Flung Out of Space: Let’s Obsess Over Cate Blanchett's Greatest Roles
When Australian actress Cate Blanchett began her acting career on the stage in the early 1990s, none of us likely knew we were watching a cultural icon in the making. These days, though, this on-screen chameleon slides into new roles with ease and grace, fully embodying the subtle nuances of every character — whether she’s playing an ethereal elf or the iconic Bob Dylan.
After garnering international attention for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in 1998's Elizabeth, Blanchett quickly rose to meet the challenges of every independent feature and blockbuster that came her way. Today, the actress has an illustrious catalog of performances that are more than deserving of some obsessive admiration. Ready?
Phyllis Schlafly, "Mrs. America" (2020)
Mrs. America tells the story of conservative politician Phyllis Schlafly and her mission to rail against the democratic politicians and progressive movements of the 1970s. Schlafly remains something of a conservative icon and progressive enemy, but Blanchett's willingness to devote herself to an accurate portrayal of such a polarizing figure speaks to her artistic integrity.
Carol Aird, "Carol" (2015)
Following socialite Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) as their love story unfolds in the 1950s, Carol left audiences spellbound. This was in no small part due to Blanchett’s deft handling of the dreamlike title character, but the film also highlighted the clandestine nature of same-sex relationships in mid-20th-century America with radical respect.
Daisy Fuller, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008)
As far as Cate Blanchett’s films go, this was arguably one of the most successful, but we don’t always think of Daisy Fuller as a signature Blanchett part. It’s time to give Benjamin Button’s love interest — and, of course, the actress who played her — the recognition she deserves.
Gran Mamare, "Ponyo" (2009)
Did someone say "versatile"? Cate Blanchett provides the voice of Gran Mamare in the English-language dub of the animated film Ponyo. Gran Mamare is a goddess in her own right, the queen of the ocean and the mother of the titular character.
Jane Winslett-Richardson, "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" (2004)
In this whimsical film, Blanchett plays Jane Winslett-Richardson, a reporter hoping to cover Steve Zissou and his crew's journey into the ocean to hunt down a deadly jaguar shark that killed Zissou’s former partner years prior. The hard-hitting reporter is one Blanchett plays perfectly, adding another knockout performance to her already impressive list.
Elizabeth Ashton, "Heartland" (1994)
Before she made the transition to American television and filmmaking, Cate Blanchett starred in the Australian drama series Heartland. As Elizabeth Ashton, Blanchett navigated the difficulties of being the "new girl in town" — a town that happened to be insular, suspicious and a bit racist, making Blanchett’s openhearted portrayal of Ashton all the more important and refreshing.
Galadriel, "Lord of the Rings" Series (2001–2003)
When Blanchett debuted Galadriel in 2001’s fantasy epic The Fellowship of the Ring, this role introduced many of us to her nearly two decades ago — and for that we’re grateful. She fully captivated us as the intelligent, conscientious and powerful elf from Middle-earth.
Valka, "How to Train Your Dragon" Series (2014–2019)
Like her role in Studio Ghibli's Ponyo, DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon sequels gave Cate Blanchett the opportunity to show off her voice-acting chops. Sometimes, especially in today's day and age, animated films recruit big names simply for star power and not because they're the best fit. Blanchett challenged this by being genuine (and good) in the role.
Meredith Logue, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999)
Just before her role in the Lord of the Rings films and after her first turn as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, Blanchett lent her talents to the 1999 psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley alongside Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was also her first time acting in a film adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel — Carol being the second.
Katharine Hepburn, "The Aviator" (2004)
The 2004 film The Aviator stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Old Hollywood icon and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes and sees Cate Blanchett as the equally iconic actress Katharine Hepburn. Blanchett expertly handled the role, playing the calm and steady foil to DiCaprio’s frenetic, eccentric Hughes — and bringing some much-needed fortitude to the film.
Sheba Hart, "Notes on a Scandal" (2006)
What could be better than Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett acting opposite one another? Perhaps not much if we’re talking about their starring roles in 2006's Notes on a Scandal. In this dark and troubling drama about an illicit student-teacher encounter at a high school, Blanchett displays her ability to humanize a criminal without pandering or drawing sympathy.
Susan Jones, "Babel" (2006)
A whirlwind Moroccan vacation with no real plans sounds like the potential basis of a lighthearted flick. But in Babel’s case, things become much darker and more devastating. This is largely due to just how well Blanchett conveys her character’s suffering, but without her character and the tragedy that befalls her, the movie simply couldn’t exist, either.
Elizabeth I, "Elizabeth" Series (1998–2007)
It's not very often you see a mid-budget studio drama landing a sequel, but that was the case with director Shekhar Kapur's 1998 drama Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett. The actress did such a fantastic job in the title role that, almost a decade later, the director had her return for a sequel titled Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Jeanette "Jasmine" Francis, "Blue Jasmine" (2013)
We know Blanchett can do drama like nobody else. But Blue Jasmine sees her blending those talents with her ability to bring humor to situations in which we otherwise might not be able to envision it. In this film, Blanchett plays the title character, a former socialite who takes a tumble from grace after her husband’s financial crimes rip their family apart.
