Kristen Stewart’s 20 best performances – ranked!

From Spencer to Still Alice, and now David Cronenberg’s bonkers new horror sci-fi Crimes of the Future, we rate the Twilight star’s finest work

20. Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Kristen Stewart will make a brilliant Evil Queen one day, but in this CGI-heavy retelling of the oft-filmed fairytale she seems miscast as the passive Snow White. Charlize Theron gets all the witchy fun as her wicked stepmother, while Chris Hemsworth hovers handsomely.

19. American Ultra (2015)

Stewart gives a boring girlfriend role more depth than it deserves in this smarmy action comedy about a charmless small-town stoner (Jesse Eisenberg) who, to his surprise, finds he is a sleeper agent with mad killing skills. The Long Kiss Goodnight this is not.

18. Café Society (2016)

Golden Age Hollywood meets Bronx hoodlums as Stewart and Eisenberg hook up again in Woody Allen’s bittersweet romance. It feels as though Allen is recycling his own material, though Vittorio Storaro’s exquisite cinematography ensures Stewart looks fabulous in the 1930s costumes, even if she seems too spiky and modern for the period.

17. Happiest Season (2020)

Stewart plays half of a couple spending Christmas with her girlfriend’s awful family, who are unaware they are gay. Clea DuVall’s second film as director is a conventional romcom with a lesbian twist; the girlfriend is infuriating (dump her!), but Stewart and indie stalwarts Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza make their moments count.

James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys
James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys.
Photograph: Scott Free Productions/Allstar

16. Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

Between Twilight films, Stewart gravitated towards roles that were the polar opposite of goody-goody Bella Swan. Here, she’s a sweary teenage lapdancer in New Orleans, befriended by an older salesman (a wonderful James Gandolfini), whose marriage is crumbling after the loss of their daughter. Deft performances are let down by sluggish pacing.

15. Camp X-Ray (2014)

As soon as Stewart wrapped her final Twilight, she was striking out in unexpected directions – as seen in this spare but effective drama about an army private assigned as a guard at Guantamano Bay. It’s an impressive pent-up display of empathy testing the limits of Standard Operating Procedure.

Kristen Stewart in Lizzie
Murder most tasteful … Kristen Stewart in Lizzie. Photograph: Eliza Morse/Artina Films/Allstar

14. Lizzie (2018)

Chloë Sevigny stars as Lizzie Borden, who famously “took an axe” to her father and stepmother in 1892 Massachusetts. Stewart plays the Irish maid with whom she forms a close bond. Solid performances, but the drama is more tasteful and tension-free than any axe-murder movie has a right to be.

13. Still Alice (2014)

Julianne Moore, on Oscar-winning form, takes centre-stage as a linguistics professor losing her memory to early onset Alzheimer’s. But Stewart quietly serves up a consummate supporting performance as one of her daughters, a would-be actor who moves back home to care for her mother.

12. JT LeRoy (2019)

Stewart’s androgynous looks find the ideal outlet as Savannah Knoop, who for six years masqueraded in a naff platinum wig as the nonexistent young male author of bestselling misery lit, which in reality was written by her sister-in-law played by Laura Dern. The nuttiest literary hoax of the century raises questions of identity and authenticity.

11. Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Two out of the three angels fade into the wallpaper in the latest instalment of the daffy action-comedy franchise that sets feminism back 50 years each time it resurfaces. But Stewart is a hoot as goofy Sabina, a rich punk who flounces around in wigs and sparkly microskirts, pretending to be girly.

Stewart as Jean Seberg.
The fame game … Stewart is stunning as Jean Seberg. Photograph: Phreaker Films/Allstar

10. Seberg (2019)

Stewart rocks the iconic pixie haircut, pulls off a stunning two-minute closeup and is altogether terrific in Benedict Andrews’ biopic of Jean Seberg, the American star of Breathless. But the film is stymied by its insistence on giving equal time to one of the FBI agents assigned to persecute Seberg because of her support for African American activists. Who cares about him? Let’s get back to Kristen!

9. Twilight (2008)

Stewart had racked up eight years’ worth of credits and cornered the market in every conceivable variation of sulky teenage girl when she landed the role of Bella in Stephenie Meyer’s chaste but smoochy romance between a 17-year-old schoolgirl and a 100-year-old vampire. Bella is insufferable on the page, but in the five-film franchise Stewart and Robert Pattinson manage to invest their cipher-like characters with personality and charisma.

Kristen Stewart in Underwater.
In deep … Kristen Stewart in Underwater. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Ph Alan Markfield/Allstar

8. Underwater (2020)

As a mechanical engineer in blond buzzcut and specs, Stewart is definitely the sort of action heroine you’d want on your side if you were a member of a deep-sea drilling crew besieged by tentacled critters at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. This Abyss-meets-Cthulhu scenario might have been a decent Alien ripoff if the action scenes weren’t so garbled.

7. Adventureland (2009)

Greg Mottola blends coarse humour and wry observation in his episodic indie hit about a student obliged to take a holiday job at an amusement park in the 1980s. In the first of their three films together, Stewart and Eisenberg head a cult ensemble cast, with Stewart perfectly demonstrating the art of giving depth to what might otherwise be a dull girlfriend role.

Kristen Stewart in The Runaways.
It’s a blast … Kristen Stewart channels Joan Jett in The Runaways. Photograph: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Allstar

6. The Runaways (2010)

The role of rock star Joan Jett might have been tailor-made for Stewart. Floria Sigismondi’s undervalued portrait of the pioneering 1970s girl group, based on a memoir by Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), is a blast, but as usual our girl hijacks the attention, despite strong competition from mascara-wearing Michael Shannon as the band’s creepy manager Kim Fowley.

5. Certain Women (2016)

This is the best of the stories in Kelly Reichardt’s observational triptych about the everyday lives of women in remote, rural America – and it’s easy to see why a lonely horse wrangler (Lily Gladstone) would become a little fixated on part-time law teacher Stewart. Her unassertive appeal has rarely been harnessed to more beguiling effect.

4. Crimes of the Future (2022)

Stewart and Don McKellar make a hilarious double act as Timlin and Wippet, bureaucrats running a low-rent National Organ Registry in David Cronenberg’s bonkers slice of old-school body horror sci-fi, set in the avant garde art scene of an unheimlich future Athens. Stewart is a bundle of libidinous twitches, who clearly understands the assignment, and gets to deliver the film’s signature line: “Surgery is the new sex.”

3. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Stewart became the first American woman to win a César, France’s Oscar equivalent, for her performance as Juliette Binoche’s assistant in Olivier Assayas’s study of a legendary actor at a crossroads in her career. Stewart wisely defers to her veteran co-star, but her sudden departure before the end of the film is a textbook case of scene-stealing in absentia.

2. Spencer (2021)

Pablo Larraín’s weekend-in-the-life of Diana, Princess of Wales frames Stewart as a gothic heroine trapped by sinister Windsors in the old dark house of Sandringham at Christmas, where she realises she must seize control of her own fate. Without resembling Diana physically, Stewart nails her accent and coy mannerisms, and was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination.

1. Personal Shopper (2016)

Once again working with Assayas, Stewart is in nearly every scene of this arthouse ghost story – and is mesmerising, whether tootling around Paris on a scooter, choosing designer clothes for her celebrity employer, replying to mysterious text messages or trying to communicate with her recently deceased twin brother. As usual, Assayas’s oblique approach will enrage anyone expecting conventional narrative, but if you ever needed evidence of Stewart’s understated star power, it’s here in spades.

• Crimes of the Future is released on 9 September.


Anne Billson

The GuardianTramp

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