Like many of you, I was first truly introduced to Kristen Stewart during the frenzy surrounding the Twilight Saga. However, before Stewart became Bella Swan, she had been working in the film industry for nearly a decade. As a working actress, she had the privilege of honing her craft while still maintaining her privacy. Before Twilight, you may recall seeing her in The Panic Room alongside Jodie Foster, or in Cold Creek Mountain with Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone. Though Bella Swan was the role of a lifetime, it put Stewart's personal life under a microscope, an invasion that she was clearly uncomfortable with.
Still, while filming the five Twilight films, and certainly once they were completed, Stewart was able to step away from the world of vampires and werewolves. While Bella was evolving, the actress was expanding her body of work and her acting skills. Though many of her recent works have not had the same global success as the Twilight franchise, the 25-year-old has done some incredible work. Earlier this year, she made history as the first American actress to win a César (the French equivalent of an Oscar). From films set across the decades to roles alongside Oscar winners and legends, Stewart has continued a career that will reach far beyond the YA paranormal saga.
The Twilight alum is certainly on a roll, as she is slated to begin filming an upcoming Woody Allen project in the near future, and she will team up with Jesse Eisenberg again this summer in American Ultra. Until then, here are eight of Stewart's best reviewed performances.
1. Clouds of Sils Maria
Starring opposite the illustrious Juliette Binoche is no small feat. However, Stewart held her own, winning a César for her role as Valentine, a personal assistant to veteran actress Maria Enders (Binoche). If you've ever been a personal assistant, you realize how grueling and emotionally tasking the role can be. Stewart gives her role exquisite depth and humanity. Her presence humanizes Binoche's character, and the film itself.
In Adventureland, Stewart plays Emily Lewin, a young woman working at an amusement park the summer of 1987. Em is smart and witty, and she brings excitement to the dull monotony of the sweltering summer. She is so intriguing that she gains the attention of both James (Jesse Eisenberg) and Mike (Ryan Reynolds). Adventureland perfectly encompasses that moment of time between childhood and adulthood.
3. Welcome to the Rileys
Alongside the late James Gandolfini and Academy Award nominee Melissa Leo, Stewart plays Mallory, a young stripper who gives a broken-hearted couple a reason to live. Lost and alone herself, Mallory resists the Rileys' intrusion at first, but their determination forces her to come the grips with the fact that she may not be able to make it alone.
4. Still Alice
In the film for which Julianne Moore won the Oscar for Best Actress, Stewart plays Lydia Howland, the daughter of Alice Howland (Moore). As Alice comes to grips with her early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Stewart's character remains a constant source of support. Her performance here is as quiet as it is powerful.
5. On the Road
Based on the novel by Jack Kerouac, Stewart plays Marylou, a young woman enraptured with her slightly psychotic husband, Dean Moriarty. Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) narrates the film as he gets swept away in his friend's adventures. Stewart convincingly plays the naive Marylou while she is constantly seduced by, and pulled into, Moriarty's destructive behaviors.
6. The Runaways
Portraying a real person is often extremely difficult for any actor. However, Stewart really transforms herself into Joan Jett. Along with her co-star Dakota Fanning, Stewart gives depth and electricity to a somewhat flat biopic. The Runaways is definitely not my favorite Stewart film, but, without her presence, it would have surely been a disappointment.
7. The Panic Room
I saw The Panic Room when I was much too young to have been watching an R rated crime thriller. Even at 12 years old, Stewart knew how to command the screen. (This is no small compliment considering the fact that she starred opposite Jodie Foster.) As the surly 11 year old Sarah Altman, Stewart perfectly encompassed adolescence and prepubescent angst.
8. Camp X-Ray
Stewart is certainly not afraid to take risks. In last year's Camp X-Ray she played Cole, a young solider who befriends a man imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. I thought Stewart's performance was beautifully done. Camp X-Ray highlighted the fact that there aren't enough films about women in the armed forces.