“The more I like me, the less I want to pretend to be other people.” – Jamie Lee Curtis
The ultimate scream-queen, Jamie Lee Curtis has enjoyed an extremely colourful and iconic career in the movies. Perhaps best known for her role as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s horror franchise Halloween, Curtis’ film works spans many different genres, including the cult comedies Trading Places and A Fish Called Wanda. She also won the Golden Globe for playing the starring role of Helen Tasker in James Cameron’s action comedy film True Lies. Her other major films include Blue Steel, My Girl, Forever Young, The Tailor of Panama, Freaky Friday, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, You Again, Veronica Mars, and the last year release Knives Out.
Being the offspring of Hollywood royalty, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, she rose to superstardom after starring in the surprise horror-hit Halloween in 1978. The film was a major success and was considered the highest-grossing independent film of its time, earning accolades as a classic horror film. Curtis was subsequently cast in several horror films, garnering her the title “scream queen”.
Since then, she has portrayed Laurie Strode four more times, most recently in David Gordon Green’s Halloween reboot. Horror aside, there has been so much more to Jamie Lee Curtis than just being the heroine of Halloween. Curtis has portrayed a wide variety of characters in her prolific career and has proven herself to be a formidable thespian across all genres, including action, comedy, drama and, of course, horror.
Celebrating her 62nd birthday, we look back at ten of her finest performances.
The 10 best Jamie Lee Curtis movies:
10. Roadgames (Richard Franklin – 1981)
Starring Stacy Keach alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, Roadgames follows a truck driver travelling across Australia who, along with the help of a hitchhiker, seeks to track down a serial killer who is butchering women and dumping their dismembered bodies along desolate highways.
An obvious homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Vincent Morton’s cinematography in Roadgames is a delight, and legendary Brian May’s taking care of the soundtrack, making the film an audio-visual treat. The desolate, unpopulated areas of Australia are fantastic for looming dread but aren’t fully utilised. Neither is Jamie Lee Curtis, but she gives one fantastic performance nonetheless.
9. The Fog (John Carpenter – 1980)
Persistently looming with a foreboding sense of dread, John Carpenter’s The Fog is yet another masterly crafted horror from the influential filmmaker that envelops its tale with an unsettling vibe even before the opening credits have finished appearing on the screen and keeps that minacious aura alive for the remainder of its runtime with skilful precision.
The Fog is an ode to all the spooky things past, and while it was a bit tame by comparison to its genre contemporaries, and may lack the interesting characters and chilling world-building tension of Carpenter’s previous film Halloween, it makes up for it with atmospherics and an immensely solid final third.
8. My Girl (Howard Zieff – 1991)
Darker than one might expect, My Girl is the story of Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky), a pre-teenage girl learning to deal with the death of her mother. Vada lives with her widower father (Dan Aykroyd), who runs a funeral parlour out of their home and spends her days with her best friend, Thomas J (Macaulay Culkin). When her father falls for his new assistant (Jamie Lee Curtis), Vada feels betrayed. In the end, a sudden tragedy brings her closer to her new stepmother, and she begins to understand how to move on after mourning the death of a loved one.
My Girl is about growing up and dealing with death, and it portrays the story with particular grace and beauty. Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis bring a low-key charm to their roles. Both have their flaws, and it sometimes seems they have nothing in common. But for some inexplicable reason, they are brought together and their encounters are tactful, witty, and very real.
7. Freaky Friday (Mark Waters – 2003)
Directed by Mark Waters, Freaky Friday, based on Mary Rodgers’ 1972 novel of the same name, stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan as a mother and daughter, respectively, whose bodies are switched by a mysterious and magical Chinese fortune cookie.
Funny, heartwarming, and entertaining, Freaky Friday hits the home run courtesy the mother-daughter camaraderie of Lohan and Curtis. Also, Curtis’ performance impressed critics and fans alike, and as a result, was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.
6. Trading Places (John Landis – 1983)
Trading Places is about two strangers who eventually become a team; one an upper-class commodities broker and the other a poor con-artist, both lives switched by a bet between two callous millionaires. After discovering this bet, the two men team up and get back at the brothers with a taste of their own wicked medicine.
