Cate Blanchett is a two-time Oscar nominee and for over three decades, she’s been one of the best working actors in the film industry. Blanchett is the master of subtly and glamour, with an aura reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She takes big risks and is a generous scene partner, two qualities that have earned her two Oscars and several nominations.
Here are the best Cate Blanchett performances to watch ahead of the 2022 Oscars, where she is nominated (and very likely to win) for her career-best role in Tár.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), streaming on Paramount+
While Cate Blanchett does not have much screentime in The Talented Mr. Ripley (one of the best films of the 1990s with one of the best casts of any decade or century), she delivers a subdued but powerful performance that is indicative of her prowess. In the film, Blanchett plays Meredith Logue, an American socialite who befriends Matt Damon’s Mr. Ripley, who is lying to her about his identity. Her character is not in the novel the film is based on, but was added to the film specifically with her in mind by director Anthony Minghella, who expanded the role even further. Entrancing and glamorous as always, Blanchett shows her signature strength in restraint: in Talented Mr. Ripley she knows she’s irresistible, but also knows she is not the main event amongst a cast including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And yet, despite her limited role, the film would not be the same without her.
The Aviator (2004), streaming on Netflix
Katherine Hepburn was a legend. The actor, who starred in classic comedies including Adam’s Rib and The Philadelphia Story, had a lot in common with Cate Blanchett: tall, slender, and glamorous. Blanchett’s performance as Hepburn in The Aviator, which won her an Oscar for best supporting actress, is so good because it’s not mimicry. Instead of doing an impression of Hepburn’s recognizable raspy Mid-Atlantic accent and demeanor, Blanchett created an aura of Katherine Hepburn. But most importantly, Blanchett let her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio do a majority of the heavy lifting.
Notes on a Scandal (2006), available to rent on Amazon
In Notes on a Scandal, Blanchett successfully faces off with Judi Dench, one of the best to ever do it (it being scenes so tense you need the world’s biggest, sharpest knife to cut them). In the psychological thriller, Blanchett plays Sheba Hart, an art teacher who has an affair with a student. Sheba’s friend and co-worker Barbara, a veteran teacher played by Dench, discovers the dark secret and their friendship and lives unravel. Blanchett’s choice to let Dench take control benefits both their performances, but especially her own: restraint is a common theme in Blanchett’s career, and this performance is the best example: like her performance in Tár, she is so restrained that she is explosive.
I’m Not There (2007), streaming on Amazon via Freevee
Todd Haynes’ eccentric ensemble film I’m Not There is an experimental biopic of Bob Dylan, that tells the singer-songwriter’s story through various vignettes with the Dylan-type character played by a different actor in each. It’s also Blanchett’s biggest, boldest performance to date, right in front of her role as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Blanchett plays the most iconic version of Dylan in the film: the messy brown hair, and the black square sunglasses. Although Blanchett at this point was known for playing glamorous feminine roles with a hint of masculine energy as Hepburn in The Aviator and as Queen Elizabeth II in Elizabeth, Blanchett is still alluring. She deepens her voice but not too much, changes her physicality but not too much (her precision remains), and allows herself to be the biggest performer in the room. Blanchett received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for the role. She should have won, but she did not.
Blue Jasmine (2013), available to rent on Amazon
Unfortunately, one of Blanchett’s best performances, which won her an Oscar for best actress, was written and directed by alleged sex predator Woody Allen and co-stars Alec Baldwin and Louis C.K. But Blanchett, who excels at playing glamorous women in dire circumstances, especially mentally, is the titular Jasmine (blue figuratively, not literally), a New York socialite who flees to San Francisco after her marriage to a wealthy man falls apart. Jasmine, distraught from the loss of a comfortable, wealthy, lifestyle, tries to adjust to a more low-key life. Blanchett uses every part of herself to convey Jasmine’s struggle from the blink of an eye, the twitch of a finger.
Carol (2015), streaming on Amazon via Freevee
This is the film that turned Blanchett into a lesbian icon. In the best Christmas film ever made by director Todd Haynes (who directed her in I’m Not There), Blanchett plays Carol, an elegant but stagnant 1950s housewife whose friendship with a young photographer she meets at a department store gets complicated. Blanchett’s mystique is a perfect match for the mysterious character, but also for Haynes’ unique approach to filmmaking. Together, Blanchett and Rooney Mara carefully capture melancholy, fragility, and attraction in a modern masterpiece.
Tár (2022), streaming on Peacock
Cate Blanchett’s performance as Lydia Tár, a disgraced lesbian icon and EGOT winner who threatens a German child in Todd Fields’ Tár, is the best, most committed performance of her career, which I have popped off about elsewhere. It earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress. If she wins – which is likely – it will be her third win.