Laura Dern has had a successful film career, spanning multiple decades and genres. As she recently starred in Marriage Story and Little Women and will be soon returning to one of her most famous roles, it is easy to see how many great movies the actress has been in. To see how many of her performances were critically acclaimed, look to Rotten Tomatoes for answers.
The review aggregation website has assigned every one of Dern’s films a Tomatometer rating. This score is based on the negative and positive reviews of critics, and it’s what fans can use to line up Dern’s best.
Updated on June 6th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: With the release of Jurassic World: Dominion, fans of Jurassic Park will get to see all their old favorites returning to team up with the new generation of dinosaur lovers. This means the original trio of Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum are coming back for what is advertised as the last movie in the franchise, at least for now. While it will be nice to see the three back in the franchise again, they have not been gone from the public eye. Dern, especially, has a long line of movies in her past that are widely critically acclaimed.
15 Daddy And Them (2001) – 86%
- Streaming now on Starz and Spectrum on Demand.
Laura Dern and Billy Bob Thornton starred in the 2001 movie Daddy and Them, a comedy-drama that Thornton also wrote and directed. In the movie, Dern and Thornton play a husband and wife who are incredibly jealous and this takes a hard turn when they return to his home where the past comes back to torment them.
Critics loved the movie more than audiences, as evident by the audience’s 54% rating. The movie showcases a dysfunctional family in a way that both feels personal and also very familiar.
14 Wild (2014) – 88%
- Available to rent now on Google Play, AppleTV, Google Play, Vudu, Microsoft, Redbox, DirecTV, and AMC on Demand.
Wild was a Reese Witherspoon movie that was based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, a woman who set out on a solo backpack trip after her life fell apart. While Witherspoon played Cheryl, Laura Dern portrayed Bobbi, her mother.
This journey to reflection started when Bobbi died after a battle with cancer. It was her death that sent Cheryl into a deep depression that led to addiction issues. With her backpack trip, she was able to work through her emotions, and it was Dern’s flashback scenes that helped lend heart to her journey.
13 October Sky (1999) – 91%
- Streaming now on Starz, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
Based on the memoir by Homer Hickam, October Sky is a movie about Homer, a coal miner’s son who saw the launching of Sputnik 1 and wanted to follow his dreams and become a NASA engineer. Jake Gyllenhaal played Homer, while Chris Cooper played his dad, who was against his son’s dreams.
As for Dern, she played Miss Freida J. Riley, the science teacher at Homer’s high school who helped foster his excitement about building rockets. It was Miss Riley that Homer named his largest rocket after.
12 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – 91%
- Streaming now on Disney+.
The eighth installment in the Star Wars series has Rey finally reaching Luke Skywalker, who is living on an island in solitude. With Kylo Ren and the First Order threatening to snuff out the Resistance, Rey asks Luke to teach her the ways of the Force. Meanwhile, Finn and Poe prepare for the fight of their life.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Dern portrays Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, who is an officer in the Resistance. The film was praised for its big action sequences and even bigger emotional scenes.
11 Smooth Talk (1985) – 92%
- Streaming now on The Criterion Channel.
Based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, Smooth Talk was the movie that helped Laura Dern finally break out in Hollywood. Dern portrayed a 15-year-old who starts to experience her sexual awakening and realizes that it isn’t everything she thought it would be when unwanted attention comes from men around town.
Laura became a star thanks to this movie, and it was critically acclaimed on its own, receiving its own Criterion Collection release.
10 Certain Women (2016) – 92%
- Streaming now on AMC+, The Criterion Channel, Kanopy, and DirecTV.
In 2016, Laura Dern took part in a drama called Certain Women along with Kristen Stewart and Michelle Williams. The movie was a Sundance Film Festival release that ended up picked up and released by IFC Films later in 2016.
Dern plays an attorney who represented a man who was injured at work, but because he agreed to a small settlement, he can’t sue them. As a result, he goes back to his workplace with a gun and the police ask her to talk to him. While her segment of the movie is the most comedic, it still shows off Dern’s more nuanced dramatic capabilities alongside co-star Jared Harris.
