Scarlett Johansson's Top Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Scarlett Johansson has had a prolific and multi-faceted career. Despite portraying the character of Natasha Romanoff in the MCU for over a decade, Johansson has managed to make films that cross an impressive array of genres. She's worked in indie films and foreign films, has a second career using her voice as a musician, and more. She resists being tied down by genres or archetypes; when she's been doing the same thing for too long, she swerves, usually with great results.

Johansson has had the opportunity to play a wide variety of roles. She's an action star, a reliable dramatic lead, and a solid comedic performer. She's worked with a number of iconic directors, and has only become more malleable over the years.

When discussing Scarlett Johansson's body of work, it's easy to get bogged down by her role in the Avengers. Having played the character of Black Widow for so long means that it's the role that most people associate with her. In an effort to get a better understanding of her work and her capabilities as an actor, we've decided to limit the number of Marvel movies in this ranking, hoping to spotlight some of the other films that have had a hand in making Johansson the actor that she is today. Here are 10 of Scarlett Johansson's top movies, ranked from worst to best.

10. Lucy

"Lucy," released in 2014, is a direct product of Scarlett Johansson's work in the MCU. Directed by Luc Besson, Lucy is a film about a fun 25-year-old who, while on vacation, is kidnapped and used as a drug mule. When the drugs enter her system, Lucy acquires superhuman abilities and goes on a quest of self-discovery, running into a lot of gunshots and bombs along the way. The movie is often silly but always interesting and strange, and while it poses questions that it doesn't satisfactorily answer, you can't help but root for it due to its sheer ambition. 

"Lucy" also utilizes some of Johansson's best skills: her dramatic vulnerability, her physicality, and her aloof and detached allure. That latter quality is especially useful for the character of Lucy, who, as the film progresses, becomes less and less attached to her humanity. By the film's last act, "Lucy" has lost most of its excitement, but it's still one of Besson's most fun films in recent years, and a solid female-led action movie.

9. The Prestige

Released in 2006, "The Prestige" wasn't Johansson's big break — she'd already worked on several Woody Allen films, and had been a part of movies with large budgets and critical acclaim. Still, "The Prestige" helped catapult Johansson's career further by pushing the boundaries of what she was known for doing. 

"The Prestige" is a psychological thriller that follows the rivalry between two London magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), at the end of the 19th Century. Johansson plays the role of Angier's assistant, who's tasked with figuring out what his rival is working on. It's a role that's limited, and that focuses mostly on Johansson's sex appeal. At the end of the day, "The Prestige" is a Christopher Nolan film; while the cast may be large and talented, the focus remains on the leads and on the twists and turns that pop up along the way. It's not a movie you watch for Johannson's performance in particular, but it is a lot of fun.

8. Match Point

Marking the beginning of Johansson's work with Woody Allen, "Match Point" is one of the most important movies of Scarlett Johansson's career, proving that the hot streak that led to back-to-back Golden Globe nominations in 2004 and 2005 was no fluke. Not that "Match Point" is easy viewing. There's not a laugh to be had, and the characters take an almost Brechtian approach to their lives. 

Still, it works. The film is thought-provoking, filled with unlikeable people. While Jonathan Rhys Meyers shines as Chris Wilton, a poor Irish tennis player who's a skilled liar and ambitious social climber, Scarlett Johansson's Nola Rice more than rises to meet him. Rice is an American actress who's in London hoping to marry into money or to make a break in the industry. Chris and Nola recognize each other as fellow outcasts, and can't help but be drawn to each other. In any other film that's a recipe for love. In this one, it's the opposite. "Match Point" is a film about chance and bad decisions. By the end of it, its thesis is clear: it doesn't matter whether people are good or bad. Success is all about luck.

7. Under the Skin

"Under the Skin" is, without a doubt, the weirdest film Scarlett Johansson has ever made. Released in 2013, it marked an intriguing change of pace for Johansson, who appeared to be focused on Hollywood productions like "The Avengers" and "Hitchcock." The film, loosely based on a novel by Michel Faber, follows a woman (or something disguised as a woman) in Scotland who preys on men. Filled with intrigue and ambiance, "Under the Skin" is the type of film where you can't trust the sequence of events or the plot; what matters are the visuals and the disquiet that the film so easily creates. 

In a role with little dialogue, Johansson is thrilling. Normally, you can't help but notice Johansson's sex appeal when she's on screen. "Under the Skin" deconstructs that. Her character is stripped off of all humanity; it is, literally, just a body. And yet, somehow, Johansson imbues the character with a sense of danger just the same.

6. Black Widow

Johansson has been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the beginning. When she was first introduced as Natasha Romanoff "Iron Man 2," the third Marvel movie, she helped lay the groundwork for "The Avengers" and what would turn out to be one of the world's most successful film franchises. As a character, Natasha provided a connection between the would-be super-team and S.H.I.E.L.D, and later became the bridge between all of her teammates, which is one reason why her death in "Endgame" was such a blow. 

