13. “Like Crazy” (2011)
Directed and co-written by Drake Doremus, this romantic drama may not have made much of a dent at the box office, but it’s a beautiful, often devastating look at the romantic woes of Anna Gardner (Felicity Jones), a British exchange student who stumbles into a long-distance relationship with her American classmate, Jacob Helm (Anton Yelchin). Although things start out strong, the distance creates a rift in their relationship — and an opening for Jacob to begin dating Samantha (Lawrence), one of his co-workers.
Like Crazy is one of Lawrence’s last times playing a supporting character, and this time mostly serves as an impediment to Jacob getting back together with Anna. That said, she and Yelchin work beautifully as an onscreen couple. It’s no wonder that the twosome found themselves teamed up twice in the same year.
Where to watch Like Crazy: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)
12. “The Beaver” (2011)
Directed by Jodie Foster, this dark comedy stars Mel Gibson as Walter Black, a depressed toy company executive who starts to better himself and his relationships after he begins to communicate using a hand puppet of a beaver. Unfortunately, The Beaver arrived in theaters right around the time Gibson was dealing with accusations of domestic violence, which understandably put a damper on its box office success.
Although Walter’s woes are the focus of the film, there’s a secondary storyline revolving around his son Porter (Anton Yelchin), a high school senior whose side hustle writing papers for his fellow classmates brings him into the orbit of Norah (Lawrence), the class valedictorian, who asks him to help with her graduation speech. Even though we don’t see them together as often as Gibson and Foster, who plays Walter’s wife, the chemistry between Lawrence and Yelchin is once again palpable.
Where to watch The Beaver: Plex
11. “No Hard Feelings” (2023)
Though her dramatic roles are by far her most celebrated, the actress’ comedic chops are rock solid, and she gets to show them off in the 2023 raunch-com No Hard Feelings. Lawrence plays Maddie, a struggling 30-something who agrees to seduce a wealthy couple’s introverted 19-year-old in exchange for a car. The premise is simple but the execution is designed to let Lawrence play in ways we haven’t seen since Silver Linings Playbook. From taking throat punches to brawling naked, the Oscar winner manages to balance the physical comedy of the film while still centering the story’s emotional heart. As EW’s critic writes, No Hard Feelings is “a reminder that Lawrence is one Hollywood’s best (and funniest) leads.”
Where to watch No Hard Feelings: Netflix
10. “Don’t Look Up” (2021)
Writer/director Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up offers Lawrence another chance to show off her comedic side, casting her as the female lead in his dark, politically-charged satire that considers what a disaster movie might look like if scientists were stopped at every turn by political red tape.
Lawrence plays Kate Dibiasky, a doctoral candidate in astronomy who’s traditional enough to adorn her desk with a Carl Sagan figure yet listens to the Wu-Tang Clan while she works. When she and her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), discover a comet hurtling toward Earth set to cause an extinction-level event, they immediately try to tell everyone they can about the situation, from the president (Meryl Streep) on down, only to find that her biggest concern is the upcoming midterm election.
Not only does the film give us a chance to see Lawrence’s humorous side, she also gets to sport a decidedly different look, with EW’s critic noting, “She’s got two nose rings and looks like an angry bird cut her bangs with kitchen shears.” It’s one of the many things that makes her character distinct, and Lawrence shines throughout.
Where to watch Don’t Look Up: Netflix
9. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 / Part 2” (2014 / 2015)
By the time the closing chapters of the Hunger Games saga rolled around, everyone had learned all there was to know about Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen, but there was still plenty of action yet to take place. The stakes are higher than ever in these two final films, with Katinss joining forces with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) in an effort to battle the likes of Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) and liberate the nation of Panem.
The problem with splitting Mockingjay into two parts, unfortunately, is that it results in a certain amount of padding. As EW’s critic wrote of Part 1, it feels “like a term paper with the margins enlarged and the font size jacked up to reach the assigned number of pages.” Part 2, meanwhile, has its own problems, coming across as a far heavier film than its predecessors. Still, EW’s critic spotlighted its merits, most notably its star: “The acting and production values are still well above grade, and Lawrence skillfully holds the center, letting everything the skeletal dialogue doesn’t say play across her face. Like the arrow-slinging, empire-saving Joan of Archery she’s portraying, she understands the symbolic weight she’s been asked to carry here.”
