Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Emma Stone 12 Best Movie Performances Ranked

Emma Stone is such a charming, natural, and reliably good actress that the genius of her work is often overlooked. Even in her early comedy roles like "Superbad" and "The House Bunny," Stone had a gravitas about her that pointed to the fact that she was worth taking seriously. Stone is equally at home in girl-next-door roles like "Easy A" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," her natural charm radiating off the screen, as she is in more edgy roles like "Birdman" and "The Favourite." Her journey from teen comedy star to Oscar winner isn't really surprising at all when you consider that the quality of her work has always been impeccable.

Originally from Arizona, a teenage Stone famously made her parents a PowerPoint presentation listing all the reasons she should move to LA to become an actress (via TIME). Clearly, it was the right move. Her first credited role came in 2005, and she initially found work on television, playing small parts on shows like "Medium" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." Her first big break was in the classic 2007 teen comedy "Superbad," which came out when she was 18 years old. She received her first Oscar nomination in 2015 for "Birdman" and then went on to win best actress in 2017 for "La La Land" (via IMDb).

Though she hasn't been in the spotlight as much recently, we haven't forgotten about how much she's given us over the years. Keep reading to discover our ranking of Emma Stone's 12 greatest performances.

12. Superbad

2007's "Superbad" was Emma Stone's breakout role, and it's easy to see why audiences were immediately enamored with her. The film itself holds up surprisingly well considering it's a raunchy teen comedy from the mid-2000s, and Stone absolutely holds her own amongst her more immature peers. Indeed, what stands out about Stone's performance in the film is just how much confidence and screen presence she has. Though she was only a teenager herself at the time, that obvious self-assurance — but not conceitedness — is what makes her performance in the film stand out.

Stone doesn't get to tell as many jokes as her male co-stars in the film do, but she still manages to imbue her distinct maturity with a silly edge that makes her all the more engaging. Sure, she's way out of Seth's (Jonah Hill's) league, but her presence in the film has the effect of making everyone around her more likable as well. On the surface, it might look like an unassuming Hollywood debut, but upon further inspection, it reveals that what makes Stone so great has been there all along.

11. The Amazing Spider-Man

From an ideological standpoint, there's still plenty to be said about the damsel in distress trope in film and television. Why does the woman always have to be saved? Why can't she stand on her own two feet? These criticisms are all well and good, but sometimes so-called "girlfriend" characters are more than the sum of their parts. That's certainly the case for Emma Stone's role in the Andrew Garfield "Spider-Man" movies, where she plays his smart and charming girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" are rarely considered the best of the Spider-Man franchise, but they do have a couple of things going for them, namely Emma Stone's performance and her electric chemistry with Andrew Garfield. Spider-Man's girlfriends — whether it be MJ or Gwen Stacy — tend to be spunky and smart, and Stone's Gwen Stacy is no exception. She has a relatable, girl-next-door quality to her, but she's not without a backbone, and always seems to have a playful glint in her eyes.

Then there's her chemistry with Andrew Garfield, her real-life boyfriend at the time. Though the film is full of action and life-or-death sequences, you tend to forget about all that when the two of them are on screen together. They have a visceral sort of chemistry, the kind that makes time stop and all the noise fade away. Before her role in the franchise was rudely put to an end, Stone's presence on screen was filled with undeniable vigor and affection.

10. The House Bunny

2008's "The House Bunny" is an underrated gem of a film. It stars Anna Faris as a Playboy bunny who is kicked out of the mansion at the age of 27 and decides to become a sorority mother. Emma Stone plays Natalie, one of the uncool members of the school's least-renowned sororities. Faris is undeniably great in the film — it was supposed to be a star vehicle for her, though she sadly never quite got there — but Stone shines in every scene she's in.

While Faris is brilliant as the ditzy blonde model, Stone, as the nerd with a heart of gold, is her perfect sidekick. Even though she's supposed to be uncool for the first half of the film, Stone makes her nerdiness utterly adorable and it's nearly impossible not to root for her. Like many films of the genre, being "made-over" is a big part of the narrative, and Stone's reaction to her newfound popularity is just as endearing. As was true in "Superbad," there is a maturity and kindness inherent in her performance here, despite the oftentimes absurd subject matter.

9. Crazy, Stupid, Love

Emma Stone has had two iconic screen partners over the course of her career. There's Andrew Garfield in the "Spider-Man" films, and Ryan Gosling in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and "La La Land." We're not trying to give these two men credit for Stone's success, but rather want to note that Stone's ability to have natural chemistry with her scene partners is one of the things that make her great. Stone is entirely charming and lovable in "Crazy, Stupid, Love," and despite being part of an ensemble cast, her role in the film (and her dynamic with Gosling) is unforgettable.

