Over the last 12 years, I have considered Hailee Steinfeld one of the best young stars. Before getting nominated for an Oscar at 14 years old, she starred in short films and appearances in television series before nabbing a role that changed her life in True Grit. Now, she’s one of the most respected actors in their ‘20s, continuing to thrive in her career, starring in coming-of-age films, successful streaming television series, and performing her songs on stage. And over the past few years, my love for his actress has only intensified. She’s the Neve Campbell of the 21st century, and that is because I can see her as Sidney Prescott in my Scream fan cast.
You might wonder why I adore her. There are various explanations. However, Hailee is one of the famous people I find to be the most reassuring because you can tell she’s a laid-back, hilarious, and sincere person. She’s basically a reason to smile, and I love and support everything she does. She hasn’t done too much in 2022; for how much she was doing last year, she deserved a nice break. No casting news, but a piece of entertainment we got from her was her long-awaited release of her latest single, “Coast” with Anderson .Paak, which is one of my absolute jams of the year.
As she celebrates her 26th birthday today, it would be ideal to go through her top ten films and television roles throughout her career. There are a few in her filmography I still need to catch (The Keeping Room, Ten Thousand Saints), but I’ve seen quite enough of her work to fill up ten spots. Anyway, here are ten roles of Ms. Steinfeld that made her who she is.
10) Juliet Capulet- ‘Romeo & Juliet (2013)’
Following in the footsteps of actresses like Olivia Hussey and Claire Danes, Steinfeld famously played one-half of the star-crossed lovers in Carlo Carlei’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy. In only her second important role after True Grit, this is such a role that had to require younger audiences to buy the fact she caught love at first sight in Verona, and while she was at an appropriate age for Juliet at 16, she made her portrayal believable when speaking through Shakespeare’s words.
Romeo & Juliet, as a whole, needed help to be engaging, leading itself to a dull interpretation that’s been quickly forgotten after its release. Still, Steinfeld’s performance gives the film some much-needed merit, which means buying into the serviceable romance blooming between her and Douglas Booth’s Romeo.
9) Violet Mulligan- ‘Begin Again (2014)’
Steinfeld’s supporting role in the musical dramedy Begin Again should be noticed, even though it isn’t very significant. Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley play a faded music producer and an inspired songwriter/singer who work together to record an album. Violet, the former’s adolescent daughter, has an extremely strained relationship with her father, who still doesn’t know much about her anymore.
While she does not have many scenes to develop her character fully, there’s still natural charisma in the scenes they share and get helpful advice from Knightly Gretta. She even got to learn a bit of the guitar for her part, as we see her come out of her shell to perform on the track “Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home” on a New York City rooftop. Having watched it again recently, I forgot how good this was. If you haven’t heard of Begin Again and it’s a blind spot in her filmography, it’s worth checking out.
8) Violet aka “Vi”- ‘Arcane: League of Legends (2021-)’
Arcane: League of Legends is one of Netflix’s best original shows they’ve released in the past year that’s been talked about overwhelmingly positively for several reasons. For a series where most of its viewers probably never played the game it’s based on, it exceeded expectations for its unbelievable animation blend of 2D and 3D, music (score and soundtrack), and its voice acting, mainly from Steinfeld, who was announced to join two months before its premiere.
As the protagonist, Violent “Vi,” this must’ve been the toughest character she has played as a young woman in this utopian/steampunk society who starts off having this protective sister relationship with Powder, only to become estranged completely after some circumstances to lead them to different lives. And it’s a performance where I forgot that was her when binging through all nine episodes when not only does Steinfeld’s commitment to Vi knows she’ll destroy you with a single punch, but find this bond with Powder, later Jinx heartbreaking within this story of human power.
7) Emily Junk- ‘Pitch Perfect Franchise (2015–2017)’
Star power is always a key factor for sequels, which must’ve been a dream for Steinfeld when she was offered to play a new character in the sequel to the surprise comedy hit Pitch Perfect. When we’re first introduced to Emily Junk, she’s a freshman excited to join the Barden Bellas since her mother’s a legacy. And she’s someone who writes original songs for once. As part of the two sequels (the second being at least decent), she fits well with the ensemble inside Pitch Perfect 2 by working with the Bellas and making their way back on top. And one of the best aspects of the Elizabeth Banks installment is finding her voice awkwardly and funnily. Even when it might not be considered better than the original, there’s no questioning Steinfeld’s Emily made for a welcome addition.
And for us, this was our first taste of hearing her sing as she performed “Flashlight” near the end. Of course, few actresses transition to music easily, but she does it with ease. And later that year, her first EP, “Haiz,” was released, featuring my favorite song she recorded, “Love Myself.”
6) Gwen Stacy/ Spider-Woman- ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)‘
It’s always an excellent opportunity for actors to voice well-established characters from the comics, and it was exciting to learn the news Steinfeld would be a part of the Oscar-winning superhero masterpiece Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as Gwen Stacy. This was the movie’s chance to use this other version of the heroine where she is bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker, so her Gwen is significantly different from what we’ve seen from Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard in their separate live-action imitations.
With a story with a unique style of animation containing other Spider-people from different universes, never once did it feel overcrowded since they all had a purpose for being there, including Gwen. Steinfeld, alongside Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson, wholly owns their vocal performance, which makes for great chemistry with everyone, especially between her and Miles Morales. Her next film happens to be the much-anticipated sequel, Across the Spider-Verse, which I hope gives us more Gwen.