Where to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2: Peacock
8. “Causeway” (2022)
After spending the previous few years doing a flurry of big-budget, high-profile films, Lawrence returned to her indie roots with Causeway, giving a stellar performance as Lynsey, a U.S. soldier who comes home from a tour in Afghanistan after suffering a traumatic brain injury from an IED explosion. Upon resettling at her mother’s (Linda Emond) home in New Orleans, Lynsey wants nothing more than to pivot back to duty, but her doctor is hesitant to let her get back into the field. Over the course of her rehab, however, she befriends James (Brian Tyree Henry), an auto mechanic who’s been dealing with some mental trauma of his own.
EW’s critic praised director Lila Neugebauer’s work, noting that her history as a Broadway director proves beneficial, and observing how she “saturates the movie in measured silences and humid, lived-in atmosphere, letting Lawrence and Henry’s low-key performances contract and expand.” It’s a powerful film, one which shows that for all of the franchise flicks in Lawrence’s catalog, she’s still got the goods when it comes to subtlety.
Where to watch Causeway: Apple TV+
7. “The Hunger Games” (2012)
Winter’s Bone might’ve been the film that made Lawrence a critical darling, but The Hunger Games is what made her a box-office sensation. Based on the first book in author Suzanne Collins’ Y.A. saga, the story is set in a dystopian future where teenage contestants are forced to fight to the death in a televised competition against representatives from the 12 districts of Panem. Lawrence takes center stage as Katniss Everdeen, who, after her little sister is selected for the games, steps in and volunteers to take her place. Her noble (and possibly fatal) move thereby sets off a series of events that thrilled moviegoers for the next several years across three additional films.
To say that Lawrence thrives in the role is an understatement. As EW’s critic wrote in her review, “Lawrence… is, in her gravity, her intensity, and her own unmannered beauty, about as impressive a Hollywood incarnation of Katniss as one could ever imagine.”
Where to watch The Hunger Games: Peacock
6. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014)
Based on one of the most famous arcs in X-Men history, Days of Future Past was the first installment that made a truly concerted effort to adapt a story straight from the comics. (And no, X-Men: First Class doesn’t count because it’s about as loose as these sorts of adaptations get). The film was also notable at the time for bringing director Bryan Singer back to the franchise for the first time since 2003’s X2.
The time-bending flick kicks off in a not too distant dystopian future — as if there’s any other kind in comic book movies — where mutants, anyone with the potential to become a mutant, or anyone who even tries to protect mutants are hunted down and murdered by giant robots called Sentinels. In an act of desperation, the surviving members of the X-Men concoct a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to the ’70s in order to keep the aforementioned future from ever coming to pass.
Of the two X-films on our list, you may need to flip a coin to decide which is best. But if it helps solve the argument, EW’s critic observed that, even with all the potential time-travel headaches, “Simon Kinberg’s marvelous script makes it all move with a Swiss jeweler’s precision and hum with internal logic. It’s complex without being confusing.” As only one of the many mutants in the film, Lawrence doesn’t get much of an opportunity to stretch her legs as Mystique, but because the film takes place in a different era, it does allow her the opportunity to play the character in a novel way.
Where to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past: Max
5. “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
The first three X-Men films were all box-office smashes that continued the same storyline, but for the fourth film, a decision was made to mix things up and deliver a new take on Marvel’s most famous team of mutants. Helmed by director Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass fame, X-Men: First Class was originally intended to reboot the franchise, but it ended up becoming a prequel thanks to the events of the next film, Days of Future Past. Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Set predominantly in the 1960s, First Class delivers the origin story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a. the mutant who would become known as Magneto), who are now played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively, rather than Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen of the first two films. Lawrence plays Raven, a childhood friend of Xavier’s who later shifts her allegiance to Lehnsherr and adopts a new name: Mystique.
Stepping into the shoes of Rebecca Romijn, who played the role in the previous X-films, Lawrence reportedly worked out for two hours a day while also spending eight hours in the makeup chair in order to play Mystique in her blue form. Suffice it to say that the end result is visually memorable, but Lawrence delivers a solid performance as well, one decidedly more popcorn-friendly than her breakout role in the grim Winter’s Bone.
