Scarlett Johansson is a unique Hollywood celebrity who has earned the admiration and respect of both movie critics and audiences alike. She has showcased her talent in a variety of genres, from quiet character-driven dramas to high-octane action blockbusters. It’s rare for an actor to receive two Oscar nominations and also star in the highest-grossing film of all time, all in the same year – but that’s exactly what Johansson achieved.
Scarlett Johansson, who began her career as a child actor, gained worldwide recognition for her role in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation in 2004 when she was still a teenager. She then became a part of the Hollywood A-list, earning critical acclaim for her performances in diverse genres such as Match Point, Under the Skin, and Marriage Story. In addition, she played the character of Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for nine films, making her the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. She holds the record for the highest lifetime box office total among all female actors in movie history.
However, like any other entertainer, Johansson has had her share of failures. While her career in the 2010s was filled with hits, she faced some setbacks earlier on which may have slipped your memory. Her debut film North was not a promising start to her filmography.
Scarlett Johansson’s early acting career boasted some notable achievements, including her feature film debut in the indie dramedy Manny Lo at the age of 11 and her breakthrough performance in Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer as a preteen. However, her first credit on her professional record was a minor role in the 1994 Rob Reiner movie North, which was heavily criticized by reviewers and only made a fraction of its budget back at the box office. Renowned critic Roger Ebert famously panned the film, calling it one of the worst movies ever made and expressing his vehement disdain for its every aspect. Though Scarlett Johansson was blameless for the film’s failure, as she was just a child when she appeared in it and had a small part in a large cast, it’s ironic that the career of one of Hollywood’s most successful actors began with such a colossal flop. Another of Johansson’s films, The Perfect Score, also failed to impress critics and audiences alike.
Back in 2004, Scarlett Johansson played a role in The Perfect Score, a comedy about a group of high school students who attempted to steal answers to the SAT exams. Directed by Brian Robbins, the film also starred Chris Evans, who would later become Johansson’s co-star in the Avengers franchise. Despite opening at the fourth spot in the US box office, the film only grossed around $10 million and received mixed reviews. However, some critics praised Johansson’s performance, with one even calling her “the best thing about The Perfect Score.” While the film had its defenders, it was also criticized by some for being similar to Ocean’s Eleven but with less sophistication. Overall, The Perfect Score did not leave a lasting impression on audiences and critics alike.
Back in 2004, Scarlett Johansson and John Travolta teamed up for A Love Song for Bobby Long, a character-driven drama that takes place in New Orleans. The movie centers around Johansson’s character, who returns to her family home after her mother’s passing, only to find two strangers living there. The trio becomes a kind of makeshift family as they try to rebuild their lives. While the film was clearly intended to be an “awards movie,” it received mixed reviews and only managed to secure one nomination – a Golden Globe nod for Johansson, her third in two years. Despite the film’s lackluster performance, it still added to Johansson’s impressive resume. In short, A Good Woman is far from impressive.
Scarlett Johansson took on a significant role in Mike Barker’s A Good Woman, where she played Meg Windermere opposite Helen Hunt. The film was an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, but it was set in 1930s New York instead of London in the 1890s. Although A Good Woman was not expected to be a box office hit, it only grossed $6.8 million worldwide. Unfortunately, the film received negative reviews from critics, who were particularly critical of the cast’s difficulty with Wilde’s language. Even though Helen Hunt received most of the criticism, Johansson was also criticized for her performance. Paula Nechak of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote, “Hunt and Johansson, two usually good actresses, are vapidly awful, teetering out of their elements in this shakily drawn period piece.” Therefore, Johansson should have avoided her role in the film and stayed away from it altogether.
Scarlett Johansson’s first sci-fi/action film, The Island, was a commercial failure despite being directed by Michael Bay, who had never experienced such a defeat before. The movie, starring Johansson and Ewan McGregor, was a dystopian thriller that failed to open at #1 in the US box office and grossed only $163 million worldwide, which was insufficient compared to its reported budget of $126 million. Although receiving mediocre reviews, critics rarely criticized Johansson’s acting performance. The film tells the story of Jordan Two Delta, played by Johansson, and Lincoln Six Echo, played by McGregor, who discover that their living environment is a clone farm where they are created to have their organs harvested by wealthy genetic donors. Some critics described the movie as being essentially two films rolled into one – “a spare, creepy science fiction parable” and a “high-tech action picture” – which do not blend well together. Nonetheless, Johansson’s acting was deemed “forgettable” at worst.
