Top Performances is a recurring feature in which we definitively handpick the very best performances from an iconic actor or actress.
When did you first start working? For Kirsten Dunst, the young New Jersey star began her career at the age of three, appearing in various television commercials for Double Trouble, Kix, Pillsbury, Crayola, and the list goes on. Not too long after that she began working with veteran legends such as Woody Allen (1989’s New York Stories) and acting alongside top-tier talent like Tom Hanks (1990’s The Bonfire of the Vanities). By the age of 10, she was winning critics over with her award-winning performances in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire and Little Women.
Yet, unlike so many young and talented stars across Hollywood history, Dunst never left the spotlight and has since continued to work with the best of the best while also evolving her game. For over three decades, she has proven essential in nearly every genre she’s ever dabbled in — from comedy to drama, horror to action — and has even conquered the television medium in recent years. Soon enough, she’ll make her proper directorial debut with her highly anticipated adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s canonical novel, The Bell Jar, starring Dakota Fanning.
In the meantime, though, she’s reuniting with pal Sofia Coppola for the director’s remake of The Beguiled, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Colin Farrell. In anticipation of the film’s release, we decided to take a look back at Dunst’s greatest performances — of which there are many — and try to chisel them down to a Top 10. We attempted to capture her resume to the best of our abilities, but with someone as varied as Dunst, it wasn’t the easiest task. So, if you feel we missed out on anything, feel free to voice your opinion in the comments below.
10. Mary Jane Watson
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Definitive Dunst: “So here I am — standing in your doorway. I have always been standing in your doorway. Isn’t it about time somebody saved your life?”
Say what you will about 2007’s cruelly maligned Spider-Man 3, but Sam Raimi knew exactly what he was doing with the franchise, and part of that understanding surfaced in the film’s brilliant casting. Tobey Maguire was always the right choice for Peter Parker, and so was Dunst as his childhood crush, Mary Jane Watson. Sorry Elisha Cuthbert, but in the early aughts, nobody captured the idea of a “girl next door” better than Dunst, who had long won every then-teenager’s heart with performances in Jumanji, Small Soldiers, and The Virgin Suicides. So, it wasn’t too hard to see her the way Parker did, and she wisely capitalized on those feelings with an onscreen personality that embellished all her natural charms. Granted, she’s great in every one of the Marvel adventures, but she’s exceptional in the outstanding Spider-Man 2, exuding all the proper angst and remorse that comes from being lost in love. That final scene is everything. A-B repeat, y’all.