It says a lot about Julianne Moore’s talent that the film that won her an Oscar doesn’t even crack her a list of her top ten best.

After becoming a familiar face at the Academy Awards with four nominations between 1997 and 2002, Moore received her richly deserved Best Actress trophy for playing a woman with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014’s “Still Alice.” Moore is predictably excellent in that movie, hitting all the right notes over the course of its tearjerking 100-minute runtime. And although that prestige picture finally got her the gold at the ceremony, there’s plenty more interesting, unique, and memorable works in her filmography to celebrate.

The child of a military family and a theater student at Boston University, Moore began her career winning a Daytime Emmy for her work on the soap opera “As the World Turns” in 1988. A 1990 theater production of “Uncle Vanya” got her noticed by film auteur Robert Altman, and she was later cast in his 1993 ensemble film “Short Cuts.”  The acclaim she received for “Short Cuts” helped her break out, and her first leading role in Todd Haynes’ mesmerizing 1995 psychological horror “Safe” helped establish Moore as a permanent fixture in prestige filmmaking. Aside from some minor forays into blockbusters like “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “The Hunger Games,” the actor has been most at home in intimate dramas and ensemble epics, like “Boogie Nights,” “The End of the Affair,” “A Single Man,” and way too many others to list. She’s returned work with Haynes several times, including “Far From Heaven,”  “Wonderstruck,” and their latest, “May December.”

On screen, Moore can do anything; she’s been a porno actress in “Boogie Nights” and an eccentric artist in “The Big Lebowski.” But if there’s an archetype that’s most frequently appeared across her characters, it’s the housewife. Most of her famous roles — from “Safe” to “The Hours” to “The Kids Are All Right” — can be described as housewives, who often hide their dissatisfaction with their relationships and their lives from the people around them. Moore is adept at teasing the inner lives and idiosyncrasies of these women out, making them full, complex individuals that aren’t always worth rooting for but are always relatable. Her latest film with Haynes twists her common part inside out. As Gracie — a figure inspired by the notorious ’90s Mary Kay Letourneau case — in the hit Netflix melodrama “May December,” Moore plays a woman who has done terrible things, grooming a 13-year-old boy at 39 and marrying him before he leaves high school. It’s an unflattering part, but she commits to it fully, and if Gracie isn’t as easy to like as many of Moore’s other roles, she’s certainly a character that’s difficult to forget.

With Moore up for a Golden Globe for her work on “May December,” IndieWire is revisiting her past performances to determine what’s the best on an overall stellar resume. The films listed here are placed based on Moore’s performances rather than overall quality, and range from her first features in the ’80s all the way to now. Read on for our list of Julianne Moore’s 10 best performances, ranked from “worst” to best.

Leave a comment