35. Without Evidence (1996)
Semi-coherent thriller about a real-life murder from Jolie’s scrapping-for-any-bit-of-work period. She is hardly in it, but the post-fame DVD sleeve makes her look like the lead character.
34. Lookin’ to Get Out (1982)
Jolie’s celebrated first screen appearance, alongside her dad, Jon Voight, in the Hal Ashby directed Vegas comedy. Jolie is a very sweet seven-year-old, but this is mainly of historical interest.
33. Love Is All There Is (1996)
Klutzy comedy about rival Italian-American catering dynasties, whose two kids fall in love, Romeo-and-Juliet style. Jolie’s charisma is evident, but the casts’ accents would get them arrested today.
32. Cyborg 2 (1993)
Jolie’s first big role, as a cyborg who falls in love with her trainer (“the perfect killing machine … peak condition, top of the line”), in a sequel to the cruddy Jean-Claude Van Damme straight-to-tape. Jolie shows action chops, but line readings are not yet her forte. She reportedly hated it, anyway.
31. Mojave Moon (1996)
Jolie’s first go at the kind of nutso-sexy role that would become a staple for the first part of her career. Danny Aiello plays the sap who gets into trouble after giving her a ride back to her mother’s place.
30. Playing God (1997)
Jolie plays the mystery woman again in this indie thriller about an ex-doctor (David Duchovny) forced to work for gangsters. More hanging out of speeding cars, already by then a Jolie trope.
29. Hell’s Kitchen (1998)
Jolie still marking time and learning her trade in another indie thriller – she plays a woman out to kill an ex-con (Mekhi Phifer) whom she holds responsible for the death of her brother. Not great, but not awful.
28. Life Or Something Like It (2002)
Jolie tried her hand at a standard-issue romcom – she plays a TV reporter with a week to live, who gets feelings for Ed Burns. Safe to say, sparks did not fly.
27. Original Sin (2001)
One of those films you just have to put down to the old learning curve. Jolie plays a mysterious postal bride in 19th-century Cuba who turns Antonio Banderas inside out.
26. Playing By Heart (1998)
Jolie dipped her toe in the big league with this Miramax-distributed multi-stranded ensemble romcom, with names including Gillian Anderson, Sean Connery and Jon Stewart dotting the cast list. Jolie cuts quite a dash in cropped hair and gold lamé trousers.
25. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003)
As night follows day, Tomb Raider’s $270m box office brought forth this sequel, in which Lara is after an orb that can open Pandora’s box. Interesting fact: the BBC had a piece of both Tomb Raider films, which is why they are virtual fixtures on iPlayer.
24. Beyond Borders (2003)
Jolie’s activist impulses were engaged after an eye-opening location shoot in Cambodia for Tomb Raider, and in 2001 she was appointed a UNHCR goodwill ambassador. This self-righteous thriller, in which she plays a clueless art-world type entranced by the hunky aid worker Clive Owen, was no doubt an attempt to channel her own conversion. But, presumably, Jolie was rattled by the flak it got, after it was accused of endangering real-world aid workers with a gun-smuggling plotline.
23. Taking Lives (2004)
Jolie plays the world’s most impeccably styled criminal profiler in a convoluted, but underwhelming, serial-killer movie: Ethan Hawke is the nasty, whose victims provide a new identity for him after every kill.
22. Foxfire (1996)
One of Jolie’s more interesting early films, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates girl-gang novel. In boots and pixie cut, Jolie really looks the part: she plays another nutso-sexy character – Legs, a drifter who encourages a group of put-upon schoolkids to rebel. Rawer, perhaps, than the recent remake by Laurent Cantet, but an early signpost of Jolie’s potential, and a virtual rehearsal for Girl, Interrupted.
21. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Jolie didn’t have a huge amount to do in this amazing-looking steampunk sci-fi thriller, apart from looking purposeful in a military cap and eye patch. She is the commander of an aircraft carrier, helping fighter pilot Jude Law foil evil scientist Dr Totenkopf.
20. Shark Tale (2004)
DreamWorks’ attempt at a fishy animation was somewhat eclipsed by Pixar’s Finding Nemo, but had a spectacular cast: Will Smith, Robert De Niro and (of all people) Martin Scorsese as a mafioso shark. Jolie had the usual slinky/sexy role as an impressively maned fish called Lola, who drapes herself around our hero before being dumped for Renée Zellweger.
