Julianne Moore is an incredibly decorated and prolific actor, moving from the daytime soap opera world of As the World Turns to the Oscar stage over the course of her nearly four decades in the industry. She has received an Academy Award, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Emmy Awards, and was named one of the greatest actors of the 21st century by The New York Times in 2020. Her accolades show her immense dedication to her craft and speak to the incredible range and emotionality that she is able to conjure on screen. She can play incredibly tough, she can play utterly wounded, and she can play everything in between.
Julianne Moore has done everything. She has dabbled in massive franchise movies like The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and both installments of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay while also balancing deep character dramas like Little Children, A Single Man, and The Hours. She recently wowed audiences with her disturbing role in Netflix’s May December, which reunites her with long-time collaborator Todd Haynes. These are the ten best roles in her incredible acting portfolio.
Update December 11, 2023: In honor of Julianne Moore’s recent Golden Globe nomination for May December, this article has been updated with even more of her great performances and where each title can be streamed.
10 Game Change (2012)
Game Change tells the story of the Presidential election in 2008, showing Senator John McCain as he secures his nomination. In McCain’s eyes, it was time for a “Game Changer” in the position of vice president, and the person to carry out such a change was supposed to be the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore). While Palin earns the admiration of the crowds in a short amount of time, not long after, her initial success comes crushed down when a lack of knowledge in the field of politics rips away her trustworthiness.
Why Game Change is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
Moore prioritized her preparation for this role since it brings along many expectations from opponents as well as supporters of Palin. It could have been easy to make Palin a source of mockery, yet Moore goes to great pain to show the controversial politicians’ very real struggles. The emotional toll her downfall took on her, and how she handled the situation she was in. For playing the role of Sarah Palin, Moore even won a Golden Globe in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in 2013. The award certainly confirmed her impressive performance and easily makes Game Change one of her best movies. Stream on HBO Max
9 The Kids Are Alright (2010)
The Kids Are All Right follows Joni and Laser Allgood (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, respectively), two children who decided to seek out the man who donated sperm to their mothers, Nicole and Jules Allgood (Annette Benning and Juliane Moore, respectively). The two children find the man, Paul Hatfield (Mark Ruffalo), and bring him into their lives, risking tearing their family apart.
Why The Kids Are Alright is one of Moore’s Best Movies.
Moore has a complicated role as a mother and stay-at-home mom who, in an attempt to try to define herself, begins an affair with her Paul. The film explores the complex dynamics of relationships and sexuality, with Moore grappling with a thin line where audiences might not agree with her actions but also don’t hate her and understand what led to this moment. The Kids Are Alright was notable for being one of the first mainstream movies to feature a same-sex couple raising kids and was a hit out of Sundance and with audiences, earning a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Her co-star Mark Ruffalo is currently enjoying the awards circuit with Moore as he has wowed audiences with his role in Poor Things. Rent on Prime Video.
8 Crazy Stupid Love (2011)
Crazy Stupid Love
- Release Date
- July 29, 2011
- Glenn Ficarra , John Requa
Another role where Moore plays a woman having an affair, Crazy Stupid Love, starts off with Moore’s character admitting to her husband (played by Steve Carrell) that she had an affair with one of her co-workers, played by Kevin Bacon. The couple separates, and the two are forced to navigate their lives apart from one another to see who they really are. The film features a rich cast of supporting characters, with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone playing two characters who cross paths with Moore and Carrell’s characters in interesting ways.
Why Crazy Stupid Love is Great
Cheating is one of the worst things somebody can do to another human being, yet Moore is such a talented actress, and the script is so well written that despite her actions, the audience never roots against her. She gives the role a real warmth and depth, where the audience is invited to understand her point of view as a woman who got married and had a family so young that she herself is going through a mid-life crisis that media is so often welcoming of men but not women. She and her husband’s love runs so deep that even when they are apart from one another, they clearly still care for one another, and the audience is left rooting for them to get back together. Moore takes what could be a one-dimensional role and gives it real depth that only the best actors could. Stream on Hulu
7 Magnolia (1999)
- Release Date
- December 10, 1999
This 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson film is a behemoth. With a run time of 188 minutes, Magnolia takes you through a captivating mosaic of interconnected characters and stories, all of which focus on themes of love, forgiveness, and the meaning of the city in which they live. Julianne Moore plays a character named Linda Partridge. Linda is married to a man named Earl, who is bedridden and dying of cancer. She had originally married Earl for his money, but has since fallen in love with him. While dealing with the death of her lover, Linda goes through a range of emotions: rage, self-hatred, guilt, sadness, and everything in between.
Why Magnolia is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
Moore works the character perfectly and somehow comes out on top among the other top-tier actors (Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, etc.) featured in this film. The time commitment of this film may be big, but it is well worth a watch. With beautiful cinematography, a stunning soundtrack composed by Aimee Mann, and very talented acting, the picture has practically everything that a person would want in a film. Rent on Apple TV
6 Still Alice (2014)
- Release Date
- December 5, 2014
- Richard Glatzer , Wash Westmoreland
Still Alice is a heartbreaking 2014 film directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland that tells the story of a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Julianne Moore plays the titular Alice, who is a genuinely good human being who begins to deteriorate because of her condition. Sharing the screen with Moore is Alec Baldwin, and unlike the two actors’ comically flippant relationship in the series 30 Rock, Baldwin’s character, John, is married to and completely in love with Alice. Their touching relationship comes under extreme duress, as Alice’s mental faculties continue to deteriorate.