Curtis plays Ophelia, a hooker with a heart of gold who is hired to seduce Winthorpe as part of the plan. However, when Ophelia sees Winthorpe’s true colours, she begins to fall in love with him for real. Curtis has rarely been this cool, sexy, and carefree on film.
5. Fierce Creatures (Robert Young, Fred Schepisi – 1997)
Fierce Creatures isn’t as good as its spiritual predecessor A Fish Called Wanda, which does automatically qualify it as a disappointment. But just as a comedy by itself, Fierce Creatures is an above-average romp featuring some of the funniest actors working. Kevin Kline proves he is incapable of doing wrong and, Jamie Lee Curtis overcomes the weak writing given to her character.
The plot follows multimillionaire Rod McCain (Kevin Kline), who after buying a London zoo, the staff is pressured to make higher profits or face closure. McCain assigns the lovely Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) to supervise the zoo, particularly its misguided director, Rollo Lee (John Cleese).
4. Blue Steel (Kathryn Bigelow – 1990)
Intensely fetishistic; as co-writer Eric Red admits, Blue Steel is basically a remake of The Hitcher where the terror has switched from existential to patriarchal. A psychosexual slasher where a penis is replaced with the cock of a pistol and the duel is between New York’s archetypal “finest”—a police officer and a stockbroker.
Bigelow’s extraordinary title sequence scrutinizes the loading of a gun in pornographic detail, followed by Curtis putting on her uniform like she’s getting ready for a roleplay session; this is one of the most shrewdly observed cop movies there is.
3. True Lies (James Cameron – 1994)
Based on the 1991 French comedy film La Totale!, the film follows U.S. government agent Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), who struggles to balance his life as a spy with his familial duties. It’s a comedic parody about a James Bond-esque secret agent, and the double life he lives with his unsuspecting wife. With the laughs, comes a lot of action and crazy stunts. Arnie, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Paxton, and Tom Arnold give unforgettable performances.
One thing worth mentioning is the chemistry Arnie has with Jamie Lee Curtis. Her striptease is one of the sexist and most erotic scenes in all of cinema. It is amazing how Jamie Lee Curtis can play a wide range of roles, and without mentioning, the movie wouldn’t be the same without her. She’s the glue that holds the film together. It’s her story, as much as Arnie’s.
2. A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Chrichton – 1988)
A Fish Called Wanda is a delightful, fun and funny film with heart in which all elements seem to align perfectly. A heist comedy which subscribes to the classic adage of anything that can go wrong will go wrong; it is written by and stars John Cleese as a barrister named Archie Leach (Cary Grant’s real name) and features a cast which also comprises of Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline.
It contains a few memorable scenes and is smart enough to demonstrate that it adequately understands that it would be a misstep to surrender to the turmoil entirely — but what perhaps makes this movie so special is how brilliantly stupid is the movie. There are many types of humour coming together to create one own hilarious entity, with many of the fun lying on both jokes but also certain beliefs and characteristics of the respective characters as well.
1. Halloween (John Carpenter – 1978)
Arguably John Carpenter’s best work as a filmmaker altogether, Halloween made Jamie Lee Curtis the ultimate Scream Queen. She’s perfectly cast in the role and puts in a stellar performance. Carpenter’s incredibly simplistic direction, mixed with his iconic composed score and what was a brilliant introduction to the notorious Michael Myers is what makes this film not only one of the finest in its slasher sub-genre but also one of the best, most esteemed films in horror history.
Explaining her role in the film, Curtis said, “The intent of the movie, my intent, was to peel back the layers of real trauma, real, generational trauma and expose what it looks like. My job, from the beginning, was, to tell the truth. I worked hard to make sure that the viewer felt what Laurie has been through. It helped that that was the intent of the filmmakers and that the writing was very strong. But there are moments that aren’t written here. You just have to feel it, because words are cheap and feelings are worth a billion words.” She adds: “There had to be real feelings here, and that was my job.”