I continue celebrating Movie Muse’s second birthday by listing the 25 most beautiful brown-haired ladies on the big (and little) screen. All this stems from my unashamed love of a myriad of brunette actresses and one of my first ever posts: “Top 10 Brunette Beauties.” If you missed No. 25-13 you should click here before moving on to the big time below.
These 12 ladies take beauty to another level and their talent follows suit. Okay, some have talent/beauty ratio that’s not quite equal on both sides, but you don’t see “talent” anywhere in the title of this post, do you? Truthfully, however, many of these women have Oscars. Anyway, enjoy the girls, but know that you didn’t enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them — and selecting images.
12. Marion Cotillard
Everyone gets their big break, but Cotillard’s big break came in the form of an Oscar statuette. A completely under-the-radar French actress to that point, she exploded onto the scene with grace, beauty and quite the set of pipes. She was the best thing about the musical “Nine” and added the emotional balance to the intellect-heavy “Inception.” She shares the statuette honor with a few of the women higher on this list, but she might have the most distinctive look. It starts with the eyes.
- Best Performance: Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”
- Next Seen In: “Contagion” in theaters Sept. 9
11. Paula Patton
Patton has one of those familiar looks, like you’ve seen her before. She gives off an intangible warmth that made her perfect for Ms. Rain in the Oscar-nominated “Precious.” It’s that look that likely helped her land a small role in 2005’s huge comedy “Hitch” and her career has gone slowly but steadily upward with a few stops in black family comedies. She looks to really hold her own with the boys in the next “Mission: Impossible” film. We saw what being a leading lady in an “M:I” film did for Michelle Monaghan, also on this list, so that should only be the beginning.
- Best Performance: Ms. Rain in “Precious”
- Next Seen In: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” on Dec. 21
10. Jennifer Connelly
Those green eyes — they keep you honest. Even in “Requiem for a Dream,” her character’s a total wreck and almost unpitiable but you still can’t help but sympathize with her. Many remember when she became a teen sensation as the girl in “Labyrinth” but she’s had a pretty good go of it including an Oscar win for “A Beautiful Mind.” She has a way of changing the tone and cutting to the emotional core of the conflict when she’s on screen that I can’t compare to anything else.
- Best Performance: Alicia Nash in”A Beautiful Mind”
- Next Seen In: ???
9. Emily Blunt
When your first notable film role is in “The Devil Wears Prada,” maybe one of the most rented films of all time, that’s a lucky break for sure. But this British beauty has proved to this point that it wasn’t an accident. Although “Prada” showed off Blunt’s funny bone, she got some smaller dramatic parts afterward and then landed a Golden Globe nomination for playing royalty in “The Young Victoria.” Her performance with Matt Damon in “The Adjustment Bureau” showed incredible chemistry and an uncanny deftness with sarcasm. You couldn’t ask for more likable qualities in a leading lady, especially one as pretty as Ms. Blunt.
- Best Performance: Queen Victoria in “The Young Victoria”
- Next Seen In: “The Muppets” in theaters Nov. 23
8. Alison Brie
I will admit that it’s ambitious of me to list an actress of such (at the moment) minute stature at No. 8, but if you’ve seen “Mad Men” or “Community,” you know how pretty Alison Brie is and how rangy her looks can be. Although her character Annie on “Community” dresses modestly and acts bubbly and wholesome, some of her photo shoots suggest a bit more … maturity. She looks rather young for her age (she’s about 28), but she works it to her advantage. Most definitely.
- Best Performance: Annie Edison on TV’s “Community”
- Next Seen In: “Montana Amazon,” an indie from first-time filmmakers co-starring Haley Joel Osment
7. Penélope Cruz
Easily number one if this is my list of sexiest voices in cinema, but even so, No. 7 on overall looks — that’s damn good. And the three-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner deserves it. Cruz became quite prominent in Spanish cinema and made the leap to Hollywood in 2000’s “All the Pretty Horses.” After starring with Tom Cruise in “Vanilla Sky,” the English remake of the Spanish film she also starred in, Cruz dipped back into Spanish films (a nomination for “Volver”) and then re-emerged an actress truly in her prime in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” With that role she officially began to shed her innocent image in Hollywood and became the strong-willed sex symbol she was destined to be.
- Best Performance: Maria Elena in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
- Next Seen In: “The Bop Decameron,” Woody Allen’s next film due in 2012
6. Olivia Wilde*
Well, apparently my research skills stink, because Wilde is a natural blonde, so I’ve given her the Barry Bonds treatment with that lovely asterisk. Considering how much time I spent calculating this list, I’ve got to deal with it. Plus, she’s much better looking as a brunette. Anyway, Wilde stood out in her early films such as “The Girl Next Door” and “Alpha Dog” before joining Fox’s “House M.D.” Once cast in “Tron: Legacy,” she became an “it” leading lady with parts in this summer’s “Cowboys & Aliens” and “The Change-Up.” Wilde’s facial structure is almost alien in that all the pieces are a bit strange (pronounced cheek bones, pointed nose, high forehead, almond-shaped eyes) but together on her slender body, they work quite well. It’s just inexplicable attractiveness.
