best film: Breaking the Waves is certainly one of the best films in cinema history. I had it inside my top 20 the last time I updated my list—so it’s the choice here. That said, my most recent visit to PT’s Punch-Drunk Love makes me think that also might be a top 100 all-time film. If that’s the case it’s pretty incredible that a contemporary auteur has not one but two top-100 films where she plays a crucial (Breaking the Waves absolutely depends on her) role.

best performance:  Breaking the Waves here and it’s not close. It’s one of the top five female film performances of all-time up there with Falconetti in Passion of Joan of Arc, Bergman in Casablanca, Masina in La Strada. Gena Rowlands in Woman Under the Influence among a few others.  Like Falconetti’s performance, this is littered with close-ups that highlight the performance and Watson’s abundant talent. Watson’s Bess McNeill has everything. She’s the victim, a co-conspirator, she’s a touch mad (or seems a such for much of the film) and has dialogue with herself (or God). It’s an uncanny performance, transcendence art and an astonishing debut.

stylistic innovations/traits: I’d say she’s known for playing characters a little off, but aside from Breaking the Waves’ Tess she mostly plays pretty centered characters. Clearly, as much as I like her work in films 2-5 here below, she’s not here without that landmark performance. Those that object to her being at #30 here ahead of most of her peers may not put as much stock in one, singular performance—but clearly I do—being this good in a masterpiece of this caliber rarely happens in cinema history.

directors worked with: Nobody more than once but we have Altman, Von Trier and PT Anderson here

Top 5 Performances:

  1. Breaking the Waves
  2. Punch-Drunk Love
  3. Gosford Park
  4. The Boxer
  5. Synecdoche, New York

Archiveable films

1996- Breaking the Waves
1997- The Boxer
2001- Gosford Park
2002- Punch-Drunk Love
2005- The Proposition
2008- Synecdoche, New York
2012- Anna Karenina
2014- The Theory of Everything