9 Jurassic Park (1993) – 92%
- Streaming now on HBO Max, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
This iconic ’90s blockbuster roared its way into theaters in 1993. Jurassic Park tells of a group of people who are chosen to journey through a theme park that is filled with dinosaurs. The problem? These massive creatures get loose and are very hungry for humans. Dern plays Dr. Ellie Sattler, who is among the guests brought to the island.
The popularity of the film had multiple sequels chasing after it. The next movie, Jurassic World: Dominion, comes out this summer with Dern returning alongside co-stars Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, demonstrating the long-lasting impact of her committed performance.
8 Mask (1985) – 93%
- Not available for streaming right now.
This biographical drama recounts the short but meaningful life of Roy L. “Rocky” Dennis, a boy with a rare disorder known as craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. While Eric Stoltz played Rocky and Cher played his mother, a young Laura Dern acted as a blind girl who ends up becoming involved in a romance with Rocky.
The movie received praise for its realistic characters and moving plot.
7 99 Homes (2014) – 93%
- Streaming now on Roku, Tubi, Redbox, Pluto TV, Shout TV, Plex, and Freevee.
This 2014 drama tells of a family that is to be evicted from their home during the Great Recession in Florida. The father of the household makes a deal, however, that will allow him to keep his own home if he helps evict others.
The movie starred Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, and Laura Dern. The interesting narrative and powerful performances from the cast left audiences entranced.
6 Marriage Story (2019) – 94%
- Streaming now on Netflix.
Marriage Story is one of Dern’s more recent projects to have garnered lots of attention. The comedy-drama tells of a director and actress who are seeking out a divorce. Though this in itself isn’t easy, it becomes even more difficult when one of them decides to stay in New York and the other moves to California.
While Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play the leading couple, Laura Dern acts as Johansson’s divorce lawyer. Merging tragedy, poignancy, and humor, the film has reached universal acclaim. Dern has received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Golden Globe Awards for her performance in this heartbreaking movie.
5 Blue Velvet (1986) – 94%
- Streaming now on Roku, Hoopla, The Criterion Challen, Kanopy, and Pluto TV.
This ’86 neo-noir mystery relays the story of a college student who finds a human ear in a field while visiting his father at home. It’s not long before this leads him on a criminal hunt that involves him catching feelings for a nightclub singer.
Dern plays the daughter of a detective named Sandy, who quickly gets entangled with the secrets. The disturbing tone in combination with the strong performances left critics captivated and it remains one of David Lynch’s masterpieces.
4 Little Women (2019) – 95%
- Streaming now on DirecTV, Sling TV, and Spectrum on Demand.
This coming-of-age period drama, based on the novel of the same name and directed by Greta Gerwig, tells of the March sisters who grow up together in New England soon after the American Civil War. Their big dreams, romances, and relationships with each other help shape the future.
Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen act as the March sisters while Laura Dern plays their mother, Marmee. Though this is the eighth film adaptation of the novel, it’s receiving lots of praise for keeping the story fresh for another generation.
3 The Tale (2018) – 99%
- Streaming now on HBO Max, Max Go, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
In 2018, Laura Dern took on a role in an HBO drama about Jennifer, a successful documentary filmmaker and professor, who has a big secret. When she was 13, she wrote a story about the sexual abuse she faced at the hands of two adults. After her mother comes across this narrative, Jennifer is forced to face the ghost of her past.
The film delicately handled its dark subject matter. Viewers were especially appreciative of Dern’s authentic performance.
2 Rambling Rose (1991) – 100%
- Available to rent now on Vudu and Prime Video.
The first of Dern’s perfect-scoring movies is Rambling Rose, a story about a family in Georgia during the Great Depression who hires a woman named Rose to work for them so that she can avoid being pushed into prostitution. While living in the household, Rose starts to develop feelings for both the father and son.
The film received many positive reviews, with Dern’s performance as Rose particularly being applauded. Additionally, the interesting story and heart could not be overlooked.
1 Bastard Out Of Carolina (1996) – 100%
- Streaming now on Showtime.
Topping off the list as Dern’s other highest-scoring film is Bastard Out Of Carolina. This ’96 drama tells of a single mother, Anney, who tries to give her daughter a good life. While the family is brought together after Anney marries a kind man, he soon passes, and she is led into a new marriage. Unfortunately, the abusive union soon tears the family to pieces.
Though the film is difficult to watch, its real emotions left critics captivated. Laura Dern served as the movie’s narrator.
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