Jessica Chastain's Best Movies, Ranked by Metacritic

Discover Jessica Chastain's best movies, ranked by Metascore.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

Jessica Chastain

Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

Juilliard-trained actor Jessica Chastain was destined to perform from a young age. She began appearing on stage (in Shakespeare, no less) in 1998 and less than a decade later was making guest appearances on such popular television shows as ER and Veronica Mars.

Chastain turned her attention to the slightly larger screen in 2008, making her feature film debut in Jolene, and wracked up quality (and mostly dramatic) film roles ever since, from getting back to her Shakespeare roots with 2011's Coriolanus, to branching into newer adaptations including that same year's The Help, Molly's Game in 2017, and It Chapter Two in 2019. She added documentary work with Wilde Salomé, voice acting in the animated Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and the world of superheroes through X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

She also began to take more agency behind the scenes, beginning to attach her name to projects as a producer in 2010 with the short film, The Westerner and in 2013 with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby trio of films. Recently, all of Chastain's projects have been ones on which she has served as both a star and a producer, including features The Eyes of Tammy Faye and The 355, and her returns to television (Scenes From a Marriage and the upcoming George and Tammy).

Chastain is a three-time Oscar nominee, with her most recent attention and only win thus far coming for the 2021 biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. She is also a two-time BAFTA nominee, a three-time Critics Choice Award winner, an ensemble Screen Actors Guild Award winner and an individual SAG Award winner, and a Golden Globe winner.

Here, Metacritic highlights the top 10 films Chastain has acted in, ranked by Metascore.

Zero Dark Thirty

Metascore: 95
Best for: Fans of historical dramas centered on a key individual
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, StarzVudu
Runtime: minutes

This 2011 Oscar-winning film from director Kathryn Bigelow takes a dramatized look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden via CIA analyst Maya Harris (Chastain). After the Sept. 11 attacks, Maya and her team interrogate detainees in order to get intel on where the terrorist leader is hiding, and though she deals with emotional setbacks in her personal and professional life, the mission always comes first. The film also creates a version of the raid that finds and kills bin Laden. This performance resulted in Chastain's second-ever (but first in a leading role) Oscar nomination.

"Zero Dark Thirty, like the mission that inspired it, commands respect, admiration, even awe in places." — Lawrence Toppman, The Charlotte Observer

Take Shelter

Metascore: 85
Best for: Fans of disaster films, family dramas, and psychological horror
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 120 minutes

When a man (Curtis LaForche, played by Michael Shannon) begins having dreams of the apocalypse and experiencing hallucinations while awake, he begins work on a storm shelter in his backyard. But his visions come with increasing paranoia and other side effects, which strains his relationships, including with his wife Samantha (Chastain). As he unravels, there is also the question about whether what he is seeing is true prophecy or a form of mental illness, which gives each scene an extra layer. This 2011 film scored the ensemble cast a Gotham Award nomination.

"Masterful construction and muted psychological horror." — Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times

The Tree of Life

Metascore: 85
Best for: Fans of period pieces, family dramas, and artistry through cinema
Where to watch:

, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 139 minutes

Terrence Malick's 2011 family drama follows Jack O'Brien (played by Sean Penn as an adult), who is greatly changed by the loss he has experienced throughout his life. The film unpacks how his relationships shift through the years because of that, exploring his bond with his siblings (one of whom dies young) and his parents (played by Chastain and Brad Pitt). The film received three Oscar nominations, including Best Directing for Malick.

"Aggressively impressionistic and unapologetically spiritual." — Wade Major, Boxoffice Magazine

The Martian

Metascore: 80
Best for: Fans of space, science fiction, and character-driven drama
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 144 minutes

Director Ridley Scott and writer Drew Goddard bring to life Andy Weir's futuristic space-set novel of the same title in this 2015 film starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a man who gets left behind on a mission to Mars and who leaves video diaries behind. Mackenzie Davis is a NASA employee who figures out that he is still alive out there, while Chastian is the commander of Mark's mission. The film follows NASA's plan to keep Mark alive until a new mission can launch to help him come home, as well as the differing points of view on how much of his story to share. The Martian received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, in 2016.

