RANKED! The 8 Best Scarlett Johansson Movies
Photo: Marvel Entertainment
Scarlett Johansson has dominated the movie screen for nearly two decades. Nine years ago, she began her continuing role in the ever-expanded Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Widow, but she had undeniable star power long before this widely-known role.
She’s worked with talented filmmakers like Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze, Woody Allen, Jonathan Glazer, and Joel and Ethan Coen. She likely has many years in the spotlight ahead of her, but for now, here is our definitive list of her eight best films to date.
8. 'The Man Who Wasn't There' (2001)
Johansson was only 16 when she played a key role in the Coen brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There. Billy Bob Thornton plays a mid-century small-town American barber who, like most protagonists featured in Joel and Ethan Coen’s films, is bored with his life. His decision to make a change goes entirely awry. Johansson plays the musically-minded daughter of a friend who he tries to support. It is not often mentioned among the best of Joel and Ethan Coen’s oeuvre, but with cinematography from Roger Deakins, it is well worth a watch.
7. 'The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie' (2004)
After five very successful years on Nickelodeon, SpongeBob SquarePants finally had his day on the silver screen in 2004. The film brings in all of the series’ main cast as well as some new characters. One of the new characters is King Neptune, voiced by Jeffrey Tambor. Plankton steals his crown and frames Mr. Krabs so that he may take over Bikini Bottom once and for all. SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick Star take it upon themselves to journey across the ocean to clear Mr. Krabs’ name, with the help of the King’s daughter Mindy, voiced by Johansson.
6. 'Ghost World' (2001)
Ghost World is a coming-of-age comedy about two American teenage girls named Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson). The two are aimless in the summer after completing high school, and release some boredom picking on a lonely middle-aged man named Seymour (Steve Buscemi). As the summer goes on, the two begin to find themselves drifting apart and toward different walks of life. It is a unique, grounded tale that remains relevant even today, nearly two decades later.
5. 'Hail, Caesar!' (2016)
Joel and Ethan Coen called upon Johansson once again for Hail, Caesar! Her station in life had changed quite a bit in their 15 year hiatus from one another. The 1950s-set Hail, Caesar! revolves around real-life Hollywood “fixer” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), whose job it is to keep celebrity scandals out of the tabloids. Johansson—along with George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, and Alden Ehrenreich—plays one of the high-profile celebrities that Mannix must wrangle. It is a characteristically zany and absurd film from the masterful Coen brothers.
4. 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (2008)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one of the best films in Woody Allen’s body of work. Johansson plays Cristina, one of the two titular characters who go on a journey of self-discovery to Barcelona. She, and her friend Vicky (Rebecca Hall) find themselves entangled with a handsome Spaniard named Juan Antonio Gonzalo (Javier Bardem), who in turn has a volatile relationship with his passionate, on-again, off-again lover Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz).
3. 'Lost in Translation' (2003)
Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is perhaps her most autobiographical film to date, meditating on her own failing marriage within it. Johansson plays Coppola’s proxy, the role of Charlotte, who befriends an equally-lonely soul named Bob Harris—Bill Murray—while both are in Tokyo, Japan. It is a beautiful story of two fragile people meeting briefly in a time of immense social need before going their separate ways.
2. 'Under the Skin' (2013)
Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is nothing short of a chilling masterpiece. Johansson plays an extraterrestrial life form sent to seduce men and lure them back to a mysterious void to be harvested for some unseen purpose or being. It is a stunningly grounded and honest science fiction film that refuses to turn a blind eye to actual human impulse. But the film's success starts and ends with Johansson’s powerfully muted performance as an inhuman that nonetheless evokes sympathy from the audience.
1. 'Her' (2013)
Ironic that Spike Jonze’s Her is arguably Johansson’s greatest role, yet she dedicates only her voice to it. She plays Samantha, the tailor-made artificial intelligence companion to Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely divorcé Theodore Twombly. Jonze takes a somewhat tired concept of AI desiring to be more “human” and makes it emotionally accessible. Johansson’s warm vocal performance is key to it. Interestingly, this was made to function as a response to Jonze’s ex-wife’s Lost in Translation, in which Johansson also stars.