Charlize Theron: Top Five / Bottom Five

She's so gorgeous that she's easy to take even in bad movies ... and there have been more than a few of those in her career. But Charlize Theron just keeps getting more and more interesting as a performer, because now, as a producer of some of her own films, she's breaking free of the pretty-girl ghetto to latch onto some genuinely meaty roles. This fall we'll see her in The Burning Plain (which she also executive produced) as a woman haunted by her difficult childhood, and as the unnamed Wife in the postapocalyptic The Road. Good times.

Top Five

North Country

Based on the real story of the woman who fought -- and won -- the first major sexual harassment court case in the United States, Theron is uncompromisingly tough and totally watchable as a feminist heroine of the most down-to-earth stripe.

In the Valley of Elah
As a tough nut of a cop investigating the murder of an Iraq war vet, Theron truly comes into her own as a talent to be reckoned with, letting us see the hard, uncomfortable edges of a character who's hard to like but easy to be intrigued by.

The Italian Job
Theron gets to play the cool and competent and sexy summer-action-movie chick without having to actually wriggle her ass in the camera. Hoorah!

Monster
As a movie, it's an unsatisfying mess. But as a showcase for Theron's talent, this can't be beat, because this was the first time we were forced to see past her supernatural gorgeousness to the raw talent and intelligence underneath. (All that and looks too? It just ain't fair.)

Battle in Seattle
It's a smallish bit in an ensemble drama, but kudos to Theron for making her role as an apolitical woman caught up in the 1999 WTO protests, to her great detriment, so powerful, especially considering that the actor's own political inclinations (she was a producer of the film) might have tempted her to avoid such a role in the first place.

Bottom Five

Hancock
Theron is never actually bad onscreen, but she's had the unfortunate luck to make some poor choices. And this flick ain't actually awful, not by a long shot, but the very worst thing it does is what it does to Theron's character. Which I won't spoil for you, except to say that when you see what she gets to taste, as an actor, here, you'll find yourself wishing she had a movie all to herself.

The Astronaut's Wife
Theron is forced to carry evil alien baby, and also to sport a Mia Farrow-in-Rosemary's Baby haircut. Pity the poor woman, for she did this for your entertainment, and you were not entertained.

Reindeer Games
Bad, boring, preposterous crime caper, populated with stupid, unlikeable characters. Theron plays one of them. Avoid avoid avoid.

Sweet November
Theron is saddled with the thankless role of scatter-brained, slightly slutty hippy, who is also meant to be simultaneously charming and adorable, even though she's also a bit of a stalker. No one could pull that off.

Aeon Flux
Theron is the tough superhero-esque chick who gets to save the guy from sure and certain death, but that's the only decent moment in this awful flick, unless you like science-fiction that looks like a fashion spread.

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MaryAnn Johanson wants to be just like Charlize when she grows up at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)