8 Milestones in the Evolution of Natalie Portman

In this weekend's surprisingly not-near-as-bad-as-it-could-have-been release, No Strings Attached, Natalie Portman plays a doctor who's too busy for a proper relationship, and instead creates a pact with Ashton Kutcher that develops into a "sex-only" one. How did Portman transform herself from child star to the odds-on favorite to take home Oscar gold (note: not for No Strings Attached) next month? You can always trace a direct line through a handful of important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success, and with Portman, that line has been on a steady uphill climb sine her debut in Léon. So let's look at eight performances -- including something called "World Patrol Kids" -- that trace the evolution of one Natalie Hershlag.

World Patrol Kids (1992)

Yes, in one of her first filmed performances, Portman dances around as a member of the World Patrol Kids who -- for better or worse -- try to educate the masses on the benefits of recycling. She's doesn't quite have down the dancing skills that she displayed in Black Swan, but could totally have been an extra in the video for Debbie Gibson's "Electric Youth."

World Patrol Kids from Eden Riegel on Vimeo.

Léon (The Professional) (1994)

Portman, in her first film role, plays a young girl who comes home to discover that a corrupt DEA agent has murdered her entire family. Seeking solace at a neighbor's apartment (who also happens to be a hitman), Portman learns how to exact revenge and, in the process, falls in love with the hitman. It should be noted that Portman was 12 when she filmed this role and the hitman, Jean Reno, was 45. From an early age, Portman was never one to avoid controversial roles. Speaking of...

Beautiful Girls (1996)

In Ted Demme's high school reunion dramedy, Willie (Timothy Hutton) -- who is having a hard time figuring out what his relationship means -- finds solace in the company of Portman's character, Marty, who is 13. When filming, Hutton was only 35 -- so not near as creepy of a relationship that we saw in Léon? No, still very creepy. This also marks the last time Rosie O'Donnell appeared in a film that could be considered watchable (for those who will say "It's her only watchable film," allow me to remind you of A League of Their Own, which I'll defend until the day that I die.)

Pages: 1 2 3


  • CiscoMan says:

    It is rather amazing how Portman has avoided the stink of the Star Wars prequels, even though she was completely lost in those films.
    Speaking of Star Wars, please devote one of the next in this series to Liam Neeson. I always associated him with Oskar Schindler, but that seems to be the exception to the rule (Darkman, Taken, A-Team, etc.).

  • Sean Penn says:

    "...it was safe to assume that the co-star in every film was Jude Law." I happen to think that Mr Law is one of our finest actors."

  • Scraps says:

    I'm a happily married man, but I get all Dave Letterman when I think about Natalie Portman.

  • Scraps says:

    I watched 'Schindler's List' recently, the first time I had seen it since I saw it in the theater. Still a powerful movie, but way less so knowing Neeson would go on to play Qui Gon Jin, and Feinnes would end up starring along side J-Lo in 'Maid in Manhattan'...

  • Ana says:

    A friend of Natalie said:
    “Ben is a self-promoter who’s loving the spotlight. Her friends are worried she is in over her head.
    I don’t think he ever thought twice about leaving his girlfriend — which isn’t a very good sign of character. He seems like a social climber who was all over Natalie the moment they met.
    They’re calling him the ballet version of K-Fed! Unfortunately, he is the father of her baby, and her pals think she wouldn’t be getting married if she wasn’t pregnant, and that it’s all going too fast.
    They’re nervous that Natalie will wake up one day and wonder what happened.”
    You can’t confront a friend about her relationship. Guess they are gonna have to wait it out!

  • Kristen says:

    Okay, I can't be the only one disturbed by the Léon clip. Right?

  • casting couch says:

    Perhaps because every character in those prequel movies was bland and unmemorable (thanks to the writing), the actors managed to dodge blaster fire.

  • Ben-jammin says:

    How was Attack of the Clones worse than Phantom Menace? I thought it was awesome.

  • Bryan Evans says:

    I really do think that her role in V for Vendetta deserves a spot...

  • Kevin says:

    That's the first time I've heard the uncensored version of her SNL short. Even though you know all the words, hearing them makes it so much better.

  • Mark says:

    It's basically the audio from the Lonely Island track placed over the censored SNL skit.

  • Lesly Suarez says:

    Sorry but this list Suks really bad. V for Vendetta is not even on here!

  • Tiera says:

    What about V for Vendetta? She was pretty incredible in that movie too, there aren't too many women who can pull off a shaved head look.

  • Sarah says:

    Can I add a guilty pleasure which definitely doesn't belong on this list of milestones? Where the Heart Is I hate myself for loving that movie.

  • Xavier says:

    This list may have been improved by the addition of Anywhere But Here, for which Portman was nominated for her first Golden Globe, and especially, V for Vendetta, which is perhaps her most well-known role (at least prior to Black Swan)

  • anon says:

    Wasn't Rosie in Sleepless in Seattle? Lots of people love that movie.