In Honor of Jodie Foster’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Let’s Pick Her 5 Most Underrated Achievements in Film

Jodie Foster will be the newest recipient of the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. De Mille Lifetime Achievement Award this winter, which makes her one of the youngest to take the title. (Judy Garland was 39, for the record — Foster is 49.) As long as I’ve watched movies, I’ve found Foster a singular and interesting presence on film. I can’t say that about many former child stars. Though if Tiffany Brissette wants to star in robo-version of Nell any time soon, I guarantee I’ll be the first in line.

To honor Foster’s achievement, I thought we’d highlight her lesser-known achievements. Here are my five favorite tidbits.

1. She beat Meryl, Glenn, Thelma, and Louise at the Oscars.

The two-time Oscar winner picked up Best Actress statuettes for 1988’s The Accused (which, I have to say, is a dated, melodramatic joke of a movie) and The Silence of the Lambs (which is only the definitive thriller of the past three decades). Foster is memorable and bracing in both films, but more importantly, she outplayed Meryl Streep and Glenn Close in two of their best roles for her ’88 Oscar, not to mention Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis for their staggering work in Thelma and Louise for the ’91 trophy. Kind of staggering, right? In fact, I think if Meryl Streep deserved a fourth Oscar for any of her nominated roles, it’d be for ’88’s A Cry in the Dark, which is one of the most damning movies about media hysteria and public perception that I’ve ever seen. Did I mention that Glenn was nominated for Dangerous Liaisons that year? Her finest role, arguably? You go, Jodie.

2. She was the best thing about Maverick

1992 was a great time to be Mel Gibson, who could seriously do no wrong in any single way, financially, personally, whatever. But when I re-watch Maverick, the Western-set comedy he did with James Garner and Jodie Foster, I’m struck by how even though Foster isn’t given many dynamite lines, she’s the most charismatic part of the movie. Maybe it’s the wardrobe I love? And the posture? And the fan-wielding prowess? That all may be, because it brings me to my next point…

3. She conjured real glamor in Anna and the King

Essentially, here’s what you need to know about Anna and the King, the remake of The King and I with Foster and Chow Yun Fat: It is decadent. One of the most ornate and expansive sets I can remember. And mysteriously, the oft-rugged Jodie is a perfect fit in the pristine environs of Siam. Note the costuming. Good lord, that’s rich. And if we’re talking about the role of the devoted, steadfast, and intelligent teacher Anna Leonowens, perhaps Foster is even more right for the role than the legendary part’s originator herself, Deborah Kerr. Hope I haven’t hurt any feelings.

4. She keeps her cool in the weirdest “horror” movie ever, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Surely we have some diehard fans of this whack-ass flick in the house. Summary: Young Jodie lives in a New England house by herself, claims her father is merely away, tolerates visits from a top-hatted pedophile played by Martin Sheen, watches Alexis Smith fall to her death on her steps, and sleeps with an awkward older teenager. That’s really the story. Foster has dismissed the film time and again in her adult life, but there’s something captivating about her can-do, lone-wolf spirit in this movie. Trivia note: Foster didn’t want to perform one particular nude scene in the film, so her real-life older sister Connie stood in. Effing weird.

5. She’s the most bad-ass kid of all time in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Sure, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is mostly about a mother’s (Ellen Burstyn) journey of fulfillment, abusive relationships, and hard living, but it’s also a surprise forum for perhaps the coolest Foster character in history. In a bit part as Burstyn’s son’s pal Audrey, an utter tomboy with a delinquent streak, Foster swindles a guitar shop owner, bemoans her mother’s prostitution career, and casually suggests drug use to her preteen pal. She is fearsome. Tatum O’Neal’s character in Paper Moon, a part that Foster tried out for, would fearfully swallow her cigarette in Audrey’s presence.

What are your favorite underrated Foster achievements?