Kirsten Dunst has pulled off a feat that very few actresses can claim: she's successfully transitioned from child actress to 'it' girl du jour to a respected actress with a long and diverse resume.

Part of Dunst's success may very well be due to the fact that she rarely plays it safe. In recent years in particular, she's more likely to gravitate towards boundary-pushing work by celebrated directors than big budget rom-coms. This week's release, "Upside Down, " is no exception.

The sci-fi tale of star-crossed lovers by Argentinean director Juan Solanas stars Dunst and Jim Sturgess as citizens of two isolated worlds. The people up top, where Dunst's character Eden resides, are wealthy and exploit the resources of those down below, where Adam (Sturgess) lives.

The two worlds are kept apart by two separate forces of gravity. Adam and Eden have a chance encounter as children one day as they're each exploring two mountaintops that almost meet. They try to defy gravity in order to be together. Then one day the border police catch them, Adam is locked up and Eden has a nasty spill.

Ten years later, Adam hasn't forgotten about Eden. In a somewhat eye-rolling turn of events, though, Eden's accident caused her to suffer from amnesia. Adam sneaks his way into the world above (where apparently his urine still defies gravity), but, alas, Eden doesn't know who he is.

The movie's plot is a tad cheesy at times; in the absence of the dystopian sci-fi concept, this would have been just another run-of-the-mill romance as Adam literally defies gravity to win Eden back. But the stunning cinematography and imaginative setting make this a flick worth seeing.

In fact, most of the films Dunst has chosen in recent years have had some sort of element that made them worth checking out - even if they were less than perfect. She (or someone on her management team) must have a sixth sense for such things when it comes to sorting through scripts.

It's a smart strategy. Instead of topping the box office a few times and then fizzling out, a la Katherine Heigl, Dunst has taken a slow and steady approach. She tackles interesting projects, and seems to genuinely enjoy her craft. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of my own top five favourite Dunst roles to date.

"The Virgin Suicides." A young Dunst was nothing short of captivating as Lux Lisbon, the most beautiful (and perhaps most precocious) of the five ill-fated sisters in this Sofia Coppola classic.

"Melancholia." Dunst's impressive range was on full display in Lars von Trier's apocalyptic drama. Her emotionally unstable character goes through manic highs and depressive lows, and then strangely becomes a rock as the end of the world approaches faster and faster.

"Bachelorette." Dunst proved she can do funny, too, in this raunchy wedding flick that was no doubt inspired by Bridesmaids. Dunst was perfect as the uptight, type A bitch who's jealous of instead of happy for her friend getting hitched.

"Marie Antoinette." Clearly, Dunst and Coppola work well together. This stylized period piece inspired by Marie ("let them eat cake") Antoinette is visually stunning, funny and a unique take on the oft-told tale of Antoinette and Louis XVI.

"Bring It On. " Dunst didn't do just any cheerleading movie: she did the cheerleading movie. "Bring It On" inspired a legion of sequels and knock-offs, and still airs regularly on Saturday afternoon cable--more than 10 years after its release.

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categories Movies