Criminally Underrated: The Hidden Gems of Kirsten Dunst’s Filmography

Kirsten Dunst's most underrated movies

Kirsten Dunst is back in the spotlight with Civil War, Alex Garland’s dystopian thriller. The film imagines life during a second American Civil War, with Dunst playing Lee, a war photojournalist on a mission to photograph the country’s Trump-adjacent President.

Civil War is Dunst’s first role since 2021’s The Power of the Dog, which earned her a (long-overdue) Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. It’s also a box office success — Civil War topped the US box office in its opening weekend, earning USD$25.7 million and marking A24’s biggest opening weekend to date.

It seems Kirsten Dunst is finally getting her due, and it’s been a long time coming.

Kirsten Dunst: An Overlooked Icon

Kirsten Dunst has long been one of Hollywood’s finest actors. She earned her first Golden Globe nomination at the age of 13, for her role in Interview With the Vampire, and went on to star in blockbusters (Spider-Man) and critical darlings (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) alike. However, for many years after her initial Globe nomination, Dunst’s filmography was widely ignored by her Hollywood peers. Even when Melancholia earned Dunst rave reviews, she came up short on Oscar nomination day; a failure possibly attributed to Lars Von Trier’s Cannes incident.

While promoting the limited series On Becoming a God in Central Florida in 2019, Dunst got candid about the disappointment she sometimes felt over the reception of some of her work.

“Of the things that people like, remember when Marie Antoinette — y’all panned it?” Dunst said on Sirius XM show In Depth With Larry Flick. “And now you all love it. Drop Dead Gorgeous? Panned. Now you all love it,” she said.

“It’s interesting for me. I feel like a lot of things I do people like later,” she said.

Kirsten Dunst’s 5 Most Criminally Underrated Films

These days, Marie Antoinette and Drop Dead Gorgeous are considered cult classics. Marie Antoinette is considered one of Dunst’s best performances, topping Vulture‘s ranking of her filmography. Drop Dead Gorgeous has a huge fanbase. In a 2014 oral history of the film’s journey from box office flop to cult success, Allison Janney — who plays Loretta in the film — told BuzzFeed that she gets approached about Drop Dead Gorgeous more than any of her other work.

In 2024, however, the tides are turning. With Civil War, Dunst is sitting on top of the box office, where she belongs. She finally has one Oscar nomination under her belt, and I can only imagine there are many more to come. Nature is healing, and I am here to help.

Before we dive in, here are some quick receipts to prove that I am indeed a long-time, card-carrying member of the Kirsten Dunst fan club. When I say I’m a fan of her movies, I’m not just talking about Spider-Man or Bring It On, although I did see Bring It On three times at the cinema as a teenager. I also saw The Hairy Bird and Drop Dead Gorgeous in their extremely limited cinema runs. My love runs deeper than that, though — reader, I saw The Cat’s Meow in cinemas. I own her made-for-TV film Fifteen and Pregnant on DVD, and while I won’t be discussing either of those films today, I will tell you that they’re both streaming for free on YouTube Premium right now and they’re linked above for your convenience. (That is not an affiliate link, for what it’s worth — I just really love Kirsten Dunst).

I couldn’t be more excited to share some of the films that I consider to be Kirsten Dunst’s most underrated, so let’s dive in.

5. All Good Things (2010)

Directed by: Andrew Jarecki
Written by: Marcus Hinchey and Marc Smerling
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella
Synopsis: David Marks, a real estate scion, is suspected of killing his wife Katie, who disappeared in 1982.
Where to watch: TBC

For All Good Things, I should note that it’s not so much that this is a fantastic film, so much as its cultural impact makes it noteworthy and worth a watch. You see, All Good Things is based on the life of Robert Durst, the now-deceased murderer who was convicted after admitting to murder during the filming of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

How does All Good Things come into it? Well, Durst was a fan of the film, so much so that he agreed to record a DVD commentary track for the film. Then, he offered the film’s director, Andrew Jarecki, a sit-down interview. This evolved into The Jinx, which led to Durst’s conviction.

With The Jinx — Part Two set to premiere on BINGE on April 22, 2024, there’s never been a better time to revisit the film that led to Durst’s conviction. Unfortunately, it’s not available for streaming right now, but watch this space — we expect to see it pop up with the renewed interest in the case.

