Critic's Picks: Charlize Theron's Best Performances

4:41 PM 4/21/2016

by Stephen Dalton

THR film critic Stephen Dalton ranks the 'Huntsman: Winter's War' star's most impressive performances.

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  1. 10
    10

    The Yards

    2000

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    Modelling short dark hair, Theron confirms her serious ensemble-drama chops in James Gray’s operatic saga of crime and punishment, playing a member of a crooked New York dynasty alongside a heavyweight cast including Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, James Caan and Ellen Burstyn.

  2. 9
    10

    The Devil’s Advocate

    1997

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    Making a splash with an early breakthrough role, Theron plays the newlywed wife of a lawyer with diabolical connections in Taylor Hackford’s Faustian gothic thriller. The 21-year-old virtual novice holds her ground impressively opposite two famous male co-stars, Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves.

  3. 8
    10

    The Burning Plain

    2008

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    Theron is both co-producer and co-star of this somber feature debut from Mexican novelist and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. The time-scrambled, pan-generational plot has its flaws but Theron gives an alluring, layered performance as an anguished Oregon woman with tragic family secrets. Kim Basinger and Jennifer Lawrence co-star.

  4. 7
    10

    Aeon Flux

    2005

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    Karyn Kusama’s visually dazzling sci-fi thriller, based on a manga-style cartoon, stars Theron as a cat-suited freedom fighter battling against the repressive ruling regime in a dystopian future society. The movie flopped but it established Theron’s kick-ass action credentials a decade before Mad Max: Fury Road.

  5. 6
    10

    A Million Ways to Die in the West

    2014

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    Theron proves her sharp-shooting comedy skills again, elevating Seth MacFarlane’s uneven western spoof as the captive trophy wife of Liam Neeson’s sadistic outlaw, who also becomes the romantic interest of MacFarlane’s hapless cowboy anti-hero.

  6. 5
    10

    Snow White and the Huntsman

    2012

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    Clearly savoring every high-camp diva tantrum, Theron gives great evil stepmother in this lavish reboot of the Snow White story. In a rare villainous role, she is the best thing in the movie.

  7. 4
    10

    North Country

    2005

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    An Academy Award nomination was Theron’s reward for her gritty, unglamorous turn as a blue-collar Minnesota mineworker in Niki Caro’s powerful issue-based legal drama, which was inspired by a game-changing class action court case about sexual harassment in the workplace.

  8. 3
    10

    Mad Max: Fury Road

    2015

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    Whatever the name on the title, it is Theron’s fiery star performance as fem-punk warrior princess Furiosa that provides the dramatic rocket fuel for George Miller’s glorious reboot of his post-apocalyptic sci-fi saga.

  9. 2
    10

    Young Adult

    2011

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    In a deliciously unsympathetic star turn, Theron stars in Ivan Reitman’s whip-smart black comedy as a self-absorbed YA novelist who suffers an early midlife meltdown and returns to her hometown with a crazy scheme to win back her married ex-boyfriend.

  10. 1
    10

    Monster

    2003

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    Theron earned an Oscar for her stunning physical transformation into America’s first female serial killer, the mentally unbalanced Aileen Wuornos, in this bleakly sympathetic blend of fact and fiction from writer-director Patty Jenkins. Theron is barely recognizable behind heavy make-up, prosthetic teeth and a bulked-up body.

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