The Best and Worst of Scarlett Johansson

Updated on January 16, 2020
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Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry & hopes his writings will help launch his careers.

Prologue

Scarlett Johansson began as a child actor, appearing in small roles in North and Just Cause before getting her first major role in Manny & Lo. It wasn't until The Horse Whisperer, however, that she finally started getting the attention she deserved. Over the next 12 years, Scarlett would snag more great roles than bad ones, soon becoming a popular name in Hollywood. It wasn't until 2010 when she starred as Natasha in Iron Man 2 that she became one of the biggest stars of the modern era, now easily one of the highest-paid actresses in the world.

In this article, I will reveal my picks for the five best and five worst films of her career.

Best #1: The Horse Whisperer

The Horse Whisperer is not only a beautiful film but it packs some heavy emotional punches that break your heart in two. Definitely Scarlett's most emotional and most powerful performance to date, The Horse Whisperer is a remarkable film that will not disappoint animal lovers and fans of engaging stories alike.

The film follows young Grace who is in a horrific accident. She loses her leg, her horse is traumatized, and her best friend is killed. What follows is a story of recovery and self-forgiveness. Robert Redford masterfully directs and stars in the film, bringing some of the best acting and directing of his career to the screen.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Scarlett Johansson were perfect as the on-screen mother and daughter who have lost their bond and are trying to get it back.

There's not a single thing I'd change in this film. It's absolute dramatic and emotional perfection. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

Best #2: Marriage Story

In my humble opinion, the best movies are the ones you can relate to, the ones you can feel, and the ones that draw from reality to move or inspire or devastate you. Somehow, Marriage Story manages to be all three of those things. It has relatability. Whether it's the husband or the wife, the child, or the divorce attorneys, everyone can find at least one character to whom they share an experience or an emotion. It makes you feel. You feel badly for Adam Driver's character who is being dragged through a divorce he never wanted. You feel sorry for the young boy who doesn't understand why his parents no longer love each other. You feel allied with Scarlett Johansson's character who feels lonely and no longer loved. Finally, the film moves, inspires, and devastates. It moves you to speak up and talk through difficult times with your spouse to save your marriage. It inspires you to challenge yourself to be a better husband or wife. It devastates you when the couple finally have their cage match, so to speak, and break down the walls they'd both been building for years.

Marriage Story isn't unique, by any means, but it is powerful and it is necessary. Adam Driver's and Scarlett Johansson's performances are magnificent and their chemistry is undeniable. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

Best #3: The Prestige

The Prestige is by far one of, if not the absolute, best magician films ever made. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale were outstanding on-screen, bringing tension and uncertainty to the film and to their own roles as well. Scarlett Johansson is Jackman's assistant, a seductive sneak trying to get the upper hand on Bale. The whole film is a giant game of cat-and-mouse with a bit of a love triangle mixed in as well.

The film is a remarkable accomplishment and one of the greater highlights in the careers of Jackman, Bale, and Johansson. I give The Prestige a 4 out of 4.

Best #4: Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation is one of those unforgettable films that has both heart and humor all the while keeping the character development interesting and progressive. What makes the film so relatable and real is the fact that there are millions of people all over the world trapped in loveless, unhappy marriages who just need a friend for a few days. They don't need anything dangerous or sexual, just someone to talk to and hang out with, someone to help them unwind and forget about the weight of the world. That's what Scarlett Johansson does for Bill Murray and vice versa. They help each other cope with what most would consider to be a miserable existence. They didn't need love or sex or money, they just needed a friend to tell them everything will be okay tomorrow if you can just make it through today. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

Best #5: Match Point

Seduction is a powerful thing. It's almost always used for selfish reasons, whether it be for personal gain or revenge or just for fun. In the case of Match Point, seduction is used for purely selfish reasons, and while Chris (played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) made the first move, Nola (played by Scarlett Johansson) resisted at first but pretty soon was a prisoner to his charms. What Match Point did so well that most other seduction films don't is that it made all these horrible characters interesting. It's a fascination humans have, to either find the good in people or the ugliness in people. It's not hard to find in this film's handful of characters that everyone has a smudge on their record. From Chloe, who practically had her rich father to persuade Chris to marry her, to Nola, who willfully cheated on her fiancee multiple times with Chris, who was cheating because he wasn't really in love in the first place. When the film reaches its breaking point, the audience is pretty much just along for the ride. There's nothing you can do to interfere and frankly you don't want to interfere because you're too intrigued and want to see how the events unfold. What starts as a naughty romance turns into a thriller where no one has any chance of escape. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

Honorable Mention: Avengers - Infinity War

Remember a few years back when final films in a series were split into two parts? Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight to name a few. Be aware - Avengers: Infinity War is a two-part film. The conclusion will come next year. So, while this review will have NO spoilers, I just want to warn you all that the film has a massive cliffhanger.

The film sees our divided heroes as they form an alliance with the Guardians of the Galaxy in order to take on Thanos. Thanos is seeking the six Infinity Stones. If he gets his hands on all six stones, he will not only become the most powerful being in the galaxy, but also will wipe out half the population of the universe. Thanos saw his own planet become overpopulated and eventually his entire world died. Thanos took it upon himself to wipe out half the population planet by planet until the universe was in balance once again.

