7 Great Films with Famous Actresses We Shouldn’t Ever Forget

Tens of thousands of films get released every year, with only a couple of hundred making it to your cinema. Let’s take the UK for example: last year, 916 films were cinematically released, but an average Brit only sees 72. So many amazing movies fall under the cracks: thousands are hardly seen upon their release or years later, even if they deserve much better. Be it an Oscar winner from 20 years ago, an early film of a now A-list actor, or an indie that didn’t get enough recognition. 

As Filmzie aims to be a haven for under-represented films, let’s take a look at some films worth remembering starring seven of today’s esteemed actresses.   

Coffee and Cigarettes: Cate Blanchett

Let’s not forget….  11 stories containing coffee, cigarettes, a checkerboard tablecloth and a conversation between people who don’t exactly understand or agree with each other. They are all delightfully quirky, although they vary in quality – Cate Blanchett’s short film is arguably among the highlights. She is filling in for both sides of the conversation, playing a fictional version of herself, a successful actress, and her rude, jealous cousin Shelly who envies Cate’s superstar life. Jarmusch certainly knows how to deliver a film where not much happens, but still deeply resonates. “I think our lives are made of little moments that are not necessarily dramatic, and for some odd reason I’m attracted to those,” he explained for IndieWire.

Ghost World: Scarlett Johansson

Let’s not forget… that Scarlett Johansson was always a mind-blowing and versatile actress, even back in 2001 when she played Rebecca, one half of the central outsider duo. Her best friend Enid and she mostly spend their time mocking the superficial and shallow world around them. One day, they entertain themselves by responding to a man’s newspaper ad for a date, only to meet Seymour (brilliant Steve Buscemi). Introverted Seymour is in his 40s and hates 99 percent of the population, which is why he lives as a hermit, finding joy in obsessive record collecting. Enid admires him immensely: hell, they even cross the line of friendship, which is arguably not the best idea… All the while Rebecca drifts away, focusing on her romantic crush, trying to forge her own path.

The Fountain: Rachel Weisz

Let’s not forget… That death is the road to awe. This mind-bending exploration of love and mortality by the visionary Darren Aronofsky has received mixed reviews upon its release and performed poorly at the box office. No wonder: it’s a film that needs to be rewatched and digested as it shows us three stories over thousands of years. Aronofsky didn’t give up on the project even when his budget got cut in half and his main stars, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, pulled out. He replaced them with unforgettable Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz (back then his wife), and the rest is history. They portrayed several characters throughout three storylines. Jackman is a doctor named Tommy Creo refusing to lose his wife Izzi to a brain tumor,  working on a cure extracted from a Guatemalan tree. Izzi came to terms with her death and leaves an unfinished book for Tom to help him do the same. Its plot is another layer of The Fountain: Queen Isabella losing her kingdom to the Inquisition and a conquistador Tomás Verde eager to find the Tree of Life for her. In the third storyline, a futuristic astronaut is travelling through space in a glass dome that has a tree within, still haunted by Izzi. The stories referring to Mayan culture all tie to the circle of life and the ultimate acceptance of death. 

The Queen of Spain: Penélope Cruz

Let’s not forget… That Penélope Cruz is a queen, always, and particularly in a film where her character portrays an actual queen – Isabella I of Castille. As some have pointed out, the title itself pretty much explains who reigns supreme in this film. Cruz is Macarena Granada, a Hollywood superstar who returns to Spain to work on a movie. If you enjoy a bit of “meta”, this one’s for you, since it’s about an actress shooting a film entitled The Queen of Spain – which makes it a story within a story. It takes place in the 1950s, and Franco’s regime invested significantly into such a patriotic endeavour. One problem though: the whole crew except the main star doesn’t seem to be qualified to deliver a blockbuster… This hilarious comedy set in Franco’s Spain was a part of Berlinale’s lineup in 2017. 

Watch The Queen of Spain on Filmzie! 

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her: Jessica Chastain & Viola Davis

Let’s not forget… that the ways two people process the same trauma can be markedly different. So much so, that they remember the same events differently. Both Him and Her version of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby show a different perspective on one couple’s anguish after their child died. A “Them” version was screened in Cannes, but we recommend watching the films separately, as originally intended. The full picture consists of her inconsolable grief that leads to a suicide attempt and subsequent disappearence from his life – and him trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life after losing his child, wife, and restaurant. They rarely meet, and when they do, they struggle to understand each other and even their memories are not the same. The director Ned Benson was nominated for Un Certain Regard and Golden Camera at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. 

Frank: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Let’s not forget… That dedicated actors such as Michael Fassbender don’t need facial expressions to convey emotions. And great actresses such as Maggie Gyllenhaal persuade us that being a soulmate of a man who wears a fake head 24/7 is completely feasible. Frank (Fassbender) is a genius leader of an avant-garde pop band, who refuses to be defined by what he looks like. The band, including terrifying theremin player Clara (Gyllenhaal), is determined to create a breakthrough album that would completely shatter the music as we know it. Jon (Domnhall Gleeson), who joins them an isolated retreat as a new keyboard player, has a little different view on what success means and secures an exclusive SXSW gig. That proves to be a little too much for Frank, plagued by mental health problems… To call this movie “weird” would be an understatement: Maggie Gyllenhaal even declined the role initially. “I didn’t understand it at all. It took me a while to understand the tone,” she said. However, she couldn’t shake the film off and weeks later, she called director Lenny Abrahamson to tell him she had changed her mind.

Infinitely Polar Bear: Zoe Saldana

Let’s not forget… A heartwarming film that depicts the struggles of growing up with a bipolar parent. The unusual title refers to this disease, characteristic for extreme mood swings. Superbly portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, the film’s main protagonist Cameron does his best to take care of his two daughters. Since he can’t work, his desperate wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) decides to obtain a degree at Columbia – a move that will separate her from her family for 18 months. Cam is technically the caretaker: but it’s often the girls who teach their father how to raise them. Sounds unlikely – dangerous even? Perhaps, but this movie recounts the real-life experiences of the director Maya Forbes, who grew up in similar conditions. She even cast her own daughter to play her as a child. While it’s Ruffalo who was praised by critics for this emotionally exhausting role, Saldana shines as a fierce mother willing to do whatever it takes to be a source of stability for her family. 

Read also: 7 Great Films with Famous Actors We Shouldn’t Ever Forget

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