Meryl Streep's movie roles ranked
Meryl Streep — a 21-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner — turns 72 on June 22, 2021! To celebrate the acclaimed actress’s birthday, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at our very favorite Meryl movies and where to stream them. Keep reading for our top picks…
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“The Devil Wears Prada” on Hulu, Starz, Apple TV & YouTube
Our No. 1 Meryl Streep performance? Her turn as deliciously cutthroat fashion editor Miranda Priestly in 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada.” In the film, Miranda suffers no fools, especially not her newly hired and good-natured assistant, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), who’s determined to make it in the world of journalism. Demanding and at times cruel, Miranda — who’s reportedly based on Vogue editor Anna Wintour — offers Andy a master class in power, style, confidence and what it means to take charge in a world that looks down on women. Meryl earned a Golden Globe for this performance as well as an Oscar nomination.
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“Sophie’s Choice” on Hulu, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 1981 drama “Sophie’s Choice,” Meryl Streep took on the titular role of a Polish Holocaust survivor who escapes to New York where she carries the burden of her painful past. While in a relationship with a volatile man, Sophie meets a writer who befriends her and soon uncovers the terrible secrets of her former life, including an unthinkable life-and-death choice she was forced to make for her children. Meryl won her second Oscar for this performance.
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“Julie & Julia” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
One of Meryl Streep’s most delightful movie roles ever was, undoubtedly, America’s first celebrity chef, Julia Child, in the 2009 biopic “Julie & Julia.” The film follows two separate storylines — that of Julia’s journey from former government agent to a master of French cuisine and celebrated cookbook author, as well as the story of food blogger Julie (Amy Adams) who attempts to cook her way through Julia’s “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine.” The performance earned Meryl the 16th Oscar nomination of her career.
“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” on Pluto TV, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 1981 romantic drama “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” Meryl Streep stars as both Sarah Woodruff, a Victorian-era woman engaged in an illicit affair, and as Anna, an actress playing Sarah in a modern retelling of her romantic liaison. Meryl’s dual performances earned her her third best actress Oscar nomination.
“Mamma Mia!” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 2008 musical romantic comedy “Mamma Mia!,” Meryl Streep stars as Donna, a carefree hotelier, musician and mother living on the Greek island of Kalokairi. We learn Donna was always a free spirit, even when it came to romance, which set her adult daughter on a journey to find out which of her mother’s three past lovers might be her father. In 2018, Meryl reprised the role once more for the sequel “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”
“The Bridges of Madison County” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 1995 romantic drama “The Bridges of Madison County,” Meryl Streep stars as Francesca Johnson, an Italian mother and wife living in Iowa who meets handsome photographer Robert (Clint Eastwood) while her family is away at the Illinois State Fair. Over the course of four short days, Francesca and Robert have a passionate affair that marks one of the most important periods of her life. As with so many of Meryl’s performances, this one earned her an Oscar nomination for best lead actress.
“Little Women” on Hulu, Starz, Apple TV, YouTube & Amazon Prime Video
In filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of “Little Women” — which is based on the 1868 Louisa May Alcott novel of the same name — Meryl Streep portrays the girls’ affluent and well-mannered Aunt March. Amy (Florence Pugh) stays with Aunt March in Paris and is later forced to quarantine with her after Beth (Eliza Scanlen) contracts scarlet fever. The film earned several nominations at the 2020 Academy Awards including best picture, best adapted screenplay and best actress for Saoirse Ronan.
“The Post” on Hulu, YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the powerful 2017 biographical drama “The Post,” Meryl Streep stars as real-life Washington Post publisher Kay Graham. The film follows Kay’s decision in 1971 to expose information leaked via classified documents that revealed that four U.S. presidents had conspired to conceal the truth about the Vietnam War. Meryl was nominated for a best actress Academy Award for her work in the movie.
“The Iron Lady” on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube & Apple TV
Another of Meryl Streep’s powerful biographical performances was her 2011 portrayal of U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” In the film, an elderly Margaret — speaking to the ghost of her late husband, Denis Thatcher — tells stories of her life and political career, leading to her becoming Britain’s first female PM. For this performance, Meryl won her third Academy Award.
