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The 10 best Meryl Streep performances in films

The 10 best Meryl Streep performances in films

Happy Birthday to the legendary and elegant Meryl Streep! She is certainly my favourite American / Hollywood actress! No words to describe how I love her talent and beautiful acting career.

She is considered by media and critics as the greatest living actress. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award, an astonishing 21 times (record among categories linked to acting) and has won it three times. She is known mainly for her versatility to play her characters with different accents.

Streep debuted in the cinema with the film “Julia” (1978) and “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) followed by, among others such as “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), “Out of Africa” (1985), “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), “Mamma Mia!” (2008) and “The Iron Lady” (2011).

She also received 29 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, also a record for the award. The actress also received three Emmys, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin Festival, five New York Film Critics Circle Awards, two BAFTA, two Australian Film Institute Awards, four Grammy Award nominations and a Tony Award nomination, among other awards.

👉 Check out some iconic moments of her fabulous career below:

Kramer vs Kramer (1979)

Streep held her own beside Dustin Hoffman, shining in her role as working mother Joanna Kramer. The 1979 Robert Benton drama was centred on a couple’s custody battle for their son and saw Streep hit the mark in her role as a driven, single-minded woman who decides she wants her child back after leaving him and his father 15 months earlier. 

She-Devil (1989)

In “She-Devil”, Streep plays the wealthy and romantic novelist Mary Fisher, who has a love affair with a married man. she is minxy, daft and camp as hell, even when playing off one-note Roseanne Barr as her love rival. It may be a silly, flawed film in lots of ways, but with it, Streep proved her range is close to limitless.

“The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)

 Streep landed the female lead in Clint Eastwood’s elegiac “The Bridges of Madison County,” a tale of a four-day romance and a lifelong memory. The film is rightly considered to be that rarity that does its book one better, creating something wonderful from a common novel.

Francesca is Italian-born which adds another pitch-perfect accent to Streep’s arsenal, but it’s the way she turns from a sceptical, lonely, woman into a giddy teenager in love, and back to the sensible matriarch who can conceal her heart from those who know her best, that yields her best performance of the decade, by some margin.

“Adaptation” (2002)

The winning combination of director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman gave Streep one of the most memorable supporting roles of her career. Sure, “Adaptation” is mostly remembered for its brilliant screenplay, one of Nicholas Cage‘s career-best roles as two competing twin brothers, and Chris Cooper‘s unforgettable, Oscar-winning, turn as hick botanist John Laroche. But in midst of the film’s jungle of original wilderness and absurdist reality is Meryl Streep’s softly exquisite, unassuming, and plain ol’ fun portrayal of author Susan Orlean. It’s one of the best examples of the kind of immensity Streep can bring to the most ordinary of characters, a lonely woman who is unhappy with her conventional existence and who—to her surprise and detriment—falls in lust with the repellent Laroche to patch up the passionless void in her life. 

The Hours (2002)

Featuring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and, of course, Streep, “The Hours” is worth your time and one of the best films Meryl ever made.  Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours”, is a haunting, gorgeous movie about three women’s lives that are intertwined to Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, despite the locations and decades between them. 

“The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

“The Devil Wears Prada” wasn’t supposed to be as good as it was. But thanks in large part to the excellent cast, anchored by Anne Hathaway and featuring a breakout supporting turn by Emily Blunt, it became a hit.

However, the heart and soul of the film was Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly. In Lauren Weisberger‘s novel, a thinly veiled fiction about her time with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Priestly is a monster, the Devil in Prada, without a shred of humanity or redemption. 

That was changed for the 2006 film, written by Aline Brosh McKenna, which allows for the possibility that exacting boss-from-hell Miranda might just have something else going on below her icy veneer, as amplified by Streep’s carefully controlled performance, with not a hair or gesture or word out of place. The modulation of her voice, using the quietest register to intimidate the most, was one of the markers of her performance—a surprisingly effective choice. 

“Mamma Mia!” (2008)

Sorry, “Hairspray,” but we still maintain that “Mamma Mia!” is the best stage-to-screen musical adaptation since “Chicago.” That’s in large part thanks to Streep, who brings just the right amount of silly and seriousness to this infectious ABBA musical about a mom trying to run away from her past on the eve of her daughter’s (Seyfried) wedding. Her renditions of “Money, Money, Money” and the title track are gleefully mischievous, while “Slipping Through My Fingers” is a tear-jerking ode to growing up and growing old. And we dare you to find a more transcendent moment in cinema than Streep standing in a red shawl on a windy cliff, impassionedly belting “The Winner Takes It All” to a befuddled Pierce Brosnan. 

“Doubt” (2008)

John Patrick Shanley‘s adaptation of his play is thought of mostly as a four-way powerhouse acting showcase between Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Streep (all four were Oscar-nominated). It is undoubtedly that, with all these great actors behaving so generously toward one another: Adams and Davis unimpeachably brilliant in supporting turns to the fireworks that go on between Streep as the strict, suspicious Sister Aloysius, and Hoffman as the gregarious, possibly pedophilic Father Flynn. 

Shanley’s also-nominated screenplay is so dense it could easily drown out lesser actors—it takes performers of Streep and Hoffman’s calibre to be able to expand to the size necessary to contain all this bluster and brittleness. 

“Julie & Julia” (2009)

 “Julie & Julia” is a draping a light-hearted picture in melancholic overtones, and as a whole, it’s got its fair share of questionable ingredients that make the entire experience something of a letdown. Split between contemporary New York with Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and 1950s Paris with Julia Child (Streep), the story follows the two completely different women as the former is inspired by the latter’s cooking career. Nothing against Adams, who is one of the greatest working actresses around, but her ‘Julie’ portion is obliterated by the much funnier and warmer ‘Julia’ section. This is, naturally, mostly thanks to Streep’s uncanny knack for getting under the skin of her characters and never veering into caricature territory (something that, if you’ve seen the film or Julia Child’s real videos, you know would be too easy). Her performance is a polished gem.

“The Iron Lady” (2011)

 Streep was met with the challenge to portray Margaret Thatcher, one of the most venerated and widely recognised politicians of the 20th century. Watch any number of the countless videos out there of the real Thatcher, compare it to Streep’s scenes in parliament and her cabinet, then proceed to rub your eyes in disbelief, because, yep, she nails it. Streep becomes Thatcher and all credit to her for making the woman’s humanity dominate over the public’s preconceived idea of her persona. 

However much the film may gloss over the politics involved, Streep brings Thatcher to an oddly compassionate life, whether in her twilight years or at the peak of her controversial career as a steel-willed woman in a man’s world.

What’s your favourite Meryl Streep performance? Leave a comment on this page!

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I am a script and creative writer, journalist, producer, and marketing content developer with over 9 years of experience in Media (TV / Film Production), Communication, Journalism and Marketing. I worked for companies such as MTV, Animal Planet, Band, Discovery and, Fremantle Media. I am from Brazil, but I've been living in Dublin, Ireland, since 2017. I am also maniac for entertainment and pop culture.
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