Between working in comedies, period dramas, musicals, and the odd superhero movie, Emma Stone is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood today.
Emma Stone has gone from one success to another since the mid-2000s, and her best movies showcase how much range she has. After a few small TV roles, Stone made her breakthrough in the hit teen comedies Easy A, and while she's a great comedy actor, she transitioned into more dramatic roles in the 2010s, most of which were huge awards contenders and winners. That said, The Favourite and Birdman are not general Oscar fodder; they're genuinely creative, unique, strange, and satirical takes on period dramas and Hollywood actors. Stone has certainly made some bold choices in her acting career that have massively paid off.
Emma Stone's return for Cruella 2 means she still has time for franchises, though her performance in the original also proved she can turn any role into a prestigious affair. Stone has already won an Academy Award for Best Actress, and she has also been nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category twice — it's only a matter of time until she wins again. Despite having tons of instant-classic movies under her belt, she's still in the early years of her career. Between comedies, period dramas, musicals, and the odd superhero movie, Stone is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood today. Here's a ranking of her best movies.
The Amazing Spider-Man franchise received an overall poor reception to the point where The Amazing Spider-Man 3 was canceled, leaving tons of loose ends following The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yet there's a lot to love about the first movie in the reboot series, such as Andrew Garfield's livelier and more excitable portrayal of Peter Parker, and the CGI is much more impressive than in director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, too. However, the true linchpin of The Amazing Spider-Man is the relationship between Garfield's Peter and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacey. The actors' chemistry elevated the movie and brought a sense of romanticism that was lacking in the previous Spider-Man films.
Nobody was asking for an origin story about a woman who skins dogs for a living, and while the idea of humanizing villains in their solo movies has become a trend, it's hard to put a positive spin on Cruella de Vil. Nevertheless, despite a controversial release for Disney, Cruella was a huge hit, and while it might have had a poor box office performance (via Box Office Mojo), that's only because of its Disney+ day-and-date release. Emma Stone's depiction of the character is instantly iconic, putting the focus on the character's time in the fashion world, and it makes for a fun and massively stylish reimagining of Cruella.
Following Superbad and Zombieland, which was a horror-comedy but leaned into coming-of-age tropes, Emma Stone became the go-to actor for the love interest in teen comedies. In 2010, however, she was the lead in her own coming-of-age comedy, Easy A, which was a surprise hit for such a low-budget movie, grossing $75 million off a budget of $8 million (via Box Office Mojo). The film follows Stone's Olive, a high school student who has to deal with a bad rumor spread about her. Easy A is an intelligent teen movie, smarter than even her classic breakthrough, Superbad, while it wears its John Hughes influences on its sleeve.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is another ridiculously clever romantic comedy that's just as smart as it is funny. The movie is multi-stranded and follows the stories of several different characters' relationships — or lack thereof — and it all ties together in such a humiliating way. It's a feel-good rom-com that stands out in the genre, not only for the jaw-droppingly mortifying plot twist but for the chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Crazy, Stupid, Love was the first of three movies they starred in together, making it the movie that established them as one of the best on-screen couples of the 2010s, and it's the funniest of the three.
Zombieland already got a legacy sequel in 2019, Zombieland: Double Tap, and Zombieland 3 is on the cards, too, but nothing will come close to the original. The movie is a perfect mix of comedy, action, horror, and even drama, as director Reuben Fleischer manages to make even a man eating a Twinkie emotionally resonating. Yet it's the camaraderie that Stone and her costars share, as they genuinely seem like a messed-up family, that really makes it stand out. It's hard to nail horror-comedy, but Zombieland was the best in the genre since Shaun of the Dead, and there hasn't been one better since.
The Help was a big awards winner, marking Emma Stone's first Academy Award nomination, as well as another surprise success, as the feel-good movie grossed $216 million (via Box Office Mojo). The movie follows two Black maids during the civil rights movement in Mississippi, and Stone plays a journalist who attempts to expose the racism they face at work. Since its release, some actors have regretted starring in The Help. Despite being such an Oscars darling, with Octavia Spencer even winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Viola Davis told Vanity Fair she felt that she had "betrayed myself and my people" due to the white savior narrative.
It's rare when an actor's first movie performance is such a substantial role, but Superbad, one of the most important comedies of the 2000s, was indeed Stone's film debut, and it gave her more exposure than she could have dreamed of. Superbad totally reinvented the genre. It's the most relatable 2000s coming-of-age movie, as it's a great depiction of teenagers growing up in that decade, and it was a massive box office hit, grossing $170 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo). That's huge given that Superbad was a decade in the making, as producers didn't think the script fit the style of studio comedies.
There's a certain stigma surrounding period dramas and an expectation that they have to look and sound a certain way, but The Favourite throws all of that out of the window. The true story of Queen Anne in the hands of any other director would be a serious dramatization of her reign in the early 1700s, but with the idiosyncratic filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos at the helm, it's a satirical black comedy full of duchesses and lords, in make-up, calling each other the c-word. Olivia Colman deservedly won an Oscar for her unique portrayal of Queen Anne, and it was refreshing to see the also-nominated Emma Stone play a manipulative villain.
Michael Keaton gave the performance of the decade in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, which is one of the most entertaining and ambitious art films of the 2010s. The movie is a satirical look at Hollywood actors, following a man who can't escape his connection to a superhero he played decades earlier. While Emma Stone's character is entirely fictional, brilliantly playing the man's recovering drug addict daughter, Keaton's character is somewhat based on real life, as he played Batman in the late '80s and early '90s. Edward Norton hilariously plays an exaggerated version of himself, too, as he's notoriously hard to work with (via The Things).
It's fortunate that Emma Watson turned down the role of Mia Dolan in La La Land; otherwise, Emma Stone might not have won an Oscar. La La Land is a spectacularly shot musical about Hollywood, and it again sees Stone and Gosling on-screen together with that unrivaled chemistry. Stone won an Academy Award for playing Mia, surely for her singing and dancing as much as her dramatic acting, which comes to a climax with her dramatic performance of "Audition." Between the jazz score that has racked up millions of Spotify plays and the jaw-dropping choreography, La La Land is far and away the best musical movie released in years.
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Currently splitting his time between Madrid and Chicago, Stephen Barker has been a staff writer at Screen Rant since 2020. Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a bachelor’s degree in Film, Television, and Cultural Studies in 2014, he has written for numerous movie and music websites. Visit Stephen’s personal blog, Quaranste, where he writes about guilty pleasure movies, his latest musical discoveries, and how he stays creative during global pandemics.