Mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig has seamlessly transitioned from actress to director over the last few years of her career. A sincere and relatable performer, her most notable acting credits include the titular role in Frances Ha and providing one of the many voices in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.
Her solo directorial debut Lady Bird earned Gerwig two Academy Award nominations, including the fifth best director Academy Award nomination for a woman ever. She followed this film up with her take on the beloved novel Little Women, earning a nomination for best adapted screenplay at the 92nd Academy Awards. As an actress and filmmaker, Gerwig has created magic in front of and behind the camera. But which 10 films do critics rank highest on Rotten Tomatoes?
10 The House of the Devil (2009) – 85%
In The House of the Devil, Ti West’s homage to 1980s horror films, Gerwig plays Megan, the friend of the film’s protagonist Samantha Hughes. In need of money, Samantha takes a babysitting job at an isolated mansion and when eerie things start happening, the young woman must fight for her survival.
Megan’s fate in the film is common for many horror film characters, but still shocking. Both West and Gerwig have roles in Joe Swanberg’s movies and use elements from the mumblecore subgenre in their own films. While West mastered mumblegore with his horror films, Gerwig elevated mumblecore to new heights.
9 Nights and Weekends (2008) – 85%
Gerwig co-wrote and co-directed this mumblecore staple with Joe Swanberg, one of her most frequent early-career collaborators. The duo stars as Mattie and James, the long-distance couple at the center of Nights and Weekends. While they love each other, tension builds and complications arise as the two live separate lives in Chicago and New York City.
A realistic and nuanced look at the creation and deterioration of a long-distance romance, Nights and Weekends marks the second film Gerwig co-wrote with Swanberg, following 2007’s Hannah Takes the Stairs. Her sincere performance as Mattie is one of the best in her acting career and shows why she was a prominent fixture in the mumblecore movement.
8 Maggie’s Plan (2015) – 86%
In Maggie’s Plan, Gerwig plays the titular 20-something who wants to have a baby. After falling in love with John, a married writer played by Ethan Hawke, the two have a child and wed themselves. Three years later, Maggie has put everything aside for her child and marriage, leaving her feeling unfulfilled.
She decides to reunite John with his ex-wife, played by a wonderful Julianne Moore. Like many other Gerwig characters, Maggie is a genuine person whose kind heart helps ground this modern screwball dramedy. With Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader in supporting roles, Maggie’s Plan features charming performers and an unconventional take on the rom-com.
7 Jackie (2016) – 87%
Gerwig plays Nancy Tuckerman, the Kennedy Administration’s White House Social Secretary and childhood friend of Jackie Kennedy, in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie. Natalie Portman stars as the tragic First Lady during the first few days following her husband’s 1963 assassination. As Jackie, Portman gives one of the best performances of her career and won a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress.
As Nancy, Gerwig is as honest and warm on screen as she is in real life. Jackie’s dear friend, Nancy took her role within the White House and the First Lady’s life seriously. Larraín’s Princess Diana biopic Spencer has earned similar award buzz as Jackie, and star Kristen Stewart has already received nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards.
6 20th Century Women (2016) – 88%
2016 was a big year for Gerwig as an actress. Along with a supporting role in Jackie, she also starred in Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical drama 20th Century Women. The 1970s-set film follows Annette Bening as a single mother who enlists the help of her teenage neighbor, Elle Fanning, and one of her tenets, Gerwig, in raising and connecting with her 15-year-old son.
Gerwig’s Abigail Porter is a punk artist battling cervical cancer and one of Gerwig’s more complex roles. She takes her pseudo-parental role seriously, teaching Jamie about the feminist movement. Mills used his childhood for inspiration, 20th Century Women blooming from the filmmaker’s experiences as a teen in Southern California. His script earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards.
5 Isle of Dogs (2018) – 90%
In her first collaboration with Wes Anderson, Gerwig plays a supporting role in the auteur’s second stop-motion animated film, Isle of Dogs. She lends her voice to Tracy Walker, an American exchange student who finds herself close to the film’s central conflict. When a young Japanese boy arrives on the title island, a group of local dogs joins him on his journey to reunite with his beloved pet.
During her time in this dystopian Japan, Gerwig’s Tracy becomes a pro-dog activist and the love interest of the film’s human protagonist, Atari. Anderson earned his second nomination for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award, and Gerwig’s voice work earned her a nomination for Best Animated Female from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.
4 Frances Ha (2012) – 92%
Her most famous collaboration with Noah Baumbach, Gerwig co-wrote and starred in the 2012’s Frances Ha. This black-and-white dramedy about grappling with being directionless in early adulthood made Gerwig a star, the actress receiving a Golden Globe nomination.
Gerwig’s Frances is a 27-year-old struggling dancer whose life in New York City goes through a variety of changes following a falling out with her best friend, Sophie. For most of Frances Ha, the titular dancer teeters on the line of becoming a full-fledged adult, finally embracing her blossoming independence by the film’s end. A fantastic coming-of-age-as-an-adult drama, it’s no surprise Frances Ha is one of Gerwig’s top films.
3 Little Women (2019) – 95%
Gerwig earned the third Academy Award nomination of her career for her version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. In the seventh film adaption following the March sisters’ lives, Gerwig uses a non-linear timeline to thread the past and present together to create a unique take on the classic novel. This adaption earned a total of 6 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. The film’s costume designer Jacqueline Durran won Best Costume Design.
Starring Gerwig’s muse Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Little Women features an incredibly talented cast. The warm, genuine performances from rising stars Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen breathe new life into the two youngest March sisters, Amy and Beth. Another frequent Gerwig collaborator, Timothée Chalamet presents a charming and childish take on boy-next-door Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. This film was made with love, each frame resembling an oil painting come to life.
2 Lady Bird (2017) – 99%
Lady Bird, Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, was an award-season hit. The film received 3 Academy Award nominations, earning star Saoirse Ronan the third nomination of her career at just 23-years-old. Gerwig received nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, becoming the fifth woman in Academy history to earn a nomination in the category. The film also competed for Best Picture.
A coming-of-age story centered around a Sacramento teen and her rocky relationship with her mother, the semi-autobiographical film marks the first time Gerwig and Ronan worked together and is a top film its star. For her performance as the hotheaded and complicated Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, Ronan won a Golden Globe. But Laurie Metcalf’s heartwrenching portrayal of a mother who just wants the best for her children is the true standout performance of Lady Bird, her silent drive around Sacramento one of the film’s most beautiful scenes.
1 LOL (2006) – 100%
Gerwig’s film debut, and her first time working with Joe Swanberg, is also her highest ranking on Rotten Tomatoes according to critics, earning 100% from 11 reviews. While the audience scores are not quite as favorable, LOL is still an integral film in the mumblecore subgenre and its cast of nonprofessional actors create a new reality often unseen on screen.
The film explores the implications and impacts of technology on relationships and social interactions by following 3 recent college grads in Chicago who use different means to forge connections. Swanberg stars in and wrote LOL with his friends Kevin Bewersdorf and C. Mason Wells. Gerwig plays a supporting character named Greta who has a relationship via phone with one of the men.
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