Why Still Alice is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
Baldwin and Moore demonstrate a tender chemistry, and the honest and upsetting depiction of Alzheimer’s is something that is rarely seen on screen. It offers a clearer insight into life with the disease, whether it is about the person who is actually affected or those who are closely related, and subsequently offers comfort as well as empathy. The film has a long list of awards, including an Oscar for Best Actress for Julianne Moore, the fifth of her nominations and her first win. All the praise for this film is well deserved. Rent on Prime Video
5 The Big Lebowski (1998)
This Coen brothers classic follows the story of bowler and certified chiller Jeff Lebowski (otherwise known as ‘The Dude’), as he is mistaken by a millionaire with the same name, who seeks repayment for a rug that was ruined by a misinformed debt collector. The Dude gets caught up in the middle of wealthy Jeff “Big” Lebowski’s problems, all the while searching for the rug that is rightfully his, in the absurdist, bizarre classic The Big Lebowski. Julianne Moore plays the wealthy Jeff “Big” Lebowski’s daughter. The character, Maude, is an eccentric, reserved, and peculiar artist. Maude’s iconic introduction in the film sees her swinging through the air, blindfolded, holding two paintbrushes while she’s splattering paint across a canvas as she moves above it.
Why The Big Lebowski is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
Even though her character is not featured very prominently throughout, Moore does an excellent job of portraying this very Coen-constructed, idiosyncratic character, a very strong and iconoclastic woman who makes you remember her long after she’s left the scene (thanks in large part to a ridiculous dream sequence). Although the character seems to have very grandiose methods, her personality is reserved yet confident. If anyone says that Moore isn’t one of the best parts of the film, then, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Stream on Netflix
4 Children of Men (2006)
Children of Men
- Release Date
- September 19, 2006
- Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi , Mishal Husain , Rob Curling , Jon Chevalier , Rita Davies , Kim Fenton
The dystopian science fiction film Children of Men takes place in a world where women are no longer able to give birth due to unknown causes. Without the progression of humankind being possible, civilization turns to chaos. In this heavily policed state, a group of revolutionaries and activists embark on a mission to transport miraculously pregnant women to a sanctuary at sea. Julianne Moore shares the screen with Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejofor, and Michael Caine. She plays an activist who is the former lover of the main character, Theo Faron (Owen), and she convinces him to help with the radicals’ mission to transport the pregnant women.
Why Children of Men is one of Moore’s Best Movies
Moore’s character only appears in the first half hour or so of the film, but she is immediately impressive, acting in a way that displays her character’s intimate (and yet broken) relationship with Theo with hardly any words. Her determination works to push the story forward, along with the masterful single-take car scene, which builds from romantic playfulness to dramatic intensity. This 2006 film is a must-watch for any lovers of the science-fiction genre or even cinephiles in general. Rent on Prime Video
3 Far From Heaven (2002)
In the 2002 drama Far From Heaven, which was directed by Todd Haynes, the main character, Cathy Whitaker, seems to have it all. A husband, children, a home, and a respectable social status – the dream of many couples in the 1950s. However, Cathy’s perfect world suddenly begins to crumble when she finds out about her husband’s homosexuality. The only thing giving her comfort is her friendship with Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), who works as their gardener. While she is grateful for his support, their connection adds to the decline of her social status, since he is African-American. In combination with her failing marriage and developing feelings for Raymond, her life turns into a roller coaster of emotions.
Why Far From Heaven is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
Moore’s portrayal of Cathy Whitaker starts off by highlighting her fragility and her idea of a perfect life. With sudden changes being thrown at her, Cathy is forced to adapt and open her eyes to a new reality. Moore does an outstanding job of conveying the depth of her character’s despair during those times in which her entire foundation is cracking. She successfully adds a much-needed softness to her character, while allowing for a change towards a more open-minded reality. With her outstanding acting skills, Moore manages to capture Cathy’s transformation in a genuine way, and shows how she finally sees the dark sides of her old life. Rent on AppleTV
2 May December (2023)
Read Our Review
Director Todd Haynes’s recently released movie May December tells the story of middle-aged Gracie (Julianne Moore) and her relationship with her husband Joe (Charles Melton). A tremendous public scandal shook their past, but Gracie especially had closed that dark chapter a long time ago. When famous actress Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) visits the couple as preparation for a movie about their life, Gracie is overcome with worry about Elizabeth revealing the shocking sides of her relationship.
Why May December is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
May December captures the essence of real-life sex offender Mary Kay Letourneau’s disturbing story, which the film draws heavily from. While the topic entails multiple moments of shock throughout the movie, giving space to such a story is important nonetheless. May December will certainly open the eyes of many and hopefully open more ears to those who have found or still find themselves in a similar situation. Apart from the distressing storyline, Moore delivers a fascinating performance. She successfully conveys Gracie’s behavior and thought processes while having to keep up a facade of twisted truths and deep-running lies. It is no wonder she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. Stream on Netflix
1 Boogie Nights (1997)
A great Paul Thomas Anderson flick that features Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights is arguably the film that solidified the director’s status as a master. The 1997 film follows Eddie Adams, played by Mark Wahlberg, as he makes a break into the pornography industry as a young male actor. The film details the hardships and realities of famous actors in the booming ’80s porn scene, but also the comradery and community which develops between outsiders in any field. Julianne More plays a character named Amber Waves, another actor in the industry. Waves is a very popular model, but with her stardom comes unintended consequences. She finds herself in a custody battle with her husband, as he sees her as an unfit mother due to her vocation.
Why Boogie Nights is one of Julianne Moore’s Best Movies
Moore very elegantly and tactfully portrays this character as endearing and relatable. Waves porn affiliation and substance abuse issues give her trouble in her personal life, but Moore adds an incredible level of humanity to the character and effectively conveys Waters as a victim of circumstance rather than a lost cause Junkie. It’s an endlessly complicated character, and Moore delivers a brilliantly meticulous, emotionally poignant performance to suit it. Rent on AppleTV
Watch MovieWeb’s interview with Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman about their latest film, May December.