Herself and Shelly, "Coffee and Cigarettes" (2003)
Blanchett meets Blanchett in this short film-story anthology that weaves 11 various vignettes together with the shared theme of coffee and cigarettes. Playing herself and a fictional cousin named Shelly, Blanchett explores jealousy in a short that evokes that awkward tension so many of us have with relatives whom we probably wouldn’t interact with if we weren’t family.
Jude Quinn (Bob Dylan), "I'm Not There" (2007)
Similarly to Coffee and Cigarettes, 2007's indie I'm Not There is also something of an anthology. Instead of focusing on caffeine and smoking, though, this film is an exploration of various aspects of Bob Dylan's life. And Cate Blanchett's embodiment of the legendary musician is one of the best portrayals of Dylan ever put on-screen.
Various, "Manifesto" (2015)
Calling Blanchett an "on-screen chameleon" was no accident, and Manifesto perfectly encapsulates why. This film sees her playing 13 — 13! — different roles, each of which embodies a different time period, artist and political or artistic movement.
Pat Masters, "Stateless" (2020)
Even though Blanchett parted ways with the Australian stage where she began her career decades ago, she occasionally returns to the films and television shows of her home country. One recent example of this is Stateless, a story of four lives intersecting at an immigration detention center.
Philippa, "Heaven" (2002)
Finding inspiration in Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's Heaven, Hell and Purgatory trilogy, German director Tom Tykwer's 2002 film Heaven sees Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi as Philippa and Filippo, two characters who become fugitives and fall in love while on a Bonnie and Clyde-style escape.
Lady Tremaine, "Cinderella" (2015)
We all know the story: The horrible step-family abuses innocent Cinderella, treating her as a servant until the prince finds her after a chance encounter and the pair lives happily ever after. And it seems especially twisted that the Wicked Stepmother — essentially the only adult in the situation — condones and participates in mistreating Cinderella. But what if we got an inside peek at what’s going on in the stepmother’s brain, at what makes her so cruel?
Marissa Wiegler, "Hanna" (2011)
The 2011 spy thriller Hanna comes from German-American director Joe Wright and stars Blanchett as a CIA agent tasked with finding and taking down a young girl whose former-CIA-agent father trained her to be an assassin. Blanchett’s Marissa will stop at nothing in her pursuit of that title character.
Mary Mapes, "Truth" (2015)
2015's Truth was somewhat overshadowed by Spotlight, another based-on-a-true-story film about a staff of journalists tasked with covering a hugely controversial story. The film didn’t get much positive attention, especially considering Blanchett portrayed CBS News producer Mary Mapes so expertly.
Lucinda Leplastrier, "Oscar and Lucinda" (1997)
1997’s Oscar and Lucinda tells the love story of two gamblers who embark on a whirlwind romance aboard a ship heading to New South Wales, Australia. In the film, Blanchett plays an heiress to a glass factory who eventually bets her entire inheritance in a game of cards.
Hela, "Thor: Ragnarok" (2017)
Cate Blanchett’s name might not have immediately sprung to mind when we used to think about superhero movies — but now it does. Proving there’s no genre she can’t handle, Blanchett appeared as Marvel’s first female villain, Hela, in Thor: Ragnarok, and critics rightly lauded her performance.
Gail Lang, "The Turning" (2013)
Cate Blanchett's The Turning is very different from the recent film of the same name. Instead of being a horror movie set in a gothic mansion, Blanchett's is an Australian anthology film featuring nearly 20 directors telling different stories based on the writing of Tim Winton.
Annabelle "Annie" Wilson, "The Gift" (2000)
Just as we might not have associated Blanchett with superhero movies, "psychological thriller" probably isn’t the first genre to come to mind when discussing the actress — but maybe it should be. In The Gift, she takes a deep dive into all things supernatural as a fortune teller who sees disturbing visions about a small-town murder.
Narrator, "Journey to the South Pacific" (2013)
Blanchett nails drama, history and even animation, but this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning documentaries. Narrating Journey to the South Pacific, an IMAX documentary about marine conservation in Indonesia, Blanchett highlights the beauty and importance of the island nation’s seascape.
Nancy, "Knight of Cups" (2015)
The sun-drenched sleaze and decadence of Los Angeles provide a fitting backdrop for this Terrence Malick film about a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who seeks solace in a string of hookups and other indulgences. Playing his ex-wife, Blanchett reluctantly provides a shoulder to cry on despite how much he exasperated her and how impatient she’s grown with him.
Veronica Guerin, "Veronica Guerin" (2003)
Long before she appeared as Mary Mapes and Jane Winslett-Richardson, Blanchett took on the role of a different type of journalist in Veronica Guerin. Playing the title character in this film based on the real life of Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, the actress embarks on a disturbing journey into the seedy underworld of Dublin’s drug gangs that resulted in Guerin’s murder.
Lady Gertrude Chiltern, "An Ideal Husband" (1999)
Based on the 1895 stage play of the same name by Oscar Wilde, 1999's An Ideal Husband is a romantic romp that takes us back to some of the best satires of high-class living by Jane Austen. In this hugely entertaining rom-com, Blanchett shows off her comedic talent as the delightful and devoted wife of the main character.