Kirsten Dunst turns 30 today. To say happy birthday, we’re counting down her 15 best performances.
Though she went on to perfect the snobby blonde persona in Bring It On, Dunst gave us an early taste of it in Drop Dead Gorgeous, satirizing the beauty queen scene through her warmth and cunning humor.
Cameron Crowe’s messiest film was still filled with wonderful vignettes that mostly revolved around the original “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” as film critic Nathan Rabin famously referred to Dunst’s adorable Claire.
With help from Paul Bettany, Dunst elevates Wimbledon from being another middle-of-road rom-com. In her role as American tennis star Lizzie Bradbury, she really lets go to create a cute and determined character.
This thriller starring Dunst and Ryan Gosling should have been better—much better—but Dunst still puts together a powerful turn as the loving wife of a psychopath. The devotion and drive of Dunst’s character highlight her diverse wheelhouse.
In this romantic drama, Dunst plays a rebellious teen who finds hope and love in an unlikely classmate. The story does nothing special, but Dunst wins over our affections and sympathy through a moving performance. She and Jay Hernandez draw a believable chemistry from start to finish.
Dunst and Michelle Williams go to the White House in this political satire about Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. Playing a cute and cheerful hippy who gets a job as the president’s dog walker, Dunst reveals that she can be both hilarious and charming.
If you weren’t introduced to Dunst in The Interview with the Vampire, you probably met her in the 1994 version of Little Women. At such a young age, Dunst showed signs of greatness by making us like a character that’s historically been hated, the bratty Amy March.
Even though Tobey Maguire goes emo in Spider-Man 3, Dunst holds steady as Mary Jane Watson, the deuteroganist of the trilogy. She remains convincingly human all throughout the campy franchise as the sweet yet complex girl next door.
It may seem strange to see such mindless entertainment so high on the list, but Bring It On boasts one of Dunst’s most distinct performances. She epitomizes the term “valley girl” playing Torrance Shipman, the shallow head cheerleader of the Toros.
This fictitious period piece about producer Thomas Ince features the best Kirsten Dunst performance you’ve probably never seen. Dunst confirms her comedic skills as American actress Marion Davies, giving the gold digger depth.
Dunst made her breakthrough as Claudia, an immortal vampire stuck in a child’s body, in this adaption of Anne Rice’s famous novel. At the age of 12, the young Dunst proved she had chops by her ability to convey such life experience without actually having any.
In Sophia Coppola’s dark directorial debut, Dunst’s Lux Lisbon isn’t just the prettiest of all her virgin sisters; she’s the strangest, too. With her long hippy hair and mischievous dimpled smile, she’s a rebel with a cause—both promiscuous and naive. It may be Dunst’s obscurest role.
Dunst doesn’t play a major part in Michael Gondry’s luminous romantic vision, but she certainly shines brightly through the crevices—small, significant scenes with Mark Ruffalo and Tom Wilkinson. Plus, Eternal Sunshine is arguably the best film she’s ever been in.
While Lars von Trier helps create the melancholy of Melancholia, Dunst deserves all the praise. In a performance that won her the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival, she characterizes the very essence of despair, drawing our sympathy as the depressed bride at the end of the world.
You’re probably already thinking, “Marie Antoinette over Melancholia?” Of all her performances, none embodies the beauty, vibrancy and empathy of this 14-year-old girl. Dunst plays the part in the same way Antoinette plays the part of princess—like a pawn faithful to her calling.