Laura Dern marked her birthday in 2020 by winning her first Academy Award for “Marriage Story”! It was an appropriate gift for the experienced actress, who has been in scores of high-quality films over the course of her long career.
So, in honor of her birthday this year, let’s take a look at her top 15 films, rated from worst to finest. Dern began her acting career when she was a youngster, about four decades ago.
She appeared to want a more normal existence at first, but her attempts to earn her college degree at the University of Southern California were constantly disrupted by lucrative film appearances.
Her father Bruce Dern is a two-time Oscar nominee (“Coming Home,” “Nebraska”), and her mother Diane Ladd is a three-time nominee (“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” “Wild at Heart,” “Rambling Rose.”).
Dern would go on to receive two Oscar nominations for “Rambling Rose” (1991) and “Wild” (2014), as well as work steadily in cinema and television, and become one of the few second-generation Hollywood performers to equal her parents’ fame.
She has worked on a number of blockbusters, including “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” in addition to the independent films noted above (not to mention her many collaborations with David Lynch).
She’s also had a lot of success on television, earning an Emmy for her role as the fiery Renta Klein on “Big Little Lies,” which also earned her a Golden Globe nomination and a SAG nomination.
She won Golden Globes, SAG Awards, BAFTAs, and Critics’ Choice Awards for her portrayal of a tough-as-nails divorce attorney in Noah Baumbach’s home drama. So it appears that this Hollywood legend’s third time was the charm.
The controversial film “The Master” by Paul Thomas Anderson is a fictitious portrayal of L. Ron Hubbard’s biography and the founding of Scientology.
All three protagonists garnered Oscar nods (Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix, Best Supporting Actor for Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams), but Dern’s minor performance in the film is highly fascinating.
Dern was cast in this true-life story of Rocky Dennis, a youngster born with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a disease that causes his face to be badly damaged, while a student at the University of Southern California.
Dern portrays Rocky’s first love, a young blind girl who is able to get to know the actual boy despite the fact that she is unable to see his face, which most others find repulsive.
In this picture, Dern is incredibly compassionate and empathetic, but it was sadly marred by off-screen debate over the soundtrack.
The dispute is said to be one of the key reasons Cher and Eric Stoltz were not nominated for Oscars despite being considered potential nominees.
8. Little Women
Greta Gerwig manages to discover present-day undertones in the Civil War-era drama while bringing Louisa May Alcott’s oft-adapted masterpiece to the big screen once more.
The March sisters — Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlan) – struggle with feminism and womanhood while growing up in their picturesque Massachusetts home in “Little Women.”
7. Wild at Heart
In this chase film, Dern reteamed with David Lynch for a very different type of part. Whereas in “Blue Velvet,” Dern was innocent and sweet, she is now rather sexual.
In my mind, her passionate declaration that costar Nicolas Cage makes her “hotter than Georgia asphalt” stands out.
Cage and Dern play lovers on the run from assassins hired by Dern’s character’s mother to assassinate Cage. Diane Ladd, Dern’s real-life mother, played her mother and received an Oscar nod for her performance.
6. Jurassic Park
Dinosaurs are brought back to life as part of a theme park in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster. Dern takes on the role of a paleobotanist who is researching the creatures.
While her role isn’t particularly dramatic, it is a breakthrough role in that she isn’t placed as the damsel in distress, which is how women are typically cast in adventure films.
5. Marriage Story
In Noah Baumbach’s devastating domestic drama, Dern won her first Oscar for her fierce performance as a ball-busting divorce attorney.
Marriage Story” follows the disintegration of a New York theatrical director (Adam Driver) and his actress wife (Scarlett Johansson), who wishes to go to Los Angeles with their son.
She enlists the help of the manipulative Nora Fanshaw (Dern), and things quickly spiral out of control.
Dern won Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Critics Choice Awards for the performance, which she won on February 9, 2020, one day before her birthday.
4. Citizen Ruth
Dern had a starring part in Alexander Payne’s debut picture. The film is a comedy on the abortion debate, with Dern playing a young lady who unwittingly becomes famous owing to her inability to avoid being pregnant and then caring for her children once she gives birth.
Dern is especially amusing in a moment where news reporters are filming outside her house, and her euphoric reaction can be seen from both inside and outside.
The moment also demonstrates Payne’s humorous storytelling ability, which he would eventually use in his later works.
Dern was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Reese Witherspoon’s mother in a film that also won Witherspoon an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
The film illustrates the complicated connection between a mother and her daughter, and how it is only after the mother’s death that the daughter comes to understand her mother.
By going on a multi-day journey in the woods, Witherspoon finds peace with her mother and her loss. As the compassionate mother attempting to bond with her child, Dern is simply radiant.
Whether you like it or not, “Blue Velvet” is still one of the most discussed and contested films of all time. In the film, Dern plays the role of the personification of goodness.
She is nearly always dressed in whites and pinks, and she gives the film a genuine sense of brightness.
Dern portrays a damaged lady who is taken in as a servant by an affluent family in order to get away from her desperate life of prostitution.
Dern was nominated for Best Actress and her mother Diane Ladd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for the picture, which earned it a spot in Oscar history. This was the first and only occasion that a mole had been discovered.