Celebrate Women’s History with These 10 Life-Changing Performances

The New World, Q'orianka KilcherNew Line Cinema via Everett Collection

Last year alone, films like Blue Jasmine, 12 Years a Slave and Philomena were driven by the brilliant transformations of actresses like Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o, and Judi Dench. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month (looking forward to more exciting performances from these and other great actresses), let’s take a look back at just a few of the many, many life changing performances in some of the best biopics and period pieces from recent years.

Q’orianka Kilcher, The New World

You thought you knew the story of Pocahontas until director Terrence Malick introduced us to a whole new world. Kilcher’s performance was so awe-inspring it practically re-told and re-wrote history itself.

Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Stiles, Ginnifer Goodwin, Julia Roberts, Mona Lisa Smile

Yes. Pretty much every actress you love is in this movie. Set in the 1950s, this amazing film tells the story of a group of Wellesley students who get their lives shaken up when Julia Roberts shows up as their free-thinking art professor. 

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

When Cotillard won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Lead Role for her role as beloved French singer Edith Piaf, nobody in the world cried foul. Because there aren’t enough awards in the world for what she did in La Vie en Rose. A stunning, haunting, fitting tribute from one French star to another.

Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer, The Help

Spencer took home the Academy Award in 2012 for her portrayal of Minny Jackson, a black maid working for a particularly cruel white woman in the ’60s, and costar Davis was nominated. As far as the clip above, one YouTuber describes it as “The most satisfying scene in cinematic history.” We’re inclined to agree.

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn? Damn near flawless.

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth

But Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth? EVERYTHING!

Angela Bassett, What’s Love Got to Do with It

No offense to Tina Turner, but Angela Bassett was the best Tina Turner of all time.

Laura Linney, Kinsey

It may have been Liam Neeson’s flick, but Linney played the wife of the famed scientist and, for many of us, absolutely stole the show.

Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

If you’ve somehow managed to go through life not being in love with Michelle Williams, then you clearly have not seen My Week with Marilyn. Do yourself a favor and make it happen. NOW!

Jennifer Lopez, Selena

If you can make it through J Lo’s performance of Selena Quintanilla‘s life and work without crying, you are a martian robot lacking the full understanding of Selena Quintanilla. 

Kate Winslet, The Reader

Granted there are other Kate Winslet movies to choose from. But when you really get down to it… no. No, there aren’t.