“Florence Foster Jenkins” on Hulu, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 2016 biographical comedy “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which is based on a true story, Meryl Streep took on the titular role of a New York heiress who can’t carry a tune if her life depends on it, yet she dreams of becoming an opera singer. Florence — a devoted patron of the musical arts — is hilariously unaware of her terrible singing voice in part because she surrounds herself with people who convince her she’s got the vocal cords of an angel, all to keep her money flowing into their pockets. Meryl was nominated for an Academy Award for best lead actress for her performance opposite Hugh Grant.
“Postcards From the Edge” on Hulu, Starz, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 1990 drama-comedy “Postcards from the Edge,” Meryl Streep stars as Suzanne Vale, a recovering addict and actress who’s sent to live with her manipulative and hard-drinking mother, Doris (Shirley MacLaine), in order to salvage her career. The film was based on the late Carrie Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Meryl earned an Oscar nomination for best actress for this one too.
“Suffragette” on Netflix, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 2015 biographical drama “Suffragette,” Meryl Streep stars as British political activist and women’s rights leader Emmeline Pankhurst. The film, which is based on true events, follows the British suffragette movement of the early 20th century in which Emmeline and other activists begin a campaign of violence to demand the right to vote. In a rousing balcony speech, Emmeline ignites her followers, saying, “We are fighting for a time in which every little girl born into the world will have an equal chance with her brothers. Never underestimate the power we women have to define our own destinies. We do not want to be lawbreakers, we want to be lawmakers!”
“The Hours” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 2002 romantic drama “The Hours,” Meryl Streep stars as Clarissa Vaughan, a gay New York editor in 2001 who’s coping with the pending death of her close friend, writer and former lover, Richard. Clarissa’s journey of identity, acceptance and loss is one part of the braided story that weaves together the yearning of a 1950s stay-at-home mother and the last days of author Virginia Woolf, who eventually died by suicide in 1941.
“One True Thing” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 1998 drama “One True Thing,” Meryl Streep stars as Kate Gulden, a dedicated wife and mother who, after being her family’s quiet backbone, is stricken by a terminal cancer diagnosis. After daughter Ellen (Renee Zellweger) comes home to help her mother during her final days, Kate teaches her child about the strength and courage it takes to be the one who cares for everyone else. Meryl was nominated for an Oscar for best lead actress.
“Ricki and The Flash” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 2015 musical dramedy “Ricki and The Flash,” Meryl Streep stars as the titular musician, Ricki, who returns home after abandoning her family in pursuit of a rock ‘n’ roll career. Ricki is a multi-faceted woman who discovers the family she left behind has suffered in her wake. While finding a way to help them heal, Ricki also learns to forgive herself for her mistakes. Even cooler, Meryl’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer, co-stars in the film as her character’s troubled daughter, Julie. We think it’s one of Meryl’s most underrated performances.
“Kramer vs. Kramer” on HBO Max, YouTube & Apple TV
The 1979 drama “Kramer vs. Kramer” earned Meryl Streep her first Academy Award. In the film, Meryl plays Joanna Kramer, a deeply unhappy woman on the verge of a complete breakdown who leaves her husband and young son in an effort to reclaim her mental health. After finding her way back to herself, Joanna returns to her broken family, only to be faced with a painful custody battle with her ex.
“The Laundromat” on Netflix
In the 2019 comedic crime-drama “The Laundromat, a Netflix original movie, Meryl Streep plays Ellen Martin, an angry and determined widow who sets out on a mission to expose who’s responsible for the fake insurance policy that left her without financial compensation after her husband’s accidental death. Her unrelenting search ultimately leads her to uncover the Panama Papers — evidence of hundreds of thousands of illegal, offshore bank accounts and shell companies operating out of Panama.
