best film: Saoirse Ronan has seven (7) films in the archives and four (4) of them are right at or near the best of their respective year of release. That is an extraordinary ratio and four (4) films of this caliber makes this category a strength for Ronan. Atonement comes first chronologically in 2007. This is Joe Wright’s (a vastly underrated technical master) finest hour – and Ronan plays Briony – a vital character. But it is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest (2014) that ultimately triumphs here in this category. Ronan plays Agatha – a small, but significant role at Zero’s (Tony Revolori) love interest. Five years later it is Ronan this time that leads a talented ensemble – playing Jo March in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – definitely one of the best films of soon to be legendary year of 2019. In 2021, Ronan would again find herself in one of the best films of the year, and again it come working with Wes Anderson. But her role in The French Dispatch is closer to a cameo – just a few lines and there are a dozen or more actors in Wes’ ever-growing band of trope players that have more meat on the bone in their performance in this film.
best performance: There is not much separating Ronan’s top three performances. Her work in Atonement is astonishing, regardless of her age. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy (both very fine actors) have to be on their game to keep up with Ronan in their scenes together. Then, of course, there are the two Greta Gerwig films – Lady Bird and Little Women, that belong in this discussion. Little Women comes away as her best performance to date (with so much potential runway left in her future career). The film bounces with Ronan’s energy. Her Jo March is running down the road, scorching her dress by the fire – so very much alive. She is the best screen Jo March – or at least on par with Hepburn’s 1933 performance. She slays Winona Ryder’s 1994 (commendable – but not transcendent) performance. Ronan comes off with the greatest acting accomplishment of all those talented actors in the cast (Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern and others). The great Meryl Streep does not have many scenes in the film, but she adds something to her character that has never been there before in previous adaptations. And it is a privilege to watch her and Ronan spar briefly. Let’s not jinx it, but we may be looking back on those scenes decades from now talking about those two acting giants, separated by decades in age, working together (no pressure Saoirse Ronan!- haha).
stylistic innovations/traits: New York born, but Dublin raised Saoirse Ronan is the youngest actor on this list. She was born in 1994 giving her quite a bit of padding here (Emma Stone born 1988, Carey Mulligan born 1985 are next). Some may scoff at her placement on the list at such a young age, but she has more than twice as many archiveable films as Liza Minnelli (on this list just a few slots ago) and Ronan’s career as an actor has already lasted more than twice as long in duration as say Grace Kelly. She has an impressive four Oscar nominations before the age of twenty-six (26). For a little comparison, the great Meryl Streep, the all-time leader in nominations for an actor, did not have her first nomination until the ripe old age of twenty-nine (29). Ronan exudes strength in her roles – and often a powerful intellect – almost all of her characters seem to be gifted.
directors worked with: Joe Wright (2), Wes Anderson (2), Greta Gerwig (2)
top five performances:
- Little Women
- Lady Bird
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
|2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel|
|2017- Lady Bird|
|2019- Little Women|
|2021- The French Dispatch|
She’ll star in Foe directed by Garth Davis and shot by the cinematographer of Son of Saul and Sunset. Potentially an archiveable film.
But even more exciting than that is that she’ll lead the next Steve McQueen film, Blitz. McQueen is 5 for 5. Everything he has made is not only in the archives but also atleast top 5 of the year quality. Ronan’s resume is about to get stronger and she’ll add another remarkable performance in series of great performances.
I would never scoff at her placement on this list. If anything, I would rank her even higher. She is the acting genius of her generation (well, her and Florence Pugh) and she already has a resume that most actresses that are way older would kill for. She is also great in Ammonite, by the way (I don’t know if you’ve watched it). Anyway, I’m glad she makes the cut and I’m sure that she’s gonna keep climbing up (she has three projects scheduled for 2023, one of them being the next Steve McQueen film, so this year could be massive for her).
Have you seen See How They Run from last year Drake? It’s a fringe recommend for me – a weak narrative meets with some nice Wes Anderson visuals, genre self-awareness, and two solid performances from Sam Rockwell and, of course, Saoirse Ronan. Even more proof of her talent as a leading lady and her comic abilities, not that she needed it. I wouldn’t put up much of a fight for it if it didn’t end up in the archives, but certainly some stuff there worth chewing on.
@DeclanG- I was able to catch this one last year. Agreed on much of what you say here – just did not quite make the cut – at least after one viewing. The stronger stylistic start in the film sort of faded over the running time – at least that was my impression after first blush.
That’s the 10th new actress in the new actress rankings. After,
The first 6 are in the top 50!!
Quite a big change here. In terms of the biggest loser I think so far it is Liza Minelli who dropped from 51st to 84th.
@Malith- appreciate you putting together this recap so far.
This is epic… i love saoirse both on and off screen
I also don’t want to jinx anything but I think Anya Taylor-Joy is actually Ronan’s equal in talent. Though they are only a couple of years apart in age Ronan is a millenial (just) and ATJ Gen Z so maybe they are not competing against each other ;). Its certainly hard to see them ever competing for the same part as they have completely different strengths. At first I didn’t understand why ATJ was cast as Furiosa being considerably shorter than Theron but I recently watched northman, split and Soho within a few weeks of each other and yes I get it now and am completely on board. Her face, her eyes, her voice bring so much gravity. Ronan of course is a prodigious talent and for me these two stand out ahead of the rest in terms of Hollywood actresses under 30.
Jeez the pic here of Saoirse in Atonement is so adorable.I have to say she got more lead roles/important supporting than any other male/female actress in their teenage years. She is in Joe Wright’s Atonement and lead in Hanna. She is the lead in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. And also important support in Peter Weir’s The Way Back. I have to say I’m a bit surprised to not see The Way Back(2010) in the archives here.
Saoirse being the youngest means no Florence Pugh I suppose. I thought she had a chance with how much you love Midsommar and in my opinion, she has the best performance in Little Women. She will likely have at least two more archived films after this year. I assume at that point, she would be nearly a shoe-in