Oscar-winning American actress Jodie Foster celebrated her 50th birthday on Nov. 19. Known for a career marked by provocative roles, she came to prominence in Martin Scorsese's 1976 drama "Taxi Driver" playing a child prostitute. Miss Foster went on to win the best actress Oscar in 1989 for "The Accused" and again in 1992 for "The Silence of the Lambs." The List this week chooses her top 15 films.
- 15. "Anna and the King" (1999) — In this feel-good film, Miss Foster plays an English teacher sent to Siam to instruct the 58 children of the ruling monarch in the mid-19th century. While prim and proper, Miss Foster is unbelievably forward in her relationship with the king in this Victorian period piece. The film was banned in Thailand.
- 14. "Freaky Friday" (1976) — This delightful Disney Studios film starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris as the teenager and the mother who experience a supernatural body trade for a day in order to emerge with a keener appreciation of what the other is thinking and facing day after day.
- 13. "A Very Long Engagement" (2004) — Miss Foster, who speaks fluent French, plays a surprise and unbilled small role in a subplot of this amazing French film against a backdrop of World War I. Audrey Tatou is an orphan who is determined to find her childhood sweetheart she believes has survived the dire fate on the Sommes front in 1917.
- 12. "Maverick" (1994) — Looking extremely pretty as a rival gambler called Annabelle Bransford, Miss Foster steals the screen in this Western that starred Mel Gibson as gambler Bret Maverick and James Garner as a sheriff called Zane Cooper. The trio are thrown together as traveling companions on a trip from the Southwest to a riverboat on the Mississippi, where a high-stakes poker tournament allegedly beckons.
- 11. "Contact" (1997) — In this Robert Zemeckis' movie-type version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Miss Foster plays orphan Eleanor Arroway, who has dedicated herself to radio astronomy at the Very Large Array in New Mexico. While on duty, her earphones pick up sounds from the vicinity of Vega. She is then selected to make the first voyage to a faraway civilization.
- 10. "Taxi Driver" (1976) — It's disturbing to think that Miss Foster was a mere 13 years old when she played a waiflike prostitute named Iris in "Taxi Driver." This gritty Martin Scorsese film changed her life forever, not merely because it gained her an Academy Award nomination. It also gained her the attention of John Hinckley Jr., who tried in 1981 to assassinate President Reagan to draw Miss Foster's attention. Miss Foster is one of the few child actors to find success as an adult.
- 9. "Nell" (1994) — In one of the most difficult roles she has played, Miss Foster portrays a young woman who has grown to adulthood in the woods of Tennessee without modern amenities. She has never even seen a man. Raised by her mother, a stroke victim whose speech has been affected because part of her face is paralyzed, she has never learned to speak properly and communicates in an unintelligible form of English. The role garnered her a fourth Academy Award nomination.
- 8. "Panic Room" (2002) — Miss Foster plays Meg Altman, a wealthy divorcee living with her adolescent daughter, Sarah, in an Upper West Side town house in Manhattan that is invaded by three greedy burglars. Meg and her daughter head for protection in the panic room. Darned if that isn't the very hiding place the thieves need to monopolize for an extended job of safecracking.
- 7. "The Accused" (1988) — In this gritty courtroom drama, Miss Foster stars as Sarah Tobias, a foul-mouthed, angry waitress who is the victim of a brutal gang-rape in a bar. More than 260 takes were needed to make the three-minute rape scene, which took five days to film. It was one of the first films Miss Foster made after her four years at Yale. The role won her the Oscar for best actress.
- 6. "Sommersby" (1993) — Miss Foster (Laurel) plays a tender, loving farmer's wife waiting for her husband to return from the war in this romantic adventure set in the post-Civil War South. When her husband (Richard Gere) does come home, Laurel soon finds that the cruel, abusive man she knew before the war has been replaced by a loving family man whose return transforms the blighted town where she lives. More with her face than her words, Miss Foster expresses the love and anguish in her character. The film was based on the 1982 French film "The Return of Martin Guerre."
- 5. "The Beaver" (2011) — Miss Foster stars in, and directed, this challenging and peculiar film. She plays the loyal and caring wife of Mel Gibson, a man suffering from depression who suddenly starts listening to a beaver hand puppet. The dialogue-heavy film is certainly an ambitious project, but Miss Foster does a great job of pulling it off, proving that her directorial skills are as good as her acting.
- 4. "Bugsy Malone" (1976) — This was a landmark film at its time. A gangster musical set in 1929 with an all-child cast. Miss Foster plays Tallulah, the sassy girlfriend of the owner of Fat Sam's Grand Slam Speakeasy.
- 3. "Flightplan" (2005) — This high-flying thriller about the disappearance of a girl on a plane caused a little uproar. Some flight attendants called for a boycott of the film when it was revealed that one of the bad guys in the film was a flight attendant, after strong hints that four Muslim Arabs are the terrorists on the plane. Miss Foster is excellent as a desperate mother determined to find her child in a plane that she helped design. The film earned more than $223 million at the box office.
- 2. "The Brave One" (2007) — Revenge never tasted so sweet as this thriller. Miss Foster is a radio host turned vigilante after she and her fiance are set upon by savage punks. The talented Irish director Neil Jordan has Miss Foster, armed with a Kahr 9, going after lowlifes in a quest to avenge her fiance's death. The part garnered her a Golden Globe nomination.
- 1. "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) — In this bloodcurdling thriller, Miss Foster plays FBI agent Clarice Starling, who has the job of trying to interrogate bogeymen Hannibal Lecter, a psychopathic serial killer played by Anthony Hopkins. Mr. Hopkins almost steals the film, but as Miss Foster stares down the creep she builds an emotional rapport with the viewer. The role earned her a second Academy Award for best actress.
Compiled by John Haydon
Source: Associated Press, The Washington Times, The Guardian and IMDb
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