Top 10 Meryl Streep Performances

Written by Niki Neptune She’s always been more than just a pretty face. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 best Meryl Streep performances. For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances from this iconic actor that have set the standard for excellence in the field. While Streep has been at the whole acting thing for longer than most of us can remember, she hasn’t lost her edge. She’s set the record for the most Academy Award nominations, and with these performances, we can totally see why. Special thanks to our users sarahjessicaparkerth, Frank Morelli, Dave Ibraim, Mara Steinhardt, ri35ons, Andrew A. Dennison, JJ Herkenhoff, Hector Daniel Lovera Bautista and Lamichael Kelly for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Written by Niki Neptune

Top 10 Meryl Streep Performances



She’s always been more than just a pretty face. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 best Meryl Streep performances.


For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances from this iconic actor that have set the standard for excellence in the field. While Streep has been at the whole acting thing for longer than most of us can remember, she hasn’t lost her edge. She’s set the record for the most Academy Award nominations, and with these performances, we can totally see why.

#10: Karen Blixen
“Out of Africa” (1985)

Set in British East Africa during the early-1900s, this movie sees Streep play a colonialist looking for happiness and love, and her performance as the Danish baroness earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Based on the life of a real-life author, Streep’s character enters a marriage of convenience, falls in love with another man, and seems to have horrendous luck overall. Demonstrating a sex appeal we’d not yet seen, Streep’s chemistry with co-star Robert Redford is the stuff of epic romance, and right at home in this beautifully shot drama.

#9: Sister Aloysius Beauvier
“Doubt” (2008)

Streep delivers an amazing and Oscar nominated performance as a strict nun, and no-nonsense principal of a New York Catholic school. With Streep at her stripped-down and intimidating best, the film focuses on what her character perceives as an inappropriate relationship between a church priest and one of the schoolchildren. After receiving word of the potential abuse from a fellow nun, Streep’s character is relentless in her pursuit of the truth, and she owns every scene she’s in in this emotional and dialogue-heavy film.

#8: Susan Orlean
“Adaptation.” (2002)

Streep took a pay-cut to be part of this production; and the result is one of her most fun recent performances. In yet another Oscar-nominated role, she plays the author of a book that Nic Cage’s character is attempting to turn into a screenplay. While gathering content for her novel, she eventually falls for the man she was researching and ends up far from her highbrow lifestyle. The film may be a trip down “meta” lane with a Charlie Kaufman twist, but Streep elevates her part from side character to captivating focus.

#7: Francesca Johnson
“The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)

There are secrets in every family, and in this film Streep plays a woman with a secret of her own. She’s a married Iowa mom who falls in love with a man while he’s in state on a photography assignment. Not a typical film for Streep, and especially not for her co-star and director Clint Eastwood; it’s romantic and dramatic and sensual without being tawdry. And Streep’s performance as a conflicted homemaker having an extramarital affair landed her a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

#6: Margaret Thatcher
“The Iron Lady” (2011)

She was a controversial historical figure brought to life by the genius of Streep’s performance. As Thatcher, Streep manages to touch into the hard-willed personality and divisive politics that shrouded Thatcher’s tenure as British Prime Minister, and masterfully avoids falling into the trap of caricature. While the film may have not been critically lauded and was criticized for presenting a neutral opinion of its central character, Streep’s turn as the much-reviled leader was impressive enough to land her another Oscar for Best Actress, 29-years after her first win.

#5: Julia Child
“Julie & Julia” (2009)

As the highly-regarded chef of French cuisine, Streep brings effervescence to a part that could’ve been a parody. The film centers on Amy Adams’ character as she attempts every recipe in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” over the course of a year. The film navigates between both women’s perspectives, with Streep playing Child during her time at Le Cordon Bleu as well as her rise to fame. With great charisma, authority and a spot-on accent, Streep succeeds in making this an entertaining culinary romp that earned her another Oscar nod.

#4: Miranda Priestly
“The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

The world of fashion is not for the weak-willed – at least, not according to this film. Streep plays a major fashion figurehead who’s based enough on a certain “Vogue” editor that major fashion houses were afraid to include their pieces in the film. Judging by Streep’s turn as the tough-as-nails, soul-crushing but fabulous fashion editor Miranda Priestly, they were right to be afraid. However, even though Streep kept her unsympathetic persona alive when the cameras weren’t rolling, she still managed to make her inflexible character a complex one that yielded another Oscar nod.

#3: Joanna Kramer
“Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979)

This emotional family drama pits parent against parent as they struggle through a messy divorce and custody battle. Streep plays the mother who, after leaving her workaholic husband, child and unfulfilling marriage, returns to claim guardianship of their son. The film itself is a gut-wrenching look at the effects of a bitter divorce, and Streep’s performance as an emotionally conflicted mother helped shape her future as an Oscar powerhouse by winning her her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

#2: Karen Silkwood
“Silkwood” (1983)

In this ‘80s drama, Streep again displays her versatility by disappearing into the role of an eccentric whistleblower at nuclear power plant. Based on actual events, the film tells the story of the titular character, who was planning to make unsafe labor practices at the Kerr-McGee’s plutonium plant public. As the story unfolds, we’re given glimpses into her personal life, with Streep managing to add layers of complexity to her character, while she conveys a sense of vulnerability as well as dogged determination to do the right thing.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Lindy Chamberlain “A Cry in the Dark” (1988)
- Linda “The Deer Hunter” (1978)
- Clarissa Vaughan “The Hours” (2002)
- Donna Carmichael “Mamma Mia!” (2008)
- Suzanne Vale “Postcards from the Edge” (1990)

#1: Sophie Zawistowski
“Sophie’s Choice” (1982)

Probably one of the saddest films ever made, the story focuses on a Polish immigrant and her tumultuous life after settling in America following WWII. Streep masters this role as a long-tormented woman who survived a concentration camp, but was forced to make the most difficult decision of her life. It was a role wrought with emotional turmoil, and it’s a story not easily forgotten, thanks in large part to Streep’s Oscar-winning performance. At times lively and sexy, at others wistful and emotional, Streep’s perfectly-pitched performance and accent are both natural and heartbreaking.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is Meryl Streep’s best performance? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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