Kristen Stewart is something of a dilemma. She's beloved by the "Twilight" demographic, appearing on the cover of magazines and in assorted fan fiction; but her "other" work -- the films not involving Edward Cullen -- has been largely avoided by audiences.
How little financial success have her films had, outside of Bella Swan? Well, if you added up everyone who saw these top five non-"Twilight" movies in theaters, you'd have about 30 percent of the total box office "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" made ... on opening weekend.
So what, then, is Kristen Stewart? Is she the talented actor we've noted in her lesser-seen films? Or is she a "movie star," soon to finish up her defining series? Personally, I say she's both, and her current career arc closely mirrors that of Oscar winner Natalie Portman. "Listen," I often tell my friends, "'Twilight' aside, Kristen Stewart is a legit actor." You could make the case that this weekend's "Snow White and the Huntsman" will begin Stewart's slow journey toward shedding further Bella Swan typecasting; in addition, the reviews out of Cannes for the controversial "On the Road" have been largely complimentary.
No "Twilight" film (outside of "New Moon") has done much for her acting hype reel, but that's why we're here -- to help you find solid Kristen content, so you can get in on the ground floor of this movement. Behold, here the K.Stew films you might have missed.
5. 'The Runaways' (2010)
Admittedly, it's not a well-formed film. However, she's getting in reps with Michael Shannon here, which is never going to hurt. You also get a feel for the range of Stewart -- she plays Joan Jett, and she's very rock. The one thing I love about Kristen Stewart's ability right now is she's got a great "out of control" method in her repertoire. That's a difficult place for certain actors to get to, but not Kristen; she's completely selfless for her directors, willing to be both vulnerable and strong in alternate flashes.
4. 'The Yellow Handkerchief' (2008)
She plays a gal named Martine, and she does the thing that all great actors do -- she makes you a little uncomfortable, because you're not entirely certain what she's playing at. She's hitting on everyone in this film, and if there is a major difference between her and Portman in her early days, it would be the overt sexuality in many of Stewart's roles (which Portman didn't fully tackle until "Closer").
3. 'Welcome to the Rileys' (2010)
How much do I like her performance here? Well, I'm quoted on the DVD, which represents the first and last time that's ever happened. In "Welcome to the Rileys," Stewart shows that damaged individuals are her expertise. Sure, she's shown echoes of that with Bella, but it's mostly been reined in by a studio looking to make nice with teen girls ... and the moms of said teen girls.
2. 'Adventureland' (2009)
She shares scenes with Ryan Reynolds and Jesse Eisenberg, and it's been a hallmark of her career that she has no issues playing up or down in age. Em, her character in "Adventureland," is at once exploited, apathetic, world weary and completely naive. And that's in only 90 seconds of screentime!
Still, if there's one worrisome thing about Kristen, it's her penchant for younger, more unproven directors. Greg Mottola helmed "Adventureland," and though he's a director on the rise, you wonder what the heavyweights -- the folks with a "Best Director" next to their name-- could do with an actress like this. In the next five years she should actively seek out directors like Boyle, Nolan (okay, but he should have won), the Coen brothers and Kathryn Bigelow. That's true of any actor, of course, but Stewart will have the leverage needed to actually get meetings with the titans of the industry. She just needs to use it.
1. 'Into the Wild' (2007)
She's a hunter here, a hunter of Emile Hirsch; and that's something we haven't gotten to see in her "Twilight" work yet. Stewart is all angles in "Into the Wild," with the primary conflict coming from the fact that Christopher McCandless (Hirsch) is a wandering soul, and you can't manipulate someone who doesn't have an end goal. Still, Kristen Stewart is almost the girl who saves him, much as she's still the girl with all the power to save herself from Bella Swan. It will be a fascinating process to watch.
Bonus Pick: 'Panic Room'
I'm putting this in the "bonus" section because quite a few people have seen this movie, but it's very early Stewart. She's solid in the film, but she also hasn't hit teendom, so it's premature to say, "She's going to be huge!" For every Shia or Kristen there are a dozen other child actors who are never heard from again. It's a worthy performance, and she holds her own against Jodie Foster; but I can't go any higher than "bonus" because she's so young.