In 1989 Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V took Hollywood by storm. Not only had he created a very accessible Shakespeare piece for the new generations, with the utmost respect for the source, but he also uncovered a bright new talent, displayed in the last quarter of the film itself. Starring as princess Katherine, Emma Thompson was radiant, immensely beautiful and possessed a curious strength of character that made her presence memorable.
She had been married to Branagh for 2 years (and they would split later in 1993), and had been part of many stage plays with or directed by her husband (they shared the stage in a revival of Look Back In Anger, directed by Dame Judi Dench), and she had already been in a film before: ‘The Tall Guy’ a comedy with Jeff Goldblum. Other films with Brannagh would be ‘Dead Again’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘Peter’s Friends’ in which her performances were always considered excellent.
Emma had been praised in every one of her roles, but then she committed to playing Margaret Schlegel for James Ivory in the exquisite ‘Howard’s End’ and was rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA. She then starred again with Anthony Hopkins in another film for Ivory: the beautifully melancholic ‘The Remains of The Day’, which garnered her an Oscar nomination, and doubled the same year receiving a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in Jim Sheridan’s ‘In the Name of the Father’.
By then, she established herself as a gifted and very intellectual actress, a tag she would promptly ask to be removed from any media, but that she underlined when in 1995 wrote and starred in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.
Ever since, Emma Thompson has been regarded not only as a gifted actress, who can go from very classical costume dramas to modern light comedies (‘Junior’ with Schwarzenneger, ‘Primary Colors’ with Travolta, and an Emmy winning special guest appearance in Ellen where she played a closeted lesbian version of herself), but she is also an accomplished screenwriter.
The following 10-Best list is just a way to recognize her extraordinary presence in modern cinema (and television).