4. The Beguiled (2017)

Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by: Sofia Coppola, based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan and the screenplay by Albert Maltz and Irene Kamp
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning
Synopsis: The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal.
Where to watch: Rent on Prime Video, or streaming on Netflix from April 30, 2024

After working together on 1999’s The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst teamed up again for 2006’s Marie Antoinette, and Dunst has a brief cameo in 2013’s The Bling Ring. But The Beguiled is perhaps their most underrated collaboration.

Visually arresting, as all of Coppola’s films are, The Beguiled is equal parts unnerving and darkly comedic; there’s just something so iconic about Nicole Kidman’s sinister, camp delivery of the line, “Bring me the anatomy book”.

3. Strike (1998)

Directed by: Sarah Kernochan
Written by: Sarah Kernochan
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Lynn Redgrave, Gaby Hoffman, Rachael Leigh Cook
Synopsis: In the 1960s, a group of friends at an all girls school learn that their school is going to be combined with a nearby all boys school. They concoct a plan to save their school while dealing with everyday problems along the way.
Where to watch: Streaming on SBS on Demand

Strike! was originally released in Australia as The Hairy Bird. This was the film’s intended title, but Miramax (and more specifically, convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein) thought the title was too vulgar, so it was released in the United States as All I Wanna Do, and in Canada and the UK as Strike!

In 2019, writer and director Sarah Kernochan said Weinstein buried the film after an argument over cuts he wanted made to the film. Weinstein — a man who was dubbed “Harvey Scissorhands” due to his reputation for ordering significant edits to films he acquired — wanted the film to be recut in order to appeal more to a male audience. Kernochan had final cut approval worked into her contract, and Weinstein was furious. After originally promising Kernochan the film would screen wide across the US, Miramax shelved the film, screening it in 133 cinemas total, primarily in Canada. In the US, the film was eventually sold to Disney, where it went straight to video.

It’s a shame, because The Hairy Bird is a funny, smart, feminist film that was so influential me as a tween. While word of mouth has done a lot over the years to help the film develop its own cult following, I cannot sing its praises enough.

2. Dick (1999)

Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming and Sheryl Longin
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Dan Hedaya
Synopsis: After wandering off during a White House tour, two high school girls inadvertently become Richard Nixon’s top secret advisers at the height of the Watergate scandal.
Where to watch: Rent on Prime Video

Dick is one of my favourite films of all time, and it should have been a blockbuster hit. Instead, it’s one of Kirsten Dunst’s most slept-on roles, despite the film being clever, hilarious, and well-acted. Dunst and Michelle Williams are perfect as teenage best friends Betsy Jobs and Arlene Lorenzo.

The girls live in their own little bubble, until they accidentally stumble and fumble their way into becoming Deep Throat, the source that helped Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Carl Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch) bring down President Nixon (Dan Hedaya). The film does a great job of weaving the actual events of the Watergate scandal into a teen comedy, and there’s even a pre-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds in a bit role to enjoy.

1. Get Over It (2001)

Directed by: Tommy O’Haver
Written by: R. Lee Fleming Jr.
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster, Martin Short, Mila Kunis
Synopsis: A high school senior’s girlfriend breaks up with him. His friends try to make him think of something else. His friend’s sister Kelly helps him with the school musical. Spending time with Kelly has an effect.
Where to watch: Rent on Prime Video

If I could only pick one Kirsten Dunst movie to watch for the rest of my life, it would be Dick. With that being said, I think Get Over It is her most underrated film. This movie is chaotic, camp, and has the most 2001 production design that you will ever see in your life.

The reason this gets the number one spot on the list is because Martin Short’s portrayal of Dr Desmond Forrest-Oates, Fine Arts Chair (aka high school drama teacher) is so perfectly, diabolically unhinged. If you’re a fan of Short’s character of Oliver Putnam in Only Murders in the Building, his performance in Get Over It is that, but dialled up to 100. He delivers dozens of laugh-out-loud, quotable lines, and steals every scene he’s in.

Still, this is a fun movie with a fun cast, and features — among other things — Sisqo and Vitamin C performing a cover of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, Carmen Electra playing a sex club dominatrix, and a high school musical production of A Midsummar Night’s Dream. I don’t know what else to say other than if you get it, you get it, if you don’t, you don’t, but to me, that’s cinema.

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