin Bacon). The film then brings together a group of people and their relationships in which the inexplicable power of love guides each one of them to their happy ending.
Though the premise itself is cliché, this romantic comedy is nevertheless entertaining mainly due to the overall charm of its all-star cast (which includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei). Carrell and Moore, in particular, rescue this potentially melodramatic plot by turning it into a heartfelt look into a faded love that one quickly acknowledges is worth fighting for.
14. Safe (1995)
One of Moore’s earlier films, Todd Haynes’ Safe deals with Carol White, a housewife who suddenly develops MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity), causing a variety of bodily defects that drastically change her life. From things as trivial as hair products and cleaning supplies, everything in Carol’s life seems to lead to unusual physical effects.
Delving into suburban America, Haynes’ film is a subtle yet poignant metaphor for Carol’s completely numb existence. Her marriage is one without any emotional intimacy, she has no children of her own and none of her friends are particularly close ones. It is a life devoid of any feeling, except the ones she has now come to develop.
While having to portray a lack of emotional depth, Moore in fact does exactly the opposite, showing just how much damage Carol’s lifestyle has brought upon her. Becoming increasingly less reserved throughout the story, Moore exemplifies the necessity of feeling something – even if it isn’t something good.
13. A Single Man (2009)
A Single Man follows the life of English professor George Falconer as he deals with the loss of his boyfriend of 16 years (Matthew Goode). Though director Tom Ford had come from a background in fashion, his lack of experience in directing is never even remotely evident throughout the movie.
In fact, it may be his eye for design that enabled such an elegantly crafted film to exist in the first place. Beautifully shot, the 1960s-set drama remains one of the most moving films of the decade thanks primarily to Ford’s subtle direction and Colin Firth’s profound performance.
Playing Charley, George’s former girlfriend, Moore adds her own sadness to the movie. Charley and George have managed to maintain their adoration for one another through a long-lasting friendship. But while Moore’s performance as George’s supportive best friend demonstrates her loyalty and devotion to him, she also makes it clear that Charley needs George as much as he needs her, creating one of the most fascinating on-screen relationships in recent memory.
12. The End of the Affair (1999)
This Neil Jordan romantic drama stars Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore as a pair of star-crossed lovers during the Second World War. Moore plays Sarah Miles, wife of Henry Miles (Stephen Rea), who enters into a passionate affair with jealous writer Maurice Bendrix (Fiennes) before ending it without explanation and fuelling a disdainful novel from Bendrix.
The End of the Affair is an achingly melancholy tragedy that never dares to feel trite. Jordan crafts a terrific script, one where the titular affair is seen through different perspectives and at different time periods that not only reflect who these characters were, but ultimately justify what they’ve turned into.
The most admirable and rare feat this film achieves is transporting the viewer into a world of yesteryear that is reminiscent of David Lean’s classic film Brief Encounter. And Moore is the perfect starlet for such a devastating role, her beauty and grace never serving better use than they do here.
11. Children of Men (2006)
Alfonso Cuaron’s sci-fi dystopia is undoubtedly one of the best of its genre. Depicting a horrific world in which women can no longer bare children, the film centers on Theo Faron (Clive Owen) who is introduced by his rebel leader ex-wife Julian (Moore) to a young pregnant woman whom Theo must now protect at all cost.
Rather than filling the plot with one clichéd action sequence after another, Cuaron thankfully injects “Children of Men” with a sense of eeriness that speaks far louder. And that’s on top of the amazing action the film contains, including a wonderful one-shot sequence towards the end. But the real thrill comes in seeing how detailed this dark and dreary world is, constantly reminding us that hope is virtually lost.
Moore’s role is but a brief one, but the fact that she makes such an impact with so little screen time is a testament to how strong her on-screen presence is. It also marks a very different kind of role for the actress – one where she is tough, in charge and totally badass.
10. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Few films feature better and more distinct roles for women over 40 as Lisa Cholodenko’s modern-day family comedy. The Kids Are All Right details the lives of a lesbian couple (played by Moore and an Oscar-nominated Annette Bening) and their two kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) whose lives get turned upside down upon the kids’ encounter with their mothers’ sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo).
The film features a terrific ensemble cast with terrific chemistry between its actors. Moore’s relationship with Ruffalo is one full of unexplainable passion, but it’s her chemistry with Bening that makes this unconventional romantic comedy so believable and, more importantly, so relatable.
Cholodenko makes the wise decision to present these women not as saints, but rather as flawed individuals who make the same mistakes as any other couple. Moore’s philandering gives her a much-needed release in her life, but it also paves the way for her heartbreaking plea for a better marriage with her wife. Their relationship is one that is full of affection, heartbreak and forgiveness. And with that, the unconventional family seems much less unconventional.
9. Game Change (2012)
Biopics rely heavily on their central performance, and in Game Change, Julianne Moore give Tina Fey a run for her money as the best Sarah Palin seen on television. The film, directed by Jay Roach (the Emmy-winning Recount), chronicles the 2008 presidential election from the point that John McCain picks Sarah Palin as his running mate – and gets far less than he bargained for.
Though the selection garners admiration and success at first, Palin’s public gaffes soon cause trouble for McCain’s campaign. But what sets Game Change apart from the endless stream of jokes and spoofs it quickly generated is that it shows Palin’s perspective of her own downfall. She rides the wave of initial love and popularity, while eventually struggling with the unfortunate mockery she’s turned her campaign into.
Moore’s performance presents this unique woman not only as an ignorant buffoon, but as a woman who is reluctantly aware of how ignorant she really is. She manages to perfectly capture Palin’s charm and confidence, knowing full well that she hasn’t got much else, and thus demonstrates a very fragile side to Sarah Palin that no other depiction has been bold enough to.