It doesn’t make much sense to talk about Scarlett Johansson without talking about sex, baby. She’s won Esquire’s “Sexiest Woman Alive” TWICE, tying Magaret Thatcher’s record from the go-go ’80s. Truly, in perusing her filmography, it becomes clear that she’s used her “bombshell” status to the fullest possible advantage. I don’t know how you feel, but I’m not particularly mad at her for this, you use what you got, you flaunt to taunt, heck I use my giant pasty belly for ballast in every body of water I come across.
But my giant pasty belly is not the topic at hand, as we’ve got some Scar-Jo (as she’s known to lovers) to ponder. Remember, much as with our Cameron Diaz manifesto, these rankings are based solely on Johansson’s contribution, and not the overall quality of the film, though of course they tend to dovetail.
First off, one I missed, which proves the central conceit, “Under the Skin”:
Here she’s plays a sexy alien killer. But who hasn’t?
19. “He Just Not That Into You”
Here we have Johansson being P-A-I-D to don red and get bendy. Not her finest hour (I assume that’s how long it took her to film all her scenes for this catastrophe).
18. “Don Jon”
I’m just as much a sucker for a Jersey accent as the next guy (who’s not a sucker at all for it), but even I have to take umbrage with this character. There’s nothing there, she’s a mouthpiece for mediocrity.
17. “We Bought a Zoo”
While playing a zoologist is most actor’s lifelong dream, Scarlett pours cold water on the whole idea here. Mostly because, in her first movie with Matt Damon since “Horse Whisperer”, she played a sappy sap. Oddly, all of her films with Matt Damon have involved animals, and the submission of said animals. I’m just said’ing.
16. “The Prestige”
She’s not in enough to matter, but if her career dries up she can always turn to Chriss “sssssss” Angel for an assistant gig. The good news is we’re out of the actively bad realm, whoop whoop!
15. “The Other Boleyn Girl”
She’s a seductress who gets beheaded, much like Julia in “Julie and Julia”. The below scene isn’t all bad before it heads off to pound town.
14. “Iron Man 2”
I enjoy this clip because it was taken in a wind tunnel. You just don’t see that sort of avante garde IP ripping these days. Favs gets beat up, kudos two. Plus he’s directing himself getting beat up, some nice sexual peccadillos there. Yeah, she doesn’t do much but smirk here, but WHADDA smirk, yeah?
13. “Captain America: Winter Soldier”
Leather onesies never really made a comeback this summer the way I was hoping after this film. Peeling out of that thing every day had to have been so steamy. But she plays a big part here, at least, and she doesn’t shame her gender. If anything, she’s a credit to her gender, like a walking blender.
12. “In Good Company”
The idea that Topher “Toe Fetish” Grace could get wit’ Johansson here is laughable. But he’s about to fire her dad, so there’s a primae noctis vibe going on here too. Fair point by me. She’s super likable here, showing off that sweet side you need in your fire & ice fantasies.
11. “The Island”
Lookit, Michael Bay catches a lot of flack for his objectification of womyn, but even his detractors would have to admit he at least makes them very purty. The amount of leading men Johansson has made out with is awesome, she’s the opposite of George Clooney’s real life. “The Island” might be slightly underrated at this point, and if it is actually slight good, that’s because of Scarlett.
10. “Match Point”
A bad film that Johansson somehow made palatable. It seemed a little bit like the Woodman, Woody Allen, wanted to get a gal in front of the camera to party. To her credit, she did, with the pouty Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing the philandering philanderer alongside her. The film is a melodrama, through and through, and after the one scene in the rain things go downhill fast. But our girl brought it!
9. “Ghost World”
There was a time when it was thought that Scarlett Johansson would be the “awkward” girl, even though in this one she was out-awkwarded by Thora Birch. Still, you’ll notice she’s awkward, as opposed to vampy, in five of my top nine Johansson performances. It could be a situation where I’m subconsciously into awkward ladies to compensate for my small shoes. This a classic Buscemi performance too, not sure when we’ll get to rank him. Is he in anything soon?
8. “The Horse Whisperer”
Her seminal role! Unless you count “Home Alone 3”. I don’t, you couldn’t scrounge up a hundred people that had any memory of this film at all. Most of the “others”, the ones who used to remember this movie, likely perished in container ships trying to emigrate to the new world. These sorts of things happen all the time.
7. “The Avengers”
Just a very likable film, though it portended a plague of Marvel madness for the next few decades.
A very cute little movie. Woody Allen made this after “Match Point”, possibly as a mea culpa for his actions in “Match Point”. Johansson does some serious non-sexual thespianism here, and she largely pulls it off. Small in scope, but plucky.
5. “The Man Who Wasn’t There”
No one has ever seen it, but one of my favorite films. Beautifully black and white. Scarlett plays a little chaste tramp (it’s possible) who tries to awkwardly seduce Billy Bob Thornton as a teenager. It’s like “The Crush”, only not as predatory.
4. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
She plays the third fiddle in the orchestra, after Rebecca Hall and Javier Bardem. They are probably better actors than she is, well at least Bardem in particular, but she does her best, and the film is a career highlight. As with Cameron Diaz, she’s a Golden Globe nominee only, no wins or Oscars, so the second act of her career will be telling. I’d like to race them off against each other for sport.
I enjoyed “Lucy” quite a bit. Luc Besson is a filmmaker who is not afraid to just throw a cheetah taking down an antelope to show someone is a predator within the storyline. It’s a simple move. but effective, and much better than just building a horrible character. One could make the case “Lucy” is Scarlett Johansson’s largest role to date, and she does well as a glassy-eyed assassin. Between this and “Her”, it would seem she’s finally on the right track to acting sexy and actually acting at the same time.
She’s just the voice, so this is unfair, but she is a great voice. And if we’re going to count Andy Serkis’ body and facial work, we have to count someone’s voice inflection too. I fell in love with her all over again after this film, and the fact that she had to be brought in during post-production makes the achievement all the more impressive.
1. “Lost in Translation”
Even here, for the number one film, where she has a kinda sorta father-daughter / older man-younger woman thing going on, in a movie directed by a woman, the opening shot is of her bottom dollar. I mean, that’s the OPENING shot, a pan of her posterior. God love her, she’s willing to give a director her all. The rest of the film is what proved she’s a legit actor, in the right supple hands. Her chemistry with Bill Murray is excellent and well-earned – “Lost in Translation” takes a potentially played out theme (feeling isolated in a foreign country) and makes it sweet subtle music. Easily her best work to date.
Laremy ain’t care if you like these in a different order. He encourages dissent in a healthy democracy.