Do movie stars exist anymore? The consensus seems to be no. Or, at the very least, new ones aren’t being created past the generation of roughly Leonardo DiCaprio. Which is a shame, because if movie stars were still allowed to thrive in Hollywood now, Emma Stone would certainly be one of them.
After several supporting roles in films like “Superbad” and “Zombieland,” Stone practically burst onto the scene in “Easy A,” her first leading role. As the sharp-tongued but likable teen protagonist in Will Gluck’s comedy, Stone defined her star image immediately: an everywoman appeal mixed with pure charisma, a playfully snarky disposition, and a genuine talent at comedy that makes her pop off the screen. From that film and her Golden Globes nomination, the then 22-year old Stone quickly moved from the teen comedy world into broader pastures, though the projects she chose (including “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies, and “The Help”) didn’t always match her potential.
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2014 was a course correction; she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for “Birdman,” before firmly establishing herself as an awards darling for her role in the movie musical “La La Land.” She won the Best Actress Oscar before she turned 30. Rather than rest on sweetheart roles, Stone has proved ambitious in the projects she has picked since. The Disney “Cruella” films aside, she’s avoided franchise fare in favor of one-off projects like Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite,” which netted her a second Oscar nomination for her hilarious scheming performance.
“The Favourite” was another pivotal film for Stone, as it gave her a bit of arthouse credibility that she has since used to expand her career in new and interesting ways. Through her Fruit Tree production banner, established with husband Dave McCary, Stone got a first-look deal with A24, where she’s helped bring indie films like “When You Finish Saving the World” and the upcoming “Problemista” and “I Saw the TV Glow” to life. She also produced Benny Safdie and Nathan Fielder’s oddball cringe TV series “The Curse” in addition to starring in it, giving an extremely unflattering but thrilling performance as a delusional and self-absorbed reality TV host.
Most importantly, “The Favourite” established a creative partnership between Stone and Lanthimos that has stretched to include three films so far, among them the upcoming anthology “Kind of Kindness.” But first, there’s “Poor Things,” which sees Stone play a Frankenstein monster figure — imagined here as a Victorian woman reanimated by a mad scientist who embarks on a comic odyssey of liberation and sexual awakening. Stone’s performance in the film is among her most acclaimed to date, and netted her a third Oscar nomination. In a strong Best Actress race, she’s a top contender, and it won’t be hard to imagine her up on stage come the ceremony.
In celebration of Stone’s Best Actress nod ahead of the 2024 Academy Awards, IndieWire updated our look at the gifted performer’s best work. In addition to her film performances, we also decided to consider her television roles, which include Showtime’s “The Curse” as well as a Netflix limited series and a smattering of other titles. For this list, we’re ranking based on the quality of Stone’s performance, not necessarily the quality of the film or TV show itself. Read on for Emma Stone’s 15 best performances, ranked.
[Editor’s note: This list was originally published in December 2023. It has since been updated with new entries.]
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