"A movie of innumerable delightful moments and small discoveries." — Andrew O'Hehir, Salon


Metascore: 79
Best for: Fans of Shakespeare
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 122 minutes

Ralph Fiennes stars as the eponymous Shakespeare character and also directs this 2011 British adaptation of the Bard's play. The tragedy centers on Coriolanus, the Roman general, whose mother (Vanessa Redgrave) wants him to run for Senate consul. When he speaks out politically, though, he is called a traitor and banished from Rome, seeking out an old foe (Gerard Butler) to end his misery. In a poetic twist, his former foe embraces him and the two team up in the name of vengeance. Chastain plays Virgilia, Coriolanus' wife.

"Exciting, ironic, with assured direction, accomplished performances and the tension of topical themes." — Angie Errigo, Empire

A Most Violent Year

Metascore: 79
Best for: Fans of crime dramas that come with moral commentary
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 125 minutes

Set in the 1980s, this 2014 crime drama sees Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) struggling to keep his heating oil business afloat after thousands of dollars worth of theft. With his company already under investigation, he tries to stay on the straight-and-narrow, brokering a deal to import oil directly during the time when cost is low, but pressure continues to mount on him, and he begins to have to confront those he considers his enemies and make threats of his own. Chastain plays Anna Morales, Abel's wife.

"As a great New York story, it's also a great American story about ambition and failure." Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle


Metascore: 74
Best for: Fans of futuristic space dramas
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 169 minutes

This 2014 Oscar-winning film follows Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, who learns a wormhole was opened years ago and now there is an entryway to many new worlds. Through the exploration of the planets in the new galaxy, the scientists and astronauts are looking to ensure humanity's survival, but that is easier said than done, and much time passes (and many setbacks occur) during the exploration. Chastain plays Murphy Cooper, Joseph's daughter and a NASA scientist who gets involved in the mission.

"A bold, beautiful cosmic adventure story with a touch of the surreal and the dreamlike, and yet it always feels grounded." — Dave Calhoun, Time Out London

Molly's Game

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of biopics, female-driven dramas, and high-stakes police investigations
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 140 minutes

Aaron Sorkin adapted Molly Bloom's memoir, making his directorial debut in 2017 and earning a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination (his third) in the process. The film stars Chastain as a fictionalized version of Molly, whose underground poker empire takes clients away from her former boss' game, attracts the attention of the mob, and eventually becomes the target of an FBI investigation. Chastain picked up a Critics Choice Award nomination and a Golden Globe nod for her performance.

"A sharply judged edit stitches together three separate timelines." — Tomris Laffly, Time Out

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her

Metascore: 67
Best for: Fans of complex marriages, character-driven dramas, and subjective storytelling
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Pluto TV, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 100 minutes

Though often screened together, Ned Benson's The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is technically split into three parts. The first two are the same story, told from two different characters' points of view, while the third one is a more objective edit that mingles pieces from the first two together. The middle third, subtitled Her, released in 2013, is told from the eponymous Eleanor Rigby's (Chastain) perspective and unpacks the events around her suicide attempt, grief over the loss of a child, and her strained relationship with husband Conor Ludlow (James McAvoy). This was one of a few titles that led Chastain to take home the Critics Choice MVP Award in 2015. This trio of films also marked Chastain's first time producing a feature-length project.

"A finely tuned and tenderly detailed love story of two people told on a cosmic scale." — Nikola Grozdanovic, The Playlist

The Forgiven

Metascore: 67
Best for: Fans of commentary on wealth and status
Where to watch: Not streaming yet
Runtime: 117minutes

Chastain reunites with Fiennes in John Michael McDonagh's 2017 adaptation of Lawrence Osborne's novel of the same title. The two play married couple Jo and David Henninger who are supposed to be on a carefree and lavish vacation at a friend's castle in Morocco — only before they can arrive, they hit a young boy (Omar Ghazaoui) with their car in the desert. While David spends time with the boy's father (Ismael Kanater), Jo stays behind to party with their friends, which allows the unfolding of a drama about the different levels of bad behavior from those who are used to having their sins tossed off, ignored, and/or covered up. 

"A morally alert drama that leaves the scolding to us."  John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter