In the past ten years, Margot Robbie has proven herself to be one of the most talented and versatile actresses of her generation. Whether she’s playing everyone’s favorite plastic doll, the embittered “Duchess of Bay Ridge,” or the lovably psychotic Harley Quinn, she always brings an undeniable X-factor to the role. With the recent release and glowing reception of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s pink-plated epic Barbie, Robbie has become the apple of Hollywood’s eye.
But how does this landmark performance stack up against her previous roles? Barbie is a global phenomenon at the moment, but was Robbie able to top herself? Her relatively young career is stuffed to the brim with Oscar-worthy performances. From Harley Quinn to Tonya Harding, let’s break down seven of Robbie’s greatest roles to find out if the Barbie hype is real.
7. The Big Short (2015)
The Big Short utilizes Robbie’s charismatic acting talents to explain the purposefully complex financial terms and concepts the main characters discuss. However, the way the filmmakers chose to do this created somewhat of a stir in progressive circles. Each time Robbie breaks the third wall to break down a piece of arcane financial jargon, she’s relaxing in a bubble bath and sipping champagne. Many detractors claimed this depiction of Robbie was overtly misogynistic, unnecessary, and crude.
With that said, Robbie’s presence in the film is essential to guide the audience through the labyrinthine world of Wall Street dialect. Without Robbie’s even-handed explainers, uninitiated viewers would be left scratching their heads while the whip-sharp dialogue zooms in one ear and out the other. Still, these cut-away scenes are few and far between, and Robbie’s role is largely in support of the main narrative. Luckily, in other films, she gets much more to work with.
6. The Suicide Squad (2021)
It’s only been seven years since Robbie first donned the hammer and pigtails to embody Harley Quinn in 2016’s Suicide Squad. It’s no secret that the movie was a titanic disaster in terms of fan and critical reception, but Robbie’s iconic performance was one of the only bright spots to cling to in that total shipwreck of a comic book movie. Luckily, Warner Brothers and DC Films took note of Robbie’s exceptional portrayal and gave her a few more chances to shine as Harley.
In 2020’s Birds of Prey and 2021’s The Suicide Squad, Robbie proved she could do even more with the character when given decent scripts and direction to work with. In Birds of Prey, particularly, Robbie graced the character with more depth than previously seen, offering fans a poignant inside look into the legendary comic supervillain. We mention The Suicide Squad in the heading because it’s the best film in which Harley Quinn appears, but in truth, Robbie has given her all every time she plays this charismatically psychotic role.
5. Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (2019)
Robbie’s performance as a fictionalized version of Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood was exceptional across the board. She imbued the character with a choice blend of historical accuracy, charm, and wholesomeness. Tate’s true story is a tragic one, but Tarantino and Robbie rewrite history in an admirable attempt to honor Tate’s life and work. Initially, it’s unclear how Robbie’s portrayal of Tate will intertwine with the film’s core narrative, but once the Manson family rears its ugly head, viewers should begin to understand where this is all headed.
Robbie’s performance as Tate is full of life and exuberance, depicting the warmth and kindness of her subject with sincerity and the utmost respect. The film largely centers around Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s relationship, but each scene featuring Robbie’s Tate is a treat for viewers and gives the film an aura of carefree innocence that stands as a touching tribute to the late actress and her life’s work.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street catapulted Robbie’s fledgling career into the stratosphere thanks to her indelible performance as the Duchess of Bay Ridge. As Jordan Belfort’s put-upon wife, Robbie exuded charisma and glamor by the boatload, offering audiences a taste of her formidable acting chops. Landing a lead role in a Scorsese film at 23 years old is a life-changing moment in any young actor’s life, and Robbie made sure to strike while the iron was hot in her subsequent roles.
The Duchess of Bay Ridge might’ve not offered Robbie the chance to swim in the dramatic waters she eventually was able to in later projects, but it gave her many opportunities to show off her abilities as a comedic performer. Not to mention, the domestic dispute scenes in the latter half of the film require performers with a vast range, and Robbie was more than up to the task.
3. Bombshell (2019)
Bombshell tells the dramatized story of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes against his employees. This travesty was swept under the rug for years, and too many women working at the news station were forced to suffer the wrath of their monstrous boss. Robbie plays Kayla Pospisil in the film, a fictionalized character whose story was amalgamated from the accounts of several real women working in media.
Kayla is a producer at the news organization with aspirations for on-camera work. When she meets with the CEO, he posits a despicable quid pro quo that results in Kayla being assaulted. Robbie’s performance is heartbreaking and brave, offering audiences a brutally honest look into the often vile world of news media. Bombshell gave Robbie a chance to spread her wings as a dramatic actor and champion an important feminist cause simultaneously.
2. I, Tonya (2017)
2017’s I, Tonya was Robbie’s first chance to sink her teeth into a genuinely layered role as she portrayed the controversial ice skater Tonya Harding. Film fans and critics alike championed the biopic as an artful dissection of one of the most buzzy pop culture moments of the 90s, but Robbie’s barnstorming performance managed to overshadow much of the discourse surrounding the film.
I, Tonya cemented Robbie as one of the most versatile and emotive actresses of her generation, and ever since, Hollywood has taken notice. The Academy recognized her outstanding work in this film by awarding her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress – which was the first nomination of her career.
1. Barbie (2023)
It’s not just recency bias; Barbie is absolutely Robbie’s greatest performance to date. Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach created a wondrously detailed world and a meticulously hilarious and moving script for Robbie to work with, and she nailed it. The film offered Robbie a chance to show off her mastery of every emotion and expression in her acting arsenal with showstopping humor and incisive dramatic flourishes.
Robbie’s soon-to-be-legendary portrayal of the world’s most iconic doll proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no other performer could’ve done the role justice. Barbie is a landmark cinematic achievement, and Robbie’s stellar work in the leading role is one of the prime reasons why. If any naysayers were uncertain about Robbie’s considerable capacity as an artist and performer, her performance in this film would make quick work of silencing them.