8. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
Neither a standard, nor a mainstream drama (takes place on a bare soundstage, no walls, lines are drawn in order to map the village and show sets and props), but metaphorical, strenuous and complex, and thus deserves admiration. Delicate and emotional, Nicole Kidman, following Lars Von Trier’s instructions, delivers another startling performance. She becomes enigmatic Grace Mulligan who is fleeing from the gangsters for unknown reasons during the Great Depression and arrives in Dogville where she is given shelter by the local townsfolk.
Von Trier was extremely demanding during the filming in order to prove his belief that evil can show up anywhere, but only if the moment is right. Kidman is spellbinding throughout the entire drama, mainly because of her perfectly timed transitions and phenomenal approach. Even though she’s not emotionally naked, the moral doubts and the enslavements are perfectly presented and this role is often mentioned as her most brutalized one.
9. Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003)
A historical love romance with the Civil War in the background, an amazing cast, and a bestselling novel as its source of inspiration prove that this film was predestined to become a classic. The spectacular cinematography and the mountain scenery are unforgettable. The main concern of this drama is that the tragedy not happens only on the battlefront, but also at home. Ada Monroe, played by Kidman, falls in love with a handsome confederate soldier (Jude Law) but they are separated after he leaves her in order to fight in the war.
In spite of their minimal screen time together, Kidman’s believably portrayed a young woman craving to see her lover again and that yearning is doubled when audience beholds soldier’s struggles to make his way back to her. After Ada’s preacher father had died, she must farm her land, constantly threatened by people who want her and her farm, but somehow she is helped by a country bumpkin (Renee Zellweger). Kidman’s convincing performance included her own piano-playing in this epic drama.
10. Birth (Jonathan Glazer, 2004)
Bold and extraordinary, with one of the most unique plots, this film has been ranked as one of the bravest films in this century. It was not well received upon the release, but has grown in reputation for the last couple of years. The leading role belongs to Nicole and she gives an impeccable performance. Her character is Ana, a sophisticated and intelligent woman, who is about to get married again, 10 years after her husband’s death.
The main problem is that she meets a 10-year-old who claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. The old wounds are opened again and Anna gets caught in a web of questions; she is more than shocked, but also scared and vulnerable while trying to understand whether her true love is back. Kidman goes all the way to demonstrate all of her acting capabilities in this vastly underrated controversy with hidden meanings.
11. Margot at The Wedding (Noah Baumbach, 2007)
Considered also as one of Kidman’s underrated performances, probably because this isn’t one of Baumbach’s most famous films. Her Margo, in this verbal character dark comedy, is a despicable human being and probably one of the most devious wedding crashers on screen.
It’s completely engrossing to watch Kidman turn into a bitter Margot who doesn’t look for sympathy from the audience. She is completely different from her sister (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) whose wedding she is about to attend, and while audience feels that disaster is going to happen for certain, she claims that she’s only being ‘supportive’. Kidman, brave as always when choosing her roles, makes this dark and inventive writer even more damaged and believable.
12. Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)
An independent drama (based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play) which deals with a married couple who is struggling to deal with pain of a terrible tragedy, where Kidman is also a producer. Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play the couple whose little boy was killed in an accident and it’s more than uncomfortable to watch all the sadness, stress and grief they are going through.
This intimate human drama shows Kidman as Becca Corbett, a mother coping with the tragedy while trying to live again. The dialogues with her mother and the husband are sensational, and so is the new friendship she makes. She is in pain, but wants to move on, which makes her different from the majority of grieving characters in film history. Her tempest is quiet while trying to find rationale behind the emotional turmoil. Kidman’s portrayal is multi-layered and compelling, and it’s one of the most touching portrayals of life going on after sorrow.
13. Hemingway & Gellhorn (Philip Kaufman, 2012)
A TV drama focused on the romance between a world-known writer, Ernest Hemingway (played by Clive Owen) and a journalist, Martha Gellhorn (played by Kidman), Hemingway’s muse for ‘’For Whom the Bell Tolls’’ and the only woman who had ever asked for a divorce from him. Kidman’s performance as a WWII correspondent was fantastic, even wondrous. As for the romance, they are challengers, and while taking a passionate ride they are shaping each other and their own careers.
Kidman approaches the character from different angles in order for us to see and understand Gellhorn on all levels; she captures her idealistic leftism, movie star elegance, passion, and in the end cynicism. Here, we are rewarded with a superb and impeccable portrait of a strong and independent woman and it would be hard to imagine someone else than Nicole Kidman.
14. The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012)
Undeniable Mr. Daniels is famous for making films mostly about race, violence, and sex, therefore this drama is powered by all of these factors backed by our deepest craving for love. His style is always violent, but his understanding of imperfect human characters makes every film a wonder to behold, and the moral truth in his films can’t be seen in mainstream projects (or is often distorted). Human needs are deformed when filtered through deceit, humiliation, and anguish, and through these characters, we are faced with the resulting damage where people act in ways that are not easy to watch.
Kidman attacks her role with enthusiasm and daringness, and proves to be a living legend; this piece of screen acting is carved out of gold. She is Charlotte Bless, a wild Southern death row groupie, who steals all the attention from other characters and creates the most venomous creature in this drama. Not only that she is psychologically damaged and fearless (the prison scene with Cusack and the beach scene with Efron), but she is also a marching libido. Lee Daniels has disclosed the information that if Kidman hadn’t intervened, he would have removed the scene in which she ‘helps’ Zac Efron.
15. Stoker (Chan-Wook Park, 2013)
A psychological mystery-thriller which looks like a gothic fairytale, directed by South Korean acclaimed filmmaker and written by ‘’Prison Break’’ main star, Wentworth Miller, sees Kidman as Evie Stoker, a disinterested widowed mother. Her despise and despair add to the film’s dream reality and gloom while she desperately craves bonding and affection. Her daughter craves for the same man as she does, and while maintaining her distance and indifferenc, Evie becomes unstable and shows her ‘emotions’ in the most subtle ways.
The director was so eager to have Nicole play Evie (even though she originally turned down her role since she wanted to spend time with her family), that he placed the setting in Nashville, near her home. Kidman remains an appealing and strong screen presence, always lifting the entire enterprise by her tremendous performance.
Author Bio: Nikola Savić is a major cinephile with main interests in deeply emotional and thought-provoking films. This travel enthusiast also holds a Masters Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Kragujevac.