In just a few short years, Saoirse Ronan has gone from Hollywood’s secret weapon to one of the most consistently excellent actors of her generation. Though she was born in New York City, the actress grew up in Dublin, Ireland, where she got her start in show business from an early age. After frequent appearances on Irish TV, she made her film debut in the 2007 rom-com “I Could Never Be Your Woman,” as the daughter of Michelle Pfeiffer’s character.
By the time she starred in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut “Lady Bird” in 2017, Saoirse Ronan was a household name. The success took her to superstardom; she guest-hosted “Saturday Night Live,” booked prestige period dramas, and even made her West End theater debut in 2021 playing Lady Macbeth opposite James McArdle’s Scottish king. For an actress with a resume as stacked as hers, she rarely delivers a weak performance, even if the films themselves don’t always come together.
That is to say, Saoirse Ronan has a strong filmography to her name at such a young age. In the years to come, she will likely continue to blow audiences away with her engaging, emotional performances. Even some of her worst films top other actors’ best works, which is a feat few performers can boast of.
“Ammonite” premiered in 2020 at the Toronto International Film Festival, before it was released theatrically in November of the same year. The film was highly anticipated prior to its release, as it saw the blossoming movie star Ronan co-starring alongside Kate Winslet, one of the most critically-acclaimed actresses of all time. Starring in a romantic drama with Winslet, for Saoirse Ronan, is the equivalent of starring in a horror movie with Jamie Lee Curtis. Quite a career feat for the young Irish actress.
The film stars Winslet as the real-life British paleontologist Mary Anning, fictionalizing a queer romance between her and Charlotte Murchison, a geologist played by Saoirse. Despite the electric chemistry between Ronan and Winslet in the movie, as well as its romantic, warmly-lit direction, “Ammonite” resulted in disappointment from critics, particularly due to its historical inaccuracy. Some pointed out that not only is the romance between Mary and Charlotte purely speculative with no basis in historical evidence, but Ronan’s character was historically older than Winslet’s.
Nevertheless, despite the historical inconsistencies, many critics praised the sultry drama and particularly the performances of its two leads. Ronan and Winslet have both had far more critically-favored projects in their careers. This sole attempt at Oscar bait failed to garner much attention at mainstream award shows.
“Hanna” was released in 2011, early on in Saoirse Ronan’s career. The 17-year-old actress blew audiences away with her role as the film’s titular character, a teenage assassin raised in the wild by her father, a former CIA agent played by Eric Bana. The father and daughter find themselves on the run from the government agency, with the charge led by Cate Blanchett’s character. The action thriller was quite a departure for director Joe Wright, who had previously helmed period dramas like “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement,” the latter of which also starred Ronan.
Fortunately, Wright had a strong perspective he brought to “Hanna,” blending the ultra-violence of “A Clockwork Orange” with fairy tale tropes, with Saoirse Ronan’s Hanna playing the fairy tale princess pursued by the evil witch, which of course refers to Blanchett’s antagonist role. The film was even successful enough to inspire a spin-off TV series of the same name that aired from 2019 to 2021, though Ronan was recast with Esmé Creed-Miles.
Despite Wright’s inexperience with spy thrillers, critics came to the consensus that the director nailed the film’s numerous action sequences. Praise was also thrown in the direction of Saoirse Ronan, with The New York Times calling her “an otherworldly beauty” and “gripping.” Other critics criticized its pacing and lack of subtlety, but these are easy flaws for a film with this strong of a performance to make up for.
Despite being released in 2018, “The Seagull” is an adaptation of an Anton Chekhov play from 1896. The original play, considered one of Chekhov’s best by The New York Times, revolves around an ensemble of Russian aristocrats, including the writer Boris Trigorin and actress Irina Arkadina. Michael Mayer’s 2018 adaptation stars Saoirse Ronan in the role of Nina, an actress who becomes entangled in a tumultuous romance with Billy Howle’s character, Konstantin, a playwright.
Though the supporting cast of “The Seagull” is strong, including Corey Stoll, Annette Bening, and Elisabeth Moss sharing the screen with Saoirse Ronan, like many Chekhov plays, it can be a disorienting watch for the casual audience member. Chekhov’s characters, well-defined as they are, come across as melodramatic and equally subtle, and the play’s thematic elements often commentate on characters who waste their lives, make confusing choices, and are often unhappy.