Stone plays Hannah, the adult daughter of Steve Carrel's character. Hannah falls for Jacob (Gosling), a self-styled pick-up artist who is helping Hannah's father get back in the dating game after his divorce. Initially, Hannah comes off like the kind of Emma Stone character we've seen many times before. She's nerdy, a little uptight, and has the maturity of someone much older than her. But through her relationship with Gosling's character, we get to see another side of her — one that's deceptively clever and sexy.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" was the first time we really got to see Stone play an actual adult, and her foray into grown-up territory — sexy times and all — is a total delight. The scene where she convinces Gosling's character to take off his shirt is absurdly flirtatious and hilarious, and the "Dirty Dancing" sequence deserves all the praise it's been given.

8. Zombieland

You can never say that Emma Stone doesn't give it her all, and that's exactly what makes her performance in a film like "Zombieland" so great. "Zombieland" was released in 2009, in the midst of a zombie media renaissance. Stone has a supporting role in the film and stars alongside Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Stone's character in the film might feel somewhat familiar, but she injects the performance with a vitality that makes it stand out from the crowd.

Wichita is confident, serious, and doesn't suffer fools. She's very smart — as Stone's characters tend to be — but in more of a street-smart way than a book-smart way. "Zombieland" is, importantly, a zombie comedy, which means the actors are required to balance the gory scares with the over-the-top laughs. Stone excels at this and is totally gung-ho about leaning into the goofiness of the premise and her character's brazen attitude. Stone's full-bodied commitment and lack of fear about looking silly are exactly what makes her a perfect fit for comedic roles like this, and "Zombieland" proves this point quite well.

7. The Help

Since its initial release in 2011, "The Help" has been (rightly) criticized for its reliance on a white-savior narrative. In fact, one of its stars, Viola Davis, told Vanity Fair that she regrets being a part of the film because it didn't center the voices of the black characters. These criticisms are important to keep in mind, but it's also worth noting here that Stone does an admirable job in the film despite its flawed premise.

Stone plays Skeeter, the film's main character. Skeeter is a white woman living in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Her dream is to become a writer, and she begins working on a story about the black maids in town. Skeeter is very much in Stone's wheelhouse, as she has a simultaneous awkwardness and self-assurance about her. Fighting to be taken seriously while at the same time learning that there's a lot she doesn't know, her stubborn determination is perfectly played by Stone, who excels at this studied guilelessness.

"The Help" should have been Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer's movie, and to Stone's credit, she never takes up more space than she needs to, especially when those two powerhouses are on screen. It's actually interesting to consider whether the film would have been so well-received had Stone not been its lead. Would audiences have picked up more quickly on the film's problematic racial dynamics had Stone not been so charismatic? It's hard to say, and whether or not you fault Stone for her role in the film is a matter of opinion, but her power as an actress is on full display here.

6. Cruella

Truth be told, there's no real reason why the 2021 film "Cruella" should exist. We didn't need an overly-literal origin story of the iconic Disney villain, especially since she was already played to perfection in the 1996 and 2000 live-action films. But while the film itself isn't exactly a masterpiece, you can't fault Emma Stone for her wonderfully campy performance. What we said before about Stone always giving one hundred percent and not being afraid to look silly comes through in a big way in this self-indulgent romp.

Stone plays Estelle, who in this film is an inspiring fashion designer who hatches a plan to exact revenge on the woman who is responsible for the death of her mother. In order to conceal her true identity, she creates an alter ego named "Cruella," and begins working for a famous designer called The Baroness (Emma Thompson).

While the film's script is rather convoluted, Stone totally sinks her teeth into the role, putting on a cooky British accent and giving herself over to the character's villainous side. It's obvious that Stone is having a blast playing this role, and the fact it's clear that she's both working extremely hard and not taking herself too seriously is what makes her performance ultimately successful. Stone carries the entire film on her shoulders — a difficult feat given what she had to work with — and her star power here is evident.

5. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

"Birdman" was a huge Oscars favorite in 2015, and Emma Stone received her first Academy Award nomination for her role in the film (via IMDb). Watching the movie now, it's easy to see why. "Birdman" was the first film where Stone successfully shed her good girl image, and her performance in the film is deliciously devious. Stone is incredibly sharp and biting here, and her edgy passion nearly eviscerates everyone else she shares the screen with.

It's no wonder that director Alejandro G. Iñárritu chose to stay on Stone's face the whole time for the argument between Stone and Michael Keaton's characters — you don't want to look away from her, even for a moment. The film is also about messy realism, and Stone's acidic delivery has a huge part in keeping everyone else on their toes. The relationship she has with her father, played by Keaton in the film, feels totally lived-in, which makes their tumultuous relationship all the more painful to watch. Her ability to annihilate the other characters in the film — especially her father and Edward Norton's sexist leading man — is thrilling to witness, and the fact that it's a pretty big departure from her previous roles makes it even more exciting.

