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Meryl Streep turns 72 today, and the actress remains better than ever on the big and small screen.
To wish Streep a happy birthday day, we’ll share our 10 favorite films of hers. The 3-time Oscar winner has too many iconic roles to narrow it down to her 10 best, but we’ll do the dirty work anyway.
We’ll cover plenty of the hits you know and adore, but also include some lesser celebrated titles that deserve the love. What are your favorite Meryl Streep flicks? Read ours below:
RELATED: More Top 10 Movie Rankings
Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this adaptation of Robert James Waller’s novel about a photographer who wanders into the life of a housewife for four days in 1960s Iowa. Certainly more slow-moving than Eastwood’s action fare, it gives the stars a worthy showcase, with Streep earning one of her record 21 Oscar nominations.
Streep stars as a drug-addicted actress trying to pick up the pieces of her acting career and get on with her life while forced to move back in with her mother (Shirley MacLaine) to avoid unemployment in Mike Nichols’ film. Carrie Fisher adapted her own book, loosely based on her relationship with real-life mom Debbie Reynolds. Streep earned yet another Oscar nod, proving she can carry anything, including a comedy.
This family drama puts Streep opposite other all-time greats like Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. While widely acclaimed at the time of its release, it’s oft-forgotten, though we remember Streep’s excellent work as a woman attempting to reconnect with her sister while raising a son struggling with mental illness.
Julia Child’s story of her start in the cooking profession intertwined with blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child’s first book. As the food icon, Streep lays it on thick, but what choice did she have considering Child’s larger-than-life personality. Nora Ephron’s final film lets Streep dig into a delightful real-life character who bursts with life whenever on screen, sharing wonderful chemistry with Stanley Tucci, who plays her husband Paul Child.
As a woman who suffers a nervous breakdown before leaving her husband (Dustin Hoffman) and young son, Streep reached new heights, winning her first Oscar for her work in Robert Benton’s outstanding look at divorce and parenthood. When she changes her mind, a heated custody battle ensues over the ex-couple’s son, after the boy and his father have forged an unshakeable bond. Heartbreaking and affirming, this Oscar-winner for best picture required the deft touch only actors like Streep and Hoffman could deliver.
Playing the Polish survivor of Nazi concentration camps, Streep won her second Oscar (and first for best actress) in Alan J. Pakula’s gut-wrenching tragedy that has since (perhaps insensitively) become the term people use to make impossible decisions. Not an easy watch by any stretch, but Streep’s brilliance holds up nearly 40 years later.
Rival actresses Streep and Goldie Hawn drink a magic potion that promises eternal youth, but the side effects have abnormal results in Robert Zemeckis’ utterly weird but often brilliant dark comedy. Streep and Hawn have great chemistry as narcissists whose obsession with outer beauty rots all that’s left within.
Meryl Streep, action star? Hell yes. Streep can do it all! As a rafting expert who takes on a pair of armed killers while navigating a spectacularly violent river (and domestic tension), Meryl kicks butt opposite the sinister Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly. When her husband David Strathairn goes missing, her protective gear switches to overdrive, fending off the dangerous duo while shielding her young son and leading them all through dangerous rapids in Curtis Hanson’s underrated thriller.
A smart but sensible new graduate lands a job as an assistant to Streep’s Miranda Priestly, the demanding editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine in New York City. Another iconic performance earned Streep another Oscar nomination, along with widespread praise from fans and critics alike, many of whom gained a new favorite Streep role altogether. That’s all.
John Patrick Shanley’s criminally underrated adaptation of his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play sees Streep stretching her legendary chops even further as a Catholic school’s strict principal who questions a priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled young student. Streep’s Bronx accent is striking, but she disappears into the role through masterfully crafted tension and detail, reaching a new level altogether opposite fellow heavyweights like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.
Honorable mentions: The Deer Hunter (1978), Manhattan (1979), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), Out of Africa (1985), One True Thing (1998), Adaptation (2002), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The Iron Lady (2011), Florence Foster Jenkins (2016), The Post (2017), The Laundromat (2019), Little Women (2019), Let Them All Talk (2020)
More Top 10 Lists:
Clint Eastwood’s 10 best movies ranked
Sandra Bullock’s 10 best movies ranked
Tom Hanks’ 10 best movies ranked
Al Pacino’s 10 best movies ranked
Charlize Theron’s 10 best movies ranked
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