best film:   Anna Paquin has one film from the 1990s (The Piano), one from the 2000s (25th Hour), and one from the 2010s (The Irishman) to vie for the top slot in this category. Paquin is a larger part of Jane Campion’s film (The Piano) than the other two, but it is Spike’s 25th Hour that edges out the other films as the best film of her career thus far.


Anna Paquin as Mary D’Annunzio in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. Paquin is part of a ridiculously accomplished acting ensemble that includes Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, and Brian Cox.


best performance:  The decision comes down to two films here. Paquin is brilliant in Kenneth Lonergan’s long delayed Margaret (2011). This film is not on the level of Jane Campion’s The Piano but Paquin is just a tour de force as Lisa Mochen (no character in the film has the name “Margaret” – the title refers to Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem read during the film by Paquin’s character in the classroom). Paquin marvels constantly during the long running time of Lonergan’s Margaret. She is sweet and empathetic one minute and then selfish, even cruel the next. She is also very well cast as a New Yorker after 25th Hour and The Squid and the Whale from previous work.  In The Piano, Paquin plays Flora McGrath, the daughter of Holly Hunter’s Ada McGrath. Paquin’s accomplishment in this film is considerable.  Hunter’s character speaks through her piano and her daughter Flora. Paquin is a riot – loud, moody, telling tall tales and throwing fits.


Margaret is an emotional epic – volcanic and operatic.


stylistic innovations/traits:   This is going to sound unkind but “outspokenness” is one of the defining characteristics for Paquin’s characters over her career. Maybe “spirited” and “verbal” works as well from The Piano to 25th Hour to Margaret.  Paquin won an Oscar in her debut (The Piano) at age eleven (11) – just one year older than Tatum O’Neal for the youngest of all-time. She would be in another five (5) archiveable films over the next decade – certainly not an easy accomplishment for such a young actor (not that it is easy for an actor of any age). Her film career has not always prospered as an adult, but Margaret would be a career highlight for any actor.  The impressive list of auteurs below would certainly speak to Paquin’s talent.


Paquin alongside Holly Hunter in The Piano. Paquin is wondrously obstinate and fierce.


directors worked with:  Jane Campion (1), Carroll Ballard (1), Steven Spielberg (1), Spike Lee (1), Noah Baumbach (1), Kenneth Lonergan (1), and Martin Scorsese (1)


top five performances:

  1. Margaret
  2. The Piano
  3. 25th Hour
  4. The Squid and the Whale
  5. Fly Away Home


archiveable films

1993- The Piano
1996- Fly Away Home
1997- Amisted
1998- Hurly Burly
2000- Almost Famous
2002- 25th Hour
2005- The Squid and the Whale
2011- Margaret
2019- The Irishman