15 Essential Laura Dern Performances
'Jurassic Park' (1993)
Laura Dern has been the best thing about several movies for decades now. Here's some of her best work.
'Jurassic Park' (1993)
We are all for a world led by wicked smart paleobotanist Ellie Satlter if, as she predicts the chain of events that started with reinventing dinosaurs leads to “Dinosaurs eat man...Woman inherits the earth.”
'Big Little Lies' (2017 - Present)
You don't lightly cross socialite Renata Klein, or else, as she famously announces to rival Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), "You're dead in this town!" after a brutal birthday party snub. Dern rightly won an Emmy for bringing vengeful Renata to life. Bring on season 2.
'The Tale' (2018)
The Dernaissance continued with her Emmy-nominated performance in this true story of a woman trying to overcome her abusive past. A riveting but tough watch.
'Enlightened' (2011 - 2013)
A lot of people snoozed on this series (or didn't have HBO), in which Dern brilliantly ran the emotional gamut as Amy Jellicoe, a woman trying to rebuild her life after a messy divorce and mental breakdown. Her real-life mother, Diane Ladd, starred as her mother, Helen. Dern won a Golden Globe for the critically acclaimed, but short-lived series.
'Rambling Rose' (1991)
Dern earned her first Oscar nomination for her role as Rose, who's somehow incredibly naive and worldly at the same time. In the Depression-era South her mere existence is deemed too provocative. Martha Coolidge ("Real Genius," "Valley Girl") directed. Dern's mother, Diane Ladd, was also nominated, making them the first mother-daughter pair ever nominated.
'Drunk History' (2014)
In arguably our favorite episode ever, Dern channels social reformer Nellie Bly, who goes undercover in a mental institution and exposes corruption and abuse. All while telling herself, "Eff yeah, I am such a great journalist."
'Twin Peaks: The Return' (2017)
It makes perfect sense that Laura Dern, who's been working with David Lynch since "Blue Velvet," would fill the role of Dale Cooper's previously unseen assistant Diane. We loved her cool, her wigs... and that bizarre (even for Lynch) plot twist.
Dern nabbed her second Oscar nomination as Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon)'s gone-too-soon hippie-ish mother. Although Witherspoon plays herself in the flashback, the casting works just fine. And just makes us enjoy the two actresses sparring as enemies in "Big Little Lies" even more.
'Smooth Talk' (1985)
In this early film, Dern is an awkward 15-year-old who is flattered by the attentions of an older man (Treat Williams). Over the course of an afternoon, it's not clear what transpires, but we know that her character will never be the same. Dern, then 18, is unforgettable. She was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her performance.
'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' (2017)
You have to love that as stately, elegant resistance leader Vice Admiral Holdo, Dern couldn't resist going "pew, pew, pew" whenever firing a gun. And she goes out in one of the most epic exits of any "Star Wars" character.
Dern is sweetness itself as a blind girl who bonds with Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), who suffers from the disfiguring disease known as “lionitis.” The scene where he tries to show her what colors are by telling her that a warm rock is “red” and a frozen rock is “icy blue” and that cotton = “clouds,” would melt even the most cynical moviegoer's heart.
'Wild at Heart' (1990)
Dern is arguably at her sexiest in this David Lynch film as loyal wild child Lula, lover of Nicolas Cage's Elvis-loving Sailor. Adorable and dangerous all at once, she's the beating heart of Lynch's blood-soaked opus.
'Blue Velvet' (1986)
In her first collaboration with David Lynch, Dern is innocent Sandy, Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan)'s Nancy Drew-esque girlfriend who helps him solve a despicable crime. When his secret lover (Isabella Rossellini) shows up, naked, at her house, her distressed hysterics are Oscar-worthy. Or, at least worthy of an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
'Citizen Ruth' (1995)
In this indie comedy (Alexander Payne's directorial debut), Dern's pregnant repeat criminal Ruth becomes a pawn in the pro-life/pro-choice battle. It's about as far as you can get from Ellie Sattler and Dern sells every second of it.
'Ellen,' The Puppy Episode (1997)
The woman who Ellen was crushing on so hard that she admitted she was gay: Yep, that was Laura Dern in this landmark TV episode.