Actor Ranked: Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan made her acting debut at the age of only 10 years old, and over the years we have watched her transform from a promising child star in films including Joe Wright’s Atonement and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, to an elegant and super talented young woman in films such as Brooklyn and Lady Bird.

Here is my ranking of her performances (not of the films themselves) to date:

1. Brooklyn (2015)

There are many reasons as to why Brooklyn works so well as a film, with the visuals being one of the biggest factors. Both the characters and the locations are brought to life beautifully. Seeing the contrasts of Eilis’ pretty hometown to the inflated lifestyle of the city heightens both the experience that Eilis is going through but also gives the story a breath-taking backdrop.

The casting is spot-on, too, and it is Saoirse Ronan‘s elegance that adds to this visual beauty as well as the exceptionally talented performance that she leads the film with. The story really wouldn’t have been the same with any other actress, as she completely embraces every characteristic of her role.

You can read my full review here.

2. The Lovely Bones (2009)

Peter Jackson took a lot of risks with this film, and I think it’s one worth applauding, despite the films very mixed reviews. With Ronan giving an incredible lead performance, the power of this film comes from Stanley Tucci‘s character. We know who the monster is throughout the film, but we are but spectators unable to do anything to help the other characters. It’s so rare that a film puts you in such an uncomfortable position, and then it’s not exactly a happy ending either, as the last ten minutes are just as distressing as the first.

It is an outstanding story full of deep emotion, and will forever remain one of my favourite novels, a lot of which is thanks to Ronan leading the adaptation so incredibly.

You can read my full review here.

3. Little Women (2019)

Little Women is a passionate adaptation of a timeless and timely tale decorated with ravishing country scenery and immaculate costume designs, led by today’s leading actors both young and old. It is beautifully crafted in every way, telling a well-recognised story in a contemporary and progressive way, staying faithful to the book whilst reflecting Gerwig’s own ideals.

I’ve seen a few adaptations of the story already but this is the first that made me cry (twice). The warmth and love that you can feel between these characters is incredibly powerful, just as their individual ambitions and desires in life are, as these vibrant characters are taken from page to screen with such skilled hands that it’s hard not to feel instantly connected to them.

You can read my full review here.

4. Hanna (2011)

This is where my crush on Ronan really began. This is a very different character for Ronan from what we had seen of her before, but she gives an incredible performance nonetheless. Her acting is faultless and it is her character that really drags you into this film. Although Cate Blanchett is fantastic as well, it’s because of Ronan that you don’t want to stop watching this even for a second.

With an odd mix of genres, as Hanna experiences real life at the same time as being on the run, it’s surprising that this worked at all. The third film in this list directed by Joe Wright, it’s curious enough to see him direct a thriller, but it really works. As with all of his films, everything looks fantastic. It manages to be brutal without being too gory, and it manages to have a number of great action scenes without any unnecessarily big explosions or gun violence, all of which is accompanied by a brilliant score.

You can read my full review here.

5. Byzantium (2012)

Dark and violent, which is expressed brilliantly through stunning visuals and a gothic atmosphere, Byzantium also has a strong focus on the mother/daughter relationship. When a film relies so heavily on its characters’ story and developments it’s important to have this level of focus but it’s also a quality often easily neglected. Nevertheless, both Ronan and Gemma Arterton excel in their roles, and they have a great chemistry which makes their relationship powerful and engaging. Caleb Landry Jones has a lovely supporting role, too.

You can read my full review here.

