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Halle Berry's Best Movie And Television Roles To Date

Halle Berry has been in the public eye ever since she was a young beauty queen, competing in Miss Teen All-American and then, later, as Miss Ohio in the 1986 Miss USA pageant (via CheatSheet). She then went on to become an actress, and she has been working in film and television ever since her 1989 debut. And even though she does not always have the best picker when it comes to projects, Berry has a fair number of solid performances under her belt.

For a long time, Berry seemed destined to be cast mostly for her looks and not her acting talent. As a world-renowned beauty, she even came to resent the perception people had of her based upon her outsides. "This is another battle I fought my whole life. That because I look a certain way that I've been spared any hardship. I've had loss and pain and a lot of hurt in my life. I've had abuse in my life," she said in an interview with The New York Times.

In addition to being typecast based upon her attractiveness, Berry has also discussed the difficulty she had scoring roles as a Black woman when she first started out (via Extra TV). Despite these challenges, the actress has broken down doors in the industry and fought hard to make a name for herself, becoming the first Black woman to win a Best Actress Academy Award in 2001. Let's take a look at some of Halle Berry's best movie and television roles to date.

Jungle Fever

Halle Berry's first screen credit was the short-lived 1989 television series "Living Dolls," a spin-off of "Who's the Boss?," where she starred as a model. The universally-panned series was not her big break, but it did lead to small guest stints on other shows such as "Amen" and "A Different World." Then, in 1991, Berry appeared in Spike Lee's romantic drama "Jungle Fever," which was the true launch of her acting career. "Jungle Fever" was about an interracial relationship between married architect Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) and engaged Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra), his temp. Berry played Vivian, the girlfriend of Flipper's brother Gator (Samuel L. Jackson).

"Jungle Fever" received positive reviews from critics, and it was a moderate box office success. It also marked a clear departure for Berry, who was cast against type as a woman struggling with drug addiction. "Crack hoe Viv was my very first movie role and one of my absolute favorite roles to this day," Berry wrote on Instagram to commemorate the film's 30th anniversary. This was not the only time Berry has spoken out about the role, which she had to fight for. "It was intentional to not play the gorgeous girl ... I had the job of trying to eliminate that part of my persona, and Spike gave me a chance to do that," she told W magazine. "And I took on roles early on that really didn't rely on my physical self at all and that was a good way to sort of get some credibility within my industry."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Executive Decision

Halle Berry was quite busy in the early 90s, appearing in everything from six episodes of the hit show "Knots Landing" to films like "Boomerang," "Father Hood," "The Program," and "Losing Isaiah." She also memorably appeared as sexy secretary Sharon Stone in the live-action Flintstones film, which was a big box office hit (via Box Office Mojo) despite a chilly reception from critics (the film has 20% on Rotten Tomatoes). Despite all of the work she was getting, nothing seemed to properly utilize Berry's considerable acting talents until the 1996 action thriller "Executive Decision."

"Executive Decision" is about an aircraft that is taken over by terrorists, with more than 400 passengers on board. The U.S. Army somehow manages to intercept and dock with the plane, during which time their team members — including consultant Dr. David Grant (Kurt Russell) and Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) — board with the plan to foil the hijackers. While Berry was relegated to the role of flight attendant, she made her mark as intelligent, fast-acting Jean. The movie was by no means beloved, but critics responded relatively well to Berry (as did the public, who awarded her with a Blockbuster Entertainment Award). Along with many of the other actors (but no Seagal!), the Austin Chronicle singled out Berry as "likable" and "enormous fun to watch."


After "Executive Decision," Halle Berry appeared in a couple of big flops — "Race the Sun" and "The Rich Man's Wife" — as well as "B.A.P.S.," which was poorly reviewed but has become somewhat of a cult classic in the Black community (via Refinery29). But then in 1998, she starred in a movie that was actually quite good, called "Bulworth." The film — part satire and part dark comedy — featured Warren Beatty as Senator Jay Bullington Bulworth, an aging politician with plans to kill himself in the near future (he has hired a hitman). His election campaign gets a jolt when he accidentally becomes a media sensation after a drunken night where he smokes weed and raps in public.

