Nicole Kidman, 'The Hours', 'The Others' or ‘Moulin Rouge’?

Joseph Chianese
Joseph Chianese Member Posts: 68

Variety / Everett Collection

Nicole Kidman has captivated Hollywood for more than three decades, with a career marked by transformative roles, outstanding performances and a profound impact on the cinematic landscape. As she receives the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award, Variety honors her career by ranking her top 12 film performances.

Born in Honolulu and raised in Australia, Kidman first made waves in the U.S. with her role in Phillip Noyce’s thriller “Dead Calm” (1989), starring opposite Sam Neill and Billy Zane. Her performance set the stage for more diverse and compelling roles to follow. She soon after earned her first Golden Globe nomination for supporting actress as the mistress Drew Preston in Robert Benton’s gangster film “Billy Bathgate” (1991) opposite Dustin Hoffman.

Kidman has received five Oscar nominations throughout her illustrious career. Her first came as the vibrant showgirl Satine in Baz Luhrmann’s musical extravaganza “Moulin Rouge!” (2001). The following year, she won the Academy Award for best actress for her haunting transformation into author Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s poignant drama “The Hours” (2002). Hollywood continued to recognize her talent with additional Oscar noms including supporting actress in Garth Davis’ “Lion” (2016) and actress for John Cameron Mitchell’s “Rabbit Hole” (2010) and Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” (2021).

Kidman’s adoration from her peers and the media has blossomed with 16 Golden Globe noms across film and television, securing six wins. That also includes a statuette for her performance in the black comedy “To Die For” (1995) which became one of her most notable snubs at the Oscars. Recently she has captivated television audiences in several series, winning two Emmys for her performance in “Big Little Lies.”

Ryan Pfluger

Beyond her film roles, Kidman has also explored television, demonstrating remarkable versatility as a producer. In HBO’s hit miniseries “Big Little Lies,” she not only starred as Celeste Wright, a woman battling domestic abuse, but she also served as an executive producer along with Reese Witherspoon. Her role earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for lead actress, along with the show taking home outstanding limited series.

Kidman’s legacy has been built on her relentless pursuit of authentic and challenging roles that have allowed her to deepen and refine her craft. By continuously selecting projects that defy expectations, she remains a luminous figure in the landscape of modern cinema.

Read Variety’s ranking of Kidman’s best movie performances below and celebrate a career that continues to resonate with audiences worldwide.


'Dead Calm' (1989)

Photo : ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Kidman’s big breakthrough in the U.S. was in the horror-thriller “Dead Calm” by director Philip Noyce, co-starring Sam Neill and Billy Zane. Her performance as a resilient wife confronting peril on the high seas showcased her formidable presence and acting prowess.


'Lion' (2016)

Photo : ©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

Kidman breaks your heart with her remarkable and Oscar-nominated turn as Sue Brierley, the adoptive mother of a young man (Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar) searching for his lost family in India. She displays complex emotions of a mother’s love, fear and quiet strength. Her ability to convey profound emotional truths—such as the joy of unconditional love—brought an essential humanity to the film. You can’t keep the tears from flowing with every word she speaks.


'Malice' (1993)

Photo : ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

In the Harold Becker thriller “Malice,” alongside Alec Baldwin and Bill Pullman, Kidman delivered a hypnotizing performance layered with intrigue. Playing the enigmatic Tracy Kennsinger, her subtle and intense execution perfectly balanced the vulnerability with a mysterious undercurrent. What’s most impressive is her ability to pivot to elicit sympathy and shock from the viewer, a key element in driving the story forward.

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'My Life' (1993)

Photo : ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

In the underrated drama “My Life,” Kidman delivered an exceptional performance in the tear-jerker. Kidman’s portrayal is utterly moving as Gail Jones, the pregnant wife of a terminally ill man (portrayed brilliantly by Michael Keaton). Her ability to convey early onset mourning of her husband as her first child gears up to enter the world underscored her status as a formidable talent in Hollywood. Kidman’s nuanced choices solidified her role as a major influence in the industry, capable of transforming a story through her profound character interpretations.


'Dogville' (2003)

Photo : ©Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection

Directed by Lars von Trier, “Dogville” utilized a minimalist stage setting that relied heavily on the strength of its actors, and Kidman rose to the occasion with a compelling performance as Grace, a mysterious woman harboring deep secrets. Alongside her co-star Paul Bettany, the indie drama used her star power to find audiences and jump into the auteur’s world. The results are pitch-perfect from Kidman’s side.

