Saoirse Ronan movies range the gamut from blockbusters to romantic comedies to historical epics. The American-born Irish actress made her acting debut in The Clinic, an Irish medical drama and her first film role was in I Could Never Be Your Woman, a romantic comedy directed by Amy Heckerling that was filmed in 2005 but not released until 2007. Ronan’s career breakthrough came in 2007 with Joe Wright’s romantic period drama Atonement, an adaptation of the 2001 novel of the same name by Ian McEwan. Her role as aspiring writer Briony Tallis brought her critical acclaim, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
This made Ronan, who was 13 at the time, not only a first-time Oscar nominee but also one of the youngest actresses nominated in that category for her role in the Joe Wright movie. Saoirse Ronan has enjoyed a long and fruitful career since then, working with noted directors such as Wes Anderson and Greta Gerwig. She remains a versatile actress, appearing in comedies, action thrillers, sci-fi movies, and fantasy films. Since Atonement, Ronan has received three additional Oscar nominations, all in Best Actress, while flexing her comedic chops, and has also gained acclaim for her work on the stage.
29 The Host (2013)
The Host is an adaptation of the 2008 Stephenie Meyer sci-fi novel of the same name. In the world of The Host, the human race has been taken over by parasitic aliens called “Souls.” Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan) is captured and infused with a Soul called “Wanderer.” However, Melanie isn’t willing to give up her autonomy, and she and Wanderer end up fighting for control of her body. The Host takes a fascinating sci-fi premise and turns it into a melodramatic young adult movie. The backstory behind the “Souls” and the details of the world after the alien takeover isn’t delved into, robbing the story of necessary worldbuilding.
The performances aren’t as compelling as other young adult movies, and Saoirse Ronan doesn’t seem to have much chemistry with either Max Irons or Jake Abel. However, Ronan does her best with what she’s given, trying to bring life into her dual role as Melanie and Wanderer. Diane Kruger is also decent as Seeker, the antagonist determined to make sure every human is inhabited by a “Soul.”
28 Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013)
The animated film focuses on Justin (The Good Doctor‘s Freddie Highmore), a teen who dreams of being a knight like his grandfather, Sir Roland. However, his stern father, Reginald (Alfred Molina), is not supportive and wants Justin to be a lawyer instead. When his grandfather’s sword goes missing, Justin is determined to train to be a knight and go on a quest to retrieve it. Justin And The Knights Of Valour promises a tale of adventure, but the story doesn’t always deliver.
Justin And The Knights Of Valour boasts a talented voice cast, including Antonio Banderas and Charles Dance. However, they’re given subpar material to work with compared to other fantasy films that balance comedy with emotional depth. The most interesting character is Saoirse Ronan’s Talia, a teenage barmaid who’s adept at fighting and has a quick wit. Ronan infuses the character with plenty of charisma and charm and does her best in this lesser fantasy tale.
27 Muppet’s Most Wanted (2014)
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One of the surprise hits of 2011 was when The Muppets returned to theaters in what was a delightfully funny movie. This also allowed the movie franchise to return with a sequel in 2014. In the sequel, a criminal Muppet named Constantine, an exact double for Kermit, escapes from prison and ends up replacing Kermit and causing all sorts of trouble. The movie had several huge cameos, including singer Lady Gaga, actors like Salma Hayek and Christoph Waltz, and even Saoirse Ronan, all appearing as themselves. Ronan’s small cameo was as a guest for their Irish live show, where she dances to The Nutcracker with the Mutations. It’s a fun movie but Ronan’s part is small.
26 Violet & Daisy (2011)
Violet & Daisy follows the hardened Violet (Alexis Bledel in a post-Gilmore Girls role) and sweet but airheaded Daisy (Saoirse Ronan), a pair of young assassins who take down New York City criminal figures. Needing money to buy the newest dress designed by their favorite pop star, Barbie Sunday, the duo accepts a job to kill an unnamed loner (James Gandolfini) who stole from Donnie, a rival crime boss. Violet and Daisy think the job will be easy until they make the mistake of getting to know their target.