Berry plays a young activist who becomes romantically involved with Bulworth, who joins him on the campaign trail, and who just so happens to be the assassin who has been tasked with killing him. The film is very much a Beatty vehicle — he not only stars but also directed, co-wrote, and co-produced "Bulworth" — but Berry helped elevate a limited role that The New York Times called "sketchy and ambiguous." In a ranking of Berry's film roles, BET acknowledged that "this film raised its fair share of controversy for its — according to some — racial insensitivity" but also that "nobody could deny that Berry turned out a star-making performance."

Why Do Fools Fall in Love

Also in 1998, Halle Berry appeared in "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," a biography about singer Frankie Lymon of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. Much of the romantic drama was focused on Lyman's (Larenz Tate) relationships with three women–– Zola Taylor (Berry) of the R&B group The Platters, thief Elizabeth Waters (Vivica A. Fox), and teacher Emira Eagle (Lela Rochon). Each woman claimed to be entitled to Lyman's estate when he died at age 25, and the courtroom scenes are interspersed with flashbacks to Lyman's early career and his time spent with each woman.

While audiences enjoyed "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" – it has a 76% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes – critics were mixed about the film and it has a 52% Tomatometer score. Still, most of the negative reviews critiqued the story while still praising the main performances. For instance, Variety said the "performances by the four principles — Berry, Fox, Rochon and Tate — are lively and proficient, if occasionally a little over the top." In terms of Berry specifically, CNN's reviewer – who did not enjoy the flick — said that she was "pretty good and gorgeous as usual."

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

Halle Berry's career took a huge turn in 1999 when she starred as actress, singer, and dancer Dorothy Dandridge in the HBO television film "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge." The biopic was the first role to earn her major respect in the industry, and Berry won a Primetime Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for the role. She also served as one of the executive producers on the biopic.

"Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" was based upon a biography of Dandridge written by manager Earl Mills. While Berry did not replicate Dandridge's vocals, she fully inhabited the legendary star in both the showier scenes and the quieter ones. The New York Times said that Berry "gives a shining, controlled performance throughout" and that she is "especially strong in these early scenes as she juggles the excitement of a new career and love with the fearful, explosive situation at home." Variety had just as positive a take, writing that "Berry is sexy and innocent, breathy and every bit as beautiful as the glamorous star," and that "Berry hits the mark whether it calls for sultry or sullen."


Halle Berry only had one role in 2000, but it was a doozy — Storm (also known as Ororo Munroe) in "X-Men." The superhero film would go on to lead a franchise, and Berry appeared as Storm in three subsequent "X-Men" films, but it is the first one that was her most memorable. Storm is a mutant who teaches at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. She can manipulate the weather with her mind, which allows her to control things like humidity and precipitation, create lightning, and even stimulate natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

As far as "X-Men" characters go, it does not get more iconic than Storm — a powerful and intelligent woman who was one of the first Black superhero characters in comics (via Medium). Though the film featured many characters, Berry was a central figure in the first couple of "X-Men" films, as opposed to later films that focused on younger mutants. And while not everyone loved her performance – Newsweek called it "soft and unfocused" — a few critics rallied around it. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle's reviewer noted that "the sultry-voiced Berry, in blond wig, makes her relatively small role seem bigger." It may not be a great performance, but it is still one of Berry's top outings.

Monster's Ball

"Monster's Ball" is the pinnacle of Halle Berry's career thus far, and her historic Best Actress Oscar win is one of the most memorable Academy Award moments of all time. The 2001 drama is about a deputy warden, Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), who becomes romantically entangled with a woman whose husband he helped execute. Once he finds out, he does not tell the woman, Leticia Musgrove (Berry) — though she eventually finds out on her own. Hank is also from a deeply racist family, which adds another layer to the interracial relationship.

