As I started writing this piece, I had put a question mark at the end of the headline. Remembering Betteridge's Law, I went back and deleted it. Because on this, there can be no doubt: Anne Hathaway is America's greatest actress.
Headlines are important! When I see a headline like this, for instance:
I scoff, recalling the punchline to an old joke: "What do you mean ‘we,' Kemosabe?" Because, ahem, some of us have always been aghast at the so-called Hathahaters, that contingent of anti-Annie folks who derived much joy from saying mean things about her online, tearing down her performances, tearing down her wardrobe, tearing down her Oscar acceptance speeches.
But her metatextual starring turn in Ocean's 8—in which she plays a starlet maligned as a dilletente and a harpy who shows that she's something more, absorbing all the hatred and scorn heaped upon her this last decade and flipping it around in a cute bit of actorly jiu-jitsu—confirms the fact that there's literally no actorly task Anne Hathaway can't perform. Let's consider the many genres that she has conquered, shall we?
Hathaway's big screen debut and a touchstone for a generation of little girls. Not my cup of tea, maybe, but I'm not the target audience, now am I? The point is: This was her big screen debut and it was a pretty solid hit, launching both her career and a franchise.
Hathaway's 2005 turn in Brokeback Mountain signaled that this was an actress with ambition and range, someone who—as we would see with Rachel Getting Married and Love and Other Drugs—should not be underestimated come awards season.
Speaking of awards season! Anne Hathaway won her first, and so far only, Oscar for her turn in Les Miserables, proving she can handle musicals just as easily as comedies or dramas.
Comic Book Movies
She can sing, she can dance, she can act, she can kick some ass: Anne Hathaway's Catwoman may not steal the show in The Dark Knight Rises, but she grounds the series in a way that no other supporting character quite managed to.
I don't know about you, but I like to think when I'm at the movies. And Hathaway's turn as the scientist/astronaut trying to save humanity in Interstellar shows that she's more than just a pretty face.
Chick Flicks That Dudes Like
Dear Internet: Please don't drag me for this subgenre description. I'm merely using it because there was a Twitter thing a few months back that asked guys which chick flicks they liked. And the answer I kept seeing come up—over and over and over again—was The Devil Wears Prada. And that makes sense! I mean, first off, it's basically just a workplace comedy where professional friendships take precedence over things like romantic love. (Romantic love: GROSS.) But second off, it has a bunch of attractive women wearing attractive clothing! No wonder guys can admit being into it.
Colossal was pretty great. Look at how kooky she can be!
Obviously I haven't seen Serenity—which comes out later this year and stars Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey—yet, so I can't judge. (The trailer looks awesome.) (But I can't judge.) However, any movie with America's Sweetheart and America's Cool Uncle is on the top of my must-watch list, and Hathaway has proven in movies like Havoc that she can play the sultry femme fatale type. Just one more genre she has mastered.
Look, there are other, showier actresses—your Streeps, for instance—and there are other actresses who have cornered certain markets in a way that Hathaway has never bothered to try. But with the possible exception of Jennifer Lawrence (another fine actress, but she has a few years to go before we crown her the queen), no one has shown the range, versatility, skill, or daring that Anne Hathaway possesses. Long may she reign!