“National Velvet” (1944): Elizabeth Taylor‘s star-making role casts her as a young jockey who teams with a novice trainer (Mickey Rooney) to enter England’s celebrated Grand National horse race.
“Father of the Bride” (1950): Taylor is a charmer as the original “Bride” whose upcoming wedding turns her father (Spencer Tracy) into a nervous wreck.
“A Place in the Sun” (1951): Director George Stevens won an Oscar for guiding Taylor and others through the drama of an ambitious man (Montgomery Clift) torn between two lovers.
“Giant” (1956): It’s easy to see how Taylor’s lovely Leslie becomes the woman between a Texas rancher and a rebel (Rock Hudson, James Dean) as she teams again with director Stevens – again an Oscar winner here – on this sprawling version of Edna Ferber’s novel.
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958): Taylor makes an excellent Maggie to Paul Newman’s Brick and Burl Ives’ Big Daddy in the Tennessee Williams saga of Southern passions and family politics.
“Butterfield 8” (1960): Some believe an illness that almost ended her life contributed to Taylor’s first Oscar win for this drama, based on John O’Hara’s novel about a morally questionable woman and her involvements, but her performance is wide-ranging and effective. Co-stars include her then-husband, Eddie Fisher.
“Cleopatra” (1963): Some critics laugh it off as a debacle that nearly sank 20th Century Fox, but as a movie-star showcase, it’s hard to beat this Taylor vehicle … also with its extra attraction of showing her with Richard Burton in the film they fell in love on.
“The V.I.P.’s” (1963): MGM clearly wanted to cash in on the Taylor-Burton headlines by building this glossy soap opera – about passengers stuck at London’s Heathrow Airport – around them, but the movie holds up quite well otherwise, thanks largely to a smart Terence Rattigan script and a big assist from Oscar winner Margaret Rutherford.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966): Guided by debuting film director Mike Nichols, Taylor won her second Oscar for going straight to the raw, unpretty basics as she and Burton played the bickering dinner party hosts in Edward Albee’s scathing play.