5 Great (Mostly) Forgotten Films of Uma Thurman

Uma Thurman is an actor and model with a filmography dating back to the mid-1908s and having roles in many iconic films, including the Kill Bill series. A highly influential woman in the industry, she has appeared in all genres, celebrated for her empowering performances. She continues to work in both television and the movies, earning acclaim for her talents. Some performances though have slipped between the cracks. Here are 5 great (mostly) forgotten movies from Uma Thurman you might have missed.

Johnny Be Good (1988)

Uma Thurman
Johnny Be Good ©Orion Pictures
DIRECTOR: Bud Smith     STARS: Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr.

Young high school hotshot football player Johnny Walker (Hall) is an unlikely star, being a bit smaller than the average player, but his skills have made him a celebrity and put him a the top of the list for big university recruiters. As interest grows and an all-out bidding war rages with ever-increasingly extravagant offers to join their schools, which include anything from girls, cars, money, and more, recruiting investigator (Downey, Sr.) attempts to keep things on the up and up. Meanwhile, Walker’s girlfriend Georgia (Thurman) wants him to stay and play at the local state college and get a proper education.

Uma Thurman
Johnny Be Good ©Orion Pictures

Thurman is the moral compass for her easily-tempted boyfriend in this less-than-favored film that was a box office flop and skewered by critics. However, it has gained a cult following, especially for Thurman fans, and interestingly enough, is better now than on release. Sure it’s silly, and it’s still impossible not to look at young Hall and not see Farmer Ted, but Thurman shines in a strong role that is sexy yet smart.

Robin Hood (1991)

Uma Thurman
Robin Hood © 20th Century Fox
DIRECTOR: John Irvin     STARS: Patrick Bergin, Uma Thurman

While everyone was talking about Kevin Costner‘s wildly popular Robin Hood epic Prince of Thieves, that same year saw another production about the famous English rogue that was a much more gritty and grounded version that didn’t get the attention it deserved. With Bergen as the hero, the film is much darker and less fabled, with more attention to the political strife and consequences, abandoning many of the now traditional concepts and characters, including the Sheriff of Nottingham. Perhaps because of this, it fared less than expected and disappeared under the shadow of Costner’s more conventional, commercial favorite.

Uma Thurman
Robin Hood © 20th Century Fox

Thurman plays Maid Marion of course, the niece of the Sheriff’s replacement, Baron Roger Daguerre (Jeroen Krabbe). While she is not featured quite so prominently as other Robin Hood films, her role is significant as she and Hood fall in love, despite her forced betrothal to a vicious Norman knight named Sir Miles Folcanet (Jürgen Prochnow). A great film that deserves searching for.

Jennifer 8 (1992)

Uma Thurman
Jennifer 8 ©Paramount Pictures
DIRECTOR: Bruce Robinson    STARS: Andy Garcia, Uma Thurman

A tense thriller, this story follows a big city cop named John Berlin (Garcia) who, after the end of his marriage, moves to a small town and gets immediately mixed up in the gruesome murders of young women. Investigating older crimes and putting together theories that seem off track by his colleagues, he inches closer to the serial killer before eventually become a suspect himself.

Uma Thurman
Jennifer 8 ©Paramount Pictures

Thurman plays Helena, a blind music student and roommate of one of the victims, whom Berlin traced due to the Braille striations of her formerly unidentified fingerprints. He soon finds himself romantically involved with the beautiful girl, who he suspects might be the next victim. Thurman is really good here, convincing as a sightless person, but also highly empowered, despite the inherent vulnerability of her well-defined character. Seek this out.

 The Life Before Her Eyes (2007)

Uma Thurman
The Life Before Her Eyes ©Magnolia Pictures
DIRECTOR: Vadim Perelman     STARS: Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood

A controversial and polarizing film, this drama follows the life of Diana McFee (Thurman), once a young and promiscuous teen (played by Wood) experimenting with drugs and sex and now a university art professor with a daughter. Grown up though, she is haunted by an incident from high school where she was involved in a mass school shooting that left her and her best friend in an impossible situation, one that has stayed with her for her entire life, causing great grief and guilt.

Uma Thurman
The Life Before Her Eyes ©Magnolia Pictures

Despite the forays into melodrama, this startling emotional story and Thurman’s sublime performance make for some of her best work. There is no joy of course in this purposefully dark and ethereal film, but that doesn’t make it less affecting. A gripping, topical movie that certainly has its detractors, it nonetheless should be seen.

Tape (2001)

Uma Thurman
Tape ©Lionsgate
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater     STARS: Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard

A drug-dealing firefighter from Oakland named Vince (Hawke) rents a room in Lansing to support his old high school friend Jon (Leonard), whose latest film is featured in a festival. The two talk about the old days and the subject of Amy (Thurman) comes up, a girl both men dated but with only one of whom had sex. Accusations suddenly emerge and tensions rise as a past soon comes back to haunt them both.

Uma Thurman
Tape ©Lionsgate

Thurman arrives late in this tense, claustrophobic film shot entirely in one room. However, she is the keystone to the three person relationship and her entry into the story marks the turning point where these men must face a truth perhaps neither are able to understand or confront. While all three actors are well cast, Thurman steals the show and gives the character of whom we know so little about as the film progresses, tremendous depth and courage. A great film that needs to be on your list.

 

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