My Rankings Continued:
  • 6. Atonement – My all-time favourite war-time romantic drama; this film has such class! Keira Knightley and James McAvoy make brilliant leads and have such a lovely chemistry on screen together. The film also sees great performances by Saoirse Ronan and Juno Temple, who were largely unknown at the point of this film’s release but who are now both doing exceedingly well. And let’s not forget Benedict Cumberbatch’s creepy presence. When first watching this I had no idea that it was him, and it’s only recently that I’ve made the connection, so kudos to him for taking on such a role. You can read my full review here.
  • 7. Lady Bird – Lady Bird captures the transition from adolescence to adulthood perfectly in this deeply engaging coming-of-age story full of fantastic performances. It’s a story that many viewers will easily relate to. For me, personally, I remember feeling a lot of what Saoirse Ronan‘s character is going through in the years before I went to university 300 miles away from home. You feel so grown up at the time, but then you look back at this and realise that you were far from it. It’s such a brilliant age to explore the headspace of a female, on the cusp of so much, eager to move far away and prove yourself to others. But no matter how far you run, you’re home will always be your home, and you will always find yourself running back to your mum in times of comfort. You can read my full review here.
  • 8. Mary Queen of Scots – I love biopics/period dramas that teach us about history. I especially love learning about the Kings and Queens of England, even more so when there’s a great cast involved, so this was right up my street. But whilst I agree with some of the negative reviews that it does feel quite flat at times and that it doesn’t have the grandeur that you would expect from such a film, I love getting to see what it was possibly like behind the closed doors of the royal house with all of the conflicts and corruption, and the betrayals of men who think that they’re far too important and wise to be ruled by a woman. Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are both excellent, and it is their powerful performances that lead this film to being better than it should be. Although I was hoping to see a lot more of Robbie, the hair/make-up/clothing designs are absolutely stunning. There’s a great supporting cast, too, including David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Gemma Chan, and Martin Compston.
  • 9. The Way Back – Inspired by real events, The Way Back is a brilliant story of struggle and motivation. With a talented cast including Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan, there’s a great set of characters to follow and come to know. Usually, I would find a film about lots of walking eventless and boring, but I was somewhat captivated by their story so I never grew tired of their journey. It wasn’t quite heartbreaking, but it had its moments.
  • 10. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Ralph Fiennes is hilarious and Wes Anderson’s film-making charm shines throughout.
  • 11. On Chesil Beach – I was really looking forward to this film. An Ian McEwan book adaptation, a romantic (ish) drama, set on the beautiful Dorset coast, and starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle. This was definitely my kind of film. Watching it, however, I quickly realised that I didn’t know anything about the plot. And so, it was surprising. It wasn’t the romance I was expecting, nor was it a heartbreaker. But I was surprised to find myself tearing up at the end, so it obviously worked. Ronan gives a fantastic performance, as per, whilst Billy Howle is quickly becoming one of my new favourite actors. If you haven’t been watching MotherFatherSon on BBCTwo then you need to be.
  • 12. The Seagull – You can tell that this is based on an old play because there is so much rich development in the individual and conflicting characters, yet they all feel so unrelatable. I’ve just read that the play was known for having characters who “tend to speak in ways that skirt around issues rather than addressing them directly; in other words, their lines are full of what is known in dramatic practise as subtext.” And that’s my exact problem with this film. It doesn’t get to the point and so I was left feeling very little. I can imagine enjoying the play a lot, but I don’t feel like it has translated into a film well at all. However, I loved seeing another relationship between Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle.
  • 13. Violet & Daisy – I love Alexis Bledel in Gilmore Girls, but I have yet to enjoy her in anything else. I only watched this film because of Saoirse Ronan, which is the only thing that made it worthwhile. But Violet & Daisy isn’t all bad. There are some deeper subplots which work quite nicely but it’s very juvenile at the same time, which isn’t what you want from a violent assassin premise. It works at times, but not enough to convince you fully.
  • 14. Lost River – An experimental debut by Ryan Gosling which he obviously uses a lot of his experience as an influence, having a similar feel to Drive, Only God Forgives and The Place Beyond the Pines. I didn’t understand the story or like any of the characters, but I enjoyed the cinematography and score, and there were a few scenes which really left an impact.
  • 15. Death Defying Acts – The most boring story of Harry Houdini there probably is. A good cast though, with lead performances from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Guy Pearce who have a decent chemistry, and a lovely little role from Saoirse Ronan in support. Not even close to the powerful, magical experience I was hoping for.
  • 16. The Host – The reason I was interested in this film at all was because of Saoirse Ronan in the lead role. She’s one of my favourite young actresses and is incredible in films such as Hanna, Atonement, and The Lovely Bones, but not even she could have saved this. Whilst her performance made it slightly more bearable, it wasn’t a role that I enjoyed. She did well with what she was given, but the script was silly and the voice-over came across as cringy. You can read my full review here.
  • 17. City of Ember – I could really feel the influence of Terry Gilliam which is an achievement in itself, but unfortunately I don’t like his recent family fantasies so it was that edge to this adventure that put me off. But it’s a good family film, and it also reminded me of The Borrowers. I just didn’t like that it was trying to be… quirky. There’s a reason why I dislike that word.

Note: I still need to watch Stockholm Pennsylvania, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, and I Could Never Be Your Woman.

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About Charlie Morris

Proofreader and film blogger living in Cornwall.

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