5) Charlie Watson- ‘Bumblebee (2018)‘
Any Transformers movie before 2018 has been nothing but loud noise and a lack of care for fans of the popular ’80s property. So it was a sigh of relief to find Travis Knight’s Bumblebee the best live-action entry to come by, and one reason why was having a likable lead in Steinfeld’s Charlie Watson. In this spin-off/ prequel set in 1987, Charlie’s your average teenage girl in California who wants a car, only to discover her new Volkswagen Beetle is an auto-bot in disguise named Bumblebee.
She makes Charlie the first human to care about in the bloated franchise by having an Iron Giant-type friendship with Bee that makes for the film’s most touching element that works. They’re both lost souls who found each other when they needed the most, especially after she lost her dad and found someone to depend on. Acting alongside a CGI character can be challenging. Still, because of Steinfeld, she fits into this blockbuster as a cool female protagonist people can finally look up to. She honestly gives Bumblebee the needed heart it deserves. Who didn’t tear up at the end?
4) Kate Bishop- ‘Hawkeye (2021)’
The MCU’s track record for casting its heroes has been spot on. Just look at Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. With Hailee Steinfeld, she was the perfect actress to become Kate Bishop in the Disney+ series Hawkeye. Inspired by Clint Barton while defending New York, Kate aims to be the greatest archer, which leads to meeting her hero and getting tangled up in a conspiracy that makes for an action-packed holiday season.
The series finally centers on the long overdue attention of the titular character. However, it does not surprise everybody that Kate Bishop’s long-awaited introduction to life, thanks to Steinfeld’s winning personality, made her a fan-favorite in Phase 4. The dynamic she shares with Jeremy Renner doesn’t disappoint when we see them as partners and having this incredible father-daughter-type bonding experience. Comedic while proving she’s capable of helping those who need someone to look up to, no wonder each episode showcases her skills for action. The anticipation for her return to a future MCU project is killing us all.
3) Emily Dickinson- ‘Dickinson (2019-2021)’
Who would’ve guessed a show about a poet could be rich in passion and a vibe so calming? Of course, you can expect that from Alena Smith’s Apple TV+ series Dickinson. For three seasons, Steinfeld played the American poet Emily Dickinson (Fun fact: Her birthday is one day off from Steinfeld’s), whose imagination is read through her unconventional poetry from the perspective of her world. All the while, it was a time when women’s voices weren’t rarely heard. Emily wants more out of her life, not only to hear her brilliant words to everybody but also to hold her heart by her best friend/Sister in law, Sue Gilbert.
Those looking for a nice contemporary period dramedy that gets better with each season should look no further, with Steinfeld’s performance of the poet coming to life with so much charm, humor, and sympathy for a rebel of her era. I wasn’t too familiar with the poet, but she makes Emily relatable enough to make her become a success, despite her writings being published after her death. Like her poems, they evoke emotions to never give up on what you’re passionate about.
Nobody could’ve made this work more than Steinfeld in one of the more underrated streaming shows in the past few years that needed more love. How she never got recognized at the Golden Globe or Emmys will be a mystery. From the first episode to the finale, she gives the series its beating heart in this or another afterlife (wink).
2) Nadine Franklin- ‘The Edge of Seventeen (2016)‘
2016’s The Edge of Seventeen has become an instant classic amongst the coming-of-age crowd, and Hailee Steinfeld is a great reason it’s better than any right to be. Why? Because this was where I appreciated how outstanding an actress she has become over the years. Living the 17-year-old lifestyle is nowhere near worthwhile for Nadine, as her best friend beings dating her older brother.
A forgettable performance of young adolescents to add to her filmography, this is not. Instead, Steinfeld brings out an authentic look at how some teenagers felt at that age. Awkward, but she means well when she’s around good company. Kelly Fremon Craig’s writing shows the range of who Nadine can be, making for one of the most relatable characters to identify with. And one, I wouldn’t mind hanging out in high school if she was real. Great Chemistry with the cast, especially with Woody Harrelson and Hayden Szeto, and flawlessly being funny to emotional, it’s no wonder this role earned her acclaim, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress- Musical or Comedy.
1) Mattie Ross- ‘True Grit (2010)‘
And here’s where everyone discovered a young Hailee Steinfeld at the start of the 2010s. Over 15,000 people auditioned, and the then 13-year-old was the lucky girl to become an unforgettable breakout star in Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of the Western Classic/adaptation of True Grit. Mattie Ross’s father was killed by the outlaw Tom Chaney. So with no other options, she hires U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn to go after him and embark on a quest, along with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, to track him down and take revenge. Setting foot into the world of westerns can be tricky, depending on the surrounding story. Yet in her big screen debut, sharing the screen with heavyweights in the acting field (Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin), Steinfeld shows audiences she can handle the dark material given to her to make Mattie fierce and headstrong through his journey, taking no shit from any adult.
She was totally new to me when I saw True Grit in theaters at 14; all I knew was she would be remembered forever, and a decade later, Steinfeld is still an actress to find aspiring. It’s a performance that not only put her name on the map but one that didn’t have her disappear from the spotlight. She received universal praise throughout the awards circuit and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. One of my favorite nominations ever, I should add.
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