Angelina Jolie may be America's biggest female movie star. You might argue with that notion -- throw in names like Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence, and the discussion gets murky -- but the 38-year-old actress, who turns 39 on June 4, is one of the most recognizable and desired faces in Hollywood. An Oscar winner (1999's "Girl Interrupted") and acclaimed director, Jolie has remained a tabloid fixture since her blood-toting relationship with Billy Bob Thornton made headlines in the early 2000s. A $33 million income made Jolie the highest-paid actress of 2013. (In 2011, she shared the same honor with Sarah Jessica Parker and earned only $2 million more than longtime headline rival Jennifer Aniston, but their complicated dynamic is old news, so we'll lay that ordeal to rest.)
In spite of everything going for her, Jolie's repute comes with something none of the other aforementioned actresses have: a startling deficit of great movies. A cursory look at Jolie's filmography reveals a dearth of critical darlings and a grab bag of box-office results. In short, were she not the formidable Angelina Jolie, her resume would be one step removed from a fiasco. (Does anyone have fond remembrances of "The Bone Collector," "Pushing Tin," "Playing God," "Alexander," "The Tourist" and "Changeling"?)
BuzzFeed's Anne Helen Petersen recently wrote an in-depth exploration of Jolie's expertise when it comes to playing the celebrity-image game, and it's true: Somehow Jolie's identity has escalated beyond the need for critical praise or steady film grosses, both of which she has seen, but neither of which she can rely on. Case in point: "Maleficent" just became Jolie's highest-grossing opening weekend to date, but Disney's reimagining of "Sleeping Beauty" debuted to a lukewarm reception from many critics. After 19 years as a lead star, let's see how many of Jolie's projects have proved fruitful (hint: not many).
Notes: Only live-action roles are listed, so no "Kung-Fu Panda" or "Beowulf." All box-office tallies are domestic grosses adjusted for inflation.
Role: A high school computer hacker known as Acid Burn.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 34 percent
Box office: $13.8 million
Sample review: "'Hackers,' the new information highway thriller, is tirelessly modish, hyper-glossy, super-superficial. It's also cacophonous. And, for all of its drum-beating for brain power, dumb." -- Hal Hinson, The Washington Post
Role: A drifter named Legs who convinces her three classmates to fight back against sexual advances made by their biology teacher.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 30 percent
Box office: $485,000
Sample review: "Joyce Carol Oates will be disappointed with the muddled screen version of “Foxfire,” her bestselling novel about female bonding and empowerment. The film deals with a relevant issue, sexual harassment in school, but tyro director Annette Haywood-Carter gives it the glossy music-video treatment, overpowering the screen with sensual imagery and a clamorous soundtrack that trivializes the thematic significance. ... Playing a glamorous anti-heroine, Jolie gets full star treatment from the director, with the camera caressing her sexy lips, big breasts and beautiful eyes with an almost fetishistic glee." -- Emanuel Levy, Variety
"Playing God" (1997)
Role: The girlfriend of a crime boss.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 14 percent
Box office: $7.2 million
Sample review: "What can you say about a time-waster like 'Playing God' with its multiple murders, corrupt FBI agents, obligatory car chase and dumb, self-referential, four-letter-word humor? Movies like this are so plentiful and derivative and life-negating that any thinking filmgoer is doomed to feel soiled -- if not despairing about the human condition -- after witnessing a string of them." -- Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle
Role: Fashion model Gia Carangi, who becomes addicted to cocaine and heroin.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92 percent
Box office: N/A (HBO film)
Sample review: "As Gia, [Jolie] is a multifaceted revelation, shifting from coquettish to nasty to violent to contrite with a breathtaking believability. The passion with which she inhabits the role is a spectacle in itself; it doesn’t hurt that she’s also a spectacular beauty." -- Ray Richmond, Variety
"Playing By Heart" (1998)
Role: A struggling actress who follows her lover from one nightclub to the next.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 60 percent
Box office: $6.2 million
Sample review: "It amounts to a near-miss. It's easy to like the movie because we like the actors in it, and because the movie makes it easy on us and has charming moments. But it feels too much like an exercise. It's yuppie lite -- affluent, articulate people who, except for those who are ill, have problems that are almost pleasant." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
"Pushing Tin" (1998)
Role: An air-traffic controller's wife who swaps partners with her husband's new colleague.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 48 percent
Box office: $13.2 million
Sample review: "Think the swinging-dick mentality of 'Top Gun,' but in an ergonomic desk chair. Written by the cocreators of 'Cheers,' 'Pushing Tin' pivots on our dubious fascination with professional erection duels, which are a sad substitute for dramatic conflict." -- Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice
"The Bone Collector" (1999)