Director Geoffrey Fletcher was influenced by Quentin Tarantino, but the film feels more like an imitation that tries too hard to be quirky and edgy. Violet & Daisy is worth a watch thanks to the efforts of its central trio; the late Gandolfini gives a quietly great performance, and Bledel and Ronan have scenes where they get to shine. Violet & Daisy has a premise with potential but unfortunately falls short compared to other Saoirse Ronan movies.
25 Stockholm, Pennsylvania (2015)
Stockholm, Pennsylvania focuses on Leanne Dargon (Saoirse Ronan), who was kidnapped as a four-year-old by Ben McKay (Jason Isaacs) and renamed Leia. After 17 years, Leia is reunited with her biological parents, Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and Glen (David Warshofsky). However, Leia is suffering from Stockholm syndrome and considers her captor her true parent, while her biological parents are strangers to her. Like the Brie Larson movie Room, another 2015 drama, Stockholm, Pennsylvania chronicles an abduction victim’s adjustment to “normal” life.
However, this film doesn’t broach the topic with nearly as much depth or sensitivity. The first half of Stockholm, Pennsylvania does delve into some interesting psychological drama, but the second half devolves into something bizarre, with an out-of-left-field villainous transformation from Marcy and an ambiguous ending that’s truly unsettling. Saoirse Ronan is good as a young adult suffering from Stockholm syndrome and trying to process her new life outside of captivity and holds her own against Cynthia Nixon, but even she can’t elevate this tonally inconsistent film.
24 Death Defying Acts (2007)
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Set in 1926, Death Defying Acts focuses on Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Scottish con artist, and her daughter, Benji (Saoirse Ronan). When illusionist Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) offers $10,000 to anyone who can quote his deceased mother’s last words to him, Mary and Benji set their sights on the reward and begin growing closer to the notably private man.
The premise has hints of intrigue, but the romance between Mary and Houdini underwhelms with its lack of chemistry and seems needlessly shoehorned into the film. However, Death Defying Acts isn’t without its bright spots. Like most Saoirse Ronan movies, she gives another charming performance as a precocious young character, and Timothy Spall is intriguing as Houdini’s gruff yet protective manager.
23 Weepah Way For Now (2015)
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Unlike other Saoirse Ronan movies, Weepah Way For Now only features her in a small role, as she delivers the voice of Emily, the dead sister of Elle and Joy, played in this movie by real-life sisters, Aly and AJ Michalka. The movie follows Elle and Joy, separated by two years and tied together by the death of their sister, Emily, who was the middle sister born without a heartbeat. They set out to become musicians, planning a European tour at the time of the movie’s events. Interestingly, the movie has Ronan as the narrator of the story. The movie works well concerning sibling rivalry, but it is also a slow-moving drama and might not be to everyone’s tastes.
22 Lost River (2014)
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Lost River, Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, focuses on a teen boy named Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and his single mother, Billy (Christina Hendricks) as they struggle to make ends meet in the crumbling town of Lost River. Bones dreams of leaving the town, though his mom is attached to the place she grew up in. While Bones discovers a secret underwater town, Billy’s new job introduces her to a seedy criminal underworld.
Gosling’s film certainly has potential. The unsettling dark fantasy atmosphere is intriguing and there are some eye-catching visual touches. However, Lost River doesn’t quite live up to its potential. There are some solid performances here; Christina Hendricks brings a determined strength to Billy, Matt Smith’s villain Bully is convincingly menacing, and Saoirse Ronan is captivating as Rat, a withdrawn teen who cares deeply for her grandma. Lost River may be an uneven film with more style than substance, but despite the lackluster script, the cast makes this film watchable.