What I loved most about the film was how you couldn't really argue with Thanos. While his methods were extreme and, in many ways, devastating, he had a point. Earth teeters on the edge every day because of overpopulation, pollution, perverted politicians keeping the rich rich and the poor poor, etc. There's a ton of factors bombarding the human race. While I'm in no way condoning genocide, wouldn't we be better off if there were less people in the world? Maybe instead of killing half of us, help us colonize Mars, Thanos!

Thanos's perspective upped the stakes and gave the film a unique tension that most superhero films don't have. It was unpredictable and kept you on the edge of your seat for the entire 2 and a half hours. It also didn't even feel like a long film. There was so much going on that it kept your attention and kept you guessing. It had a ton of humor, excitement, and just as much heart as heartbreak. The visuals were outstanding and many moments breathtaking.

In conclusion, I have nothing but praise for this film, aside from one small complaint. Elizabeth Olsen has just given up completely as far as trying to keep up her Russian accent. That's a small issue though and I'm not going to let it detract from how great this film was. Marvel really stepped it up with this film and took a huge risk on making it two parts. It certainly paid off and gave us one of the most incredible films with one of the most heartbreaking endings ever. I give the film a 4 out of 4.

Half-Way Point

We've made it to the half-way point. Now that we've looked at the best films of Scarlett's career, let's turn our attention to the other side of that coin. My picks for the worst are a mix of bad to mediocre. Scarlett is no stranger to the unfortunate bad film but thankfully those are few and far between. Most of the films in this half of the list are mediocre at best and are definitely a far cry from Scarlett's usual performing abilities.

Worst #1: Eight Legged Freaks

Anyone who has followed Scarlett Johansson's career probably saw this one coming. Eight Legged Freaks is without a doubt Scarlett's worst film. From the ridiculous attempts at humor to the horribly CGI'd spiders, Eight Legged Freaks tries and fails to remake the frightening Tarantula and up the ante by adding a whole army of spiders.

The one thing that the film had going for it was the fact that it didn't take itself too seriously. I think the writers and director knew the film was ultimately going to be more parody than remake so why bother trying too hard, right?

I give the film a 1.5 out of 4.

Worst #2: The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia is a film that could have and frankly should have been better. Now, just to be clear, I have not read the book that the film is based on, however, I feel that if you're going to make a film about the Black Dahlia murder then you should concentrate on it and make that the center focus of your film. That's not the case here. The film instead talks about corrupt cops, some gangsters, and barely even touches on the Black Dahlia murder. By the end of the film, you're left wondering "what just happened?".

Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank all make a great team, which is why the film earns its one whole star that I'm giving it. I'd love to see the four of them reunite for a far better film, one that knows what its doing rather than becoming the scatterbrained mess this film was.

I give The Black Dahlia 1.5 out of 4 stars.

Worst #3: My Brother the Pig

It's always sad when a cute concept goes wrong. My Brother the Pig was riddled with problems from the beginning and never quite redeemed itself by the end.

First off, George is transformed into a pig by messing with magic rocks the live-in maid Matilda had in her room. For the rest of the film, Matilda takes George, his sister Kathy, and George's best friend down to Mexico in order to find Matilda's grandma who might know a reversal spell to return George to his original form. There's so much wrong with the film but let's focus on the major plot holes it presents. First of all, what exactly are these magic rocks? Witchcraft? Voodoo? Second, how has Matilda not been turned into something if she doesn't even know how to use them? Third, why does Matilda have these things in the first place if she hasn't been trained to use them properly? Fourth, would you really let your kid go to Mexico with a family you don't know very well all for the sake of wanting him to be more social with others?

The film wasn't all bad, however. We did see some great character development with Kathy, who at first despises her brother but grows to care and love for him throughout the trip. She learns what it means to be a big sister and actually wants George to be okay.

All in all, it could have been a really cute film but it wasn't written well nor thought through. I give the film a 2 out of 4.

Worst #4: North

North was a film whose heart was in the right place but didn't quite hit the high bar. Instead, it landed in the mediocre territory and stayed there for the entirety of its runtime.

The basic premise is that a kid named North feels underappreciated and unloved by his parents so he petitions the court to allow him to find new parents. If he can't find new parents within the small time frame, he can either choose to remain with his biological parents or go into foster care. Now, putting aside the outlandish premise, the main problem with the film is that it's badly acted. The entire cast, including Elijah Wood who was just a kid himself at this time, speaks as if they're performing a skit for a kindergarten class. The film tries to be funny but often skirts the dark humor line that most kids wouldn't understand and just comes off mean when it probably didn't intend to do so.

The film's saving grace was the chemistry between Elijah Wood and Bruce Willis. The two of them seemed to get along well and, despite the film's flaws, also seemingly enjoyed what they were doing and just made the best of it.

North tried, but didn't succeed. I give it a 2 out of 4.

