1. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

Set in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France at the turn of the 20th century, Moulin Rouge! tells the tale of idealistic young writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) who, after falling for a beautiful courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), gets swept up into the world of the Moulin Rouge with its glitz, glamor, and excess. As Satine hides a fatal secret, the love-struck pair are caught in a doomed love story, even as they struggle to put up a ravishing show.

Why it’s a major performance:
Nicole Kidman as Satine marks one of her most iconic roles to date. She delivers a passionate and bold performance, showcasing her singing and dancing skills, as well as her versatile acting prowess, on a riveting, emotional rollercoaster. Nominated for an Oscar for this role, Kidman proved yet again her range and dexterity in a truly transformative performance.

Kidman mesmerizes as the consumptive Satine, garnering critical acclaim for her portrayal of a woman torn between love and duty. Her firm grasp on the character’s complexities, her fervent singing, and her dazzling performances in elaborately staged numbers like “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” are unforgettable highlights from the film. Kidman’s performance in Moulin Rouge! is a tour-de-force, sealing her status in Hollywood royalty.

2. The Hours (2002)

IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

In The Hours, Kidman plays the pivotal role of writer Virginia Woolf, whose life intertwines with two more modern women who are affected by her novel “Mrs. Dalloway”. As Virginia struggles with mental illness, the film beautifully illustrates how her life tragedies beautifully bled into her suffocating prose.

Why it’s a major performance:
Kidman, in a monumental career performance, won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her exceptional portrayal of Virginia Woolift. Her performance has been acclaimed universally for its painstaking authenticity, as Kidman had to delve into the depths of Woolf’s psychological torment and to capture her raw, compelling brilliance meticulously.

Moreover, Kidman’s transformation for the role, encompassing makeup, costume and a prosthetic nose, proved her chameleonic abilities as an actress. The performance stands as an incredible tribute to the literary landmark and Kidman successfully brought out the subtle nuances in Woolf’s persona; her mental agony and the genius intellect, etching an unforgettable portrait of the complex writer in cinematic history.

3. The Others (2001)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

In The Others, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is a highly religious woman and mother of two children who are photosensitive, living secluded in a dark, eerie mansion. New servants arrive and unnatural occurrences begin, leading Grace to believe that the house is haunted. As paranoia takes over, the story unveils an unexpected twist, revealing a much darker story underneath.

Why it’s a major performance:
Nicole Kidman’s performance in The Others is universally acknowledged as one of her finest. As the anxious, stubborn and superstitious Grace, Kidman deftly commands a range of intense emotions, conveying an insidious fear and frantic desperation that pervades the film’s chilling atmosphere. Her performance was hailed as deeply unnerving and remarkably restrained, earning her a BAFTA nomination.

This psychological horror film not only helped cement Kidman’s place as a serious actress in Hollywood but also exhibited her ability to command an entire film – she is virtually in every scene. The film’s ultimate twist, which heavily relies on Kidman’s ability to sell it, remains one of the most surprising in film history, further highlighting the strength of her performance.

4. To Die For (1995)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

To Die For is a black comedy-drama film directed by Gus Van Sant, where Kidman plays Suzanne Stone, an incredibly ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to make her dream of being a television anchor come true. When her husband (Matt Dillon) stands in the way of her aspirations, she manipulates a group of teens into murdering him.

Why it’s a major performance:
Nicole Kidman’s performance in To Die For was a pivotal point in her career. Her portrayal of the ruthless and intensely ambitious Suzanne Stone was highly convincing, adding a tinge of dark comedy that had audiences and critics alike sing praises. Kidman won a Golden Globe for this performance, solidifying her reputation as a powerhouse performer.

In addition to being a stylish, biting satire, To Die For marked an important transition for Kidman from a young star to a full-fledged Hollywood force to be reckoned with. Kidman’s irresistible charm and talent for portraying vivid emotions is impeccably displayed in To Die For, from her comedic timing to the scenes of stark vulnerability, making it a standout performance in her career.

5. Rabbit Hole (2010)

IMDB Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Rabbit Hole is a poignant and powerful exploration of grief, loss, and forgiveness. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star as Becca and Howie, a couple navigating their way through life after their 4-year-old son is killed in a tragic accident. The film unravels the complexities of their loss and how they each individually try to cope, redefining their life and relationship.