Berry's character is not entirely unlikeable — though she is a victim of circumstance, she is also a mother who verbally and physically abuses her obese son — but she jumps right into the difficult role and gives a stellar performance. In addition to winning the Oscar, Berry was nominated for a Golden Globe and BAFTA, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress (amongst others). Reviews for the film were favorable, and critical consensus was that Berry's performance elevated the dark film. "This is by far Berry's best-ever performance," wrote the BBC's reviewer, while Rolling Stone's legendary critic Peter Travers said, "Berry — playing against type in the performance to beat among actresses this year — is volcanic."

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Whereas many Oscar winners up their game after their first win, Halle Berry was not amongst them. Instead of high-end projects, Berry appeared in a multitude of big-budget commercial films, including "Die Another Day," a 2002 James Bond flick that many rank amongst the worst of the entire Bond catalog, per Yahoo!. She also headlined "Gothika," a horror film that did well at the box office but has a measly 15% critic's score on Rotten Tomatoes, and "Catwoman," which earned even worse reviews and did not even make a profit (via Box Office Mojo). She was able to somewhat redeem herself with the 2005 television movie "Their Eyes Were Watching God," which earned her nominations at the Primetime Emmys and the Golden Globes.

Berry played Janie Crawford in the ABC film, which was based upon a 1937 novel by Zora Neale Hurston. The film explores Crawford's search for love and fulfillment over two decades, starting with her forced marriage to an older farmer. She left this marriage after meeting a wealthy businessman, and together they moved to the first all-Black American town, Eatonville. When she dies, Janie finds solace in the arms of a younger man, Tea Cake (Michael Ealy). Critics did not love the film — Variety called it "simpleminded Harlequin hash," for example — but Berry was praised. "Berry strives valiantly as Janie, delivering a fierce, spirited and moving portrait of womanhood stifled and liberated," wrote Variety's critic. "Few actresses could pull off the narrative's 20-year chronological leap."

Things We Lost in the Fire

It is a shame that so few people have seen "Things We Lost in the Fire," because it actually houses one of Halle Berry's strongest performances to date. The 2007 drama features Berry as Audrey Burke, a woman whose husband Brian (David Duchovny) is killed while trying to help an abuse victim. After his death, she invites his troubled childhood friend Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro) to live in a spare room in her home. They form a complicated friendship, helping each other to grieve but also butting heads. Audrey kicks Jerry out, and Jerry relapses (he is a heroin addict), but things end on a more uplifting note.

Reviews for the film were mixed to positive, with some critics commenting that its themes of grief and addiction were handled in too heavy-handed of a manner. Still, Berry's performance as a grieving widow was well received (as was Del Toro's). Both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety called Berry's performance "solid," while the San Francisco Chronicle noted that "Berry doesn't hesitate to be unlikable," much like in "Monster's Ball," which strikes a similarly somber tone. "Berry is brilliant here, as good as she's ever been, drifting from agony to wonder and down into despair with ease," wrote the Austin Chronicle's movie critic.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Frankie & Alice

Halle Berry did not work for a few years after "Things We Lost in the Fire," and her next project — the 2010 film "Frankie & Alice" – was a similarly small film in which Berry gave a fantastic performance that elevated an otherwise average movie. Berry played Frankie Murdoch, a stripper with dissociative identity disorder who has two alters. The first, Genius, is a seven-year-old girl with an incredibly high IQ, while the other, Alice, is a violent, Southern White racist. Through psychotherapy with Dr. Oz (Stellan Skarsgård) — no, not that one — Frankie explores the traumatic events that led to her split personalities.

While "Frankie & Alice" did not make a splash at the box office (it didn't even gross $700,000, per Box Office Mojo) it earned Berry a nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes. Reviews were overall negative but Berry herself was praised by a few big outlets. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers said she was a "mesmerizer who makes every moment count," The Hollywood Reporter said she was "spellbinding," and Variety's critic maintained that "Berry shows total commitment to the part," despite concerns about the movie as a whole.

Cloud Atlas

The next movie that allowed Halle Berry to properly shine was "Cloud Atlas," a 2012 science fiction movie from the team behind "The Matrix" franchise. The movie spans hundreds of years, with each of the main actors inhabiting multiple characters across the different time periods. Like co-stars High Grant, Jim Sturgess, and Tom Hanks, Berry takes on six distinct roles — the maximum amount — all of which were quite different from one another. This included playing a Native woman in the 1849 Pacific Islands, San Francisco journalist Luisa Rey circa 1973 (her biggest role), and Meronym, a member of a future civilization in the year 2321.

