Jennifer Aniston may never be thought of as a movie star first. It is what it is — when you play a TV character so iconic that the name of your character becomes the name of a popular hairstyle, it’s just going to be an uphill climb to disappear into a film role fully. Of all six main cast members of “Friends,” though, Aniston has had arguably the most diverse and successful film career. Even though she’ll still always be Rachel to the generations that grew up watching her in the ’90s, or the next generation that discovered the show for themselves when it started streaming, Aniston has actually spent the majority of her three-decades-long entertainment career making movies.
In fact, she’s been in nearly 50 movies that range from obvious attempts to cross over into romantic comedies to grittier independent films. Among the accolades she’s received for her film work are nominations at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards, to name a few. Aniston is also often the strongest part of even the more poorly-received movies she’s been in. She’s got a compulsively watchable, relatable neuroticism to her that makes her a film star in her own right, even though it never hurts that some part of us is also thinking, “Hey it’s my friend Rachel from the TV!” These are the best 15 of Aniston’s movies, according to Rotten Tomatoes, ranked by watchability.
“Cake” is a look at one of the most uncomfortable realities of human frailty: chronic pain. After starring in the 2014 drama, Aniston garnered rave reviews and awards season buzz for her portrayal of Claire, a woman still struggling with chronic pain a year after a car accident that tragically killed her son. Thoroughly de-glamourized, Aniston puts in a performance of morose, cynical detachment that’s as “against type” as she’s ever been. Claire is exhausted and harsh but has the echoes of vulnerability and warmth buried deep beneath those sharp surfaces.
Aniston trades her trademark screwball energy for something measured, simmering, and powerful. She plays wonderfully against a stacked cast that includes Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Chris Messina, and Anna Kendrick. Exploring grief, addiction, and trauma, “Cake” is inarguably one of Aniston’s best movies, but it’s also one of the hardest ones to watch.
14. We’re the Millers
A road trip farce that somehow adds up to being funnier than the sum of its parts, 2013’s “We’re The Millers” features Aniston playing an alluring stripper named Rose O’Reilley, and all of those Aveeno products and Vitamin Water must have been working for her because in one pivotal sequence, she performs a lengthy striptease routine that serves as an instant highlight reel moment for the movie.
One of the rare R-rated movies in her filmography, “We’re The Millers” proves Aniston is up for anything in her ageless career. How many other people follow Emmy wins and TV superstardom with a nomination for the shortly-lived “Best Shirtless Performance” category at the MTV Movie Awards? “We’re The Millers” is an aimless, kind of middling comedy, but it’s elevated by Aniston’s gamely performance alongside a cast of ringers like Jason Sudeikis, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, and Ed Helms.
13. Dream for an Insomniac
Sony Pictures Video
If there’s a frustrating element of Aniston’s movie career, it’s that her monumental fame from “Friends” never quite translated into enough iconic starring roles in romantic comedies. The romcom crown seemed hers for the taking for at least a decade, but she never found the right string of successes to compete with the likes of Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to comprehend the logic behind the casting for 1996’s “Dream for an Insomniac.” Aniston as the quirky friend? An absurd waste of her talents.
Ione Skye does a capable job as the actual heroine, playing a romantic perfectionist that can’t sleep — she’s the titular insomniac but manages to never look tired whatsoever — but it’s impossible to keep your eyes off of Aniston. The 1996 film was released near the very beginning of her run on “Friends” and features her sharp wit on full display. Aniston is marooned in a trifling subplot while Skye spends the whole movie mooning and moping, but Aniston is by far the most watching part of a film time has otherwise forgotten.
12. The Switch
Walt Disney Studios
2010’s “The Switch” is a rather insane cultural document, when you think about it. It was based on a Jeffrey Eugenides short story about a man secretly swapping his friend’s sperm donor sample for his own, and thus “hijacking” the paternity of her child. The story has a somber, ironically detached tone of bitterness and regret, but “The Switch” turns it into a standard romantic comedy that’s somehow light and airy, despite having a weighty premise. It tacks on a happy ending and plays most of it for laughs.
