Jodie Foster Films, Ranked.

T.W. Sexual Assault 

Alicia Christian “Jodie” Foster is an American actress, director and producer who has graced our cinemas with her mesmerising and nuanced performances for decades. Recipient of two Academy Awards, three BAFTAs, two Golden Globes and the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Foster’s presence has seeped into realms of film and television that have not only magnified her versatility but has also allowed her to leap over boundaries of genre. From breakthrough roles in Taxi Driver (1976) and Freaky Friday (1976), matured and measured performances in Panic Room (2002) and Inside Man (2006), to her direction of episodes in Black Mirror (2011 – present), Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019), and House of Cards (2013-2018), Jodie Foster has left her mark on our screens.

In perhaps her most recognisable role, Foster starred as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, an adaptation that is routinely cited as one of the most influential films of all time. Opening to critical and commercial success, Jonathan Demme’s psychological horror still induces spine-tingling shivers thirty years after its release. Recent murmurs have come to light revealing that American network channel CBS has committed to a television series following Clarice Starling in 1993, tapping into the untold story of Starling as she returns to work a year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs. ‘Clarice’ is expected to debut sometime in 2020.

As a tribute to Jodie, ten of her household performances have been rewatched and ranked by yours truly.  All of these films are worth a watch, even as an excuse to experience the sheer brilliance that is Jodie Foster.

10. THE BRAVE ONE (2007)

This image is a still from The Brave One. Jodie Foster is looking at the camera, holding up a microphone and listening through an earphone.
Image courtesy of
Village Roadshow Pictures and Silver Pictures

Directed by Neil Jordan, this psychological thriller stars Foster as Erica Baine, a New York City radio host who is brutally attacked and left for dead in Central Park alongside her partner, resulting in his death. Scared for her life, she obtains a gun and finds herself undergoing a radical transformation. A string of vigilante shootings surface, leading Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) straight to Baine. Foster is gripping as she spirals out of control in a frenzy of vengeance. Erica Baine’s trauma and ambiguity leave audiences questioning whether or not her actions are justified in her crusade for justice.  Despite this fascinating portrayal, the film’s execution is loose, elusive, and supporting characters melt into the background.

9. THE BEAVER (2011)

This image is a still from The Beaver. Jodie Foster is smiling at Mel Gibson who is holding the beaver hand puppet.
Image courtesy of Participant Media, Anonymous Content and Imagenation Abu Dhabi

Foster directs and stars in this dark comedy alongside Mel Gibson and Jennifer Lawrence. The story follows Walter Black (Gibson), an executive of a toy company who suffers from depression and hits rock bottom when his wife (Foster) kicks him out. After finding a beaver hand puppet in a dumpster, Walter uses ‘The Beaver’ to communicate with others in the hope of recovery and reconnection with loved ones. Foster’s direction is impeccable, but the characterisation of her role is weak and one-dimensional. The Beaver serves as a sombre vehicle to kickstart a conversation surrounding mental health and coping mechanisms, despite critics calling the premise absurd. The film bombed at the box office amidst the downfall of Mel Gibson after mass media coverage regarding his battery case and anti-Semitic comments.

8. TAXI DRIVER (1976)

This image is a still from Taxi Driver. A young jodie foster is sitting at a breakfast dinner table and talking to Robert De Niro. There is tea, orange juice, and toast on the table.
Image courtesy of Bill/Phillips Productions
and Italo/Judeo Productions

Foster’s breakthrough came with Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed Taxi Driver, where she portrayed a child prostitute at the age of thirteen. Although this role caused significant upset and raised many eyebrows, it resulted in a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This neon-lit character study still delivers a visceral punch, with a livewire performance by Robert De Niro as a night-time cab driver in New York City. Foster’s depiction is astonishing and still carries itself forty years later.

7. CONTACT (1997)

This image is a still from Contact. Jodie Foster is sitting next to a computer and wearing headphones.
Image courtesy of South Side Amusement Company

Foster stars as Dr ‘Ellie’ Arroway, a SETI scientist and protagonist of this Robert Zemeckis sci-fi drama adaptation. Dr Arroway discovers overwhelming evidence of extra-terrestrial life and is selected to make first contact. Contact grossed over $171 million worldwide against a budget of $90 million. The film makes for stirring storytelling and a cinematic study of curiosity about life outside of Planet Earth, satisfying audiences with visual effects and an emotive plot. Foster is brilliant as a resolute scientist willing to make a giant leap for mankind.


