Five Must-See Charlize Theron Performances by Jeff Mitchell

Five must-see Charlize Theron performances


Charlize Theron plays a dangerous spy - looking for answers in 1989 Berlin - in the stylish action picture “Atomic Blonde” which arrives in theatres on July 28.  Explosive performances are nothing new for Theron, because this very talented actress has been lighting up the big screen for over 20 years.   Versatility is one of her trademarks, as she can easily play a soft romantic lead, delve into a hard-hitting drama or jump into the fray of chaos and fisticuffs.   At 41, Theron shows no signs of slowing down, but let’s pause a moment to reflect upon her career.  With over 40 film credits to her name, she owns plenty of memorable roles, but here are five must-see Charlize Theron performances.


“The Cider House Rules” (1999), Candy Kendall – Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) wonders why Homer (Tobey Maguire) has chosen apple picking as a career, but with just one glimpse into the young man’s life, the answer is as clear as day, Candy Kendall (Theron).   In a supporting role, Theron plays Homer’s beautiful muse, outside the safe confines of his 18 plus years in Dr. Larch’s orphanage.  Although, Candy is out of Homer’s “league”, Theron carefully weaves enough insecurity into her character for the audience to believe in their love affair and also give hope that it could last.  In 1999, “The Cider House Rules” was Theron’s most critically acclaimed film, and her performance catapulted her towards a steady stream of fruitful roles in her star-studded future. 


“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), Imperator Furiosa -  After a 30-year absence, Mad Max makes a triumphant return to the big screen in an absolutely enthralling action picture which is vastly superior to its three predecessors.  Nearly the entire movie plays out as a nonstop, mindboggling chase through a barren Australian wasteland, as Furiosa (Theron) defies her city’s deranged leader, Immortan Joe, by attempting to free his five wives from a lifetime of marital misery.  Mad Max (Tom Hardy) joins Furiosa on her death-defying journey, but not before they work out their differences through violent means.  Theron is so charismatic as the assured, confident, one-armed heroine, director George Miller’s film could have been easily named “Mad Max & Furiosa: Fury Road” without a complaint from anyone. 


“Monster” (2003), Aileen Wuornos – Theron truly delivers one of the most seminal performances in cinematic history as Aileen Wuornos, a real-life serial killer.  Writer/director Patty Jenkins does not spare the audience from the brutality of Aileen’s lifestyle (a homeless prostitute) and explores the frank talk and seedy moments of Theron’s character’s chosen profession.  Throughout the picture, Jenkins includes Aileen’s homicidal actions and designed reminders that hookers and murderers are not born…but made.   The screenplay’s overwhelming tones of despair are only topped by Theron’s jaw dropping emotional and physical transformation into this damaged, deranged person with no clear paths towards anything resembling a normal life.  Theron earned the 2004 Best Actress Oscar in the biggest no-brainer win in recent, movie award memory.    


“North Country” (2005), Josey Aimes – In 1989, Josey Aimes (Theron) leaves her abusing husband, grabs her children and moves back to her small hometown in Minnesota.  With no other viable ways to earn a living wage, she applies and lands a job at the local mine.  Josey realizes that the work would be demanding, but had no idea that she would become a victim of an avalanche of sexual harassment and emotional/physical abuse within the male-dominated environment.  From 9 to 5, Josey and other women live a nightmare, and while watching this movie, it absolutely makes one sick that this type of chauvinism existed just 28 years ago.  Based on a true story, Theron’s character summons the strength to stand up to seemingly impossible odds, while also toiling with her own vulnerabilities.  Theron and Frances McDormand rightfully earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.


“Young Adult” (2011), Mavis Gary – Mavis (Theron) lives in an expensive, beautiful apartment in Minneapolis, but disregards it with clothes and her belongings spewed everywhere.  She also neglects Dolce (her toy dog) and herself.  Mavis drinks way too much, dates the wrong men, and her problems include a serious case of arrested development.   In Theron’s wonderfully dark, comedic turn, Mavis runs back to her hometown of Mercury to win back her high school boyfriend, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), except there is one problem.  Buddy is happily married with a new baby.  This, of course, doesn’t faze Mavis in the least, as she pleads with him, “We can beat this thing together.”  Utterly relentless and equally ignorant, Mavis feels undeterred in her quest, while believing that everyone else has issues.  Patton Oswalt costars as her unlikely friend who she completely ignored in high school, but don’t overlook this movie and Theron’s terrific performance.


Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008 and graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.  Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.