Where to watch X-Men: First Class: Starz
4. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013)
When it comes to film series that know they’re going to be franchises from the beginning (i.e. those based on existing intellectual properties), the second chapter is likely better than the first, if only because you’re done with the “origin story,” thereby giving the characters — and the actors — a chance to really spread their wings. Such is the case with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which EW’s critic called “more energized” than its predecessor, having been “directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), with a darkly sustained verve.”
The games this time around are decidedly more epic in nature, as Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) find themselves alongside many entertaining opponents, most notably Jena Malone as Johanna, who sneers her way through virtually every line… not that there’s anything wrong with that. And at center stage is Lawrence, who now plays Katniss as “the feral face of revolt” and “as a riveting icon of girl power.”
Where to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Peacock
3. “Winter’s Bone” (2010)
Lawrence secured her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in Debra Granik’s adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 novel, but at least part of the thanks should go to her mother. “My mom read the book five, some six years [before the release of the film],” Lawrence told Interview Magazine in 2010. “And when she read it, she said, ‘Jennifer, if they ever make this into a movie, you’d be perfect for it.’ And you know, I didn’t listen to her, because she’s my mother, but five years later I got the script and the audition.”
Described by EW’s critic as “one of the unshowiest and most true-blooded epics of Americana you’re ever likely to see,” Winter’s Bone stars Lawrence as Ree Dolly, a teenager in the Ozarks who’s responsible for raising her two siblings because her mother is mentally ill and her meth-making father is perpetually dodging police and creditors. In fact, he put up the Dolly homestead for collateral on his bail bond before going M.I.A., leaving Ree desperate to try and find him. Given our critic’s perception of Lawrence as “the movie’s blooming discovery, a mesmerizing actor with a gaze that’s the opposite of actress-coy and a voice modulated in the low, almost monotone cadences of local ways,” it’s no wonder this proved to be her breakthrough performance.
Where to watch Winter’s Bone: Max
2. “American Hustle” (2013)
The mere poster for this film was more than enough to sell moviegoers on paying to see Lawrence and costars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner in retro hairstyles and attire. But with David O. Russell at the helm, it was always going to be better than your average period piece.
Based on the FBI Abscam operation that kicked off in the late ’70s, American Hustle follows the exploits of a pair of con artists, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams), who get caught in a scam by Federal Agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), though they can skate on their transgressions if they’ll assist in securing four additional arrests. The relationship between Irving and Sydney is both professional and personal, but there’s one problem: Irving is still married to Rosalyn (Lawrence), and she’s so… emotionally inconsistent, let’s say, that he’s scared that she’ll keep him from his adopted son if he tries to leave her.
EW’s critic praised Lawrence’s performance, calling her work “astounding” and noting that she “plays Irving’s manipulative wife with a crazy-sexy fury that dares to be toxic.” The end result: an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress.
Where to watch American Hustle: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)
1. “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)
As the movie that earned Lawrence her Oscar for Best Actress (as well as a Golden Globe and SAG Award), it was perhaps inevitable that Silver Linings Playbook would top our list. But it really is the best effort in her filmography, giving her a chance to shine comedically, dramatically, and — during an unexpectedly gripping dance number — even physically.
The film revolves around the volatile romantic relationship that builds between widow Tiffany Maxwell (Lawrence) and Pat Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), a divorcee just wrapping up eight months in a mental health facility for treatment of bipolar disorder. Pat’s initial desire is to reconcile with his ex-wife, Nikki, but because of an existing restraining order, it’s hard for him to put that plan into motion. Thus, Tiffany makes a deal with Pat: She’ll deliver a letter to Nikki if he’ll be her partner for a dance competition.
While the previous paragraph may make Silver Linings Playbook sound like the plot of a predictable rom-com, director/screenwriter David O. Russell adapts Matthew Quick’s novel into something that’s decidedly out of the ordinary. EW’s critic insists that “nothing about this crazy-boy-meets-wacky-girl romance is what a moviegoer is cued to expect,” adding that Russell’s “flair for playing with characters who flirt with disaster is what gives the movie its peculiar verve and unique sense of controlled chaos.” Cooper and Lawrence match each other’s performances, which is impressive enough, but when Lawrence goes toe to toe with Robert De Niro, there’s no question who the real star of the film is.