The American actress Jessica Chastain is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. Box Office data compiled by The Numbers show that films with Chastain as the lead actress have earned over $700 million (£544 million) worldwide. Films with Chastain in a supporting role, on the other hand, have raked in well over $2 billion (£1.56 billion). Recently she starred in It Chapter Two, where she played the adult Beverly Marsh. The film was a huge success and as usual Chastain delivered a winning performance, proving yet again her versatility as an actress.
Chastain is at the top of her game, and she’s been there for the better part of a decade. With that in mind, Counteract has made this list of Chastain’s very best films:
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty scrutinises America’s decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden, from the vantage point of a resolute CIA operative named Maya. Chastain, as Maya, delivers a steely performance, one uncharacteristically devoid of the usual onscreen ferocity for which Chastain is famous for. But her chilling portrayal of Maya stays true to the film’s business-like tone. Zero Dark Thirty is an all-or-nothing manhunt, and Maya embodies that ethos. The film received five Oscar nominations, including Chastain’s first for Best Actress. And it was well deserved, with critics calling Chastain both riveting and convincing.
A Most Violent Year (2014)
Chastain is the perfect fit for iron-willed female characters, and that’s exactly the case in A Most Violent Year, which chronicles one of the most crime-ridden years in New York’s history (1981). Chastain, as Anna, the wife of the protagonist Abel, shines, as she is fierce, sexy, and contemptuous all at the same time, goading Abel to counter violence with more violence. Chastain received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Supporting Actress, though she came up just short. Even so A Most Violent Year received wide acclaim; and Chastain, near-universal praise for another remarkable portrayal.
Molly’s Game (2017)
Molly’s Game is based on the eponymously titled autobiography of “poker princess” Molly Bloom. The Guardian’s review of the film notes how Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenwriting soars thanks to Chastain, who can “take a line which is so written that you can subliminally hear Sorkin’s fingers tapping on his keyboard, and deploy it with such confidence and authority…”
Chastain, as Bloom, masterfully introduces the audience to the world of poker, which was, during the real-life Bloom’s heyday, burgeoning into something close to a cultural phenomenon. That was partly due to poker’s social nature, which was evident in the exclusive poker rooms Bloom ran. Bloom’s idea to use poker as a social club for players to hang out and network continues to this day, with online platforms trying to capture the same social atmosphere she created. A PPPoker review by Pocket Full of Apps conveys how the platform is transforming the online version of the game by allowing their members to create their own private clubs. Unlike Bloom’s poker clubs, which were for rich clients, the app allows players from over 100 countries to meet, socialise, and play. Despite being online and for everyone the social clubs still capture the same feeling of being part of an exclusive poker community. The fact that Bloom saw this before online poker took off shows how forward thinking she was, and Chastain displays this sharpness perfectly.
Miss Sloane (2016)
The Independent clarifies that this film is no gentle biopic, as the title might suggest. Instead the John Madden-helmed Miss Sloane “boasts the most ferocious heroine imaginable.” And it is exactly the kind of role Chastain relishes. So, of course, she delivers “a bravura performance” as Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, who is embroiled in a bitter tug-of-war against gun manufacturers. Chastain is equal parts driven and devious, unhinged and unapologetic. Like Molly’s Game, Miss Sloane “has a very topical resonance,” which is perfectly conveyed by Chastain’s strong performance.
Editor and founder of Counteract. Freelance travel and music journalist.