Role: A patrol cop who helps to track down a serial killer.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 28 percent
Box office: $104 million
Sample review: "The camera is even more enamored of Ms. Jolie, with her impossibly sensual lips and eyes that brim with a soft melting fire. In sheer smoldering screen charisma, Ms. Jolie has every other young Hollywood actress beat hands down. Whether she can really act remains to be seen." -- Stephen Holden, The New York Times
"Girl, Interrupted" (1999)
Role: A sociopath committed to a mental institution.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 54 percent
Box office: $42.7 million
Sample review: "Does it matter that every time Jolie's offscreen the film wilts a little? Ryder should be perfect as the bright spark; her lines are sharp as a knife. There's a gap, however, between what we hear and what we see." -- Charlotte O'Sullivan, Time Out
"Gone in 60 Seconds" (2000)
Role: Sway, one-fifth of a gang of a car thieves.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 25 percent
Box office: $150 million
Sample review: "Even hardcore escapists are bound to be defeated by the generic tough-guy twaddle and the impersonal race/crash/explode action sequences: Eventually, the senses jam and a mental lube job is in order." -- Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001)
Role: Lara Croft, the butt-kicking archaeologist from the "Tomb Raider" video-game series.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 19 percent
Box office: $184.5 million
Sample review: "It doesn't matter if you have a $100 million budget to travel to Iceland and Cambodia -- both look great, by the way -- if your plot is incoherent. Among the special effects, the stone monkeys rock, but you might be more distracted by the fact that Jolie's breasts seem to balloon and deflate from scene to scene. In the department of numbing ineptitude, the pacing runs a neck-and-neck race with the dialogue." -- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"Original Sin" (2001)
Role: An American who marries a wealthy Cuban in the 19th century and then disappears with his riches.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 12 percent
Box office: $23.3 million
Sample review: "Scarcely original, but full of sin, 'Original Sin,' starring Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie, is neither epochal nor epic in its ludicrousness. It's just run-of-the-mill trash." -- Wesley Morris, San Francisco Chronicle
"Life, or Something Like It" (2002)
Role: A TV reporter who's told she has seven days left to live.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 28 percent
Box office: $19.8 million
Sample review: "Not for a second do you believe that Ms. Jolie is playing someone faced with the unpleasant fact of imminent mortality. Granted, the premise is both maudlin and absurd, but there are plenty of actresses -- Ashley Judd and Michelle Pfeiffer immediately come to mind -- who might have made both the humor and the sentiment at least passably credible. Without the opportunity to be either sultry or histrionic, Ms. Jolie lurches from dewy self-pity to manic hostility without appearing to feel a thing." -- A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life" (2003)
Role: Lara Croft, this time hunting down Pandora's Box.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 28 percent
Box office: $86.7 million
Sample review: "It's all quite busy and bombastic, and there's nothing wrong -- in fact, there's a lot right -- with watching Jolie be her spectacular self in cool costumes and exotic locales. But the film's story and supporting characters -- including an untrustworthy love interest played by Gerard Butler -- aren't nearly enough to make 'The Cradle of Life' more than another sequel cashing in on its pre-sold audience without providing anything by way of sparkle, wit or originality." -- Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
"Beyond Borders" (2003)
Role: A socialite who takes up humanitarian causes in Ethiopia.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 14 percent
Box office: $5.8 million
Sample review: "It's an easy picture to ridicule. After a while, you almost feel as if the stars are making fun of it. Or at least you wish Angelina Jolie, with her radiant presence and Panavision lips, and Clive Owen, with his brisk, existentialist cool, were smart enough to do so. After the 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' movies, with their globe-trotting superficiality and numbing imbecility, Ms. Jolie must feel she owes her fans something serious. Unfortunately, she is starring in a movie even more benumbed and superficial, a liberal video game that demeans the very refugees it tries to spotlight." -- Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times
"Taking Lives" (2004)
Role: An FBI profiler who moves to Montreal to help track down a serial killer.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 22 percent
Box office: $41.9 million
Sample review: "It's a minor relief to know that, after a pair of preposterous love stories and a second forgettable stint as the tomb-raiding archeologist Lara Croft, Jolie is safely back in the arms of another murky-kinky piece of Hollywood trash." -- Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (2004)
Role: In an alternative 1939, the commander of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72 percent
Box office: $48.4 million
