best film:   This is not an easy one. It is sort of fun to just go down the list to survey Tilda Swinton’s full filmography. It does look like The Grand Budapest Hotel is the single best film. There are many other prime candidates. Near the top of the list is Moonrise Kingdom. Tilda has just a few minutes on screen in her collaborations with (to date) Wes Anderson but she is certainly making herself part of the greater good in Wes’ ever-expanding ensemble universe. Though they may be a half-step below The Grand Budapest Hotel, both Orlando and We Need to Talk About Kevin are worthy of debate in this category.  Swinton’s contribution is much more essential to these two films.


best performance:  It is either Orlando or We Need to Talk About Kevin- both would be acceptable answers. Next on the list would be Michael Clayton and it is sort of jarring to see how straight and narrow Michael Clayton seems in comparison (she is still magnificent here) with the vast majority of her films. Orlando feels like the role only Tilda would have played. Director Sally Potter has a penchant for close-ups in Orlando, and who could blame her with a performer as captivating as Swinton. Swinton is not only one of her generation’s most talented actors- but she is also perfectly cast in Potter’s film as the “androgynous” (in the text)- David Bowie-like (she would lean into that comparison again in A Bigger Splash as well) Orlando— “ambiguous sexuality”.


Swinton plays Orlando- addressing the camera directly. The film is broken up with a series of formal chapter titles marking different times and forms of Orlando– “1600 Death” and “1610 Love” “1650 Poetry” and “1700 Politics” and so on. This is a wildly ambitious work- shapeshifting and time traveling.


from Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin – Swinton serves as Ramsay’s walking zombie in an expressionistic world.  Swinton’s Eva Khatchadourian character is barely holding onto reality after a past trauma.



stylistic innovations/traits:  Tilda Swinton seems to only work with auteurs on artistically ambitious projects. She is an indie/arthouse goddess at this point- that is her brand. Her brand stands for creativity and risk-taking in her roles (and who she chooses to collaborate with). She has an abundance of range and certainly a distinct—non-traditional Hollywood/glamour look. She is a breath of fresh air and a singular talent. Orlando is a major feather in her cap- but even before that in 1992 Swinton was a big part of the avant-garde British film scene working with artist Derek Jarman. To date Swinton has been in twenty-four (24) archiveable films and she feels destined to hit thirty (30) and go beyond (she slows no sign of slowing down in her sixties here). She really has not done much in terms of traditional (that word is just not her) romantic or heroic leads—but if there is a trend in her body of work- it does seem like she has a gift for comedy. She has had several collaborations with the Coen Brothers, her cartoon-like performances in the films of Bong Joon-ho along with collaborations with Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson (three apiece) as the sort of arthouse deadpan kings. If you add those up- that is ten (10) films where she plays comedic characters- but to showcase her range- there is not a stich of humor in her best three performances.


Swinton as the unlikely villain Karen Crowder from Michael Clayton


directors worked with:   Few actors can outmatch Tilda Swinton here. Luca Guadagnino (3), Jim Jarmusch (3), Wes Anderson (3) The Coen Brothers (2), Joanna Hogg (2), Bong Joon-ho (2), Charlie Kaufman, Bela Tarr, David Fincher, Lynne Ramsay, Terry Gilliam. It is very telling that she has gone out of her way to work on artistic projects (a collaboration with Bela Tarr?-wow).


Swinton as Marianne Lane in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash– utterly convincing as a mute David Bowie-like rock artist



top five performances:

  1. Orlando
  2. We Need to Talk About Kevin
  3. Michael Clayton
  4. I Am Love
  5. A Bigger Splash



archiveable films

1992- Orlando
1999- The War Zone
2001- Vanilla Sky
2002- Adaptation
2005- Broken Flowers
2007- Michael Clayton
2007- The Man from London
2008- Burn After Reading
2008-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2009- I Am Love
2009- The Limits of Control
2011- We Need to Talk About Kevin
2012- Moonrise Kingdom
2013- Only Lovers Left Alive
2013- Snowpiercer
2013- The Zero Theorem
2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel
2015- A Bigger Splash
2016- Hail, Caesar!
2017- Okja
2018- Suspiria
2019- The Souvenir
2021- The French Dispatch
2021- The Souvenir: Part II