10 Zoë Kravitz Films You Should Watch After ‘The Batman’

Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, skin-tight black suit and all, is the breakout success of The Batman. Her big pop culture moment has been a long time coming, though. Kravitz daughter of actor Lisa Bonet and rock musician Lenny Kravitz, is celebrity royalty, she’s one of the most stunningly beautiful people on the planet, and she’s a talented actor. But her career has been frustrating to watch and presumably even more frustrating to experience. In at least one instance Kravitz appears to have been hurt by discrimination; she was turned down for the role of Catwoman in 2012’s The Dark Knight Returns because she was “too urban”—ie, not white enough. (How can someone be too urban for Gotham City?!)

Since that missed opportunity, Kravitz spent a decade playing leads in indie films and small roles in franchise films like the execrable Divergence, X-Men: Days of Future PastInto the Spider-Verse, and even a tiny role as Catwoman in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie. Here’s a list of the good, the interesting, and the why-on-earth-didn’t-she-get-more-screen time-in-that.

Yelling to the Sky (2011)

yelling to the sky
Courtesy of MPI Media Group

Director Victoria Mahoney’s semi-autobiographical debut is a painful story about abuse and violence, filmed with naturalist grit spotted with gaps that make the narrative feel unmoored in time.  Kravitz (who was 23 but looks 15) plays Sweetness O’Hara, a young girl who goes from timid youth to angry, traumatized teen, and on to something more hopeful. The beats are familiar, but the violence of Sweetness’ milieu is put across with a matter-of-fact bleakness, and Kravitz’s performance is tender, desperate, and convincing. Mahoney still hasn’t made another full-length feature, and Kravitz didn’t get a real mainstream showcase for a decade, evidence that Hollywood remains awful, especially if you’re a Black woman.

Treading Water (2013)

treading water
Courtesy of The Orchard Alliance Films

Analeine Cal y Mayor’s debut is a frustrating film, and nowhere more so than in regard to Kravitz. The plot features a boy who has a rare condition that makes him smell like fish, causing him embarrassment and the usual nerdy troubles and heartaches. Kravitz plays the manic pixie dream girl, whose purpose is to be available for romantic attachment and/or turmoil as the plot requires. The most painful part is that her relationship with this mopey troubled kid is not quite as different from her relationship with mopey troubled Robert Pattinson Batman as you’d like it to be. Kravitz is a bigger name now, but some of those assumptions about where women fit narratively are hard to shake whether you’re indie or on a marquee.

The Road Within (2014)

the road within
Courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment

Gren Wells’ directorial debut is a coming-of-age story about three disabled teens who escape from an institution and go on a road trip in a stolen car. Vincent (Robert Sheehan) has Tourette’s syndrome and a very young Dev Patel plays Alex, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Kravitz’s character, Marie, is seriously anorexic—the actor was interested in the role in part because she’s dealt with eating disorders herself. Anorexia is less of a visible illness than those of her co-stars (though Kravitz dropped to 90 pounds for the role) and Marie initially seems like the cool and functional one. But of the three she’s in fact most at immediate risk, and over the course of the film she subtly and then dramatically unravels. Kravitz’s last scene is an impressively harrowing bit of acting. Marie’s plot is (sort of) resolved off-screen, and you’re left wondering if this shouldn’t have been her story all along, rather than Vincent’s.

Good Kill (2014)

good kill scaled
Courtesy of IFC Films

One of the more interesting movies Kravitz has been in, though her role is fairly small. Major Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a drone pilot, whose job requires him to murder women and children halfway across the world in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. There’s some hedging, but overall the movie’s portrayal of the drone war as cowardly and immoral is unusually forthright for a mainstream film. Kravitz plays Vera Suarez, Egan’s co-pilot with a conscience. Egan is your typical male military repressed tortured soul, who registers little on his craggy features, so it’s up to Kravitz with her limited screentime to point out that their orders are evil, and to register guilt and sadness. She also obligatorily comes Egan him even though he’s 18 years older than her and looks like he could be twice that, because that’s how Hollywood gender dynamics work.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

fury road
Courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment

Kravitz has played a number of bit parts in big-budget action franchise extravaganzas; this is the best of those. She’s one of the escaped wives of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the authoritarian post-apocalyptic patriarch. Charlize Theron as Furiosa gets most of the action bonafide and most of the emoting, but Kravitz’s Toast the Knowing is at least a bit more badass than the other wives. The rest of them mostly huddle together and hope for the best, but Toast knows how to fight and handle a gun, and even gets to drive a vehicle on the last rush back to overthrow the male hierarchy and establish egalitarian feminism for all.

