1. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

IMDB Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Storyline: Shakespeare in Love is a romantic period comedy-drama that captures the life of an imagining of William Shakespeare in his early days. Young Will (Joseph Fiennes) is suffering from writer’s block and is in search of his muse. His inspiration comes in the form of Viola (played by Paltrow), who liberates him out of his creative stagnation.

Why it’s a major performance: This film is a major performance as it clinched an Academy Award for Paltrow. Her portrayal of a fiery and passionate lover to Shakespeare serves as a beacon of feminine strength and love. It showcased Paltrow as not only a talent to be reckoned with, but proof that she had a knack for nuanced historical roles.

2. Iron Man (2008)

IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Storyline: This is the film that kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Billionaire industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Tony builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow’s portrayal of Pepper Potts, the personal assistant and love interest of Tony Stark is a breakout role in the superhero genre. Her character holds an essential position in the film, providing both emotional guidance and correcting Stark’s audacious behavior. She brings a real sense of heart to the film, grounding the fantastical elements with her genuine and thoughtful performance.

3. Se7en (1995)

IMDB Rating: 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

Storyline: In this psychological thriller, two detectives, a rookie (Brad Pitt) and a veteran (Morgan Freeman), hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motifs.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow’s role as Tracy Mills, the girlfriend of Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt), demonstrates her ability to bring depth and vulnerability to every scene she is in. Paltrow’s portrayal of a woman caught amidst the horrifying events adds an extra layer of humanity and despair to the dark narrative of the movie.

4. Sliding Doors (1998)

IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%

Storyline: This is a romantic-drama about Helen (Paltrow), who splits into two different parallel storylines depending on whether she catches a subway train or not. Both stories may eventually lead Helen to the same destiny, but the journey is dramatically different.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow’s performance shines in this portrayal of ‘what if’. She flawlessly portrays two versions of the character, showcasing her range and depth as an actress. She conveys contrasting emotions through each storyline, from comedy to heartbreak, leaving a lasting impact on viewers.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Storyline: An eccentric family of former child prodigies reunite when their father, Royal Tenenbaum, announces he’s terminally ill. Paltrow plays Margot Tenenbaum, the adopted daughter in this dysfuntional family.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow’s Margot Tenenbaum with her heavy eyeliner, fur coat and blank expression is one of the most recognizable characters in film history. Her apparent impassiveness maskes a well of emotions and complexities. It is Paltrow’s marvellous performance that makes this eccentric character believable and relatable.

6. Great Expectations (1998)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 37%

Storyline: In this modern adaptation of Dickens’ novel, a humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor. Paltrow plays Estella, the forever love interest of the protagonist.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow delivers a captivating performance, portraying the aloof and complex character of Estella with a depth and sweetness that makes the audience empathize with her. Her chemistry with Ethan Hawke adds to the romantic tragedy of the film.

7. Emma (1996)

IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Storyline: Based on the Jane Austen’s novel, Paltrow plays Emma Woodhouse, a young, clever, rich and beautiful lady who lives to meddle in other people’s affairs, especially when it comes to love.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow’s portrayal of Emma Woodhouse is exceptional. She captures the essence of Emma’s spirit – her vanity, her sweetness, and her determination to make others happy at her own expense. This performance showcased Paltrow’s ability to deliver a unique spin of a timeless classic character.

8. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Storyline: The film is about Tom Ripley, who manipulates his way into the lives of a wealthy family, the Greenleafs. Paltrow plays Marge Sherwood, a friend of the family who becomes suspicious of Ripley.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow delivers an impressive performance as the wealthy and intelligent Marge Sherwood. Veering between suspicion and sympathy for Ripley, her struggle to navigate the truth brings Paltrow’s extraordinary insight and subtlety as an actress to the fore.

9. A Perfect Murder (1998)

IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%

Storyline: A remake of Hitchcock’s ‘Dial M for Murder’, this thriller centers around a marriage that has gone sour, and a plot to murder the unfaithful wife. Paltrow plays Emily Taylor, the wife caught in the deadly game.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow’s role as Emily Taylor was some of her best work in the thriller genre. Her realistic portrayal of a woman caught up in marital conspiracy added suspense to the film, and kept viewers on the edge of their seats.

10. The Politician (2019)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

Storyline: In Netflix’s The Politician, Payton Hobart (Ben Platt), a student from Santa Barbara, has known since age seven that he is going to be President of the United States. Paltrow plays Payton’s wealthy and hippy mother, Georgina Hobart.

Why it’s a major performance: Paltrow as Georgina Hobart is a sight to behold! Her effortless blend of cool, collected sophistication and airy vivaciousness offers a character that is both quirky and believable. This role gives Paltrow the scope to showcase her idiosyncratic style that is both captivating and endearing.