While it would have been amazing if Natasha's solo film had been introduced a little earlier, the fact that "Black Widow" serves as Natasha's goodbye adds gravitas and pathos to the action. The film gives some background to one of the most intriguing characters in the MCU and introduces a worthy successor to her role, expanding the cinematic universe in a way that's logical and enticing. The film also serves as a good reminder that Natasha is a pretty compelling character on her own. She's rough and funny and, as "Black Widow" proves, doesn't need to play a supporting character to anyone. Like Johansson herself, she's nobody's sidekick.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

While I might be slightly biased, "The Winter Soldier" is the best example of what Captain America can do. It's also a great outing for Johansson, a film that nailed the fun and tense dynamic that exists between Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). While most Marvel films have a very uniform look, "The Winter Soldier" is the one film that utilizes muted colors and stylistic rigidity to its advantage. It's a film that is well suited for Marvel's militaristic look and approach. The fight scenes are elaborate and solid, and built to an overflowing sense of tension. 

Best of all, "The Winter Soldier" has a truly terrifying and memorable villain, something that the MCU struggles with. Bucky, as Steve Rogers' former best friend, is his best foil, and the only person who could make Cap forget about his ideals and sense of duty — at least for a little while.

4. Ghost World

"Ghost World" came out in 2001, when Scarlett Johansson was 15 years old. It follows Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson), best friends and outsiders who spend their time hanging out together and criticizing everyone else. They start to drift apart when faced with life after high school, particularly when Enid befriends Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a strange older man whom she feels connected to. Enid's obsession with Seymour makes the differences between Enid and Rebecca all the more clear, as Rebecca wants to grow up and have a normal life, while Enid fights for things to stay the same. 

"Ghost World" is filled with eccentric characters and hilarious dialogue, but also so much heart, depicting teen drama with empathy. Unlike movies that center on teens, "Ghost World" provides no clear answers; Enid doesn't know who she is, just that there's hope and time for her to find out. Her friendship with Rebeca shifts over time, like all friendships do. "Ghost World" wasn't Johansson's first movie, and it came a year or two before the role that propelled her to stardom, but even at the time, "Ghost World" made it clear that Johansson had bigger things in store.

3. Her

"Her" is a film that could have easily been a cautionary tale about technology and the modern world, much like "Black Mirror." Luckily, Spike Jonze is interested in much more than that, approaching the subject of modern relationships and AI with humor and curiosity. The film follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man who falls in love with his AI assistant, Samantha (Johansson, using nothing but her magnetic voice). 

Unsurprisingly, Johansson is a big part of why the film works. While we never see her, her emblematic vocal work gives us a character to root for. Samantha is full of warmth and heart, and the actress is aided by a script peppered with moments of song, beauty, and understanding. Great AI stories have the power to deconstruct relationships and to ask what it is that makes us human. While the answer is too vast to be delivered in a single film, "Her" gives us its best shot, showing how relationships have the power to help us and to get us through our worst moments, no matter how they're packaged.

2. Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson's role in "Marriage Story" is one of her most straightforward. The film follows Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Johansson), a stage director and an actress, as they decide to separate. Nicole gets a new job and moves to LA with her son, leaving Charlie in New York, where he works at his theater company. What starts off as an amicable split quickly devolves into something uglier once divorce lawyers are introduced, opening the way for the resentment between the characters to seep out. 

Johansson humbly sits back and supports a film with big and bombastic performances from Adam Driver and Laura Dern, communicating her anger and loneliness as we'd do in our everyday lives — with tears, a look, or an offhand comment. Even as Nicole tries to remain guarded, Johansson's face is an open book. She doesn't need to speak in order for us to know what she's feeling. For the majority of the film, Nicole is the wall that others bounce off of. And yet, while it's reigned in, Johansson delivers a remarkably true performance. Sometimes, less really is more.

1. Lost in Translation

"Lost in Translation" marks the start of Johansson's career as we know it. She was 17 years old when it was shot, playing a character that was five years older. The film's opening shot of Johansson in see-through pink panties is iconic, and provides an interesting parable to her career: While titillating, the shot is held for long enough to make us thoughtful. It's also relaxed, featuring the type of clothes people wear when no one's watching. 

At the time of the film's release, Johansson was the rare blank canvas for audiences' emotions, having an enigmatic and unrecognizable face. While Bill Murray gets the flashy performance, pulling laughs and drawing the audience in, Scarlett Johansson observes, slowly forging a connection with both Murray's character and the audience. "Lost in Translation" is a film about misunderstandings and what's not being said — sometimes literally, as in its closing moments, when Bob (Murray) whispers something to Charlotte that the audience can't hear — and yet it proves, beyond any doubt, how good Johansson is at communicating her characters' emotional states. It's the perfect launch pad for Johansson, an actress who remains as exciting as she was 20 years ago, when "Lost in Translation" was first released.