Anne Hathaway seen on the set of “Armageddon Time” in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on October 27, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

Doe-eyed with a wide almost goofy smile, Anne Hathaway made her big-screen debut as a literal Disney princess in the teen comedy The Princess Diaries. Since then, she’s become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, an Oscar winner who has gone on to have a rich and varied career. Yet, as a notoriously friendly, uncannily scandal-proof A-lister, she’s never been able to shake the perception that she’s, well, kind of a goody-goody. Not that she isn’t capable of playing tough, complicated women. She’s done it plenty of times.

On Hathaway’s 39th birthday, we’re taking a look back at the roles that busted her good-girl image.

Rachel Getting Married

In 2008, Hathaway received widespread acclaim for her role as a young woman struggling with addiction in director Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married. Kym (Hathaway) has been released from rehab to attend her sister’s wedding, bringing chaos with her. Wryly funny and rawly vulnerable, Hathaway’s performance earned the then 26-year-old her first Oscar nomination.

The Dark Knight Rises

Casting Hathaway as Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) in the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was a controversial move—one that she slyly plays upon at the outset of the film. Caught posing as a maid in stately Wayne Manor, she shifts abruptly from her sweet, nervous facade to the harder, more coolly calculating criminal fans were worried she couldn’t pull off. The takeaway: Don’t underestimate Hathaway. She’s ultimately a captivating presence in this otherwise messy blockbuster.

Colossal

Hathaway plays another person struggling with addiction in this delightfully bizarre sci-fi comedy. Unemployed alcoholic Gloria (Hathaway) spends her nights getting blackout drunk and wreaking havoc upon her own life. Meanwhile, a giant Godzilla-like creature is terrorizing Seoul. Turns out, Gloria’s self-destructive impulses are manifesting in the form of this monster. It may sound like a weird and wild premise, but Hathaway makes Gloria’s struggles both with sobriety and with the toxic men in her life feel genuine, lending the character real pathos and humor.

Ocean’s 8

Once again, Hathaway stands out in an admittedly uneven movie—which in this case is really saying something, given the stacked cast of charismatic actresses. She plays Daphne Kluger an A-list movie star who is the target of a Met Ball heist cooked up by master thief Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) and her crew. Hathaway is hilarious, playing against her own image to make Daphne a diva of colossal proportions. (See what we did there?)

The Last Thing He Wanted

So, the truth is, not all risks pay off. Mudbound director Dee Rees’s 2020 thriller based on Joan Didion’s 1996 novel is a bit of an incoherent mess. Still, it’s worth including here simply for Hathaway’s performance. In most of the other films on this list, she’s either lampooning her own image, skirting the line between glamor and camp or giving us a likably flawed character. Or some combination of all of that. But as journalist Elena McMahon, she’s in an entirely different mode. She’s world-weary, tense, joyless, scoured of all but the most perfunctory of ’70s glamor. It may not be her most successful performance, but it’s the kind we rarely see from Hathaway.

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