Kate Winslet is an actress whose performances aren’t defined so much by their rigid technicality, but by their manner of presence. Much like the work of a classical Hollywood movie star, Kate Winslet’s power lies more in the brusque delivery of a cutting line or a piercing glance. There’s a looseness writhing to get out beneath the false composure of her characters, who are almost always marked by their prickly defiance and wit.
Whether bound inside a corset, or to the social and gender mores of a period setting (into which she’s often typecast), there’s a feral charm to her approach. In a movie like “Titanic,” Winslet’s Rose Dewitt Bukater doesn’t quite fit into the stifling world of the early-20th-century upper class; that idea is taken to more contemporary extremes in a movie like “Revolutionary Road” as April Wheeler, a miserable housewife existentially dying in 1950s suburban Connecticut. Winslet can masterfully embody a woman out of place and time, one who mocks decorum with a sneering laugh and (sometimes) a cigarette, but is nevertheless stuck at a “precipice,” as Rose says famously in “Titanic” while staring down the barrel of a dreary dinner party and an arranged marriage.
While Winslet is known for her historic-era roles, it’s also her contemporary turns where the Academy Award-winning actress (and seven-time total nominee) sometimes has the most fun, whether as a lovelorn London columnist in Nancy Meyers’ “The Holiday,” a neon-haired free spirit in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” or even as an adulterous mother in “Little Children,” who finds a giddy thrill in setting her life on fire.
This weekend, Winslet turns in another career-best performance on TV after her Emmy-winning turn in “Mildred Pierce,” again on HBO as a hardened police detective with secrets in a small town. Ahead of the premiere of “Mare of Easttown” this Sunday, check out Kate Winslet’s best performances ranked below.
We’d be remiss not to include a handful of honorable mentions, including Winslet’s turn as a campy femme-fatale seamstress in “The Dressmaker,” an accomplice to the Marquis de Sade in “Quills,” an unraveling epidemiologist in “Contagion,” or as the searching writer Iris Murdoch in “Iris,” for which she was Oscar-nominated.