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10 Best Charlotte Gainsbourg Movies, Ranked

Known for her collaborations with the Danish director Lars von Trier, Charlotte Gainsbourg has been familiar with the film and music industries for a while. Naturally, this comes as no surprise, considering that she is the daughter of 1970s actor and style icon Jane Birkin and musician Serge Gainsbourg. At only 12, the multi-talented star made her musical debut with the film Paroles et musique. Over time, Gainsbourg also pursued an acting career and went on to win the Cesar Award (twice), as well as the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award.




Because she prefers independent films over blockbusters, this acclaimed actor may not be the most recognizable name in cinema. Still, Gainsbourg is certainly talented and knows how to showcase her acting in complex roles throughout her filmography, which often features dark and thought-provoking themes. From The Cement Garden to Melancholia, these are the best Charlotte Gainsbourg movies, ranked by greatness.


10 ‘The Cement Garden’ (1993)

Director: Andrew Birkin


When she was around 21, Gainsbourg showcased her talents in her uncle Andrew Birkin’s drama, The Cement Garden, which focuses on four children (Gainsbourg, Andrew Robertson, Alice Coulthard, and Ned Birkin) who attempt to cope with their mother’s passing. Between hiding their mom’s decomposing corpse in a makeshift concrete sarcophagus and trying to hold things together in their isolated house, the siblings’ lives prove not to be easy, and their mental health slowly begins to deteriorate.

Given the mental health themes the film addresses, which span from trauma to incest, Birkin’s film is probably not everyone’s cup of tea (though that is mostly what’s expected from Gainsbourg’s controversial but undeniably intriguing body of work). Still, it is a compelling movie that deals with gender roles and social order, leaving an imprint on viewers for better or worse. The story is based on the 1978 novel of the same name written by IanMcEwan.

Watch on Amazon Prime

9 ‘The Accusation’ (2021)

Director: Yvan Attal

Charlotte Gainsbourg being comforted by someone off-camera while sitting down in The Accusation
Image via Gaumont


As the title suggests, Yvan Attal‘s 2021 movie centers around a court case. The story involves a young man (BenAttal) married to an essayist (Gainsbourg) known for her radical feminism. When he is accused of rape by a young woman (SuzanneJouannet) he meets on vacation, Adam claims his alleged victim is lying for revenge.

The Accusation illustrates each of the protagonists’ lives and how they are impacted by the allegation, and Gainsbourg successfully brings a key character to life in this well-crafted adaptation of Karine Tuil’s 2019 novel of the same name. While the courtroom film is on the same level as, say, last year’s Oscar-nominated Anatomy of a Fall, Attal’s film is still a tense legal drama that will likely appeal to those who like the niche category.


Buy on Amazon

8 ‘I’m Not There’ (2007)

Director: Todd Haynes

Close-up shot of Charlotte Gainsbourg looking at something off-camera as Claire in I'm Not There.
Image via The Weinstein Company

Before the upcoming Timothée Chalamet-led Bob Dylan biopic was in the works, Cate Blanchett stepped into the shoes of one of her most memorable and challenging roles in I’m Not There, earning an Academy Award nomination. Todd Haynes‘s movie on the life of the singer, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician’s life and work.


While she doesn’t have a huge role in Haynes’s film, Gainsbourg successfully plays the wife of Heath Ledger’s Robbie Clark — a character that represents Dylan’s time in Greenwich Village and illustrates the collapse of his marriage. All in all, the musical drama I’m Not There is an entertaining and unconventional biopic that features great performances, with many actors portraying the legendary artist at different stages in his personal life and career. Those curious about the upbringing and life of the singer will likely enjoy it.

Watch on Hoopla

7 ‘An Impudent Girl’ (1985)

Director: Claude Miller

Close-up shot of Charlotte Gainsbourg as a young girl in An Impudent Girl.
Cinema National de la Cinématographie


Claude Miller‘s touching coming-of-ageAn Impudent Girl (original title: L’effrontée) sees Charlotte, played by Gainsbourg, as she is raised without a mother, who died giving birth to her, in a run-down neighborhood. Even though she is only 13, antisocial Charlotte is seemingly ready to be an adult. She eventually meets a pianist prodigy named Clara Bauman (ClothildeBaudon), who improves her life in just about every aspect.

An Impudent Girl is not only a solid showcase of Gainsbourg’s talent as a child actor (she earned a César for her first lead role) but also an incredible advertisement for France’s stunning countryside locations, featuring a few beautiful shots that will persuade audiences to schedule their next vacations. On top of the acting performances and cinematography, Miller’s movie features an interesting storyline that will keep audiences curious.


Buy on Amazon

6 ‘Antichrist’ (2009)

Director: Lars von Trier

Charlotte Gainsbourg squatting down in a forest in Antichrist.
Image via Nordisk Film

In her third collaboration with controversial director Lars von Trier, who is known for his explicit depictions of sex and violence in film, Gainsbourg brings to life one of the two unnamed protagonists (Willem Dafoe stars as her husband). The story centers around a couple who retreat to their cabin in the woods in hopes of repairing their broken hearts and troubled marriage. However, nature takes its course and soon enough things go from bad to worse.


