When you think of Dakota Johnson, the first thing that comes to mind is opportunity fifty shades of gray Trilogy. While this role brought her fame, her career to date has been extremely diverse, ranging from small appearances in blockbusters to starring roles in Oscar-nominated films.
She is one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood today, as evidenced by her starring role in Marvel’s upcoming film Mrs. Netz and the six lively films she’s starred in in the past two years. She’s also one of the most polarizing – check out the Twitter reactions to her two recent appearances on Netflix conviction and AppleTV+ Cha Cha Real smooth to prove it.
She has always taken risks with the films she chooses, and while not all are well received, her performance almost always takes the films to a higher level. Now that convictionan adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, has arrived on Netflix and people have had a chance to watch it – let alone form their *strong* opinions about it – we decided it was a good time to start her career to reconsider.
Here’s a rundown of her best roles, ranked by the strength of her performance. (And yes, you will find out conviction here too. To paraphrase the film, “If you’re a 5 in Dakota Johnson’s career, you’re a 10 in Hollywood.”)
Fifty shadows freed
The third and final installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy, this film follows Anastasia (Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) as they navigate the challenges of a new marriage (plus some kidnapping and violence, of course). The film is a mess, and while Johnson is often the highlight of the franchise, her performance lagged and exuded the energy of someone ready to leave a job behind.
Persuasion is not a good movie. The film, which claims to be an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, takes an impressive work of literature and reduces it to something with spasmodic dialogue and feeble emotional engagements. Johnson, who has been the salvation for not-so-great films on more than one occasion, fails to help this film be anything but a poor attempt at capturing the charm of so many historical pieces.
The social network
You’re forgiven if you saw it The social networkk further, your first thought was “wait, was dakota johnson in this movie?” released in 2010, The social network was her first role since she starred alongside her mother in 1999. She played a college student who Facebooked Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), and although it was only a brief appearance, she made a big impression.
In a horror film starring Armie Hammer as a New Orleans bartender who begins receiving threatening text messages, Johnson plays his wife in a role that gives her a chance to show off her horror skills. The film feels a little immature, and while the plot gets creepy, the poor direction and weak writing keep the cast from really letting their talent shine, Johnson included.
Fifty tones darker
The second film in the Fifty Shades trilogy and by far the worst, Fifty tones darker is a film in which Ana, after being repeatedly intimidated by Christian and refusing to get back together with him (because he is a psychopath), inexplicably accepts his proposal. It’s confusing, but Johnson’s performance manages to take this film from unwatchable to, well, still unwatchable. But at least it’s good and brings some much-needed gravity to the film.
Bad times at El Royale
In a film with such an impressive cast as this (Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo to name a few), it’s a testament to Johnson that she made such an impression. There’s a lot to like about the film and the expansive cast means there are many storylines vying for attention. But Johnson’s role as hippie Emily Summerspring, who brings her seemingly kidnapped sister to the hotel after rescuing her from a cult, is outstanding. Due to the nature of the film, there’s a lot of twists, turns, and revelations, but Johnson grounds it all and always shows the weight of the situation her character is in — even if we don’t know the full story.
how to be single
A freshman college grad who moved to New York after breaking up with her boyfriend, Johnson’s first starring role in a rom-com outside of Fifty Shades was great, even if the film wasn’t. It’s a mostly fun time, with a strong supporting cast. Johnson has chemistry with pretty much everyone, which is always a plus and certainly enhances the film. Her character is extremely relatable and her charming portrayal keeps the role from ever falling victim to many of the film’s cliche choices.
A bigger splash
A remake of the film La Piscine, the film follows a couple (Tilda Swinton and Mattias Schoenaerts) on vacation in Italy, where they are interrupted by the ex-lover of Swinton’s character (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter, played by Johnson. The film begins as a seemingly twisted romance, but as the story progresses and we learn more about these people, the action kicks in. Johnson isn’t given, pardon the pun, the spizziest role, but her ability to be enigmatic and gorgeous is crucial to the story and had critics looking at her in another life.
fifty shades of gray
Probably the most famous role of Dakota, fifty shades of gray follows fresh college grad Anastasia Steele as she begins a BDSM relationship with billionaire Christian Gray (Jamie Dornan). The film, based on the hugely popular novel of the same name, was not well received, mainly due to the awkward dialogue and less than sensual sex scenes. It’s important to note that this film was the only one of the films directed by a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson), and it seems no coincidence that this film is the best of the trilogy as well as Dakota’s best performance in the series . Even panning the film praised her captivating, star-producing work.