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'Rabbit Hole' (2010)

Photo : ©Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection

In John Cameron Mitchell’s emotional drama “Rabbit Hole,” Kidman plays Becca Corbett, a woman grappling with the profound grief of losing her child. The role demanded a delicate balance of sorrow and resilience, a challenge that could easily overwhelm a less skilled actress. Kidman masterfully expressed the complex layers of mourning and gradual healing that were essential for the narrative’s unfurling. Her Oscar-nominated performance gently shepherded the audience through the film’s exploration of sorrow and forgiveness.


'Birth' (2004)

Photo : ©New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

Jonathan Glazer’s tense and refined “Birth” features an unforgettable Nicole Kidman. As Anna, a widow who meets a young boy claiming to be the reincarnation of her late husband, she skillfully navigates a complex range of emotions that blend skepticism, vulnerability, and a desperate longing to rekindle lost love. The film’s mysterious and ethereal tone, which could easily falter under less adept handling, is masterfully managed through Kidman’s portrayal, something the Golden Globes noticed. She adeptly brings to life the palpable tension integral to the psychological narrative, subtly expressing the intricacies of a widow’s internal conflict.

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'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999)

Photo : Everett Collection

Under the masterful direction of Stanley Kubrick, Kidman embarked on a mesmerizing journey in the daring “Eyes Wide Shut,” alongside her then-husband Tom Cruise, showcasing their artistic bravery. As Kubrick’s final film, every scene resonates with the weight of his unparalleled legacy, infusing each moment with a profound sense of gravitas. Kidman’s portrayal of Alice Harford, a New York housewife exploring her desires and insecurities, Kidman delves fearlessly into the role. Kubrick’s influence looms large, shaping the narrative with his signature blend of psychological depth and visual splendor. You can’t take your eyes off it.


'The Others' (2001)

Photo : ©Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

In the same year she received her inaugural Oscar nom for “Moulin Rouge,” Kidman delivered a haunting portrayal as Grace Stewart, a haunted mother confronting ghostly apparitions in Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic drama “The Others.” The dual feat in both movies stand as a rare instance where an actor is unquestionably deserving of double recognition in the same category, a practice prohibited by the Academy’s rules. Kidman’s turn, alongside the equally captivating supporting role by Fionnula Flanagan, serves as a reminder of the perennial undervaluation of horror films within the industry.

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'The Hours' (2002)

Photo : ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

As part of a remarkable trio of powerful female performances, Nicole Kidman earned her best actress Oscar with a transformative portrayal of famed novelist Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s sophomore feature. Her inspired performance, complete with a prosthetic nose, captivated audiences and critics alike. Alongside Julianne Moore, double-nominated that year for her roles in this film and “Far From Heaven,” and Meryl Streep, nominated for supporting actress in “Adaptation,” Kidman seamlessly melded into the fabric of the film. It all culminated in a memorable Academy moment when the previous year’s best actor winner, Denzel Washington (“Training Day”), declared, “by a nose…Nicole Kidman.”


'To Die For' (1995)

Photo : ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Suzanne Stone in “To Die For” didn’t just elevate her career; it skyrocketed her to superstardom. Kidman is utterly fearless, playing the role of an ambitious TV weathercaster with dangerously lofty aspirations. With a masterful blend of dark humor and bone-chilling charm, she delivers a sociopathic allure that’s captivating and disconcerting. Her ability to fuse Suzanne’s naive ambitions with a sinister undercurrent radiates with an unsettling energy, cementing this role as a true cornerstone of Kidman’s “Mount Rushmore” of performances. Thankfully the Golden Globes felt compelled to award her the lead actress (comedy) statue. Under the sharp direction of Gus Van Sant, the film’s biting satire perfectly complements Kidman’s contribution, adding that final cherry on top of a truly mesmerizing cinematic experience.

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'Moulin Rouge!' (2001)

Photo : Courtesy of 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS

With eight Oscar nominations, including best picture, “Moulin Rouge,” a poignant romance tinged with romance and tragedy from its opening frame, is elevated by its enchanting musical numbers, each complementing the others. At the heart of the tale is two dynamic turns from leads Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, the latter who received her first Oscar nod for best actress.

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