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ICONS: Nicole Kidman

Hollywood legends gathered on April 27th to celebrate Nicole Kidman, who received the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award for her body of work, the highest honor bestowed by the American Film Institute. “Just breathe and don’t try to be perfect,” she once said. We have now compiled 10 of her performances, each of which can be called… perfect.

To Die For (1995)

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Suzanne Stone in the film “To Die For” not only elevated her career but propelled her straight to superstardom. In the role of an ambitious, dangerously ambitious television weather reporter, Kidman exhibits a sociopathic allure that is both captivating and unsettling. Gus Van Sant’s sardonic satire is undoubtedly elevated by Kidman’s razor-sharp portrayal.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant final film explores the anatomy of Dr. Bill (Tom Cruise) and Alice Hartford’s (Nicole Kidman) marriage, and in retrospect, the anatomy of Cruise and Kidman’s marriage as well. They filmed the psychosexual drama for over 15 months, depicting Dr. Bill’s descent into a perverse conspiratorial underworld. While Kidman has less screen time than Cruise, her performance is hauntingly unforgettable, leaving a lasting impression.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Perhaps the pinnacle of Kidman’s career comes with Baz Luhrmann’s famous and infamous homage to “Moulin Rouge!” In it, Kidman takes on the role of Satine, a courtesan living in Paris, inheriting the torch from Marilyn Monroe, and delivering a rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” with top hat and riding crop, igniting her star power with adrenaline. Despite the presence of Kylie Minogue and Placido Domingo, Kidman dominates the screen throughout the entire film. “Moulin Rouge!” finally brought her the long-deserved first Oscar nomination, receiving eight in total.

The Others (2001)

In the same year she received her first Oscar nomination for “Moulin Rouge!”, Kidman delivers a powerful performance in Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic drama “The Others”, portraying a Gothic heroine whose faith and sanity are tested when she and her children are subjected to strange supernatural occurrences around their isolated country mansion. While not typically labeled as a scream queen, Kidman’s portrayal in this psychological horror is one of her most captivating.

The Hours (2002)

In Stephen Daldry’s second film, “The Hours”, Kidman’s portrayal of the famous writer Virginia Woolf earned her the Best Actress Oscar, alongside powerful performances from Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. Her performance, enhanced by a prosthetic nose, mesmerized both audiences and critics alike.

Dogville (2003)

Following her Oscar win for “The Hours” and her divorce from Tom Cruise, Kidman flew to Trollhättan, Sweden, to enter a bleak soundstage with Lars von Trier and his crew. As Grace Mulligan, Kidman flees from her gangster father (James Caan) to a downtrodden town whose residents initially show her kindness but ultimately turn to disgust and disdain, humiliating her to the extreme. That is until the girl decides she won’t stand for it anymore. One of Kidman’s bravest performances, a complete 180-degree turn from her previous star roles, signaling that she’ll never let herself become too comfortable with typecasting.

Birth (2004)

In Jonathan Glazer’s drama, Nicole Kidman portrays a woman confronting her past, shocking both audiences and critics alike. Anna (Kidman) understandably rattles when a 10-year-old boy appears on her Manhattan doorstep claiming to be the reincarnation of her deceased husband. Meanwhile, she is preparing to marry another man, the vain Joseph (Danny Huston), and this sequence of events puts her in a bewildering and questioning position.

Margot at the Wedding (2007)

In Noah Baumbach’s 2007 drama, Kidman is seen in one of her boldest roles as a neurotic, prickly, judgmental literary author who intentionally sets out to shock us. Kidman’s acting brilliance lies in her ability to avoid sanding down the character’s rough edges while letting humanity seep through.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

In one of today’s most interesting director’s, Yorgos Lanthimos’ early film, Kidman plays Colin Farrell’s wife, who is forced by the mysterious Martin (the terrifyingly brilliant Barry Keoghan) to choose one of her family members as a sacrifice. Kidman initially plays the role as warm-hearted and protective, but as the film progresses and the situation intensifies, she sheds the polite facade to reveal her cool, complex, and deeply selfish traits.

Big Little Lies (2017-2019)

Based on Liane Moriarty’s bestseller, the miniseries revolves around a group of mothers and the secrets they guard. Kidman superbly portrays the tightly wound Celeste Wright, who contemplates leaving her abusive husband (Alexander Skarsgard), embarking on a spiraling tale of madness and unrest. In the series written by David E. Kelley and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, Kidman discovers and develops a character that transcends the confines of a two-hour film, earning her an Emmy Award in 2017.