21 I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007)
The Saoirse Ronan movies debut came in this rom-com/showbiz satire focused on Rosie (Michelle Pfeiffer), a scriptwriter and producer for the teen show You Go Girl as well as a divorced single mother who is quite close to her 13-year-old daughter Izzie (Saoirse Ronan). After her boss Marty (Fred Willard) decides that the show can no longer cover controversial subjects, Rosie decides to cast a new character. She’s charmed by Adam (Paul Rudd), a natural comedian, and starts to fall for him despite the age difference between them. Meanwhile, Izzie deals with her own struggles, especially her crush on classmate Dylan (Rory Copus).
According to director Amy Heckerling (via EW), the film is inspired by her own experiences as a single mother raising a daughter while making the Clueless TV show. I Could Never Be Your Woman has great casting and Pfeiffer and Rudd are both charming, but their relationship doesn’t have the depth and chemistry to truly be compelling. It’s nice to see a mini Clueless reunion with the casting of Stacey Dash as Brianna, the self-centered star of You Go Girl. The highlight of I Could Never Be Your Woman is Saoirse Ronan; in her first role, she already displays great comedic timing and is a winsome young actress.
20 Ammonite (2020)
Ammonite is a British period drama and speculative romance loosely based on the life of 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet). Mary spends her days running a seaside shop where she sells fossils. She is asked to take care of geologist Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) during her convalescence from melancholia while her husband, Roderick (James McArdle), spends six weeks in Europe. Though Mary is reluctant to accept this new visitor at first, the two women soon develop an intense relationship.
Saoirse Ronan and Titanic‘s Kate Winslet are both formidable actresses, but some critics saw a lack of chemistry. Some of this could be based on the script and Francis Lee’s direction; there are often notable stretches without dialogue, and the character interactions between Mary and Charlotte come across as cold before the two women suddenly become intimate. The highlight of Ammonite is Fiona Shaw as Mary’s former lover, Elizabeth Philipot. She is a warm and delightful presence despite only being in a couple of scenes.
19 On Chesil Beach (2017)
On Chesil Beach is an adaptation of a 2007 novella by Ian McEwan, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The story, set in 1962, focuses on a young newlywed couple. Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) spend their honeymoon on Chesil Beach in Dorset, England. The couple, both virgins, attempt to have sex for the first time on their wedding night. On Chesil Beach had the chance to take its premise and examine the sexually repressed culture of early 1960s Britain, but it doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity.
Florence’s backstory regarding her aversion to sex is alluded to, but the film would’ve been improved if there was an actual discussion between Edward and Florence about the topic. Instead, their disastrous attempt at sex leads to Edward shaming Florence for not desiring sex, and then two flash-forwards: one in 1975 where Florence has given up her aversion to sexual activity with no explanation, and another reminiscent of the “one that got away” ending, featuring Ronan and Howle in old-age makeup. There are elements of On Chesil Beach that work. However, On Chesil Beach suffers from an uncomfortable climax and time jumps.
18 The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey (2007)
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Written and directed by Bill Clark, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is an adaptation of the 1995 book of the same name, written by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P. J. Lynch. The movie focuses on 10-year-old Thomas McDowell (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) and his mother Susan (Joely Richardson), who relocate to a rural town after the death of Thomas’ father, James (Elliot Cowan), in the First World War. When Thomas loses the wooden nativity set given to him by his father, Susan convinces grumpy and reclusive woodcutter Jonathan Toomey (Tom Berenger) to carve a replacement.
Joely Richardson gives a decent performance as a widowed mother trying her best, and Tom Berenger is great as the closed-off Toomey who slowly warms to Susan and her son. Among the child cast, Saoirse Ronan is a standout performance as Celia Hardwick, a spunky young girl who befriends Thomas. Her performance is so delightful, and it’s a shame she isn’t in the movie more. Though The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey does have its cheesy moments, it’s ultimately a fine holiday movie.
17 City Of Ember (2008)
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City of Ember is adapted from the 2003 post-apocalyptic novel The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. The titular city is constructed to shelter survivors from an unspecified global catastrophe. However, one day, Ember’s generator starts to fail, and necessities like food are now in short supply. When the graduating students of Ember City School randomly choose their future career paths, friends Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) decide to swap job assignments. Lina and Doon discover a mysterious box that could hold the key to escaping the city and finally seeing the outside world.