"Cloud Atlas" is a complex movie with many moving parts, but it offers an interesting take on time, how our actions impact one another, and how the past impacts the present and future. Critic and audience response leaned positive but were by no means effusive (both scores are 66% on Rotten Tomatoes). Much focus was on the editing and visual effects — as well as the way that actors portrayed different races, via The Hollywood Reporter – but some critics praised the performances. "Halle Berry's work as a mid-1970s investigative reporter works well for me," wrote Roger Ebert, who gave the film four stars in his Chicago Sun-Times review.


Whether she is making good movies or excruciatingly bad ones, there is no doubt that Halle Berry is a movie star through and through. Her natural beauty, screen presence, and basic magnetism are at home on the big screen, and that is where she has focused for most of her career. But Berry went back to her television roots in 2014 when she took on a leading role in the CBS series "Extant." The science fiction series — which was co-executive produced by Berry, Steven Spielberg and others — lasted for two seasons.

Berry was the main focus of "Extant," in which she played astronaut Molly Woods, who worked for the International Space Exploration Agency. After a long solo mission in space, Molly comes home to find out that she is mysteriously pregnant, despite years of infertility. Goran Visnjic appeared as Molly's husband Dr. John Woods, who created their son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon), a humanoid robot. 

Both seasons of "Extant" were well received by critics, and the HuffPost called Berry's performance "typically good." "The big draw, though, is Berry," wrote USA Today in their review of season one. "She brings a dignity and gravity to Molly, a projected intelligence that allows you to buy her as an astronaut and to see what has happened to her as frightening rather than ridiculous. Berry's all in, and you float along."

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Halle Berry has made some very bad movies in the last decade, including "Movie 43" (4% on Rotten Tomatoes), "Kings" (13% on Rotten Tomatoes), and "Kidnap" (35% on Rotten Tomatoes). So, it is always a relief when she finds a role that does not just work for her, but that is contained in a movie that is actually decent. That is what happened when Berry appeared in "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum," the third installment in the John Wick film canon. The 2019 action thriller was not only commercially successful (via Box Office Mojo), but also an entertaining romp.

In the film, Berry plays Sofia Al-Azwar, an old friend of hitman John Wick's and a former assassin herself, who now runs a Casablanca hotel and who walks around with two giant dogs in bulletproof vests. It is hard to compete with Keanu Reeves, who is the center of the Wick films as the titular character, but Berry managed to hold her own in the film. "Berry's played action before, notably in 'Catwoman' and the 'X-Men' movies, but never without a dash of camp. Here, she's lethally graceful and, like Reeves, only seems to have been burnished by age," wrote Slate's reviewer. The New York Post called it Berry's "best work in years," while USA Today called her performance "great."


"Bruised" is an important film for Halle Berry, as it marks not only one of her strongest performances, but also her directorial debut. The Netflix drama is by no means a great flick, but it is far from an embarrassing first foray for a first-time director. Berry plays ex-UFC fighter Jackie Justice — also known as "Pretty Bull" — who is convinced by her boyfriend/manager Desi (Adan Canto) to start fighting again. Jackie is not exactly in fine form — she has a messy relationship, she struggles with alcohol misuse, and she is caregiver to a son she has not seen in years (who has recently come to live with her due to the murder of his father).

According to USA Today, Berry had the script rewritten for her (it was originally for a young white woman), trained for two years in the martial arts, and even broke her ribs while shooting on the project. "Especially being me and people always commented on how I look, it was so liberating to wake up every day and the more [expletive] up I looked, the better it was going to be for the day's work," she told the publication. "No one expects Berry to reinvent the sports movie, but still she manages to impress on both sides of the camera in the final act," said Variety's reviewer. "There, in the ring, actor and character alike are reminding themselves — and the world — what they're capable of."