“The Deer Hunter” on Peacock, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 1978 war drama “The Deer Hunter,” Meryl Streep stars as Linda, a young woman living under her abusive father’s roof who’s torn between the safety of her relationship with boyfriend Nick and the lingering attraction she shares with his best friend, Michael (Robert De Niro), before they leave to fight in the Vietnam War. The movie marked Meryl’s second film role and earned her the very first of her many Oscar nominations.
“Out of Africa” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 1985 romantic drama “Out of Africa,” Meryl Streep plays Karen, a married Danish aristocrat who defies expectations that she be a meek and modest woman — Karen is determined to live life on her own terms. After moving to a coffee plantation in Kenya with her husband — whom she married for convenience, not love — Karen embarks on a passionate romance with a big-game hunter while working to bring education to the villagers who call the plantation home. The performance earned Meryl Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
“Silkwood” on Amazon Prime Video
In the disturbing 1983 biographical drama “Silkwood,” Meryl Streep stars as Karen Silkwood, a single mother and plutonium processing plant employee who uncovers a fatal disregard for workers’ health and raises concerns about safety violations at the plant. After Karen begins speaking out about the dangerous workplace conditions, she gets caught in a plot to silence her. She’s purposely exposed to high levels of radiation and, later, dies before she’s able to alert authorities. The movie, which co-stars Kurt Russell and Cher, and was nominated for five Oscars including a best actress nod for Meryl.
“Into the Woods” on Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 2014 musical fairy tale “Into the Woods,” Meryl Streep plays an evil witch at the center of a mythological adventure. Knowing that her baker neighbors can’t bear a child, the cursed witch sets them on a seemingly impossible journey to retrieve magical items like a sparkling slipper, a red cloak and a white cow, all in return for a child of their own. Meryl was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her work in the movie.
“Ironweed” on Pluto TV, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 1987 drama “Ironweed,” Meryl Streep stars as Helen, a fast-talking stubborn alcoholic drifter who clings tightly to her former life as a singer. In the film, Helen and her like-minded companion, Francis (Jack Nicholson), return to their hometown during Halloween in 1938 and end up facing an angry mob determined to get rid of the vagrants flooding their city. Meryl earned a best actress Oscar nomination for her work in the film.
“Doubt” on Hulu, YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
The 2008 mystery-drama “Doubt” saw Meryl Streep in a darker, more defiant role as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, a draconian nun at a Catholic church who’s able to command a room with a single look. In the film, Sister Aloysius discovers the school’s head priest may be abusing students and sets upon a plan to expose him. Meryl earned an Oscar nod for best lead actress.
“It’s Complicated” on Hulu, Starz, YouTube & Apple TV
In 2009’s “It’s Complicated,” Meryl Streep plays bakery owner and single mom Jane Adler, a divorcée who engages in a risqué affair with her cheating ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) while also navigating a potential new romance with her architect (Steve Martin) who’s everything her ex wasn’t. The story might have felt predictable, but Meryl — and her co-stars — were utter delights to watch.
“Death Becomes Her” on YouTube, Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video
In the 1992 comedy-horror film “Death Becomes Her,” Meryl Streep plays manipulative, washed-up actress Madeline Ashton, who’s obsessed with reclaiming her former glory. Desperate to outshine her rival, Madeline seeks help from a mystical woman who promises eternal youth and beauty, with a few unintended side effects.
“August: Osage County” on Netflix, YouTube & Apple TV
In the 2013 dramatic comedy “August: Osage County,” Meryl Streep stars as Violet Weston, a difficult woman battling mouth cancer and an addiction to alcohol and narcotics. Following the suicide of Violet’s husband, her daughters — one of whom is played by Julia Roberts, seen here — and their families come home to help but end up confronting painful moments from their past, many of which revolved around Violet’s bad behavior. For this performance, Meryl earned yet another Oscar nomination for best lead actress.
“The Prom” on Netflix
While 2020’s “The Prom” certainly wasn’t a critically acclaimed film, Meryl Streep’s performance as Dee Dee Allen deserves praise! In the Netflix movie, which was adapted from the 2018 Broadway musical of the same name, Meryl stars as a self-absorbed two-time Tony-winning Broadway star who comes to realize that there’s more to life than money, fame and narcissism.
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