Naomi Watts a powerhouse actress for decades

In recent weeks your local movie critic has been raving about “Penguin Bloom,” a sensational 2020 drama starring Naomi Watts as an active young mom who is suddenly paralyzed from the waist down.

Fans of that inspiring drama who want more Watts have plenty to choose from. Since most folks know about critical faves and box-office hits like “King Kong,” “St. Vincent,” “Birdman” and “Mulholland Drive,” here are several lesser-known chestnuts from Watts’ impressive resume:

MATINEE (1993)

Watts has a tiny role in this enchanting sleeper that is part nostalgia piece, part coming-of-age tale and mostly satire on cheesy old sci-fi like “Them!” and “The Fly.” Set on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it concerns a bunch of Key West adolescents jockeying for tickets to the latest fright-fest from fictional Hollywood producer Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman). Watts features briefly in one film-within-a-film, a winking Disney spoof called “The Shook-Up Shopping Cart.” Rated PG.

STAY (2005)

“Stay” is what I call a “jigsaw-puzzle movie,” where the plot’s many odd-shaped pieces somehow all fit together at the end. The story involves a fiery accident on the Brooklyn Bridge; its enigmatic survivor, Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), baffles his psychiatrist (Ewan McGregor), especially as he begins to predict his own death … which sounds disturbingly like the original crash. Watts plays the counselor’s girlfriend; script by David Benioff (“Game of Thrones”); directed by Marc Forster (“Kite Runner,” “Quantum of Solace,” “Finding Neverland,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Monster’s Ball”). Rated R.


Viggo Mortensen snagged a well-deserved Academy Award nomination as Nikolai, an enigmatic driver for the Russian mafia in London. Watts is a labor-and-delivery nurse who inadvertently tangles with the mob while caring for an orphaned newborn. Directed by David Cronenberg, this powerhouse thriller has guts, gore and a surging emotional undertow. But be forewarned: The film’s unforgettable bath-house knife-fight — with a naked Nikolai going up against two burly thugs — is one of several very gruesome scenes. Rated R.


Watts notched her second Oscar nom for this shattering true-life tale about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami — and frankly, she should have won. The actress plays Maria Belon, who was vacationing in Thailand with her husband and three sons when the first wave swept her away. Having grabbed a floating tree, she noticed her oldest boy on the water in the distance and managed to reach him, being gravely injured in the process; neither had any idea what had happened to the other three family members. Watts is ably supported by Ewan McGregor as Belon’s husband and Tom Holland as the son. Rated PG-13.


Ben Stiller fans shouldn’t miss this story in which he and Watts play Josh and Cornelia Schrebnick, childless Manhattan middle-agers who suddenly start swinging with a younger, hipper crowd — headlined by co-stars Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Sobering, savvy satire from writer-director Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”). Rated R.

OPHELIA (2018)

Shakespeare purists won’t care much for this revisionist take on “Hamlet,” telling the tale from Ophelia’s point of view. Yet despite drastic changes, I really liked this handsome and well-acted version. With Daisy Ridley and “1917’s” George McKay as the leads, plus Watts and Clive Owen playing the queen and king. Rated PG-13.


Comical and action-packed sci-fi thriller about soldier Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo), who is trapped in a time-loop where seemingly everyone wants to kill him. Watts plays the warrior’s wife, whose mysterious scientific work seems to have generated the loop — along with an impending apocalypse which Roy may be able to prevent. Fast and funny, with an abrupt but fitting final moment. Rated TV-MA.


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