This image is a still from Hotel Artemis. The photo is a close up of Jodie Foster wearing make up to make her look much older.
Image courtesy of The Ink Factory, 127 Wall and Marc Platt Productions

This American dystopian thriller follows Jean Thomas (Foster), an agoraphobic nurse who runs an underground hospital for criminals. Upon release, Foster’s acting was singled out and praised, with critics reacting positively to the film’s unique screenplay and visual stylings but ultimately finding the execution inadequate. Foster’s delivery of dry humour to paint over the cracks of her character’s underlying sadness anchors the film’s narrative, making the film a worthy watch. Despite Hotel Artemis‘s predictability, the film treats Foster fans with a character study distinct to the actress’s spanning filmography.  

5. PANIC ROOM (2002)

This image is from Panic Room. Jodie Foster is on the left, and a young Kristen Stewart is on the right. They are both looking the camera's direction.
Image courtesy of Hofflund/Polone
and Indelible Pictures

In this David Fincher directed thriller, Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart star as mother and daughter who move into their new home after a recent divorce. The previous owner installed a “panic room” and extensive security cameras to protect residents from criminals. During their first sleep in the four-story townhouse, three burglars break in and provoke a game of cat and mouse. The film went on to achieve a box office of $196.4 million worldwide, garnering a particular interest in its portrayal of childhood and feminism within conspiracy and paranoia thrillers.  There has also been extensive analysis of the film’s elements of diabetes and video surveillance. Panic Room is a well-crafted high tension thriller, elevated by Foster’s resilient performance.


This image is a still from Silence of the Lambs. A younger Jodie Foster is wearing smart clothing, there is a brick wall behind her.
Image courtesy of Strong Heart/Demme Production

Jonathan Demme’s psychological horror centres Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee who’s chosen to observe the incarcerated Dr Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), an ingenious psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial murderer, in the hope of apprehending another serial killer, known as ‘Buffalo Bill’ (Ted Levine). Often regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, The Silence of the Lambs is the only Academy Awards Best Picture winner to be widely considered as a horror film. Despite her passion for the character, and being hot off the press after winning an Academy Award for The Accused, Foster was not the first choice for Clarice Starling. This intelligent and taut thriller is driven by both Foster and Hopkins’ stellar performances as heroine and villain.

3. FLIGHTPLAN (2005)

This image is a still from Flightplan. Jodie Foster is looking in the camera's direction and standing in an airplane aisle.
Image courtesy of Touchstone Pictures and
Imagine Entertainment

This mystery psychological thriller follows Kyle Pratt (Foster), a recently widowed aircraft engineer living in Berlin who flies back to the United States with her daughter, and husband’s body. After her daughter goes missing during the flight, Kyle persists in finding her while proving her sanity to the flight crew and passengers. While critics applauded the cast’s performances, many found the screenplay implausible. The ridiculous yet suspenseful premise sows seeds of doubt about Kyle’s rationality, leaving a question mark as to her reliability as a point of perspective. While some argue that tension deflates as the film reaches its climax, Foster’s projection of parental protectiveness and determination glues audiences to the edge of their seats.

2. NELL (1993)

This image is from the film Nell. It is a close up of Jodie Foster's head which is leaning against a wall. Her mouth is agape.
Image courtesy of Egg Pictures and
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

In an Academy Award nominated performance, Jodie Foster portrays the titular role of a ‘wild woman’ who has lived her entire life cut off from the world in a remote mountainside cabin. After her mother dies, Dr Jerry Lovell (Liam Neeson) happens upon Nell and is fascinated by the language she has developed. Along with the equally curious Dr Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson), Jerry observes Nell and slowly introduces her to the world she’s never known. Widely praised for her acting, Nell brought various awards and nominations for Foster but was criticised for its sentimentality and naivety. Although the confined exploration of her character is open to criticism, Foster camouflages structural and thematic weaknesses with her technically brilliant and moving performance. 

1. THE ACCUSED (1988)

Kelly McGillis dressed as a lawyer while Jodie Foster is reading a legal document
Kelly McGillis and Jodie Foster in The Accused

The Accused is a harrowing legal drama that tells the story of Sarah Tobias (Foster), a waitress who is gang-raped at a local bar. The plot follows the journey of Sarah and Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis), a deputy district attorney, as they set out to indict the rapists as well as the bystanders who encouraged them. The film explores themes of classism, misogyny and victim-blaming, and was extremely controversial upon release due to the graphic depiction of gang rape. The film is considered the first to depict the trauma of rape and its consequence on a victim’s life. Foster’s portrayal of Sarah marked her breakthrough into adult roles, having struggled to gain substantial parts following her roles as a child actor. Foster paints a devastating portrait, digging deep to voice the stories of women internally imprisoned by rape culture and violence.

The Accused marked the beginning of a new era for Jodie Foster’s career, and while she has since then starred in a variety of memorable roles, it is crucial that Foster’s performance as Sarah is remembered and reflected upon, in a film that is sadly still very much relevant over thirty years after its release.