In an event that many would consider to be a long time coming, Jessica Chastain won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 94th Annual Academy Awards. Her performance in 2021’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye earned her the nomination, which was also her third, having previously been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2012 for The Help, and for her leading role in Zero Dark Thirty the following year.
However, the California native - who is also known for superhero movies like X-Men: Dark Phoenix, horror movies like It: Chapter Two, and action thrillers like The 355 - has given plenty of other performances that critics and audiences alike would agree deserved similar accolades. Let’s revisit these performance by checking out Jessica Chastain’s best movies available now on streaming, for digital rental, or on physical media, starting with her best work in the eyes of the Academy.
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye (HBO Max)
Tammy Bakker (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Jim (Andrew Garfield), build one of the largest empires in the history televangelism, until a series of shocking scandals are revealed, threatening to destroy their relationship and their reputation.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Jessica Chastain disappears into the role of the titular televangelist in The Eyes of Tammy Faye - a bold, revealing biopic from The Big Sick director, Michael Showalter, that is based on a 2000 documentary of the same name.
The Help (HBO Max)
A young, aspiring author (Emma Stone) interviews Black maids (Oscar winners Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) for a book about their perspective on the White women who employ them in 1960s Mississippi.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Jessica Chastain received her first Academy Award nomination for playing good-hearted, ostracized socialite Celia Foote in The Help - writer and director Tate Taylor’s 2011 adaptation of the novel by Kathryn Stockett.
Zero Dark Thirty (Amazon Rental)
A CIA operative (Jessica Chastain) struggles to endure the moral inner conflict and emotional turmoil of carrying out heinous interrogation methods while spending several years searching for the whereabouts of wanted terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Jessica Chastain received her second Academy Award nomination for her mesmerizing performance as the lead of Zero Dark Thirty - originally intended as a chronicle of the failed attempts to catch the orchestrator of the attack on September 11, 2001, before his capture ten years later - from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.
Take Shelter (Tubi)
A construction worker (Michael Shannon) begins to question the safety of his family and his own sanity after he begins to experience a series of strange, foreboding visions of an oncoming apocalyptic event.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: If you ask me, Jessica Chastain should have received an Academy Award nomination, as well as Michael Shannon, for their riveting portrayals of a husband and wife threatened by the dwindling mental health of one in Take Shelter - a masterful, heart-stopping family drama from writer and director Jeff Nichols.
Jolene (Tubi, Pluto TV)
A young, orphaned woman (Jessica Chastain) sets off on her own at age 15 and spends the next several years traveling the country in search of some sort of normalcy, finding heartbreak and disappointment at every turn.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: In 2008, after various appearances in TV shows such as ER, Jessica Chastain made her theatrically released, feature film debut as the title role of Jolene - director Dan Ireland’s harrowing adaptation of the story by award-winning author E.L. Doctorow.
The Tree Of Life (Hulu)
A disillusioned, modern day man (two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn) struggles with questions of existence, purpose, and faith as he recalls his complicated relationship with his father (Oscar winner Brad Pitt) while growing in Waco, Texas, in the 1950s.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: The one film that Jessica Chastain has said had the most profound impact on her life and career and is most difficult to re-watch for how accurately it captures her “heart and soul” is 2011’s The Tree of Life - a bizarre, inventive, and thought-provoking existential analysis that only writer and director Terrence Malick could make.
Three brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke) fight to keep a moonshine business afloat in the midst of unwanted offers of partnership and the arrival of a corrupt police officer (Guy Pearce) in Depression era Virginia.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Jessica Chastain steals the show as Maggie Beaufort, a waitress who falls in love with Hardy’s Forrest Bondurant, in Lawless - writer Nick Cave (yes, the musician) and director John Hilcoat’s 2012 adaptation of Matt Bondurant’s historical novel about his own family, The Wettest County in the World.
A former science engineer and pilot (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey) leads a team of explorers on an expedition through the unknown reaches of outer space in order to find a new home for mankind as the Earth rapidly grows unlivable.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Jessica Chastain is one of the three brilliant actresses from 2014’s Interstellar cast who play the role of McConaughey’s estranged, earthbound daughter, Murph, over the course of several decades, in co-writer and director Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning, visually stunning, mind-bending space odyssey.
The Martian (Amazon Rental)
In the wake of a deadly storm, the botany expert (Matt Damon) of a space exploration mission is assumed dead and abandoned by his crew on Mars, where he struggles to survive as NASA struggles to figure out a way to bring him home.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: While Jessica Chastain did not get to be the one to go into space or rescue Matt Damon in Interstellar, she got to do both the following year as the disco-loving Ares III commander, Melissa Lewis, in The Martian - one of the sharpest, most intense, funniest, and simply best space movies from director Ridley Scott which is based on Andy Weir’s acclaimed novel.
Crimson Peak (Netflix)
A young writer (Mia Wasikowska) falls for a wealthy, English aristocrat (Tom Hiddleston) who invites her to live with him and his sister (Jessica Chastain) at their lavish family estate, unwitting to the shocking secrets and vengeful spirits that lurk within the walls.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Guillermo del Toro, who previously produced the Jessica Chastain-led horror film, Mama, in 2012, directs the actress in a sinister (and, apparently, emotionally draining) performance as Lady Lucille Sharpe in 2015’s Crimson Peak - a chilling ghost story in the style of traditional, gothic costume dramas with stunning production design.
A Most Violent Year (Showtime)
An immigrant (Oscar Isaac) and his wife (Jessica Chastain) aspire to achieve the American dream by capitalizing on the crime and corruption surrounding them, which also threatens to destroy them, in 1981 New York City.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Before they both starred in X-Men movies and eventually reunited for HBO’s Scenes from a Marriage, Jessica Chastain gave an electrifying, femme fatale-inspired performance opposite her longtime friend Oscar Isaac as her onscreen husband in 2015's A Most Violent Year - a captivatingly dark period piece partially inspired by true events from writer and director J.C. Chandor.
The Zookeeper’s Wife (Netflix)
A woman (Jessica Chastain) and her husband (Johan Heldenbergh) use their zoo in Warsaw, Poland, as a sanctuary for hundreds of Jewish refugees - and animals, too - in the wake of the Nazi invasion in 1939.
Why it’s one of the best Jessica Chastain movies: Jessica Chastain is a tour de force as one of the boldest and most heroic figures of World War II-era Europe, Antonina Zabinska, in The Zookeeper’s Wife - an inspiring 2017 drama based on the book by Diane Ackerman from acclaimed director Niki Caro.
Jessica Chastain will soon play another famous “Tammy” in George and Tammy - a Paramount+ original miniseries profiling the romance between country music star Tammy Wynette and George Jones, which will reunite her with Take Shelter’s Michael Shannon. She also will also star in the upcoming Netflix exclusive true crime story, The Good Nurse.
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Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.