Not many actresses have compiled as diverse a portfolio before turning 30 as Natalie Portman. From hanging with a hit man in her early teens to being the mother of a complex Jedi family by her mid 20s, we've not only watched her grow up on screen but seen her abilities elevate to a level that's made her one of the most sought after talents working today.

In her latest film, Darren Aronofsky's seductive psychological thriller 'Black Swan' (in theaters beginning Friday), her skills are showcased in a way we've never seen before as she plays Nina, a New York City ballerina whose obsessive drive to become the lead in her company's production of 'Swan Lake' pushes her to madness. As emotionally draining as it is sexually charged, her tour-de-force performance has been a nine-year journey in the making, and because of that dedication it has moved Portman into an award season front-runner; one of the few things she hasn't experienced yet in her career.

Talking about playing Nina constantly with Aronofsky since he first tried to make the movie in 2001, Portman, who was a ballerina up to age 13, trained on and off for years while financing was still being worked out. Then when the picture was finally greenlighted last year, Portman became as focused as the competitive character she plays, training every twirl, pirouette, turn out and contortion at least five hours a day with dancer Mary Helen Bowers for a year -- regardless where she was in the world. It's that kind of De Niro-like dedication to the craft that may get Portman a little gold man by early next year.

But this is hardly the first time Portman's work has wowed us. Here we've complied her 10 best performances.
categories Features