Sophie's Choice
Essential Meryl Streep Movies to Watch
Image
A.frame

Although she is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors in film history, one could make the case that Meryl Streep does not actually act.

"I think I am who I say I am," she once said in an interview about screen acting. Streep always completely inhabits the character she's playing. She's never on-screen pretending to be her character; she appears as though she has simply become and is existing as that individual.

Time and time again, she has been deemed peerless. Having received a record 21 Oscar nominations for acting (17 times for Best Actress in a Leading Role and four times for Best Actress in a Supporting Role), the three-time Oscar winner has been at the forefront of American actors since making her screen debut in the late '70s. Trained on the stage and able to juggle everything from searing drama to gut-busting comedy, Streep has revealed talents that have astonished and delighted audiences for decades.

With the esteemed Streep receiving the Honorary Palme d'Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, A.frame revisits some of the essential performances of her wonderful career.

1
The Deer Hunter
1978
The Deer Hunter
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Streep received her first Oscar nomination for her heart-rending role in Michael Cimino's Best Picture winner, which took a harrowing look at the impact of the Vietnam War on a trio of Pennsylvania steelworker friends. As the woman left behind just after getting married, Streep turned in a performance that immediately made her one to watch.

2
Kramer vs. Kramer
1979
Kramer vs. Kramer
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

1979 was a big year for Streep with memorable roles in Manhattan, The Seduction of Joe Tynan and this Best Picture winner, for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. This candid and heartbreaking look at divorce finds Streep facing off against her spouse (Dustin Hoffman, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role) over custody of their son, which leads to an unforgettable courtroom finale.

3
Sophie's Choice
1982
Sophie's Choice
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Streep's talent for accents was given a major showcase in this piercing drama that led to another Oscar win, this time for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Alan J. Pakula's adaptation of the William Styron bestseller leaps between two time periods that show the life of Polish immigrant Sophie, her turbulent romantic life and the horrific moment at Auschwitz that scarred her forever.

4
Silkwood
1983
http://aple.tmsimg.com/assets/p7827_i_h10_aa.jpg?w=1920&h=1080
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, Mike Nichols' Silkwood is a thriller about an Oklahoma nuclear-plant worker who blows the whistle on the dangerous practices at the plant. Written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen, the film co-stars Kurt Russell as Karen's boyfriend Drew, and Cher as their roommate Dolly. Streep was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her brilliant portrayal of Karen.

5
Out Of Africa
1985
http://aple.tmsimg.com/assets/p8926_i_h11_ab.jpg
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

After her performances in Falling in Love and Plenty, Streep appeared in this romantic drama directed by Sydney Pollack, which went on to become yet another Best Picture winner. She plays real-life author Karen Blixen (better known as Isak Dinesen). The beautifully shot film recounts Karen's transformation upon moving with her husband to a farm in East Africa, where she embarks on a romance with an American hunter played by Robert Redford. 

6
Defending Your Life
1991
http://aple.tmsimg.com/assets/p13087_i_h10_aa.jpg?w=1280&h=720
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

By the time the '90s rolled around, Streep was perceived as a very serious dramatic actress. Audiences were therefore caught off guard when she shifted gears with a string of deft comedic performances. The one that perfectly showcases her effervescent charm is Albert Brooks' comedy about what happens after death — namely a process in which the person gets to look back on their life with a prosecutor and a defender to determine whether they can move on to the afterlife or if they must get reincarnated. 

7
Death Becomes Her
1992
Death Becomes Her
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Having already proven that she could be great in comedies, Streep starred in this hysterical dark comedy from Robert Zemeckis about a rivalry — between Streep's character and Goldie Hawn's — that goes to genuinely macabre extremes. The contortions Streep's Madeline goes through after consuming an elixir for eternal youth are absolutely hilarious. The film co-stars Bruce Willis and Isabella Rossellini.

8
Adaptation
2002
Adaptation.
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

The team of director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman blew minds with this highly unorthodox look at the writing process based on Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief, with Streep playing the writer herself in a quirky and charming performance that contrasts with Nicolas Cage's wild performances as both Kaufman and his fictional brother.

9
The Devil Wears Prada
2006
The Devil Wears Prada
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

This David Frankel comedy provided Streep with a role for the ages. She became an icon for a new generation of viewers as the snow-haired Miranda Priestly, the no-nonsense fashion magazine editor-in-chief who puts new employee Andy (Anne Hathaway) through the wringer. Endlessly quotable, the film is now considered a key portrait of the fashion industry.

10
Mamma Mia!
2008
Mamma Mia!
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Though she had shown off her singing abilities before, Streep had yet to do a full-on mainstream musical until Mamma Mia! came along. In this smash hit adaptation of the stage sensation featuring the songs of ABBA, Streep plays a single mom on a Greek island whose colorful past with three men comes back to haunt her when her daughter (Amanda Seyfried) decides to track down her father.

11
Julie & Julia
2009
Julie & Julia
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Casting Streep as famed chef Julia Child may have seemed somewhat odd to some, but the gamble paid off. Nora Ephron's final film takes a look at the chef's life in Paris in the 1950s while depicting the life of blogger Julie (Amy Adams) in the 2000s as she attempts to execute all of Child's recipes from her most famous cookbook in the span of one year.

12
The Iron Lady
2011
http://aple.tmsimg.com/assets/p8725825_i_h8_ad.jpg?w=1280&h=720
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

Streep won her third Oscar (her second for Best Actress in a Leading Role) for her uncanny portrayal of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in this decades-hopping look at Thatcher's life. Phyllida Lloyd's film covers Thatcher's life from her childhood working at her family's grocery shop to her ascension as one of the defining and most divisive politicians of the 1980s to her later years as she experiences declining health. Aided by Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland's Oscar-winning makeup, Streep delivers one of the finest performances of her career is this historical drama that co-stars Jim Broadbent and Olivia Colman.

13
Into the Woods
2014
Into the Woods
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

In this Rob Marshall musical fantasy film based on Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1987 Broadway musical, Streep plays a witch who places a spell on a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). The couple, who are childless due to this spell, must venture into the woods and procure magical items from classic fairy tales for the witch to reverse the spell. On their quest, the couple encounters Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and other fairy tale characters. Streep was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance.

14
Florence Foster Jenkins
2016
Florence Foster Jenkins
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

In this biopic from director Stephen Frears, Streep plays Florence Foster Jenkins, a 1940s New York heiress and socialite who pursues her dreams of becoming a coloratura soprano. Unfortunately, Florence happens to have an awful singing voice. And she's completely oblivious to the fact that she's not a good singer. Her husband (Hugh Grant), meanwhile, remains supportive, even as she prepares to perform at Carnegie Hall. Streep was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her inspiring performance.

15
The Post
2017
The Post
Icon_Audio-Video_-PlayCreated with Sketch.
Where to watch

This Steven Spielberg political thriller depicts the true story of the journalists at The Washington Post in the early '70s as they attempted to publish The Pentagon Papers, the government report containing a history of the United States' military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1968. Streep plays Katharine Graham, the publisher of the newspaper who must decide whether or not to publish years of government secrets. The film co-stars Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of the newspaper, and Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian, a reporter at the newspaper. For her enthralling performance, Streep was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Related Lists
Thelma & Louise
Jennifer Esposito
Filmmaker PicksJennifer Esposito's Top 5
Jennifer Esposito
Actor/Director/Producer/Writer
© 2024 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences