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Meryl Streep's 10 best performances


Celebrating the finest acting performances of all time, the Academy Awards have been known to have their favourites over the course of the near-100-year history, with the likes of Denzil Washington and Meryl Streep having received multiple nominations over the years. As a result, Streep is considered one of the greatest female actors of all time, seen as a dazzling improvement to every film she has the chance to star in.

Regarded as film royalty in modern Hollywood, Streep’s career spans 46 years, with the actor being lucky enough to have worked with the likes of Greta Gerwig, Michael Cimino, Clint Eastwood, Spike Jonze and Mike Nichols among many others. 

She isn’t one for slowing down either, with her filmography continuing to fill up with new films, despite her career in the industry having almost topped half a century. Winning three Academy Awards, Streep is one of the most decorated actors of all time, worthy of praise from the glamour of the Hollywood hills to the most niche corners of independent cinema.

Let’s take a look at her ten finest performances.

Meryl Streep’s 10 best performances:

10. Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron, 2009)

Based on the life of the celebrity chef Julia Child, Nora Ephron’s 2009 movie Julie & Julia tells the story of Child’s rise to fame, all whilst Julie Powell tries to cook all the recipes from her first book many years later in 2002. Starring opposite Stanley Tucci, Amy Adams, Chris Messina and Jane Lynch, Streep gives a fantastic performance as the charming TV chef, well-reflecting her good nature and screen presence. 

Receiving an Oscar nomination for her leading role in the movie, Streep would narrowly lose out to the award that was instead given to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side.

9. Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)

Widely appreciated as one of Woody Allen’s greatest movies, Manhattan tells the story of a divorced television writer who is dating a teenage girl when he falls in love with his best friend’s mistress. Starring beside Allen in one of her earliest screen roles, Streep shows just why she is considered such a great in modern-day cinema, injecting the film with charm, romance and even a bit of comedy.

Also appearing with Mariel Hemingway, Diane Keaton, Michael O’Donoghue and Tisa Farrow, Manhattan would prove to be one of Streep’s finest movies.

8. The Devil Wears Prada (David Frankel, 2006)

Recognised as one of Steep’s most popular performances, the actor stars as Miranda Priestly, a demanding editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine in David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada. Acting as the most joyously evil antagonists, Streep thrives in the role opposite Anne Hathaway, playing the smart, sensible new graduate who lands the job as Priestly’s brand new assistant.

Shining in the starring role, for which she was Oscar-nominated, Streep outshines the likes of Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci and Simon Baker, who each take on supporting roles.

7. Doubt (John Patrick Shanley, 2008)

From one of Streep’s most outlandish roles to one of her most subdued, Streep excels in John Patrick Shanley’s quiet drama Doubt, from 2008. The film itself follows a Catholic school principal who questions a priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled young student, with Streep playing the principal in question, alongside such actors as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis and Amy Adams.

Bringing a tremendous amount of power to the tricky drama, the dynamic between Streep and Seymour Hoffman helps to elevate this film into something truly special. 

6. The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)

One of cinema’s most iconic Vietnam war films, The Deer Hunter stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep and takes an in-depth examination of the ways in which the Vietnam war disrupted the lives of many in a small town in Pennsylvania. Cimino’s film represented one of the very first Hollywood attempts to create a serious drama about the deep-rooted impact of the Vietnam war on American veterans.

Streep takes a back seat in this prominently anti-war movie, though undoubtedly remains a powerful fixture, showing off an impressive performance, particularly when considering that it was only her second major feature film role. 

5. The Bridges Of Madison County (Clint Eastwood, 1995)

Based on Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel of the same name, The Bridges of Madison County, released in 1995, almost proved to be as commercially and critically successful as the beloved book itself. Starring in the film alongside Meryl Streep, Eastwood plays a photographer in the 1960s who wanders into the life of a humble housewife for four days and changes her perspective on life. 

A charming love story, the film earned Streep her tenth Oscar nomination and enjoyed a respectable run at the box office despite it being a change of course for Eastwood’s often violent films.

4. Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002)

Not dissimilar from his role in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage starred in Adaptation from Spike Jonze, an ingenious film in which Cage portrayed two sides of the same Hollywood screenwriter struggling to adapt a novel to the silver screen. Truly showing off, Cage often acts against his own reflection as well as Meryl Streep who stars as the strange and sinister writer of the novel in question. 

Streep’s role is not an easy one to play, and indeed Jonze’s film is not entirely straightforward either, but with both Cage and Streep at the helm, it’s an utter triumph.

3. Silkwood (Mike Nichols, 1983)

Enjoying great success throughout the 1980s, Streep jumped from her success with Alan J. Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice straight to Mike Nichols’ celebrated movie, Silkwood. The biographical drama follows Streep as Karen Silkwood, a worker at a plutonium processing plant who is purposefully contaminated and psychologically tortured to prevent her from leaking safety violations from within the plant. 

A thrilling drama, Streep flourishes in the intriguing lead role, with the film benefiting greatly from her performance as well as Kurt Russell’s. 

2. Kramer Vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979)

The wrought emotional drama Kramer vs. Kramer is a well-known classic about a work-obsessed Manhattan advertising executive who is forced to learn long-neglected parenting skills after his wife leaves him. This develops into a bitter custody battle over the child that reveals some harsh scars left behind by their marriage. 

This film is made by its performances, with the dynamic of Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman making for a formidable duo, making this emotional drama into something energetic and dynamic. It certainly helped that the movie was directed and written by the three-time Oscar winner Robert Benton. 

1. Sophie’s Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 1982)

There is no better film in Meryl Streep’s filmography than Sophie’s Choice, a brutal post-war drama that sees the actor play the leading character, a woman who is forced to live with the unthinkable decision of saving her son or her young daughter. Winning Streep an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress, the Oscar was well-deserved to say the very least, with the ‘choice’ scene alone being worthy of tremendous praise.

Shining alongside Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol, Streep gives an exceptional performance in this drama, making it one of the most interesting post-war tales in cinema history.