Even for hardcore Chekhov fans, the film is nothing to write home about. It doesn’t live up to its cast members’ performances or the original play’s strengths. Chekhov purists will likely gag at the thought of a performance of “The Seagull” that is not Konstantin Stanislavski’s 1898 production of the play, often regarded as one of the greatest moments in the history of Russian theater. That’s a shadow so large, even Saoirse Ronan’s compelling performance can’t save it.
Peter Weir is no stranger to critically-acclaimed films, having directed “Dead Poets Society,” “The Truman Show,” and “The Year of Living Dangerously” before making “The Way Back” in 2010. The film is a strong showcase for Saoirse Ronan, who was just 16 at the time. She’s the best part of the film, which is no small feat since it includes the likes of Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, and Jim Sturgess.
“The Way Back” follows a group of prisoners during World War II who plan their escape together. Most of the film centers on their exodus to Mongolia, where along the way they encounter an escaped Polish girl named Irena, played by Ronan. The film is quite a tragic story for this group of characters. Nevertheless, each actor gets a moment to shine in this project.
In a review for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis cited Saoirse Ronan’s role in the film as a tear-jerker, while The Guardian called her “enigmatic.” Despite some divisive reviews on the film’s bleakness, it was another substantial notch in Ronan’s belt of increasing length.
“Mary Queen of Scots” was a pivotal film for Saoirse Ronan, transitioning her from an actress playing children and teenagers to playing the confident and assured monarch of Scotland. Ronan stars opposite Margot Robbie, who portrays the Queen of England, Elizabeth I, in this film that documents the historical feud between the royal cousins, resulting in Mary’s execution. Its supporting cast also includes strong talent like David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Joe Alwyn, and Gemma Chan.
Despite praise by critics for the performances of Ronan and Robbie, the film was only nominated at the Academy Awards for costume design and makeup and hairstyling. Some critics panned the movie’s historical inaccuracies, as well as its failure to represent this real-life drama in an interesting way on screen. Vulture, for instance, called Ronan’s portrayal “plucky” but regarded the film as an “awards-season, low-concept costume drama.”
Other reviews, however, praised Saoirse Ronan’s take on the Scottish queen facing destiny. The Guardian called her performance “fierce, sharp, [and] defiant,” while the San Francisco Chronicle called her “instantly likable” and certain in her youth, which is definitely accurate to historical accounts of the child queen. Perhaps if the film had nailed its historical accuracy, critics would be able to revel in the performances of Ronan and Robbie, who are both electric, particularly when they finally come face-to-face.
Saoirse Ronan rarely gets to flex her comedic chops, given her penchant for period dramas. That being said, what better actor is there to bounce quippy lines off of than Sam Rockwell, who adds charm to the most dreary of films. Fortunately, “See How They Run” doesn’t need that much of a makeover, as it’s a strong showcase for Ronan and Rockwell as a comedic duo.
In “See How They Run,” Rockwell plays Inspector Stoppard, who is hired to investigate the murder of an American director in 1950s London. Stoppard is paired with the inexperienced but self-assured Constable Stalker, played by Ronan, and the two become unlikely friends throughout their investigation. That doesn’t prevent Ronan’s character from stumbling upon the discovery that Stoppard may have been the killer, complicating the Agatha Christie-esque whodunit.
“See How They Run” delighted critics, who praised Rockwell and Ronan’s chemistry together, as well as the film’s very meta story (the final confrontation ends up taking place at Agatha Christie’s home, of all places). Adrien Brody, who plays a murder victim, also narrates the story and points out its cliches and flaws, making it an even better twist on the mystery genre. Hopefully, this film marks the first of many screen collaborations between Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell.
At only 14 years old, Saoirse Ronan starred in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones,” based on the novel by Alice Sebold. She plays the film’s lead, Susie, a young girl who is murdered by her neighbor George, played by Stanley Tucci, early on in the film. She later finds herself in an alternate dimension known as the in-between, where she can watch her loved ones without being able to interact with them. During her ghostly observation of life moving on without her, Susie begins to uncover the true intentions of George’s killing spree, giving her the chance to let go and enter the afterlife.
Upon release, “The Lovely Bones” received terrible reviews, though the actors received praise. Roger Ebert, for example, called the message of the film “deplorable” and doesn’t do justice to its source material. Despite the negative reaction from most critics, Saoirse Ronan did walk away from “The Lovely Bones” unscathed. She won awards for her performance at the Irish Film and Television Awards, as well as the Saturn Awards, while Tucci was nominated at the Academy Awards for best supporting actor.
“The French Dispatch” was released in 2021, marking Saoirse Ronan’s second outing with auteur director Wes Anderson. She previously appeared as part of the ensemble cast of Anderson’s 2014 Oscar darling “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” However, the ensemble cast of “The French Dispatch” blows that film out of the water. Ronan plays a bit part in this anthology film, featuring recurring Wes Anderson talents such as Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, and Frances McDormand.
Ronan appears in the segment titled “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” alongside Jeffrey Wright and Willem Dafoe. She plays one of many kidnappers who abduct the son of the ennui police commissaire, with their leader played by Edward Norton. Upon its premiere at Cannes Film Festival, critics praised Saoirse Ronan for her singing voice, which makes an appearance in one memorable scene.
The film received glowing praise upon release, particularly for Wes Anderson’s direction and the well-rounded ensemble cast. Though her role in the film is brief, Saoirse Ronan has been warmly accepted into the rotating lineup of Anderson’s filmography, and hopefully, in a future film, she’ll have a much larger role to play in the zany, absurd conflicts.
This drama was released in 2015, but even hardcore Saoirse Ronan fans may have missed it. After premiering at Sundance Film Festival, the rights were acquired by Lifetime, debuting it on television. Nevertheless, it’s probably best that “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” goes unseen, as its reviews were not kind. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as a young girl who is kidnapped at the age of 4 and later rescued at 17, returned to her biological parents, and forced to resume a life that isn’t hers.
However, (spoiler alert) things take a turn for the worse when her mother, played by Cynthia Nixon, ultimately becomes as controlling towards Ronan’s character as her original captor was. This plot twist was largely panned by critics, who felt it was both tone-deaf and “undramatic,” as The New York Times put it.
In a review following its Sundance premiere, IndieWire criticized the film’s second half for being “shark-jump worthy,” and steps on what is a brilliantly understated performance by Ronan. Variety called the film claustrophobic and lacking in urgency. The film currently sits with a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with one of the lowest scores of Saoirse Ronan’s entire career. Sadly, this film’s poor reception seems to be one more thing she can’t escape from.
“Brooklyn” was one of the first films to launch Saoirse Ronan into a new level of movie stardom. The film is uniquely personal to her — it centers on an Irish woman, Eilis, who emigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950s. It premiered in 2015 at Sundance, making it Ronan’s second film at that year’s festival, though this one would become one of the most decorated films of her career. Co-starring with her in the film includes actors like Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters.
Like many of Saoirse Ronan’s critically-acclaimed roles, this film’s strength is in its lead character. The loose story of “Brooklyn” allows audience members to feel as if they’re living life alongside Eilis, empathetically sharing in her struggles. As the film dives into the romance between her and Tony, an Italian-American plumber played by Emory Cohen, the viewers can personally feel the love between the two star-crossed characters. Naturally, critics tended to agree with this summarization.
“Brooklyn” went on to garner several Oscar nominations, including best picture, best adapted screenplay, and the first of many best actress nominations for the young Saoirse Ronan. The Guardian called Ronan “miraculous” and praised her performance in this film as an indicator that she was becoming “one of the most intelligent and compelling screen presences of her generation.” Few actors get praise that big so early in their careers.
In this 2011 crime comedy, Saoirse Ronan was paired on-screen with Alexis Bledel, known at the time for her role as Rory in “Gilmore Girls.” In “Violet & Daisy,” Ronan and Bledel play a pair of teenage assassins who are hired to kill a target played by James Gandolfini (in one of his last roles before his death in 2013). However, the duo quickly discovers the other tragedies that have befallen this man’s life, such as his declining health and his strained relationship with his daughters. What started as a typical hit job for the titular duo ends up becoming a confrontation of their individual paths as assassins.