- Best Performance: Dr. “Thirteen” Hadley on TV’s “House M.D.”
- Next Seen In: “In Time,” the sci-fi thriller out Oct. 28
5. Jessica Biel
Biel’s played around with being blond before, but she’s definitely a brunette. Either way, the name “Biel” should be synonymous with “body” in Hollywood. She’s by far the most full-figured and athletic on this entire list. In terms of acting, I’ve never found much to dislike about her, but she started her career in some bad or mediocre movies after getting on the map with TV’s long-running “7th Heaven” and never caught on entirely. With the capability of doing action (“Blade: Trinity”) or more typical female lead stuff in romantic comedies (“Valentine’s Day”), she shouldn’t have trouble finding work long term.
- Best Performance: Sophie in “The Illusionist”
- Next Seen In: “New Year’s Eve,” the ensemble rom-com from Garry Marshall
4. Evangeline Lilly
As I said in my 2009 list, “when an actress doesn’t change clothes for basically three straight seasons on a television show, getting dirtier and dirtier yet still looking just as amazing, you know you have a real beauty on your hands.” I mentioned that elven “Lord of the Rings” look in the first part of my list and Lilly has that too. In fact, she’s got a part in “The Hobbit.” But her natural beauty and thin-but-chiseled body on “Lost” earned her many fans fast, not to mention her talent, though to be truthful she hasn’t shown much range to this point. That said, she was an extra until cast in “Lost” and that skyrocketed her career in unusual fashion, so her career has barely lasted seven years to this point.
- Best Performance: Kate on TV’s “Lost”
- Next Seen In: “Real Steel,” the sci-fi sports drama with Hugh Jackman on Oct. 7
3. Mila Kunis
There isn’t much that I can say about Mila Kunis that I didn’t say when I wrote an entire story about her. The Russian-born actress is about to turn 28 and has been acting on TV and film in a significant capacity since joining “That ’70s Show” more than 13 years ago. Between that sitcom and voicing Meg on the ever-popular “Family Guy,” it was smooth sailing under the radar until 2008 when she impressed alongside Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” That’s where we got to see not only how beautiful she’d become, but damn funny. With a Golden Globe nomination for “Black Swan,” you get a sense of just what she’s capable of with the dynamite combination of looks, humor and talent.
- Best Performance: Lily in “Black Swan”
- Next Seen In: “The Muppets” on Nov. 23
2. Rachel McAdams
Despite playing around with he hair color, shape and style a lot, McAdams is a true brunette with classic beauty — melt-your-heart beauty. Few actresses could pull off being a total bitch in “Mean Girls” and star as a classic wholesome girl in “The Notebook” ever, let alone in the same year. Her looks allow her to play an impressive range of characters and types of ladies from the naive Allie to the sharp Irene Adler in “Sherlock Holmes.” Although she should be trying for more dramatic fare rather than regularly dipping back into romance, to her credit she stays out of predictable rom-coms (minus last year’s “Morning Glory”) and she just finished on Terrence Malick’s next project. Her ability to elevate even the cheesiest material will serve her well forever, so imagine when she gets her hands on the part of a lifetime (like No. 1 just did).
- Best Performance: Claire in “Wedding Crashers” (personally speaking)
- Next Seen In: Briefly in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” on Dec. 16
1. Natalie Portman
A lot has happened for Natalie (to say the least) since she graced No. 1 on my 2009 list. The obvious would be her deserved Oscar win for “Black Swan.” The other would be the whole getting engaged and having a baby thing with her “Black Swan” dancing partner. So much for hope. Anyway, Portman’s proven the talent to match her looks time and time again. She’s often been talked about as her generation’s Audrey Hepburn, which I would have to agree with to some extent, especially in terms of looks. All this and I’m forgetting to mention she was a child star too. Like McAdams, Portman has looks that allow her to conquer a diverse range of parts from rom-coms to action films to dramas. George Lucas must’ve sensed that when he cast her in the “Star Wars” prequels as her character went from queen to heroine to mature leader over the course of that trilogy. Having just turned 30 years old in June, Portman’s in her prime and getting offers left and right, but with family now in the picture, who knows. She’ll be looking good, however, well beyond what direction she chooses next.
- Best Performance: Nina Sayers in “Black Swan”
- Next Seen In: Busy being a mommy, but “Thor 2” at the latest in 2013