Why it’s a major performance:
As Becca, Kidman portrays a grieving mother with an incredible depth of emotion. She brings a riveting realism to the screen, capturing both the numbness of her character’s grief and the struggle to find any semblance of comfort in her new reality. Her raw portrayal of debilitating loss earned her a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Kidman also co-produced the film and played a significant role in getting it made. Her investment in the project, both behind and in front of the camera, truly paid off. As Becca, Kidman offered an emotionally charged performance, brilliantly capturing the complex emotions of a mother in mourning. This role stands as one of the best in her career and a testament to her capabilities as a serious, nuanced actor.

6. The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

IMDB Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%

The Portrait of a Lady is an adaptation of Henry James’ novel of the same name, charting the life of Isabel Archer, an American woman striving for liberty and independence in European society. Her pursuit for freedom eventually leads her to unhappiness and loss when she unsuspectingly entrusts her fortune to two unscrupulous individuals.

Why it’s a major performance:
The film features one of Kidman’s early acclaimed performances, where she breathes life into the character of Isabel Archer with her intense and nuanced performance. Kidman’s Isabel is a vivid woman, a combination of intelligence, naivety, and hubris. She infuses the character with a sense of warmth and vulnerability that allows the audience to empathize with her.

Kidman’s star power truly shines through in this project. Her mannerisms, subtle gestures, and expressive eyes reveal a sense of inner turmoil and struggle, which adds a sense of depth and complexity to her character. Despite the mixed reviews of the film, many critics agreed that Kidman’s performance stood out, firmly establishing the film as a must-see for her fans.

7. Bombshell (2019)

IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%

Bombshell follows the real-life scandal at Fox News where numerous women employees, including Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), stand up against the long-tolerated toxic culture of sexual harassment perpetrated by their boss, Roger Ailes.

Why it’s a major performance:
Bombshell is an important film that sheds light on a major scandal in the media industry, and Nicole Kidman’s performance as the courageous Gretchen Carlson was exemplary. She captures the essence of Carlson’s character, displaying grace under pressure while hiding a fierce determination to stand up against systemic gender discrimination in her workplace.

Moreover, Kidman helped paint a nuanced portrait of a woman trying to navigate a man’s world. She portrayed Carlson not just as a victim of sexual harassment but as a catalyst for an extensive movement that would change the landscape of Fox News and corporate America at large. For this role, she got a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role.

8. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

A Stanley Kubrick film, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ features a New York City doctor, played by Tom Cruise, who embarks on a surreal night-long journey of sexual discovery after his wife, Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) confesses to having sexual fantasies.

Why it’s a major performance:
In a daring and compelling performance, Kidman excels as Alice Harford, a woman questioning her sexual and emotional satisfaction within her marriage. Her monologue about her fantasy is among her most notable on-screen moments, impressively anchoring the whole sequence with an honest and gritty delivery that leaves an indelible mark.

Her layered performance effectively conveys the spectrum of human emotion — from her vulnerability when acknowledging sexual fantasies to her assertion when confronting her husband — enhancing the film’s commentary on relationship mysteries and sexual politics. Despite sharing a screen with Cruise, Kidman stands out for her depth and naturalism in a role that once again displayed her impressive acting range.

9. The Paperboy (2012)

IMDB Rating: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

In The Paperboy, Ward Jansen, a reporter and his younger brother Jack investigate a case about a death row inmate in Florida. During the investigation, Jack becomes involved with Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), an eccentric woman who writes love letters to inmates, including the man they are investigating.

Why it’s a major performance:
Although the film received mixed reviews, Kidman’s performance as a sexually assertive and eccentric woman received high praise. Her uncanny ability to morph into her character and Vivien Leigh-like intense sensuality makes her stand out in every scene she is in.

Kidman’s performance in The Paperboy was noted as a particularly brave one with some critics describing it as her ‘trashiest’ role to date. Nonetheless, Kidman dove headfirst into the character, delivering a performance that once again confirmed why she is one of the most versatile and daring actresses in Hollywood.

10. Cold Mountain (2003)

IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

Cold Mountain, set in the backdrop of American Civil War, chronicles the journey of Inman (Jude Law) who deserts the Confederate army to return to his love, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman). The film beautifully portrays their longing, struggle, and fight for survival during treacherous times.

Why it’s a major performance:
Kidman, as Ada, charms with her delicate intensity and encapsulates the innocent love, youthful dreams, and eventually the ruthless reality of being left alone in a war-ravaged world. This performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination, standing out as one of her most mature and enriched portrayals on screen.

Besides holding her own opposite seasoned actors, Kidman’s dedication to her character is evident in her capture of the grim reality of the civil war and the raw emotions of a woman in love. Her portrayal of Ada’s transformation from a high-society belle to a hardened survivor highlights Kidman’s extensive range as an actress, making Cold Mountain a significant entry in her vast filmography.