This polarizing arthouse horror movie is uncomfortable and disturbing (and certainly not the kind of film one would want to watch with their parents). However, Antichrist is somehow still intriguing enough to keep audiences’ interest thanks to its bizarre turn of events, which results in a nightmarish but unforgettable ride. Like Dafoe’s, Gainsbourg’s performance, which earned her a Best Actress award at Cannes, certainly adds to Lars von Trier’s movie’s quality, elevating it to higher ground.

Watch on Criterion

5 ‘Nymphomaniac: Volume 1’ (2013)

Director: Lars von Trier

Charlotte Gainsbourg lying in bed in Nymphomaniac with bruises on her face.
Image via Nordisk Film


Like Antichrist, Nymphomaniac is not for the faint of heart, as it provides audiences with an explicit portrayal of hypersexuality that some may find a bit disturbing. Gainsbourg stars as a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac in this erotic arthouse film. She looks back at her sexual experiences, from childhood to the age of 50, alongside the man (Stellan Skarsgård) who saved her after a beating after he takes her to his house for tea.

As expected, this Lars von Trier movie caused quite a stir when it was released due to its explicit nature. Whether one likes Nymphomaniac or not, though, it is impossible to deny the fact that Gainsbourg’s efforts as an aloof and disconnected young woman were impeccable. While the second volume may spike viewers’ curiosity, the philosophical first installment is arguably better crafted.

Nymphomaniac Volume I

Release Date
December 25, 2013

Runtime
118


Watch on Vudu

4 ’21 Grams’ (2003)

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Close-up shot of Charlotte Gainsbourg looking sad in 21 Grams.
Image via Focus Features

Based on a story by Arriaga and Iñárritu and starring Sean Penn as an ill mathematician married to Gainsbourg’s determined Mary Rivers, 21 Grams is an enthralling, non-linear psychological crime drama surrounding the consequences of a tragic hit-and-run accident that brings together the mathematician, grieving mother (NaomiWatts, who earned an Oscar nod), and a Christian ex-convict (Benicio del Toro also in an Academy Award-nominated performance).


In addition to how stylized it is, the excellent performances are undoubtedly the highlight of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s engaging movie, and Gainsbourg does an incredible job at playing her role. The film serves as the second part of Arriaga’s and Iñárritu Trilogy of Death, preceded by Amoresperros (2000) and followed by Babel (2006). Audiences who enjoyed it may want to check those out next.

21 Grams

Release Date
September 6, 2003

Runtime
124

Rent on Apple TV

3 ‘Kung Fu Master!’ (1988)

Director: Agnès Varda

Charlotte Gainsbourg smiling while looking at Jane Birkin in Kung Fu Master!
Image via Canal+


Directed by the one and only Agnès Varda, the “grandmother” of the French New Wave, Kung Fu Master! illustrates Gainsbourg (as talented as ever in an early role) and her real-life mother, Jane Birkin, as a mother and daughter in this complicated tale of love and motherhood. The movie mostly focuses on a lonely mother in her forties, Mary-Jane, who gets too absorbed in a sentimental affair with a 14-year-old boy (Mathieu Demy, Varda and Jacques Demy‘s son).

What’s so singular about Kung Fu Master! is its execution of a provocative and controversial premise, which, through the eyes of Varda, could only, somehow, result in something graceful. Despite its truly unsettling narrative and the scenarios it paints, Varda’s beautifully shot film is compelling in the sense that it observes and questions why such a relationship between an adult and a child could ever happen and provides audiences with food for thought instead of immediately taking a moral stance.


Watch on Criterion

2 ‘The Passengers of the Night’ (2022)

Director: Mikhaël Hers

Charlotte Gainsbourg smiling in The Passengers of the Night.
Image via KimStim

This vastly underrated Mikhaël Hers is one of Gainsbourg’s finest despite being little acknowledged. Set in 1981, the story follows a woman who has been left by her husband, consequently finding herself alone and responsible for caring for her two children. When she lands a job on a nighttime radio show, Elisabeth meets Talulah (NoéeAbita), who she decides to take under her wing, too.


Dealing with themes of identity, self-discovery, and loneliness, the fascinating The Passengers of the Night is a touching and mature film, even if its plot may sound simplistic. Thanks to its nuanced premise and flawless execution, Hers’ personal flick is the right pick for audiences who are into slice-of-life films. Furthermore, this lowkey drama also benefits from strong performances, particularly Gainsbourg’s.

Rent on Amazon

1 ‘Melancholia’ (2011)

Director: Lars von Trier

Charlotte Gainsbourg looking at the sun with her hand on her forehead while sitting on a chair outside in Melancholia.
Image via Nordisk Film


Gainsbourg’s last Lars von Trier so far is the 2011 psychological drama Melancholia, which centers around two sisters (Gainsbourg and a depressed Kirsten Dunst) whose relationship is put to the test when a mysterious new blue planet called Melancholia threatens to collide with Earth in a near future scenario. The film examines the two halves, illustrating the reactions of both sisters to what the future holds.

While Dunst arguably steals the spotlight, Gainsbourg still delivers an incredible performance as the anxious Claire in von Trier’s achingly beautiful movie. Melancholia is a must-see movie that addresses mental health, offering audiences a compelling illustration of mourning and melancholia through the two protagonists. It is said to be the second film in von Trier’s unofficially titled Depression Trilogy, with its predecessor being 2009’s Antichrist and its sequel, 2013’s Nymphomaniac.


melancholia

Release Date
May 26, 2011

Runtime
130

Watch on Netflix

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