That “The Switch” was modestly well received at all is a testament to the chemistry of Aniston and co-star Jason Bateman, who bring all of their sitcom-honed likability to bear. They work well together, and the movie hits all the standard beats of nearly getting them together, and then there’s a big reveal that tears them apart right before the end. Excepting the fact that the big reveal is downright horrific, the film mostly moves past it and considers its own premise to be funnier than it is terrifying. It all adds up to a surprisingly watchable and fascinating experiment in paternity-based plot contrivances.
11. Rock Star
The 2001 music drama “Rock Star” is an underrated film that uses the real-life story of replacement Judas Priest front man Tim Owens to weave a mildly diverting story about the perils of instant celebrity. Mark Wahlberg stars as the lead singer of a cover band that gets kicked out and replaced by a new singer, played by the guy from Third Eye Blind. But don’t worry, his character gets to replace the actual front man of the band he has been solidly covering all th ewhile because they’ve just kicked him out, and they’re looking for an imitator to stay on tour.
Got all that? Well, Aniston plays Emily Poule, Wahlberg’s far-too-patient girlfriend in Seattle that of course has to watch him descend into a life of nonstop touring, alcohol, and groupies. She livens up the film here and there in this relatively thankless role and helps ground the story enough to make it compelling to watch when it was replaying on VH1 for an entire decade.
10. The Object of My Affection
20th Century Fox
Perhaps the main reason that Aniston never became a dependable romantic comedy star is she’s a little too appealing — one way or another, romcoms rely on the idea that our beautiful main character has trouble finding someone to fall in love with, and for America’s 90s sweetheart, it might just be a little too much disbelief to suspend. 1997’s “The Object of My Affection” is one of her most well-received attempts in the genre, but it requires us to buy in to the premise that her character Nina, an upbeat social worker living in densely populated New York City, has so much trouble falling in love that she spends much of the movie hung up on her gay best friend.
Sure, George is charming and played by a young Paul Rudd, but Nina has the looks and charm of Aniston in her prime! Was it that hard to meet new people before dating apps? “The Object of My Affection” succeeds largely because it ends up telling a story about friendship instead of romance, or rather the gray area that exists between the two.
Years after “The Object of My Affection,” Aniston and Paul Rudd would reunite as a married couple that stumbles into a hippie commune in the 2012 ensemble comedy “Wanderlust.” It finds a more mature Aniston embracing her role as a ringer in smaller parts in wackier comedies, instead of trying to carry an entire romcom as a lead. “Wanderlust” is directed by David Wain, famous for “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Role Models,” and is densely packed with jokes, making it one of Aniston’s more re-watchable movies.
“Wanderlust” stops short of getting at anything terribly relevant or trenchant, even though its premise about communal living could have been meaningful in the years after the housing crisis dragged the country into a recession. But it trades coherence for reliable funniness and provides a great ensemble showcase for virtually all of Wain’s old contemporaries from “The State.” Justin Theroux is also a highlight, playing a rare comedic role as the leader of the commune and playing off his real-life relationship with Aniston, which became endless fodder for the tabloids at the time.
8. She’s the One
20th Century Fox
“She’s The One” is yet another ’90s movie that only partly seizes upon Aniston’s magnetic screen presence. The 1996 film centers on two brothers that have trouble committing to just one of the multiple beautiful women in their lives. Aniston plays Renee, the wife of one brother who is unaware she’s being cheated on, and she pops us mostly to be the voice of reason in a film about the perils of self-involved masculinity. Sure, her husband’s mistress is played by Cameron Diaz, but it’s still hard to believe that Aniston and her fluffy hair could ever be deceived like this.
The real MVP of “She’s the One” is another famous sitcom star — John Mahoney, the dad from “Frasier,” nails the pivotal part of the brothers’ domineering, chauvinistic father that’s clearly warped their decision-making with an upbringing of regressive opinions. He gets his own comeuppance late in the film, and his sons realize his advice has been useless all along. “She’s the One” slyly subverts the gender roles that dominated ’90s movies, helping its long-term watchability quite a bit.