Pretend We’re Kissing (2015)

pretend were kissing
Courtesy of Matt Sadowski

And back to the indie circuit and a sub-Woody Allen awkward romance exercise. Kravitz once again plays the foil to a less compelling nerdy guy struggling to find love. This time she’s not his romantic interest, though, but his feral hippie best-friend roommate, who lounges around the house naked, phones out for one-night stands, and urges him to be his best self while burning incense to try to make the space sacred. I believe this is the first film in which Kravitz plays a bisexual character; the actor is bisexual herself, and over the years she’s tried to get that representation on screen where she can.

Vincent N Roxxy (2016)

Vincent N
Courtesy of Bron

Gary Michael Schultz’s Vincent N Roxxy is two-thirds of a sweet rom-com with an improbably brutal gangster film tacked on the end. It leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions. Is the best way to show Kravitz’s transition as Roxxy really to dress her in a schoolgirl dress to show innocence and then switch to leather pants to indicate violent badassery? If her brother’s death is central to the emotional arc of the film, why don’t we ever get to see him onscreen? Why are all the Black men bad guys while all the white men are good guys? Still, for Kravitz fans, it’s a worthwhile exercise if only because she’s exponentially more magnetic, attractive, and talented than anyone else in the movie; it’s easy to understand why Vincent (Emile Hirsch) throws himself in front of a gun for her as soon as he sees her. You spend the whole run-time pretty much thinking, “Wait, how can people not have realized yet that she’s a star?”

Rough Night (2017)

rough night
Courtesy of CTMG, Inc

Critics hated this raunch com about a Miami bachelorette party gone horribly wrong. But it’s actually a sweet story about friendship and romance and the innocent consumption of large quantities of cocaine. There’s a solid ensemble with Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, and Ilana Glazer. In that company, though, Kravitz more than holds her own, playing against her usual dressed-down alterna-type as Blair, the immaculately put together upper-crust perfect one going through a secret divorce. It’s fun to see Kravitz do something completely different, and she shows off real comedy chops in an excruciatingly uncomfortable threesome seduction scene with a lecherous Demi Moore. Kravitz has made it big with action fare now, but hopefully, she’ll do comedy again; she’s very good at it.

Gemini (2017)

Courtesy of Neon

Aaron Katz’s Gemini is a mediocre movie, but Kravitz’s role is interesting. She plays a film star, Heather, who is significantly more famous than Kravitz was at the time of release. To underline that, the real star of the film is her assistant Jill, played by Lola Kirke. The movie should by all rights be a quirky comedy about their close friendship. But instead, it has an uninteresting and superfluous murder mystery plot thrown on top of it, which inconveniently requires Kravitz to be offscreen for the bulk of the film. When she’s there, though, she’s great; her tentative, endearing, infuriating selfishness is a lot more fun to watch than Kirke’s much more standard brave protagonist facing adversity. There’s an especially nice moment where Heather takes a selfie with a fan and gives a credible smile for the onscreen iphone while communicating to the movie viewer that she really does not want to be there.

Kimi (2022)

kimi on the cans
Courtesy of HBO Max

Even if Kravitz hadn’t been in The Batman, this would still be her breakthrough year given her celebrated lead performance in this mainstream gem. Kravitz’s role in Steven Soderbergh’s KIMI is in many ways the opposite of the confident Selina Kyle. Angela Childs as an agoraphobic programming grunt is neurotic, cranky, and terrified. Kravitz completely alters her body language to play her, picking up nervous ticks (shaking her hands after hand sanitizer) holding herself stiff and rigid, tucking her head, trying to contract herself into as small a space as possible—which, given her 5’2 height and thin frame, is very small indeed. Without all those super fighting skills she’s got in The Batman, she’s got to rely on a hope, a deep breath, and scrambling smarts. Also, satisfyingly, a nail gun.

Kravitz’s next big project is her directorial debut Pussy Island, which is supposed to star Channing Tatum from a script Kravitz wrote about the (unpleasant) sexual politics of the film industry. And she’ll no doubt be on board for the inevitable The Batman sequels. Beyond that…well hopefully the one-two nail-gun kick of The Batman and Kimi will allow Kravitz to land some great roles going forward.

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.