City of Ember is a YA dystopian sci-fi adaptation that’s visually interesting and has a compelling premise. The pace does move a bit slow at times, and it would’ve been nice to learn more backstory about Ember and its characters, but City of Ember still makes for an entertaining watch. It helps that Ronan and Treadaway are capable young performers who make it easy to root for them. It’s a shame that City of Ember failed at the box office because a film series based on this world would have been fascinating.
16 How I Live Now (2013)
How I Live Now is based on a 2004 novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff. The film focuses on Daisy (Saoirse Ronan), an American teenager sent to spend a summer in the English countryside with her cousins Eddie (George MacKay), Isaac (Tom Holland), Piper (Harley Bird), and Aunt Penn (Anna Chancellor). However, Daisy’s summer vacation is interrupted when a nuclear war breaks out in Europe. The big elephant in the room is the romance between Daisy and Eddie. If the scriptwriter had simply changed Eddie to be a neighbor or farmhand unrelated to Daisy, their budding romance wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable.
Saoirse Ronan and George MacKay themselves give solid performances. Ronan’s sullen teen Daisy is rather unlikable at first, but once she lets her walls down and warms up to her cousins, her performance truly becomes enjoyable. George MacKay is a quiet yet strong presence as George, and Tom Holland is charming as Isaac. This film is also fascinating because it doesn’t shy away from the brutalities of war and how it can tear families apart. It’s interesting to see the idyllic English countryside turn into a war-torn battlefield. Though some moments don’t quite land, How I Live Now is decently enjoyable among Saoirse Ronan movies.
15 The Seagull (2018)
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The Seagull is an adaptation of the 1896 Anton Chekhov play, based in early 1900s Russia. Irina Arkadina (Annette Bening) brings her lover Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll) on a visit to the summer estate of her brother, Pjotr Nikolayevich Sorin (Brian Dennehy). When young actress Nina Zarechnaya (Saoirse Ronan) falls in love with Boris despite being in a relationship with Irina’s son, a series of romantic entanglements ensue. The cast is solid; Saoirse Ronan intrigues as the idealistic and fame-seeking Nina, Annette Bening captivates as the vain and selfish Irina, and Elisabeth Moss gives an especially great performance as Masha, a depressed spinster who harbors an unrequited love for Konstantin.
14 Mary Queen Of Scots (2018)
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Mary Queen of Scots is based on Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. The historical drama focuses on Mary, Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan), and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). In Mary Queen of Scots‘ true story, Mary Stuart returns to Scotland after the death of her husband, Francis II of France, to claim her right to the throne. This is a threat to the reign of Elizabeth I, and political intrigue, betrayal, and scheming ensue as both women must make difficult life choices in a bid for the crown.
Though separated for most of the film, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are in fine form here, both portraying strong, determined queens trying to pave their own way in a patriarchal society that seeks to control their every move. However, Ronan is especially a standout as Mary, playing her with a fiery determination but also not afraid to let her be softer and more vulnerable at times. When Elizabeth and Mary finally meet in the climactic scene, it’s fascinating to watch both actresses on screen together after over an hour of buildup. The political intrigue and scheming on both sides can be interesting to watch, and Jack Lowden is very charismatic as Lord Darnley, Mary’s second husband.
13 The Way Back (2010)
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The Way Back is inspired by The Long Walk (1956), a memoir by Sławomir Rawicz, a former Polish prisoner of war who claimed to have escaped from a Soviet Gulag in World War II and walked 4,000 miles to freedom. Directed by Peter Weir, the film follows Janusz Wieszczek (Jim Sturgess), a young Polish army officer sentenced to 20 years in a Siberian Gulag labor camp. He soon plans an escape with a few other prisoners. Along the way, they encounter young Polish orphan Irena Zielińska (Saoirse Ronan), and the group must brave the elements in their trek to freedom.