7. Marley & Me
20th Century Fox
2008’s “Marley & Me,” based on John Grogan’s bestselling memoir, holds a unique place among stories about beloved pets. From puppy to old age, it recounts the entire lifespan of Grogan’s terribly-behaved Golden Retriever Marley, including all of the destructiveness and frustration that comes with large dogs, all the way to the bittersweet ending that pets all but guarantee, given that we live much longer than they do. Since the movie follows the memoirs mostly-episodic format, there isn’t much plot to “Marley & Me,” but the film still gives Aniston and co-star Owen Wilson plenty of room to showcase a range of emotions and character growth.
Since it adheres to real life, their marriage can’t really stray into sitcomish conflict or melodramatic plot twists, but both actors bring nuance that other, more broad comedies don’t really give them a chance to. Like its playful, energetic namesake, “Marley & Me” is an uncomplicated movie that’s eager to please.
6. Life of Crime
As we near the top of this list, we’ll find that Aniston’s best-reviewed and most watchable movies are the ones that don’t rely on her for leading roles for the most part, but, like “Friends,” use her to anchor or diversify a strong ensemble. The 2013 crime caper “Life of Crime” is a perfect example. Like many movies based on crime auteur Elmore Leonard’s work, it has a low-key pulpiness that’s charming, and Aniston’s wry comedic skills are a great fit for her role as Mickey Dawson, the kidnapped trophy wife of an uncaring wealthy businessman.
In a classic Leonard twist, the husband refuses to pay the ransom, as he doesn’t even want her back, and Aniston’s character begins to manipulate the emotions and loyalties of the kidnappers as the stalemate lingers. Other highlights of the cast includes character actor John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey in the same role that Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayed in “Jackie Brown.”
5. Horrible Bosses
The success of the 2011 comedy “Horrible Bosses” seems anomalous in retrospect: it has the kind of unabashed raunchiness that would likely never get made even just over a decade later, and its plot kind of ambles about from event to event, relying on the premise being simple enough to keep track of that you let the ensemble cast kill the time. As an R-rated movie that thoroughly embraces being for mature audiences, it somehow connected with audiences who may have been a little tired of the lofty comedy-dramas of the era that got bogged down with emotional subplots.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Aniston takes a wild leap away from her norm by starring as Dr. Julia Harris, one of the horrible bosses that gives the film its name. She’d been in raunchy movies before, like “Wanderlust” or the Adam Sandler joint “Just Go With It,” but usually she still plays a level-headed character that reacts to various chicanery. In “Horrible Bosses,” however, her aggressive and suggestive dentist character might be a little strange to watch from a post-“Me Too era” viewpoint, but it provided her with her most un-Rachel-like role to date, and she ran with it.
4. Friends with Money
Sony Pictures Classics
One of the most memorable episode of “Friends” was Season 2’s “The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant,” in which Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey have to confront their wealthier best friends about the uncomfortable subject of money. This aspect of adult life is something that deeply affects friendships, despite money being inexplicably taboo to discuss. Aniston would appear in what’s essentially a feature-length adaptation of that episode in Nicole Holofcener’s 2006 drama “Friends With Money.”
The title refers to Aniston’s character Olive’s tension with her wealthier friends, as she cleans houses to make ends meet, but the movie itself has the patient, wandering tone of Holofcener’s best movies. Unlike a sitcom, conflicts aren’t easily resolved, and each character feels fully realized with a rich inner life. It helps that Aniston is joined by the fantastic Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, and Joan Cusack as the rest of the friend group. Like a reverse “Sex In The City,” “Friends With Money” is a Los Angeles story about four women that are more deeply concerned with the banalities and struggles of everyday life, not just romance.
3. The Good Girl
Fox Searchlight Pictures
In her most successful dramatic showcase so far, Aniston mutes her normal exuberance and charm to play a withdrawn and doleful makeup counter employee in 2002’s “The Good Girl.” The plot is a bit relentlessly bleak, but it’s humanized by Aniston’s believable performance as an introvert attempting to expand her world beyond a sleepy small town. She embarks on a doomed affair with a younger man played by Jake Gyllenhaal, even though his chosen name of “Holden” after “The Catcher in the Rye” couldn’t be a huger red flag.
Of all of her roles, Justine in “The Good Girl” might be the one that actually makes you forget you’re watching Aniston, the bubbly television star, as she plays it with an introversion and limp physicality that make you believe this woman truly never found the strength to escape her circumstances. She missed out on the major awards that year, but “The Good Girl” remains a celebrated gem of her filmography.
