Sally Hawkins may not be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but she is one of those actors who is always so compelling no matter what role she is in. She started her career appearing in small roles in British dramas while slowly catching the eyes of big-name filmmakers. In recent years, we have seen Hawkins in bigger films, becoming an Oscar nominee and continue to give amazing performances.
Hawkins has built a very impressive career with some truly outstanding performances. Whether she is playing the lead role or a small supporting character, Hawkins manages to be a highlight in every film she appears. As we look forward to what she does next, here are some of her best performances to date.
You could be forgiven for forgetting Hawkins was in the 2014 Godzilla remake. For one thing, the movie is jam-packed with famous faces, and also, her role is not very substantial. Still Hawkins manages to make an almost non-existent character interesting.
She plays Dr. Vivienne Graham, a scientist and partner to Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. These two have spent their entire lives searching for Godzilla and built a strong relationship together. Hawkins and Watanabe manage to convey a lot of that history through looks and body language. With both characters returning for Godzilla: King of Monsters, hopefully they’ll be given more to do.
Much to the surprise of everyone, Paddington has become one of the best film franchises currently being produced. The marmalade-loving bear has proven to be a character the world very much needs right now. With two films released and a third on the way, they have proven to be funny, sweet and wholesome entertainment.
Hawkins seems like the perfect fit for these kinds of movies. She plays, Mrs. Brown, Paddington’s adoptive mother. Hawkins plays against the CGI bear with total sincerity, delivering a heartwarming performance in both films.
8 Layer Cake
Hawkins is often known for playing soft-spoken or somewhat timid characters. She showed a whole new side of herself in a brief but very memorable role in Layer Cake.
Matthew Vaughan made his directorial debut in this crime tale about a drug dealer tasked with an impossible job right before his planned retirement. With a stellar cast including Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy and Sienna Miller, Hawkins managed to standout as a loud-mouth and abrasive girlfriend of a low-level criminal. It was another great example of how Hawkins can do so much with even the smallest of parts.
Though she has begun to appear in the bigger Hollywood films, Hawkins made a name for herself in smaller British films, like this 2010 indie film from Richard Ayoade.
Submarine tells the story of hopeless romantic 15-year-old Oliver Tate. Oliver is desperately trying to rekindle the relationship between his distant parents while trying to keep his mother, payed by Hawkins, away from their neighbor. The role is a difficult one that Hawkins pulls off so well. She perfectly balances the uptight manner of the character with the unhappiness of her daily life to make her just sympathetic enough.
6 All or Nothing
Mike Leigh has been an important figure in Hawkins’ career. This film was not only their first collaboration, but also served as the first speaking role Hawkins had in a film.
The bleak drama follows the struggles of a working-class British family each struggling to let the depressive state of their lives overtake them. Hawkins has a small supporting role as a young, unemployed neighbor. Hawkins makes quite an impression with her small amount of screen time, showing us depth to a character who could have easily been so one-dimensional.
5 Made in Dagenham
Hawkins has the rare ability to convincingly play seemingly everyday people. She often plays people who are struggling to make ends meet while balancing the other responsibilities of their life. She also makes you believe her when those characters then do something extraordinary.
Made in Dagenham tells the true story of the female workers at the Ford Dagenham car plant who went on strike to achieve equal pay. Hawkins shines in the lead role as a woman unexpectedly pushed into leading this strike. Hawkins is fantastic at displaying a woman who is both timid because of how she’s been treated her whole life while also finding the strength to fight back.
Hawkins is sadly not be the type of actress that gets offered the biggest roles in Hollywood. But she has proven again and again in those smaller roles that she has what it takes to carry a film.
Maudie is a biopic about the life of acclaimed Canadian artist, Maude Lewis. It is a perfect display of how great of a leading lady Hawkins can be when given the chance. She brings so much charm to the role, injecting the movie with some much-needed life. Sadly the film was underseen, otherwise Hawkins would be much more in-demand.
3 Blue Jasmine
While she has shown she can play the lead as well as anyone, Hawkins is just as good in a supporting role. It could be daunting for an actor to share the screen with someone as talented as Cate Blanchett, but Hawkins proves very much up to the challenge.
In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Blanchett plays a wealthy woman going through a breakdown, who moves in with her working-class sister, played by Hawkins. Compared to Blanchett, Hawkins has the much less showy role, which helps to ground everything and let the audience escape the madness. She deservedly scored her first Oscar nomination for the role.
2 Happy Go-Lucky
After working with her in All or Nothing, Mike Leigh decided he needed to create a starring role for Hawkins. The result is this funny and endearing film that helped the world recognize Hawkins’ extreme talent.
In Happy Go-Lucky, Hawkins plays Poppy, a kindergarten teacher with an impossibly optimistic outlook on life. Poppy is an instantly lovable character and the kind you wish you could be more about. Hawkins is an absolute joy to watch in the film, creating a very big character who nonetheless always feels authentic.
1 The Shape of Water
Leave it to the weird and brilliant mind of Guillermo Del Toro to find the perfect starring role for Hawkins in a love about a woman falling in love with a fish.
Hawkins plays Elisa, a deaf janitor working in a mysterious government facility who forms a relationship with a creature being kept prisoner there. The role and the concept of the film ask a lot of Hawkins and she is consistently up to the challenge. Her expressive face says so much without her speaking. In the end, she is the heart of the film, making us care about this unusual relationship.