South African-American actress and producer Charlize Theron has established herself as one of the biggest names of Hollywood. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2016, Time magazine included her in their “100 most influential people in the world” list.
Born in Benoni, South Africa, Theron started her career through dancing and modelling. At the age of sixteen, she won a one-year contract in a local competition and moved with her mother to Milan. She trained as a ballet dancer at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York until a knee injury made it impossible for her to continue.
In an interview, Theron recalled the personal tragedy, “I went to New York for three days to model, and then I spent a winter in New York in a friend’s windowless basement apartment. I was broke, I was taking class at the Joffrey Ballet, and my knees gave out.”
She added, “I realised I couldn’t dance anymore, and I went into a major depression. My mom came over from South Africa and said, ‘Either you figure out what to do next or you come home, because you can sulk in South Africa’.” She first gained international recognition for her brilliant leading roles in The Devil’s Advocate (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and The Cider House Rules (1999). Since then, Charlize Theron’s career has been a highly successful one. In 2019, she was named among the highest-paid actresses in the world.
Below, we’re picking out her five best films on Netflix.
The five best Charlize Theron films on Netflix:
Atomic Blonde (2017)
A comic book adaptation from the co-director of John Wick (2014), Atomic Blonde presents Charlize Theron as a badass international spy. Although the plot of the film is too convoluted, Theron is brilliant, full of gritty determination, athletic abilities and a hidden vulnerability. She makes the fight scenes look effortless even though she ended up with cracked teeth and a bruised rib while preparing for the role.
When asked about what it meant to play strong female characters, she said, “I guess it’s because deep down inside, I actually believe that that’s what we are. We are more capable than we are often portrayed in movies to be.”
She continued, “And we’re not necessarily given the right amount of credit for being that capable. So I try really hard to make my roles reflect women the way I believe we really are.”
Watch Atomic Blonde on Netflix now.
Young Adult (2011)
Young Adult is written by Diablo Cody and features Theron as Mavis Gary, a divorced, alcoholic 37-year-old who fuels her self-destructive tendencies by working as a ghostwriter of a series of YA novels. Even the character of Mavis is problematic and unlikeable, Theron makes her feel real and relatable. She conducts a raw and authentic portrayal of the human condition, making sure we feel her pain.
In an interview, she had this to say about her character, “I’m not a fan of justifying bad behaviour or justifying why people are the way they are. I think that’s a cop out. I don’t have a lot of empathy for that.
“I thought the things she did were pretty despicable, but not to the point that I was disgusted by her. I never had a hard time liking her. I would love to go and have a beer with her. Never let her hang out with my boyfriend, but I would love to hang out with her.”
Watch Young Adult on Netflix.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
When Mad Max returned to the big screen after more than 30 years, there were always going to be pretty big expectations, and it is safe to say that the 2015 sci-fi post-apocalyptic film lived up to them and then some. Although Tom Hardy is the primary focus, Charlize Theron is brilliant as Furiosa, a fearless warrior determined to protect the Five Wives from the antagonistic Immortan Joe. At times, it feels like she is the true protagonist of the film and rightly so. Theron does a wonderful job in yet another strong female role.
“Like anything that has some worth to it, it comes with complicated feelings,” Theron reflected. “I feel a mixture of extreme joy that we achieved what we did, and I also get a little bit of a hole in my stomach. There’s a level of ‘the body remembers’ trauma related to the shooting of this film that’s still there for me.”
Watch Mad Max: Fury Road on Netflix now.
North Country (2005)
Over the years, Charlize Theron has repeatedly lashed out against the gender-pay bias that is prevalent in Hollywood. She tackles feminist issues in the 2005 film North Country as well, putting up a moving performance as Josey Aimes, a survivor of domestic abuse who works at an iron mine in Minnesota. She and her female colleagues are subjected to multiple instances of sexual harassment, but nobody seems to take her concerns seriously. She decides to take matters into her own hands and hires a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the company, unwilling to let this pass.
Speaking about the relevance of the film, Theron said, “Of course, I’m a woman; I read this, and I was shocked that these events really happened and that that was only settled in 1995, which is such recent history. So all of these things were really interesting to me, but these stories can become very black and white in the wrong hands, and cat start pointing fingers, which is not life, and that’s not what I’m interested in.”
She added, “So I wouldn’t say yes to it until I knew who they were going to have as a director. So when Niki [Caro, director] came on board, she really catapulted the whole thing for me because we got together, and she finished my sentences, and I finished hers, so all of these worries I had were just non-existent.”
Watch North Country on Netflix now.
The character of Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer and sex worker, is undoubtedly the most powerful performance in Charlize Theron’s extensive career. Blindly in love with Selby (played by Christina Ricci), Wuornos robs and kills to support herself and her love. At the time of the film’s release, she was mainly known for her glamorous roles, but Monster marked a pivotal moment in her career. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her compelling portrayal of a desperate murderer.
“I didn’t think I could do it at first,” Theron revealed. “The thing that convinced me ultimately was that I had never had—and I get emotional thinking about it—I never had somebody believe in me like that before. I was always the person who would go into audition after audition after audition and lay myself on broken glass and not get the part. And all of a sudden, this woman is sitting in front of me, and she’s like, ‘You have to. You’re the only person who can’.”