Scarlett Johansson garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Woody Allen’s drama Match Point in 2004. She then worked with Allen again in his 2006 comedy Scoop, alongside Hugh Jackman, where she played an American journalism student who stumbles upon a murder mystery in London. Opinions on the movie were divided, with some calling it a decent effort in Allen’s style and others, like Stephen Hunter from The Washington Post, declaring it the director’s worst film ever. Regarding Johansson’s portrayal, Manohla Dargis of The New York Times deemed it all over the place but fitting for a movie that’s equally scattered. Despite Scoop grossing only $39 million worldwide, which is less than half of Johansson’s other collaborations with Allen, namely Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona, the actress stated in 2019 that she would be open to working with him again, even though he has been accused of mistreating his adopted daughter. As for Johansson’s performance in The Black Dahlia, it was deemed unsuccessful from the start.
In 2006, Scarlett Johansson starred in The Black Dahlia, a film based on a noir novel by James Ellroy. Despite featuring Johansson’s face on the poster and having the potential to be a success, the movie failed to impress both critics and audiences. Reviews were unenthusiastic and the film did not make back its budget in theaters. Critics felt the movie was miscast and dull, with director Brian De Palma taking most of the blame for its failure. Only Mia Kirshner’s performance as the murder victim received consistent praise. Similarly, The Nanny Diaries was also dismissed by critics.
Back in 2007, Scarlett Johansson starred in The Nanny Diaries, a dramedy movie based on a novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. In the film, Johansson played the character of Annie Braddock, a recent college graduate who gets a job as a nanny for a wealthy family in Manhattan. As she tries to figure out what to do with her life, Annie finds herself dealing with a difficult and demanding employer. She also finds herself falling for Hayden, the “Harvard Hottie,” played by Chris Evans.
While the movie did decently at the box office, it received negative reviews from critics who found it bland and unremarkable. Some reviewers even preferred co-star Laura Linney’s performance over Johansson’s. In particular, Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle criticized Johansson’s portrayal of the indecisive nanny, claiming that it robbed her of her on-screen appeal. Critics also felt that Johansson, who had made a name for herself playing mature roles beyond her years, was now too old to convincingly play the naive youth.
Years later, another one of Johansson’s movies, The Other Boleyn Girl, has been largely forgotten as a box office flop.
The 2008 film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl directed by Justin Chadwick failed to impress critics, despite being a historical costume drama that typically attracts Oscar attention. Scarlett Johansson plays Mary Boleyn in the film, while Natalie Portman portrays the titular character Anne Boleyn. Interestingly, this is the only film to feature both Johansson and Portman, both major stars of the same era. The movie is a loose retelling of the Boleyns’ relationships with King Henry VIII, played by Eric Bana, and received criticism for its tone, direction, and lead performances. Critics described the film as “underwritten and overedited,” and Johansson’s performance was deemed “sedate.” Despite its poor reviews, the film did manage to turn a profit. Johansson received a Teen Choice Award nomination for her role in the movie, but ultimately lost to Keira Knightly for Atonement. Overall, The Other Boleyn Girl was not the career-defining role Johansson had hoped for. Another lackluster film in Johansson’s career was The Spirit, which was widely criticized for being lifeless.
Back in 2008, Scarlett Johansson starred in The Spirit, a comic book adaptation that turned out to be a major box office flop. Although it was marketed as a successor to the successful Sin City, critics were not impressed with the film’s thin characters and it received extremely low scores on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this setback, Johansson’s career took off as she went on to star in blockbuster hits like The Avengers and work with renowned directors such as Noah Baumbach and the Coen brothers. Needless to say, her role in The Spirit was a far cry from her later successes.