best film:  Blue Valentine squeaks past Brokeback Mountain, Synecdoche, New York and Wendy and Lucy for the top spot here. Sadly, Michelle Williams is lacking a masterpiece on her resume and that hurts her case – but there is a cluster of quality films (Shutter Island and Meek’s Cutoff not far behind the three films previously listed) vying for this spot which is something. Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (from 2010 – and still his strongest to date) deserves comparison to brilliant films like Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (1954), Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019).



Michelle Williams as Cindy playing opposite Ryan Gosling in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. Williams had a magical 2010. She not only slays it in Blue Valentine, but she is sensational in Meek’s Cutoff and duels with Leo in a great per-minute supporting performance in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island.



best performance:  Wendy and Lucy. Michelle Williams and Kelly Reichardt take a simple story about a girl and her dog and create 80 minutes of neo-neo realism cinema art on film (semi-grainy 16mm film which is one of Reichardt’s trademarks). This is still Reichardt’s best film to date and Williams is nearly a one-woman show (from an acting standpoint) in every scene. Blue Valentine is a fine choice for this category as well and one could easily craft a solid per-minute performance argument around either Brokeback Mountain (where she steals scenes from a levitating-off-the-ground performance by the late, great Heath Ledger) or Manchester by the Sea (where she and Casey Affleck – two of the best actors of their generation, get an unforgettable showdown meeting between two acting heavyweights).




the first of three collaborations to date between Michelle Williams and Kelly Reichardt – Wendy and Lucy (2008)




stylistic innovations/traits:  It is the depth (her strong Oscar nominated work – one of her four (4) nominations to date as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn does not quite make the cut for her list of her five best performances) of Michelle Williams’ quality work that gets her a slot on this list even if she is yet to be in that big, bold masterpiece. Williams as a talent for embodying pathos and she is well known playing emotional characters in some of the biggest downers of the 21st century cinema. That is nothing to shy away from though and it takes an incredible actor to pull it off. She has clearly been one of the best actors on the planet since the turn of the century. She is versatile with a knack for accent work as well (check out Manchester by the Sea or Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World for evidence of that).




if you are a director and you want your audience to feel like they had just had a loved family member wiped out when they leave the theater (without actually having to experience such a horrific thing) – you are probably casting Michelle Williams in your film (here in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain).




directors worked with:  Kelly Reichardt (3) and this is clearly the crucial collaboration here.  Williams was born in Montana and Reichardt often sets her film in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Ang Lee (1), Todd Haynes (1), Charlie Kaufman (1), Derek Cianfrance (1), Martin Scorsese (1), Kenneth Lonergan (1), and Ridley Scott (1) once each.



top five performances:

  1. Wendy and Lucy
  2. Blue Valentine
  3. Brokeback Mountain
  4. Meek’s Cutoff
  5. Manchester by the Sea



archiveable films

1999- But I’m a Cheerleader
2003- The Station Agent
2005- Brokeback Mountain
2007- I’m Not There
2008- Synecdoche, New York
2008- Wendy and Lucy
2010- Blue Valentine
2010- Meek’s Cutoff
2010- Shutter Island
2011- My Week with Marilyn
2016- Certain Women
2016- Manchester by the Sea
2017- All the Money in the World