10 Best Michelle Williams Movies
Not to be confused with Carey Mulligan, Michelle Williams has proved time and time again to be one of the most prolific and important actresses currently working. Responsible for countless winning dramatic performances and even a couple comedic ones, Williams remains an instant hit-maker whenever her name is attached to a project. A four-time Oscar nominee, Michelle Williams was clearly born to act. Having worked with plenty of the greats — Martin Scorsese, Charlie Kaufman, Kelly Reichardt, Kenneth Lonergan, and Todd Haynes, just to name a few — Michelle is no doubt up for any sort of acting challenge thrown her way. Her performances range from pretty impressive to genuinely astounding, never venturing anywhere near “bad” territory. Simply put, Williams is one of the best in the game.
Synecdoche, New York
The first film to be both written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York is uniquely his own. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and co-starring Catherine Keener, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Michelle Williams, the film sees an award-winning playwright as he struggles to determine where his work ends and his real life begins. Williams is one of Hoffman’s character’s love interests, which ends up being as complicated as his work. She’s exceptional here, though, proving to be a one-of-a-kind actress.
Manchester by the Sea
The movie that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Manchester by the Sea is 2016’s most gut-wrenching Best Picture nominee. It’s a tragic and somber tale of a couple who have faced profound loss, and Williams is one half of that couple. She is incredibly deserving of every single accolade she earned for this performance.
The movie that brought Williams and Heath Ledger together, Brokeback Mountain is a bittersweet love story and a somber portrait of the life of two cowboys in the mid-60s. Co-starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal alongside Williams and Ledger, the film is raw and emotional and memorable. Williams is a huge reason why.
Williams and Leonardo DiCaprio prove to be great leads — the two of them knock it out of the park with Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese’s psychological thriller from 2010. It’s a mysterious and complicated movie in its own right, but Williams’s performance is one thing that remains elegant throughout. It’s a shame the two haven’t worked together again yet.
Williams has been lucky enough to star alongside all kinds of great actors and actresses throughout her career. Blue Valentine is one of the countless examples of this. Each playing one half of a married couple whose relationship is analyzed over the course of many years, Williams and Ryan Gosling help to showcase real life with sublime wisdom and strength. Director Derek Cianfrance has never been better, but Williams never fails to top each performance with the next.
Wendy and Lucy
Her first of a few Kelly Reichardt movies, Wendy and Lucy tracks Williams as Wendy, a young woman who finds her life in shambles after a financial crisis triggered by a few different misfortunes over the course of one summer. This movie is all Williams all the time, proving that — at a time where Williams wasn’t as well-known as she is now — the actress was capable of real greatness. It’s affecting and piercing, resulting in an incredibly important movie.
The Station Agent
Williams’s role is minor in this 2004 independent feature, but it doesn’t matter — acting against Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Richard Kind, Williams has no problem keeping up with the rest of this A-list cast before many of them were as well-known as they are now. It’s a powerful feature, full of charm and deadpan humor, and Williams seems to be perfectly cast.
But I’m a Cheerleader
Arriving in 1999, But I’m a Cheerleader was a groundbreaking film for all kinds of reasons. Panned upon its release for being ridiculous and limp, the film has earned cult status in the decades since its release for its honest and satirical portrayal of the (very real) world of rehab camps for LGBTQIA+ teens from conservative families. A young Natasha Lyonne is the star here, but Clea DuVall and Michelle Williams are the funny and sincere sidekicks.
Williams’s most recent collaboration with filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women stars the actress alongside Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern — the three of them play women from a small American town whose lives intersect in smart and complicated ways. The actors are all at the top of their respective games, giving killer performances that belong in the ranks of their best films so far. Williams is no exception.
Another Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff is a different kind of Western. Powerful and poetic in ways that remind the viewer of Terrence Malick and John Wayne, the film sees Williams playing the leader of a group of settlers heading through Oregon in 1845. It’s a tough watch, to be sure, but one that is worth the struggle simply for Williams’s strength as a performer. It’s quiet and harsh and difficult, but Williams carries it all with ease.
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