In a relationship
The only short film on this list In a relationship mockumentary-style follows two couples navigating two very different relationships. Matt (Nicholas Braun) and Willa (Johnson) have been together for six days, while Owen (Zachary Webber) and Abby (Sophie Simpson) have been together for five years. It’s a very intimate and informal film that allows the cast’s natural on-screen presence to shine. Johnson and Braun do an excellent job playing two people who are obviously attracted to each other but can’t figure out their relationship. It’s an understated and sweet performance by Johnson, and in a short amount of time she manages to create a character that feels lived and real.
One of the smaller, more human stories Johnson was involved in, Our friend tells the story of Nicole, a woman who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and has months to live. She and her husband Matthew (Casey Affleck) decide to have their best friend Dane (Jason Segel) live with them to take care of their two daughters during this time. It’s a complex character and Johnson manages to give it the depth it needs. Rather than making Nicole appear like the caricatures we so often see in cancer stories, she grounds her in a sometimes chilling realism.
The high note
The high note, an amazing and funny movie about pop star Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her overworked assistant Maggie (Johnson), flew under the radar due to its May 2020 release. No, this film hasn’t garnered the acclaim or popularity that their other films have, but the story is heartwarming, the soundtrack is hauntingly awesome, and all the performances are strong. Johnson is compelling as Grace’s personal assistant, and their sizzling chemistry is endearing enough to make you think they care for each other, even if the film’s script doesn’t always give them the best material to work with.
Cha Cha Real smooth
In Cooper Raiff’s second directorial venture, he himself plays fresh college grad Andrew, who is struggling to make up his mind about his career. He ends up being the starter of a bat mitzvah party after attending one with his little brother, where he meets a single mother, Domino (Johnson), who brought her daughter to the party. The two bond on a level both are unfamiliar with, and the film follows their (sometimes romantic) relationship. There is something to be said for Johnson’s ability to convincingly play mothers on screen, as her love and concern for her daughter drives the film and her performance. Johnson is extremely captivating and the viewer, much like Andrew, can’t help but be captivated by her and her life. The small and intimate conversations that Domino and Andrew have leave the audience wanting more, mostly because of the charm she exudes.
The Peanut Butter Hawk
a touching story, The Peanut Butter Hawk follows Zak (Zach Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome after he runs away from his nursing home. He meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a criminal, and the two begin to travel, both intending to put their pasts behind them. Eleanor (Johnson), Zak’s caretaker, discovers that he has run away and sets out to bring him back. After finding out that Zak is going to be put in a tougher facility, she decides to stay and travel with him and Tyler. The film is extremely emotional, and while Dakota doesn’t play the biggest role in the film, her character brings a lot of heart and humor to the story, especially in the second half of the film, especially in the role of LaBeouf.
A remake of the 1977 film of the same name, suspiracy is a dark, spooky, and generally disturbing story, a departure from Johnson’s typical roles. The film follows Susie (Johnson) as she joins a prestigious ballet company, which is actually a cover for a coven. The whole experience is extremely immersive thanks to the stunning set and score, but also the performances. It received mixed reviews, but Johnson was widely praised for her portrayal of Susie, playing both the naïve dancer we see at the beginning and the dark, tormented performer we see at the end. The role required intense physicality and Johnson rose to the challenge and showcased new shades of her talent.
The Lost Daughter
By far one of the best films Johnson has been in, it’s also her best performance. Once again she plays a mother. Her character, Nina, meets Leda (Olivia Colman), a professor vacationing alone in Italy. The film, adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is an alternately touching and harrowing tale of motherhood. Nina is by no means the main character of the story. She floats in and out of the film, in the background and in focus, but her character plays a key role. Nina and Leda’s relationship is deeply strange, as their interest in each other is both sweet and a bit “offbeat”. Johnson plays the role in a way that is deeply specific to the story but leaves room for interpretation. She has shared that she had an instant connection with director Gyllenhaal and it’s easy to believe they had a strong bond watching this film. Dakota sinks into this role as easily as only an actor familiar with his material can.
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