4. Battle of the Sexes

Biopics may be a common storytelling format in Hollywood, but that doesn't mean they're easy to make. For the performers involved, it's often a struggle to make the characters feel grounded in reality rather than something closer to the realm of imitation. When you think about her uncanny ability to infuse her performances with heart and warmth, it's not at all surprising that Stone would excel in the world of biopics. And excel is exactly what she does in the 2017 film "Battle of the Sexes," which sees her playing tennis icon Billie Jean King.

In some ways, "Battle of the Sexes" is a fairly by-the-book biopic, and viewers might recognize the narrative points it hits. It's Stone's heartfelt performance that elevates it to something greater than the sum of its parts, allowing King to develop into a real person rather than a static figurehead. Not only does Stone completely transform into King, but her performance gives the film the nuance the script often lacks. In Stone's capable hands, King is both extremely competent and passionate but also reserved, struggling with the dissonance between her public and private life.

Stone's portrayal of King is intelligent and heartfelt, both of which are qualities she excels at embodying, but the film doesn't just feel like another typical Emma Stone role. Having played an endearing young person for so long, "Battle of the Sexes" also marked a turning point for Stone and her transition into playing complex — rather than cutesy — characters.

3. Easy A

"Easy A" is one of the most beloved teen movies of the 2010s, and its precious cultural status is well-deserved. What's also well-deserved is the continued success of its star, Emma Stone, who embodies the role in a way no other actor could. Like "Mean Girls" before it, "Easy A" is a witty, self-aware film about an outcast trying to navigate the cutthroat world of high school. Stone plays Olive, a high school student who generally goes unnoticed until a rumor spreads that she's a "dirty skank," and she decides to embrace her new reputation.

The role wasn't written specifically with Stone in mind, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it was. In typical Stone fashion, Olive is one of those teens who seems smarter and more grown-up than her peers. This kind of attitude might otherwise come off as annoying, but Stone imbues Olive with a necessary vulnerability and warmth that rescues her from being too aloof. Indeed, what makes Stone's performance in the film so great are the moments when she drops the act and her real feelings shine through. This happens most frequently with her love interest, Penn Badgley, with whom Stone has sweet, endearing chemistry.

High school comedies may not be the kind of films that are often celebrated for their performances, but it's impossible to ignore Stone's effervescent charm here. Though she seems to have finally left the genre behind, it's easy to see why "Easy A" is the kind of film that made her a star.

2. La La Land

Emma Stone won her first Oscar for "La La Land," and we're certainly not going to argue that the award wasn't well-deserved. (Natalie Portman was equally transcendent in "Jackie" that year, but that's neither here nor there.) Damien Chazelle's movie musical is an ode to Old Hollywood and an homage to classic films like "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg." Stone plays Mia, an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles. Mia meets Sebastian, a jazz pianist, and the two have a passionate romance that begins to unravel when Mia's career starts taking off.

It's fitting that Stone be cast in the film, as she possesses the kind of star quality that is hard to come by these days. There will never be another Joan Crawford or Elizabeth Taylor, but in "La La Land" Stone is able to tap into that spellbinding charisma that sometimes seems to have been left in the Golden Age. The character of Mia might not seem like a stretch for Stone to play, but that's beside the point (or perhaps, it is the point). In some ways, Mia is the girl next door that Stone is known for playing, but she dazzles far beyond anything those characters could have done.

If you need any more convincing, just check out "Audition," the four-minute monologue/song in which Stone masterfully tells us everything we need to know about her character in a single emotional outburst.

1. The Favourite

"La La Land" may have secured Emma Stone the Oscar for best actress, but there's one film in Emma Stone's filmography that stands above the rest. In Yorgos Lanthimos' 2018 film "The Favourite," Emma Stone is unlike we've ever seen her before. Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne, the sickly matriarch of England in the early 1700s. While Anne eats cake and tends to her rabbits, her close friend and lover Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) is running the country. Things begin to change with the arrival of a new servant, Abigail (Stone), who vies for the queen's attention.

When we first meet Abigail, she is an Emma Stone character we are familiar with. Unlucky, awkward, and trying to remain dignified, she tries to make the best of her circumstances. But then something starts to change. We see Abigail for who she really is, which is someone just as cunning as her rival, Lady Sarah. "The Favourite" is not always a subtle film, but Stone's performance sneaks up on you in a way that is utterly thrilling.

In a way, Stone's Abigail is actually the main character of the film, and her insidious scheming is as delightful as it is shocking. (Stone's timing, as always, is absolutely perfect.) Abigail surprises and backstabs, and you kind of want her to win even as she crushes others in her race to the top. It's a masterclass in devious treachery, and no performance of hers has ever been like it.