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Gwyneth Paltrow is the daughter of producer Bruce Paltrow and Tony Award-winning actress Blythe Danner. She was born in Los Angeles but moved to Massachusetts with her family, where her father began working in summer stock productions in the Berkshires, when she was 11 years old. It was here that she received her early acting training under the instruction of her parents. She then moved back to California, where she attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and majored in art history, but soon after graduation she realized that wasn’t her true passion. In 1990 she made her stage debut in the Williamstown Theatre play Picnic, and in 1991 she appeared in her first film, 1991’s Shout, with John Travolta. That same year, she met director Steven Spielberg, who gave her a small part in his movie Hook, which starred Robin Williams. Her personal life became high profile in 1994 when she began dating actor Brad Pitt, and her career got a major boost as he chose her to play his wife in the 1995 hit thriller Se7en. Yet, after their much publicized split in 1997, Paltrow was able to show Hollywood her range as an actress, and she continues to delight audiences with both comedic and serious roles. In honor of her 41st birthday today, here is a Top 10 list of Gwyneth Paltrow movies.
10. The Royal Tenenbaums – This 2001 dramedy had Paltrow playing Margot Tenenbaum, one of three gifted siblings of Royal Tenenbaum, played by Gene Hackman. Irony and extreme eccentricity were rampant in the film and Paltrow exhibited both brilliantly in her character. Paltrow played off fellow co-stars Hackman, Ben Stiller, Luke and Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Anjelica Huston with keen precision and brought this character, who was a playwright and very creative but intensely secretive and quite peculiar, to life.
9. A Perfect Murder – This 1998 thriller was a modern remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film Dial M for Murder, and loosely based on the play by Frederick Knott. Paltrow played Emily Bradford Taylor, who was married to Steven Taylor, played by Michael Douglas, but Emily was having an affair with a painter named David, played by Viggo Mortensen. Steven knew all about the affair and hired David, through blackmail, to murder Emily for her money. But, all wasn’t what it seemed as every character had something to hide and Paltrow played a seemingly clueless wealthy young debutante wonderfully. Though the film got mixed reviews from critics, moviegoers (myself included) were riveted to see who would come out on top in this web of lies.
8. Hush – This 1998 thriller had Paltrow co-starring with two-time Academy Award-winning actress Jessica Lange. Paltrow played Helen, who was living with and dating Jackson, played by Johnathon Schaech. Helen soon got pregnant and they married. Jackson then took Helen to meet his mother, Martha, played by Lange. Though initially it seemed Martha liked Helen, we learn that Martha had an unhealthy attachment to Jackson. She spends the whole movie trying to eliminate Helen, since she viewed her as “competition” for Jackson’s love. Paltrow did a wonderful job of playing a woman fighting to keep herself and her unborn child safe from an unhinged woman. Though the movie was widely panned by critics, Paltrow, in my opinion, was the bright spot that made the movie’s predictable plot bearable.
7. The Talented Mr. Ripley – This 1999 psychological thriller was an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name. Paltrow co-starred with Matt Damon, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Paltrow played Marge Sherwood, fiancee of Dickie Greenleaf, played by Law. Damon’s character, Tom Ripley, befriended the rich Dickie then murdered him and assumed his identity. Paltrow played a confused woman unsure of whom to trust but still searching for the truth of what happened to her fiancé very cleverly.
6. Se7en – This creepy 1995 thriller had Paltrow co-starring with then-boyfriend Brad Pitt along with Morgan Freeman. Pitt and Freeman were hunting down a serial killer, who used the seven deadly sins as the MO for his grisly murders. Paltrow had a small role as Tracy, the wife of Pitt’s character, Mills. Her scenes with both Pitt and Freeman were sweet, but what set this movie apart was the surprisingly horrific ending; Tracy became the serial killer’s final victim as he delivered her head to Mills as an example of “envy.”
5. Shallow Hal – This 2001 romantic fantasy dramedy, directed by the Farrelly brothers, had Paltrow co-starring with funnymen Jack Black and Jason Alexander. Black’s character, Hal Larson, only went after physically beautiful women, without much success. Then, fate stuck him in an elevator with self-help guru Anthony Robbins, who hypnotized Hal so that he only saw a woman’s inner beauty. Afterwards, Hal meets and falls for Rosemary Shanahan (Paltrow,) whom Hal saw as a gorgeous, thin, supermodel-looking blond girl when in reality, she was huge! Paltrow showed off her gift for comedy as she played off Black’s off-the-wall antics, and moviegoers hoped that, once he was free of his hypnotic state, Hal and the sweet Rosemary would end up together after all!
4. View from the Top – Paltrow played a small-town girl reaching for her dream in this 2003 romantic comedy. Paltrow played Donna Jensen. After reading the memoir of airline stewardess Sally Weston, played by Candace Bergin, Donna’s fondest wish was to become an airline stewardess as well and leave her unhappy life behind. Co-starring Christina Applegate and Mark Ruffalo, Paltrow’s charming portrayal of a girl trying to make it as a stewardess on a high-class airline was inspiring. Yet, Donna experienced roadblocks to her dream like deceit by her ”friend” Christine (Applegate) and having to choose between her career and love when Donna fell for Ted (Ruffalo.) Though the movie was panned by critics, in my opinion Paltrow’s character conveyed every girl’s dream to reach for their goals and let nothing stand in her way!
3. Emma – Paltrow played the title character in this 1996 period film based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name. Paltrow played Emma Woodhouse, a naïve, young woman who liked playing an amateur matchmaker but didn’t plan on falling in love herself. Co-starring Jeremy Northam, Greta Scacchi, Toni Colette, Ewan McGregor and Alan Cumming, Paltrow infused Emma with a sweet innocence that moviegoers adored. Misunderstandings pervaded the movie as Emma tried to aid her friends in the affairs of love only to find that her one true love was right under her nose the whole time. The movie was a smash; it won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and was nominated for Best Costume Design. In Emma, Paltrow proved to Hollywood that she was more than just a pretty face!
2. Sliding Doors – This 1998 romantic dramedy had an interesting plot. The film alternated between two parallel universes, based on the two paths the life of Paltrow’s character, Helen, could take depending on whether or not she caught a train. Moviegoers saw that if Helen caught the train she would catch her boyfriend, Gerry, played by John Lynch, cheating on her with Lydia, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, leave him, become independent and meet and fall for James, played by John Hannah. If she missed the train, Helen would be clueless about Gerry’s infidelity with Lydia and James would still appear on the outskirts in her life. Paltrow played the ups and downs that Helen endured in both universes with flair and wit. Ultimately, the film did moderately well in the US but was a big hit in the UK. In my opinion, Paltrow did a superb job of playing a woman living two parallel lives and succeeded in making moviegoers wonder which universe would win out in the end!
1. Shakespeare in Love - This 1998 romantic dramedy won Paltrow the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Paltrow played Lady Viola de Lesseps, who fell for William Shakespeare, played by the fabulous Joseph Fiennes, as he was writing his what would become one of his masterpieces, Romeo & Juliet. Fiennes and Paltrow’s chemistry was beyond comprehension as their characters’ ill-fated love story leapt off the screen. Paltrow portrayed humor, drama and heartbreak stunningly and made every woman who saw the movie yearn to experience the true love Paltrow and Fiennes conveyed on screen!