best film:  Black Swan is spectacular enough to debate here with Heat. Natalie Portman was just fourteen years old in 1995 at the time of Heat’s release and she plays a smaller part in Michael Mann’s ensemble epic crime saga. Though Portman is solid in her role, there are at least a half dozen actors who make more of an impact on Heat’s brilliance.



best performance:    Natalie Portman gives one of the best performances of the 2010s decade in Black Swan. Cinema history has just ten (10) or eleven (11) real decades to draw upon- so Portman’s possibly decade’s best work here in Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece puts her right there on the all-time short list. Aronofsky certainly deserves some credit for helping shape Portman’s Nina Sayers character. Nina is vulnerable and fragile, childlike, uptight, rigid, and cold at times in a very cutthroat world (Vincent Cassel is perfect in support). Portman has multiple moments of virtuoso acting. When she falls on stage, the look on her face after she exits the stage is an amazing display of acting—this is complete devastation. The final shot in the film- tight in on her face- is another moment that any actor would be lucky to get.



Portman’s colossal achievement in Black Swan– perhaps the best single acting performance in the 2010s decade



stylistic innovations/traits:  Portman is younger than the thirty-four (34) actors listed before her on this list. She was born in 1981. But she has been acting for decades. She burst onto the scene with Léon: The Professional (her debut at age thirteen) in 1994 and really has not looked back. She is off acting with Al Pacino (and performing well) in a top 100 of all-time film in the following year then collaborating with Woody Allen the next. Portman’s transition from a child actor to adult was not without its awkward misstep (she does not look like a great actor in the Star Wars prequels)- but 2004’s Closer with Mike Nichols skyrocketed her career and was her best work to date in 2004 (outacting Julia Roberts, Jude Law – and at least on par with Clive Owen in the film). With the trio of films Black Swan, Jackie¸ and Annihilation, Portman put together a 2010s decade that few female actors, if any, could match.



Pablo Larraín’s Jackie is exactly the kind of film and performance Portman needed to back up her brilliance in Black Swan. It separates her from many very worthy actors yet to appear on this list. Jackie, along with Larrain’s 2021 film Spencer, will be rediscovered a decade or two from now and recognized as quite an artistic accomplishment.



directors worked with:  Nobody more than once in the archives: Luc Besson, Michael Mann, Woody Allen, Anthony Minghella, Mike Nichols, George Lucas, Wes Anderson Darren Aronofsky, Terrence Malick, Pablo Larraín, and Alex Garland.



not many actors get two revelatory performances. Portman had one as a child actor in 1994’s Léon: The Professional, and yet another as an adult in 2004’s Closer (pictured here)




top five performances:

  1. Black Swan
  2. Jackie
  3. Closer
  4. Annihilation
  5. Léon: The Professional



archiveable films

1994- Léon: The Professional
1995- Heat
1996- Everyone Says I Love You
2003- Cold Mountain
2004- Closer
2004- Garden State
2005- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
2005- The V For Vendetta
2007- The Darjeeling Limited
2010- Black Swan
2015- Knight of Cups
2016- Jackie
2018- Annihilation