19. Wanted (2008)
Never one to neglect the action fanbase, Jolie kept her hand in with the mentor role in this bonkers Matrix-meets-Kingsman thriller starring James McAvoy. Codenamed Fox (duh), she teaches McAvoy how to shoot round corners and become a fully paid-up assassin for a weird cult.
18. Hackers (1995)
Jolie really marked her card with this time-capsule (but inevitably dated-looking) cyber-thriller, starring a panoply of best-forgotten mid-90s haircuts and primitive computer graphics. Alongside her future first husband Jonny Lee Miller, Jolie made what was the first of a series of attention-grabbing, film-stealing performances.
17. The Good Shepherd (2006)
A lengthy, solemn film about the early days of the CIA in the 1960s, directed by Robert De Niro and featuring lots of men in hats and raincoats. Jolie glows in characteristic style as the unhappy wife of dour agent Matt Damon; her opportunities for spying are strictly limited, and her role is there to show the domestic price men such as Damon’s character pay.
16. Kung Fu Panda (2007)
Another mentor role for Jolie as one of the “furious five” ninja-warrior animals who train up Jack Black’s useless giant panda. The film is a lot of fun, but despite getting third billing – behind Black and Dustin Hoffman – Jolie’s tiger role is a bit on the thin side. Two sequels continued the pattern, although her roles are so small, they don’t really warrant separate entries here.
15. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
In 2001 what the world wanted to see was Jolie racing around in her skimpies while handling enormous weapons – and they paid to see it, big time. As unwatchable as every video game movie yet produced, Tomb Raider at least had the novelty of Jolie trying out a ludicrous posh-English accent and – all joking aside – showed that Jolie could carry a movie single-handedly, however idiotic it was. It was the one that put her over the top.
14. The Tourist (2010)
Presumably hoping for a bit of the old Brad Pitt-style on-screen chemistry, Jolie paired up with Johnny Depp for another go at the smouldering mismatch action-comedy thriller. Depp, not especially funny, is the hapless tourist scooped up by Jolie’s femme fatale as cover; Jolie, styled to the max, seems to mostly coast through things. Nobody’s finest moment.
13. The Bone Collector (1999)
On the brink of stardom, Jolie appeared in this adaptation of Jeffery Deaver’s doorstop serial-killer thriller featuring a quadriplegic forensic analyst, Lincoln Rhyme, played by Denzel Washington. She is the fresh-faced rookie cop who follows Rhyme’s orders as they track down a vicious taxi-driving murderer, and pretty much nails it. This was a crucial step in proving she could handle a solid Hollywood moneymaker.
12. Beowulf (2007)
Jolie’s second sexy-mythological mum role, in Robert Zemeckis’s adaptation of the epic poem. Zemeckis’s decision to go with motion-capture and CGI means this lives very much in the uncanny valley, but it allows him to get away with what the male teen fanbase was slavering for: a full-body nude shot of Jolie as she emerges from a lake of fire, albeit refracted through a glassy, liquid-metal texture.
11. Gia (1998)
Jolie couldn’t have found a better role than that of Gia Carangi, the meteorically successful, but self-destructive, model who died in 1986. Jolie fitted the wild-child persona perfectly: this HBO film got her a Golden Globe and a ticket to the Hollywood elite.
10. Alexander (2004)
Jolie was, notoriously, only a year older than Colin Farrell when she was cast as his mother in the Oliver Stone classical-era epic, which turned out to be a riotous fusion of semi-history and sword-and-sandal fantasy. Encumbered with yet another odd accent, Jolie nevertheless turned up the dial to 11 with a tigerish performance of roaring, vengeful fury, mashed together with gruesome mother-son lasciviousness.
9. Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
This was Jolie’s first big action hit, in what in retrospect was a frighteningly influential blockbuster (where would the Fast and the Furious films be without it?) As the dreadlocked Sway, Jolie proved proficient as the supercool badass and the hot-to-trot arm candy. Hollywood was not quite ready to trust her with a film of her own, but it was only a matter of time.
8. By the Sea (2015)
Jolie’s move into directing was designed to complement her activist work, with films about the Bosnian war, a second world war PoW and the Khmer Rouge. By the Sea, however, was very different: a highly personal relationship drama, consciously modelled on European new-wave cinema of Deray or Antonioni. Very much a vanity project, it was widely derided as a second Swept Away, but that is not really fair: it was never going to get the big bucks. Jolie said it was inspired by her mother, but Pitt’s presence as the other half of a troubled marriage gave this a through-the-keyhole air. Their own relationship disintegrated a year after its release.
7. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Jolie distilled all her self-destructive/manipulative/sexy roles into this career gamechanger: she blew away the film’s ostensible lead, Winona Ryder, and bagged an Oscar into the bargain. In retrospect, with the ostentatious tonal palette of khaki and beige, this does look like a pretty odd depiction of a psychiatric hospital, even though it is based on a memoir: it resembles a Gap ad shot at the Institute for Extreme Hotness. The supporting cast were all major figures in waiting, too: Elisabeth Moss, Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall.
6. Pushing Tin (1999)
One of those amazing films that even if you have no idea what is actually happening – it’s a thriller about air-traffic control – still manage to be incredibly exciting. By this time, Jolie’s extracurricular activities had become stories in themselves, and her relationship with co-star Billy Bob Thornton (soon to become husband No 2) was a subject of tabloid notoriety, not the least those vials of blood they were rumoured to have exchanged. Jolie’s role is another of her manipulative, free-spirit numbers, but taken somewhat to extremes: weepy/needy one minute, overpoweringly seductive the next. But the film itself is so great, it just seems to work.
5. A Mighty Heart (2007)
Even though she was given the nod by the film’s real-life subject, Mariane Pearl, Jolie took quite a bit of flak for playing the role of the Cuban-Dutch journalist whose husband, Daniel, was murdered in 2002 by a terror group in Pakistan. Darkening her skin tone was controversial enough in 2007; these days it would be considered close to blackface. However, in conjunction with the British docudrama specialist Michael Winterbottom, Jolie spearheaded a powerful, politically inflected drama, a more convincing use of her activist inclinations than the likes of Beyond Borders. Jolie also exercised acting muscles that she had rarely employed in the previous decade.
4. Changeling (2008)
Perhaps given a shot in the arm by A Mighty Heart, Jolie went full throttle for an Oscar in Clint Eastwood’s classy, grandiose true crime drama, based on the infamous Wineville chicken coop murders in the 1920s. Jolie plays Christine Collins, a woman whose son, Walter, was among the victims, but who was pressured into identifying another boy as her missing son. Jolie goes through the whole gamut of actorly emotions, from bafflement to rage to breakdown; she gives it her considerable all, but it didn’t quite get her over the line, beaten to the statuette by Kate Winslet for The Reader.
3. Salt (2010)
This was an early example of muscle-flexing Hollywood gender-swap: originally a Tom Cruise vehicle, this was reworked after Jolie got involved, switching the sex of the lead character, but leaving in all the head-cracking derring-do that goes with the Mission-Impossible-y turf. Jolie pulls it off spectacularly: her proficiency in the action movie verities beyond reproach, while injecting enough emotion into the moodier passages to give the character some bite. Not sure why this hasn’t become a franchise; the boring title probably didn’t help.
2. Maleficent (2014)
Disney cleverly exploited Jolie’s otherworldly qualities – ethereally satanic probably best describes them – in this revisionist fairytale, in which Jolie plays the wicked witch from Sleeping Beauty with a considerably more sympathetic backstory. The image of her with curling black horns and digitally enhanced cheekbones is one that will go with her for ever – the word “iconic” is overused, but this one merits it. The film itself isn’t quite kidult – more kiddy than adulty – but it’s still a feast for the eyes, and Jolie evinces real pain as the fairy who loses her wings.
1. Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)
I prefer Jolie in her hard-as-nails incarnation rather than, say, her dewy-eyed do-gooder or manipulative bad-girl modes; and spy films tend to bring out her sense of humour as well as reining in her frequent habit of going over the top. Here she gets to do a bit of everything that makes her a great performer: terrific action scenes, screwball-level marital comedy, some really rather impressive emoting. It also helped, of course, that there was a real-life backstory to the relationship between her and her co-star, Brad Pitt: this, of course, was the film set where “Brangelina” was born. Oddly enough, this film stands as a comic companion piece to By the Sea: it’s also about a jaded marriage flailing around for reinvigoration. It says something, though, that while Mr & Mrs Smith is a lot of fun, no one could mistake it for a masterpiece: Jolie, without doubt a stone-cold superstar, tends to be better and/or bigger than the films she has been in. But she has plenty of time to put that right.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is released in the UK and US on 18 October
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