The Way Back is a harrowing yet inspiring survival tale. Jim Sturgess has a strong leading performance here as the admirably determined Janusz. Though the other men aren’t fully fleshed-out characters, the talented ensemble still manages to make them interesting. Saoirse Ronan is also a standout; she brings a quiet strength to her role as Irena, a girl who’s survived tragic loss. Though it’s not the most exciting of Saoirse Ronan movies, The Way Back is a compelling tale shot in some incredible outdoor locations.
12 The Lovely Bones (2009)
- Stream now on Showtime & Fubo
The Lovely Bones is an adaptation of the 2002 Alice Sebold novel of the same name. Set in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1973, the film focuses on the abduction, rape, and murder of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) by her neighbor, serial killer George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Susie refuses to move on from what happened to her and pass on to the afterlife, especially when she sees how her death has deeply affected her family. Saoirse Ronan’s performance is superb; she masterfully transforms from a carefree teenage girl to someone who’s been haunted by a horrific incident that cut her life short.
Mark Wahlberg is great as Susie’s father Jack, a man who is shaken by his daughter’s murder and will do anything to find the person responsible. Rachel Weisz is also solid as mom Abigail, while Rose McIver does a fine job as younger sister Lindsey, and Stanley Tucci is terrifying and creepy as Harvey. Though some of her scenes are tonally jarring, Susan Sarandon is a delight as Grandma Lynn. The Peter Jackson movie does falter in its kitschy CGI depiction of Heaven, and AJ Michalka, who plays Susie’s best friend, Clarissa, unfortunately, doesn’t get much screen time. Despite these faults, The Lovely Bones is a compelling watch.
11 Byzantium (2012)
Byzantium is another vampire tale from Interview with the Vampire director Neil Jordan. Clara Webb (Gemma Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) are 200-year-old vampires who go on the run after Clara kills Werner (Thure Lindhardt), a member of the vampire Brethren. The duo ends up in a seaside town and takes shelter in the guesthouse of lonely Noel (Daniel Mays). However, Clara and Eleanor’s arrival in town soon leads to mayhem for its residents. Byzantium is a chilling yet fascinating take on vampire movies. Gemma Arterton brings a great volatile yet caring energy as Clara, while Saoirse Ronan is excellent as Eleanor, who is quiet but harbors a great sadness.
The two characters have a wonderfully complex mother-daughter dynamic. Byzantium also features an interesting version of the typical vampire-human romance through Eleanor’s relationship with Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), a young man dying of leukemia. There are flashbacks sprinkled throughout the film that explain Clara and Eleanor’s story, but rather than feeling forced, they are well-shot and impactful. However, the flashbacks are the source of a downside of the film: the amount of sexual violence towards women. Some scenes seemed a bit much. Still, Byzantium is a finely-crafted tale featuring beautifully complex characters.
10 The French Dispatch (2021)
Saoirse Ronan reunites with Wes Anderson in this ensemble film. The French Dispatch focuses on the French bureau of the fictional Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun newspaper as it publishes its final issue after editor Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) dies. The film follows three different storylines: one about an incarcerated painter, one inspired by the May ‘68 protests held by French students, and one about a police commissioner’s son’s kidnapping. The anthology of segments is very entertaining, with credit due to the all-star cast Wes Anderson has assembled, including Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Jeremy Wright, Timothée Chalamet, and Frances McDormand.
Chalamet and McDormand are especially compelling to watch in “Revisions to a Manifesto,” where his passionate student activist strikes up a brief relationship with her curious journalist. Saoirse Ronan only has a brief role in The French Dispatch as Junkie/Showgirl #1, a member of a kidnapping gang who holds Gigi (Winston Ait Hellal), the precocious young son of The Commissaire (Mathieu Amalric) for ransom. However, Ronan still shines and gets to show off her lovely singing voice when performing a lullaby for Gigi. The French Dispatch is witty, charming, and quite aesthetically pleasing with its cinematography and set design.