Nicole Kidman had already been acting for nearly a decade in her native Australia when she landed the part of Dr. Claire Lewicki in Days of Thunder, the Tony Scott-directed sports drama that found Kidman starring opposite Tom Cruise for the first of three times. But it wasn’t until To Die For five years later—a film Kidman later revealed she pleaded with director Gus Van Sant to get—that she ascended to mainstream notoriety, winning her first Golden Globe (for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy) and kicking of a streak of wildly varied, critically acclaimed projects under the guidance of many of contemporary cinema’s most sought-after directors, including Stanley Kubrick, Baz Luhrmann, John Cameron Mitchell, and, most recently, Jean-Marc Vallée of Big Little Lies. “Nicole acts all the way down,” director David Hare once said of the actress, who starred in his 1999 play The Blue Room. What that means is this: Kidman is a cipher. She gets under her character’s skin so thoroughly, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the actress from the role. It’s why she has become so synonymous with a few key roles—Virginia Woolf in The Hours, society lady Ada Monroe in Cold Mountain, the art curator wife in Eyes Wide Shut—and why those films are so defined by Kidman’s presence in them. As Big Little Lies draws to a close, we look back at her most transformative on-screen roles, spanning thrillers, comedies, musicals, and even an action flick or two.