Nicole Kidman turns 50 years old today. We’ve been following her through three decades of movies, in which she’s played everything from an archaeologist to a professor to a princess, and we still haven’t had enough of this smart, strong, amazing actress. We’ve also followed her through a tumultuous marriage with Scientologist Tom Cruise and a way, way less tumultuous relationship with country singer Keith Urban. This is all to say: Happy birthday! Please don’t stop acting! We love you!
Over the years, Kidman has won an Academy Award, three Golden Globe awards, and a mountain of other awards and nominations. Most recently, we’ve loved her in Big Little Lies. But what we remember best, of course, is watching her most notable films on the big screen for the first time, from her breakthrough role in Dead Calm to her Academy Award-nominated role in Lion.
Let’s take a closer look at the stand-out films that make Kidman stand out for us.
Dead Calm (1989)
Nicole Kidman was just 19 years old when she started filming the maritime thriller Dead Calm, her breakout film. It’s amazing how you can already tell that she’s going to be a star — and also that her Australian accent is on full display. It’s a great movie and a great look at how everything began.
Days of Thunder (1990)
Even if you don’t remember Dead Calm, we’re guessing you do remember Days of Thunder, which was released a year later. It’s rumored that Tom Cruise specifically requested Kidman to be his love interest in the big-budget NASCAR drama after seeing Dead Calm — and that’s when the couple’s 11-year relationship began. This is a bit of a cheesy early-’90s film filled with not-so-great dialogue, but we kind of love it anyway. Not to mention we love Kidman playing a hot but no-nonsense doctor.
Far and Away (1992)
Kidman and Cruise were married not long after the release of Days of Thunder and worked together again in Far and Away, an epic story of a couple who travels overseas to America to start a new life in the early 1890s. The chemistry between the pair in this movie is epic, and we still love the also epic Great Land Rush scene at the end of the film.
Batman Forever (1995)
OK, we are not going to argue that Batman Forever was the best Batman movie ever, or even that it’s close (actually, now that we think about it, it’s probably the second-to-worst Batman movie ever, after 1996’s Batman and Robin). But in it, Kidman returns to another role as a doctor, this time as Bruce Wayne/Batman’s love interest. This is also the year that Kidman and Cruise adopted their second child, Connor.
To Die For (1995)
This often-forgotten film stars Kidman not as a love interest but as a manipulative insane woman who is willing to do anything to become a newscaster, including seducing a teen and then convincing him to kill her husband. Many people thought Kidman should have received an Oscar nomination for her part, and many actresses say that Kidman’s decision to play a “bad guy” inspired them to make similar choices. Reese Witherspoon was inspired to make Election, Charlize Theron was inspired to take on Young Adult and Rosamund Pike was inspired in her role for Gone Girl.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
This is the third and last movie that Kidman made alongside then-husband Tom Cruise and the last movie ever directed by Stanley Kubrick, who died just days after the film was finished. Kidman has said that this film is one of her favorites and that being directed by Kubrick was like attending acting school. This is the only film in which Kidman and Cruise play a married couple, and it’s known not only for its careful directing but also its explicit sex scenes.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
After taking a short hiatus during her divorce from Cruise, Kidman returned to the silver screen big time with her starring role in Moulin Rouge! In addition to her acting ability, Kidman can sing, and her performance as a cabaret performer in the Baz Lurhmann musical secured her her first Best Actress Oscar nomination. The movie was also nominated for Best Film.
The Hours (2002)
Newly free from her tumultuous marriage, Kidman continued to hit her acting stride. In 2002, she played Virginia Woolf in The Hours and finally secured an Oscar for Best Actress (despite only appearing in the film for 28 minutes). The movie, which also starred Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, was a box office success as well as a critical success. Kidman wore a false nose throughout filming.
Cold Mountain (2003)
The next year, Kidman appeared in the epic Civil War drama Cold Mountain, in which she played Ada Monroe, a strong woman trying to survive the war and reconnect with her lover (played by Jude Law). This was another box office hit and resulted in Kidman’s sixth Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.
The Stepford Wives (2004)
Kidman continued to take on a wide range of roles in 2004, when she signed on to play the lead in the comedy/thriller Stepford Wives. While the movie saw success, and while Kidman was excited to work with Frank Oz, she has said in interviews that she was not happy with her experience. There were reports that she didn’t like the final script and that she didn’t get along with co-star Bette Midler.
Rabbit Hole (2010)
By this time, Kidman had met and married country singer Keith Urban. The couple, who have now been married for more than 10 years, had two children, born in 2008 and 2010. Also in 2010, Kidman starred in this movie adaptation of the play Rabbit Hole, which is about a couple struggling to survive after the accidental death of their young son. The quiet indie film snagged Kidman acting nominations from the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Grace of Monaco (2015)
In 2015, Kidman played Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco. While her acting in the film was praised, the movie did not do well at the box office or according to critics. In a BBC interview, Kidman said, “I did do my best and obviously it didn’t work.”
Queen of the Desert (2015)
Kidman continued her biopic kick in 2015 with Queen of the Desert, which chronicled the life of Gertrude Bell, a British explorer, writer, archaeologist and cartographer. It was the first theatrical film directed by Werner Herzog in almost six years. Also, Kidman learned how to ride a camel for the movie.
Last year, Kidman earned her fourth Academy Award nomination, this time for portraying an adoptive mother in the drama Lion. The movie, which tells the story of an Indian boy searching for his biological mother, was released to wide critical acclaim. Kidman formed a strong bond with the real-life Sue Brierly and studied her in order to play the role.