One of Aniston’s best-reviewed movies came and went on Netflix with relatively little notice. However, she is perfectly cast in the 2018 adaptation of “Dumplin'” as Rosie, a relentlessly upbeat former beauty queen that has trouble connected with her semi-estranged daughter Willadean, as she doesn’t fit the standard beauty-pageant mold. When her daughter enters the pageant anyway in an act of rebellion, the stage is set for conflict and melodrama.
Refreshingly, “Dumplin'” manages to poke fun at the culture of beauty pageants without being as cynical and acrid as satires like “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” It balances heart and humor with aplomb, and it is surprisingly modern in its approach to an outdated tradition: Willadean eventually gets mentored by a collection of Dolly Parton drag queens in her quest for the title. And the film proves that Aniston is only getting better and braver with time.
1. Office Space
20th Century Fox
While Aniston isn’t a huge part of the classic 1999 comedy “Office Space,” she plays a key role in the film’s enduring appeal beyond just being the love interest of Ron Livingston’s main character Peter. While Peter is off living out his existential quest to survive the rhythms of white collar office life, the few scenes with Aniston’s Joanna as she works at a very mainstream-style restaurant are an equally important part of the film’s rallying cry against corporate nonsense. The drudgeries of work and the insanity of corporate power structures go much further than nine to five office jobs, and Joanna has one of the most memorable service work stories on film.
The recurring bits where she tangles with her boss about the number of “pieces of flair” that she wears on her work outfit are some of the funniest in the movie, and in contrast to Peter’s suddenly Zen approach of not showing up to work, Joanna gets a showcase scene where she triumphantly quits and flips her boss off to his face, a cathartic thing to watch for pretty much anyone that’s ever been employed. In showing Joanna at work alone and giving her a bit of growth outside of her relationship with Peter, “Office Space” more than earns casting Aniston as the upbeat dream girl we all wish we could meet when work gets us down.
Movies That Are Practically Flawless
BY NOLAN MOORE/UPDATED: JAN. 31, 2023 11:33 AM EST
Filmmaking is an insanely difficult process. There are so many people involved, each with their own creative vision, that it can be hard getting everyone on the same page. Plus, you’ve got to deal with issues ranging from financing to scheduling to on-set accidents.
With all the rewrites, test screenings, and last-minute edits, it’s amazing that any film gets made at all. As a result, there are a lot of movies that are just mediocre. But every so often, everything lines up just perfectly. Get the right screenplay with the right director with the right cast and crew, and you just might get a perfect film. These movies are few and far between, but when they come along, you know right away you’ve found a flawless film.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Surrealism has had several cinematic champions over the years, from Luis Buñuel to Alejandro Jodorowsky, but the modern-day master of the movement is David Lynch. The man has a real knack for mining the subconscious and creating terrifying nightmare imagery. For example, there’s Eraserhead and the third season of Twin Peaks, but if you want to see Lynch at the height of his mind-bending powers, then check out his magnum opus, Mulholland Drive.
Explaining the plot is like trying to describe a deep and disturbing dream. The film begins when an innocent actress named Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood with hopes of making it big. She soon stumbles into a strange plot involving a beautiful brunette (Laura Elena Harring) suffering from amnesia, but as Roger Ebert pointed out in his original review, Mulholland Drive ditches traditional plot and instead “works directly on the emotions, like music.” After all, the mass majority of the movie is an actual dream, and by working through a woman’s heartbroken subconscious, Lynch explores the dark machinations of Hollywood and how often our grandiose goals give way to despair.
And while you’re sifting through all this dream logic — what’s up with the blue key and the blue box? — Lynch keeps you glued to the screen with mesmerizing sequences like the Club Silencio musical number, Betty’s jaw-dropping audition, and the eerie moment when a cocky director (Justin Theroux) encounters the world’s creepiest cowboy. And then, of course, there’s one of the scariest scenes in Hollywood history, a masterclass in tension that involves nothing more than two men in a diner. Couple all that with Naomi Watts’ powerhouse of a performance, and it’s no wonder the BBC named this surrealist masterpiece the greatest film of the 21st century so far.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Read More: https://www.looper.com/111603/movies-practically-flawless/