Sample review: "'Sky Captain' is the very opposite of a committee-made Hollywood production. It's the creation of one talented guy making his first feature film who has been given once-in-a-lifetime, big-budget backing and cartoonishly famous movie stars to make his dream come true. The investment is optimistic and wise; 'Sky Captain' is a gorgeous, funny, and welcome novelty." -- Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
Role: Queen Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 16 percent
Box office: $43.9 million
Sample review: "The movie is a sprawling mess, a lox, a three-hour non-starter. But it's not an affront, like [Oliver Stone's] other bombastic, amphetamine-paced essays in megalomania. This one, large-scaled as it is, seems too puny and fragmented for its mighty subject; it feels as if Stone, for the first time in his career, simply ran out of hot air." -- David Edelstein, Slate
"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005)
Role: An assassin who learns her husband is practicing the same profession.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 59 percent
Box office: $231.4 million
Sample review: "There’s such piquant chemistry between [Jolie and Brad Pitt], I watched in a happily muddled state, mixing up everything I think I know about the actors’ private lives with the wittily exciting action-lives they’re leading onscreen. The result, thanks to the stars’ nonstop slyness and director Doug Liman’s signature stylistic paradox—breezy breathlessness—is a cool summer thriller whose laughs don’t slow down the suspense." -- Ken Tucker, New York magazine
"The Good Shepherd" (2006)
Role: The love interest of a CIA officer.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 54 percent
Box office: $70.8 million
Sample review: "As the often turgid tale of one man’s hugely successful but (inevitably) emotionally costly career lumbers along, all the conventions are feebly trotted out: childhood trauma; preppy connections made at Yale (complete with gay lit prof); shady but seductive approaches made by neatly raincoated men whispering purply allusive verbiage of the ‘crows fly at midnight’ variety; increasingly hard demands made on family life by patriotic duty; the widening of professional horizons from WW2 OSS activities to the imperialist global policies of the Cold War; and the predictably gradual soul-freezing consequences of a life in which trust is impossible." -- Geoff Andrew, Time Out
"A Mighty Heart" (2007)
Role: The wife of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by Pakistani terrorists.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 79 percent
Box office: $10.6 million
Sample review: "Angelina Jolie is wonderful in the part. Visibly pregnant, surrendering to despair only in private, sometimes angry, but usually upbeat and commonsensical, we gain an extraordinary sense of a woman hiding her vulnerability, her essential aloneness at the center of the storm, beneath a consistently positive manner." -- Richard Schickel, TIME
Role: An accomplished member of a secret society of assassins.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 71 percent
Box office: $149.1 million
Sample review: "'Wanted' offers is what the audience craves: a stunt sundae with stunt sauce on the side and a side order of stunts. Staged at a ferocious pace and on a gigantic scale by Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian director of 'Night Watch,' the action comes close to setting a new standard." -- Kyle Smith, New York Post
Role: A single mother who fights to find her missing son after the LAPD return to her a boy who isn't hers.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63 percent
Box office: $39.6 million
Sample review: "As gifted as Angelina Jolie may be, there are only so many different inflections she can give to the monotone refrain, 'Please help me find my son.' All of [director Clint Eastwood's] rigorous craftsmanship seems wasted on a movie whose message never rises above the bumper-sticker admonition that 'mean people suck.'" -- Dana Stevens, Slate
Role: A CIA operative who's accused of being a Russian spy.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 62 percent
Box office: $118.5 million
Sample review: "Jolie is in great shape, and watching her tear through the sets is entertaining, even if we know that stunt doubles and computer-generated digits are doing some of the work. Staring everybody down, Jolie never blinks. In this, she resembles Leonardo DiCaprio. Is the steady gaze something taught to good-looking children in order to turn them into movie stars?" -- David Denby, The New Yorker
"The Tourist" (2010)
Role: A British agent who selects an American tourist to take the fall for the millions of dollars her lover owes in taxes.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 20 percent
Box office: $67.2 million
Sample review: "You go into a movie like 'The Tourist' hoping for a feast of personality from the stars. What you get, in this case, is a waxworks version of chemistry." -- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Role: The Mistress of All Evil, of "Sleeping Beauty" fame.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 52 percent
Box office: N/A ($70 million opening weekend)
Sample review: "Jolie comes to this party ready to bite, but the movie muzzles her. Even at 97 minutes, 'Maleficent' is still one long, laborious slog." -- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article cited figures from 2011 as those for 2013 in regard to the highest-paid actresses. The article has been updated accordingly.
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