“Violet & Daisy” had a lot going for it prior to its release. It was the directorial debut of Geoffrey Fletcher, who made history in Hollywood as the first African-American to win best adapted screenplay for the 2009 drama “Precious.” “Violet & Daisy” was the writer’s official follow-up to the smash hit, but despite its promising premise, the film was ultimately a huge letdown for most reviewers.
Several critics regarded it as a Quentin Tarantino rip-off, likening it to the kind of action the director excelled with in “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown.” More positive reviews praised the cast’s performances, with The Hollywood Reporter calling the duo “sugary-sweet.”
Saoirse Ronan’s reunion with “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig for her second film was a fortuitous decision for both the actor and the director. “Little Women” is the seventh film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s historical 1868 novel. As such, Gerwig’s version of it stands in the shadow of some magnificent filmmaking, particularly an adaptation from 1994 starring Winona Ryder as Jo March. Needless to say, the seemingly impossible task of redefining this iconic novel was achieved by both Gerwig’s direction and Ronan’s performance.
As the lead character Jo March, Saoirse Ronan was praised by critics for her powerful and compelling performance. In a review for Entertainment Weekly, Leah Greenblatt made the claim that Ronan “carries nearly every scene she’s in,” which is not only true but doesn’t even factor in her electric on-screen chemistry with “Lady Bird” co-star Timothée Chalamet, who plays Jo’s friend and suitor Laurie. The film also features a stand-out performance by Florence Pugh as Amy, who much like Ronan blows the audiences away with her role in the film.
If “Lady Bird” was proof that Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig worked well together, then “Little Women” proves that these two are cinematic soulmates. Reviews like The New Yorker’s deems Gerwig’s second film as “the best film yet made by an American woman” aren’t common, but for a duo like these two, that may just become the norm.
At the very bottom of Saoirse Ronan’s worst films is the 2013 sci-fi film “The Host.” Like “Little Women,” this film is also based on a novel, but the comparisons stop there, as the book was written by “Twilight” scribe Stephenie Meyer. The film adaptation was written and directed by “The Truman Show” writer Andrew Niccol, though it still falls short of the original novel, Niccol’s past work, and the rest of Ronan’s career.
In “The Host,” Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie, a girl who is captured by aliens known as “Souls” who are launching a takeover of the human race. After being invaded by a parasitic Soul, Melanie struggles for control over her own body as her friends and family help as well. The film features a supporting cast of strong actors, like William Hurt and Dianne Kruger, but none of them seem to be able to save this unoriginal sci-fi experiment. Reviewers felt the same, with The Hollywood Reporter calling it “yawningly familiar.”
“The Host” received extremely negative reviews and has an abhorrent 10% score on Rotten Tomatoes. In Roger Ebert’s review the famed critic condemns Niccol’s direction for robbing the film of any dramatic tension. Fortunately, it wasn’t long until audiences completely forgot about Ronan’s involvement in this, with better films listed on her resume.
“Lady Bird,” to put it plainly, was the film that skyrocketed Saoirse Ronan from up-and-coming dramatic actress to a tour-de-force worthy of any moviegoer’s attention. The film was the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, who up until that point had become notable for collaborating with her partner Noah Baumbach writing and starring in films like “Frances Ha” and “Greenberg.” “Lady Bird,” however, was a passion project for the newbie director, inspired by her youth in Sacramento, California.
In the film, Ronan stars as the titular character, a Catholic school senior dreaming of leaving her hometown for college. She butts heads with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, and yearns to live a bigger life. Her desire for popularity eventually draws her into a toxic relationship with Kyle, played by Timothée Chalamet, and strains her friendship with her best friend Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein. By the end of the film, viewers have lived a lot of life with Lady Bird, deeply empathizing with her, all thanks to Ronan’s magnetic performance.
Critics hailed “Lady Bird” upon its release as a triumph, particularly drawing attention to Ronan’s “expert comic timing and nuanced dramatic shading” (via Rolling Stone). Additionally, audiences were moved by the supporting cast, including Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, and Stephen McKinley Henderson. There are few films as powerful and expertly crafted as “Lady Bird,” which is not only a testament to Gerwig’s vision as a director, but to her utmost confidence in Saoirse Ronan as an actress.