Greta Gerwig has been making waves in Hollywood with her exceptional filmmaking skills, but her talent as an actress is equally remarkable. Gerwig arrived on the scene in 2011 and made an instant impression with her uniquely naturalistic performances in the mumblecore subgenre. She quickly leaped to mainstream success and established herself as a dominant force in the industry.
Gerwig’s specialty lies in capturing the nuances of human behavior, infusing her characters with a captivating blend of rawness and sincerity. Whether it’s a comedic or dramatic role, Gerwig embodies her characters with such authenticity that it leaves audiences wanting to see more of her work. Narrowing down Greta Gerwig’s best movie roles within her impressive body of work is quite the challenge, however, we’ve selected a few standout performances that are sure to resonate with a wide range of viewers.
1. Frances Ha (2012)
Despite being shot in black and white, Greta Gerwig displays one of the most vibrant and easily compelling performances of her career in Frances Ha. She plays the titular character, a free-spirited adult in her late twenties trying to find herself in the ever-bustling city of New York. When her best friend moves out of their shared apartment, Frances is left to face life’s challenges alone as she sets out on a relatable bittersweet journey told with utmost honesty.
Gerwig effortlessly embodies the awkwardness and grace of Frances, infusing the character with distinctive energy and presence. This breakthrough role earned her widespread acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. In addition to her stellar performance, Gerwig co-wrote the film alongside her partner and collaborator, Noah Baumbach who served as director.
2. Mistress America (2015)
Greta Gerwig shines in Mistress America as Brooke, a vibrant and larger-than-life woman in her 30s. When her soon-to-be sister-in-law Tracy (Lola Kirke) enters her life, Brooke takes her under her wing. However, their initially friendly relationship takes a toxic turn due to their contrasting personalities. Gerwig expertly navigates the complexities of Brooke’s emotions and aspirations, unveiling the inner conflicts and dreams that drive her character. Her performance is marked by sharp comedic timing and a delightful spontaneity that adds to the film’s overall comedic appeal.
3. Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)
With Hannah Takes the Stairs, Greta Gerwig became a significant contributor to the mumblecore genre and ultimately set herself en route to mainstream success. She plays the central character, Hannah, a recent college graduate grappling with romantic choices and personal growth. She finds herself entangled in technically, a love rectangle involving her boyfriend and two co-workers. Gerwig masterfully captures the character’s emotional uncertainties, with her obvious naivety evoking sympathy from the audience. Gerwig wrote the script with Kent Osborne and Joe Swanberg who directed.
4. Nights and Weekends (2008)
Another one of Greta Gerwig’s best movie roles came in Nights and Weekends. The film is an intimate exploration of a long-distance relationship between two people Mattie (Gerwig) and James (Joe Swanberg). The film delves into the intricacies of love, trust, and the sacrifices required to sustain a relationship when separated by distance. Gerwig once again stuns in a familiar space delivering a fresh take within a terrain often explored. Not only does she shine as an actress, but Gerwig also demonstrates her versatility by taking on multiple roles behind the camera, including writing, producing, and co-directing the film alongside frequent collaborator Swanberg.
5. Greenberg (2010)
Greenberg marked the beginning of a longstanding collaboration between Bambauch and Gerwig. Gerwig plays Florence Marr, a personal assistant to the Greenberg family who becomes romantically involved with her boss’s brother Roger (Ben Stiller) who’s come over to house-sit while his brother travels. Throughout the film, Gerwig’s chemistry with Stiller creates an engaging dynamic, as their characters navigate their unconventional relationship as well as their personal conflicts. Gerwig expertly balances the dramatic and comedic elements, bringing a nuanced portrayal of Florence that enhances the overall narrative.
6. 20th Century Women (2016)
Inspired by Director, Mike Mills’ personal experiences, 20th Century Women, set in the 70s is a coming-of-age story of a young boy named Jamie whose life is shaped primarily by the women who raised him. Greta plays one of the women, Abbie his neighbor who despite battling cancer is able to make her own sincere contribution to Jamie’s upbringing becoming his mentor and confidante. Gerwig’s heartfelt performance beautifully captures Abbie’s daring nature highlighting her struggles and aspirations within the rapidly changing cultural landscape of the late 1970s. Gerwig is part of an ensemble that includes Annette Bening as James’ mother, Elle Fanning as James’ girlfriend as well as Lucas Jade Zumann, and Billy Crudup. The film where Greta Gerwig delivered one of her best movie roles was met with immense critical acclaim earning 2 Golden Globes and 1 Oscar nomination.
7. Isle of Dogs
In the Oscar-nominated animated film Isle of Dogs, Greta Gerwig lends her voice to the character of Tracy Walker, an intrepid foreign exchange student and passionate advocate for the canine residents of Megasaki City. Set in a dystopian future, the story follows a young boy named Atari as he embarks on a journey to find his beloved dog, Spots, who has been banished to Trash Island. As Tracy Walker, Gerwig brings a spirited and determined energy to the character as her voice performance captures Tracy’s unwavering conviction and her relentless pursuit of justice for the dogs. Directed by Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs features a stacked cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Goldblum, and Frances McDormand, among others.