Worst #5: The Spirit

Sometimes movies are supposed to be cheesy or corny. That's the fun of parodies. Writers and/or directors will do that sometimes to gain a certain effect. But The Spirit took those parodical liberties a little too far.

The style of the film is set up a lot like Sin City but it's certainly not the same tone. The basic premise is that The Spirit is hunting down The Octopus and his deadly assistant. The Spirit is, as many comic characters are, an experiment gone wrong which transformed him into a bullet-proof freak. Now he fights for justice.

Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson are the only two positive elements of the film, outshining the hero and villain both. The dialogue tried to be a play on old 50s movies but the final product instead turned into corny dialogue, bad writing, and poor directorial choices. I give the film a 2 out of 4.

Dishonorable Mention: Rough Night

Rough Night certainly lives up to its name, not because of the events in the film itself but because it's roughly cut. It was a good attempt, but it doesn't hold up to other films just like it such as The Hangover and Very Bad Things. In fact, wasn't this film an all-lady remake of Very Bad Things?

The story follows Jess (Scarlett Johansson) and her friends Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoe Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon) as they all meet up in Miami after 3 years of not seeing each other. They are all together to throw Jess the bachelorette party of a lifetime. Frankie not only grabs them some cocaine but also hires a craigslist stripper/prostitute for the night. Things seem to be going well but the stripper has a nasty fall, hits his head and dies instantly. The girls now have to figure out what they can do to hide all evidence in order to stay out of prison.

Since this is a raunch comedy, I expected there to be genitalia jokes as there always are. Alice, however, was a little too obsessed with said jokes and that got annoying really fast. As far as the humor goes, I think I laughed hard once and chuckled one or two times after that. It was sadly not well-written which is mostly due to the fact that the relatively unknown-to-comedy Lucia Aniello wrote and directed. She has written and directed a few Broad City episodes but that's the extent of her comedy knowledge.

The story itself was very uneven. They spent a lot of time on freaking out and trying to figure out what to do and the big revelation at the end was criminally cut short and was very anti-climactic.

The acting was decent. Each girl basically played herself except for Kate who attempted to play an Australian. I love Kate but why couldn't they hire an Australian to play an Australian?

In conclusion, Rough Night is worth seeing as a rental, but I wouldn't pay ticket price to see it in theaters. Wait until it is on DVD and have a fun night with your friends at the comfort of your own home. I give Rough Night a 2 out of 4.

Full Filmography

*Fall is the only film not included as Scarlett's role was a two-second cameo.


  • North - 2 out of 4
  • Just Cause - 2.5 out of 4
  • Manny & Lo - 3 out of 4
  • If Lucy Fell - 2.5 out of 4
  • Home Alone 3 - 2.5 out of 4
  • The Horse Whisperer - 4 out of 4
  • My Brother the Pig - 2 out of 4
  • The Man Who Wasn't There - 3.5 out of 4
  • Ghost World - 3.5 out of 4
  • An American Rhapsody - 3.5 out of 4
  • Eight Legged Freaks - 1.5 out of 4
  • Lost in Translation - 4 out of 4
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring - 4 out of 4
  • The Perfect Score - 2.5 out of 4
  • A Love Song for Bobby Long - 3.5 out of 4
  • A Good Woman - 2.5 out of 4
  • The Spongebob Squarepants Movie - 3 out of 4
  • In Good Company - 3 out of 4
  • Match Point - 4 out of 4
  • The Island - 3 out of 4
  • Scoop - 3 out of 4
  • The Black Dahlia - 1.5 out of 4
  • The Prestige - 4 out of 4
  • The Nanny Diaries - 3 out of 4
  • The Other Boleyn Girl - 3 out of 4
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona - 3 out of 4
  • The Spirit - 2 out of 4
  • He's Just Not That Into You - 3 out of 4
  • Iron Man 2 - 2 out of 4
  • We Bought a Zoo - 3 out of 4
  • The Avengers - 3.5 out of 4
  • Hitchcock - 4 out of 4
  • Don Jon - 3 out of 4
  • Under the Skin - 3 out of 4
  • Her - 3.5 out of 4
  • Chef - 3.5 out of 4
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 4 out of 4
  • Lucy - 3.5 out of 4
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - 4 out of 4
  • Hail, Caesar! - 3 out of 4
  • The Jungle Book - 4 out of 4
  • Captain America: Civil War - 4 out of 4
  • Sing - 3 out of 4
  • Ghost in the Shell - 4 out of 4
  • Rough Night - 2 out of 4
  • Isle of Dogs - 3 out of 4
  • Avengers: Infinity War - 4 out of 4
  • Avengers: Endgame - 3.5 out of 4
  • Marriage Story - 4 out of 4
  • Jojo Rabbit - 3.5 out of 4

What's your favorite Scarlett Johansson Film?

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Conclusion

In conclusion, Scarlett has more than proven herself to be an accomplished performer and beloved actress. Every actor has a bad film every now and then but Scarlett managed to pull through her downers, made some rather remarkable films, and promises to have a bright future ahead.

© 2020 Nathan Jasper

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