Ask an Alexa device, “Who is the greatest living actress?” and the answer you’ll get is Meryl Streep. That’s how widely revered the three-time Academy Award winner is, although a handful of film critics and movie fans may disagree. In particular, she is heralded for her versatility — moving easily from drama to comedy — and her mastery of accents. She can also belt out a song when the production is a musical.
With an astonishing 21 Oscar nominations, Streep far outpaces the next two actors on the list, Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, who have 12 nominations each. Hepburn won four times, Nicholson three.
Streep is even more of a favorite with the Golden Globe Awards, racking up 32 nominations for film and television roles. She’s taken home the trophy eight times and was presented the Cecil B. de Mille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment” in 2017.
When she didn’t receive a nomination in 2020 for either “The Prom” or “Let Them All Talk,” some entertainment journalists deemed it an unexpected “snub.” Check out the 20 most decorated Golden Globe winners of all time.)
The ranking is based on an index of IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings. IMDb is an online movie database owned by Amazon. Rotten Tomatoes is an online movie and TV review aggregator. Only the roughly 5,000 feature films with 25,000 reviews or more on IMDb were considered for this analysis. Each movie’s movie theater ticket (domestic box office) was obtained from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services.
29. Lions for Lambs (2007)
> Fellow leads: Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Michael PeÃ±a
> Director: Robert Redford
> Domestic box office: $15.00 million
In this 2007 war drama focused on the U.S. involvement in Iraq, Streep plays TV journalist Janine Roth who interviews a U.S. senator played by Tom Cruise about his plan to win the war on terror.
28. The Giver (2014)
> Fellow leads: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift
> Director: Phillip Noyce
> Domestic box office: $45.09 million
In this social science fiction film, Streep plays the Chief Elder of a closed society in which pain, suffering, joy, love and other emotions have been removed from the human experience. Only one person holds memories of the past and now it’s time for those memories to be passed along to a younger person.
27. The Ant Bully (2006)
> Fellow leads: Paul Giamatti, Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts
> Director: John A. Davis
> Domestic box office: $28.14 million
In this animated fantasy comedy, Streep voices the role of Queen, who rules an anthill that comes under attack by a little boy.
26. Prime (2005)
> Fellow leads: Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg, Jon Abrahams
> Director: Ben Younger
> Domestic box office: $22.83 million
In this romantic comedy, Streep plays Lisa Metzger, the therapist for a divorced 37-year-old woman who is pursuing a career as a painter. Metzger encourages her patient to date a younger man until she finds out that the man in question is her son.
25. The Iron Lady (2011)
> Fellow leads: Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Susan Brown
> Director: Phyllida Lloyd
> Domestic box office: $29.96 million
In an Academy Award-winning performance, Streep plays Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to be British prime minister. The biographical drama includes such events as the Brixton riot, the bombing of the Grand Hotel and the Falklands War.
24. The River Wild (1994)
> Fellow leads: Kevin Bacon, David Strathairn, Joseph Mazzello
> Director: Curtis Hanson
> Domestic box office: $46.82 million
In this adventure thriller, Streep plays Gail Hartman, who embarks on a river rafting trip with her husband and son. They encounter some strangers who seem friendly at first, before it becomes clear that they are violent criminals. Streep received Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for this role.
23. Into the Woods (2014)
> Fellow leads: Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt
> Director: Rob Marshall
> Domestic box office: $128.00 million
In this Stephen Sondheim musical, Streep plays a witch who forces a baker and his wife to embark on an unusual scavenger hunt to reverse a curse. Streep received Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for the role.
22. Death Becomes Her (1992)
> Fellow leads: Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn, Isabella Rossellini
> Director: Robert Zemeckis
> Domestic box office: $58.42 million
In this black comedy fantasy, Streep plays Madeline Ashton Menville, a narcissistic actress whose desire for eternal life leads to all sorts of bizarre events. Streep was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for this role.
21. It’s Complicated (2009)
> Fellow leads: Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski
> Director: Nancy Meyers
> Domestic box office: $112.74 million
In this romantic comedy, Streep plays Jane Adler, a divorced bakery owner who falls into an affair with her ex-husband when they attend their son’s college graduation. This is problematic because the ex-husband is married to a younger woman. Streep was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for this role.
20. Mamma Mia! (2008)
> Fellow leads: Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård
> Director: Phyllida Lloyd
> Domestic box office: $144.13 million
In this boisterous musical built around the songs of ABBA, Streep plays Donna Sheridan, a single mother who is confronted with questions about her daughter’s paternity just as her daughter is about to get married on a Greek island. Streep received a Golden Globe nomination for this role.
19. Hope Springs (2012)
> Fellow leads: Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Jean Smart
> Director: David Frankel
> Domestic box office: $63.54 million
In this romantic comedy, Streep plays Kay Soames, who books herself and her husband into a weeklong marriage retreat as a way to reignite the spark. Their efforts fail to immediately catch fire. Streep received a Golden Globe Award nomination for this role.
18. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
> Fellow leads: Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Liam Aiken
> Director: Brad Silberling
> Domestic box office: $118.63 million
In this black comedy based on the “Lemony Snicket” book series, Streep plays Aunt Josephine, who for a period of time has to care for two nieces and a nephew after their parents are killed in a fire. Since no good deed goes unpunished, she finds herself in her own dire straits.
17. August: Osage County (2013)
> Fellow leads: Dermot Mulroney, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis
> Director: John Wells
> Domestic box office: $37.74 million
In this American tragicomedy based on the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Streep plays Violet Weston, a strong-willed Oklahoma woman who has oral cancer and is addicted to narcotics. Her sister and daughters gather around her after her husband, an alcoholic poet, disappears in a particularly hot August. Streep was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award in this role.
16. The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
> Fellow leads:
> Director: Jonathan Demme
> Domestic box office: $65.95 million
In this psychological political thriller, a remake of the 1962 film, Streep plays Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, a manipulative, ruthless woman who pushes her son into running for vice president. Streep received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for this role.
15. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
> Fellow leads: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Cher
> Director: Ol Parker
> Domestic box office: $120.63 million
In this sequel to the 2008 musical “Mamma Mia,” Streep reprises her role as Donna Sheridan, who has died since the first move, as her daughter prepares to reopen her hotel on a Greek island.
14. Suffragette (2015)
> Fellow leads: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter
> Director: Sarah Gavron
> Domestic box office: $4.70 million
In this historical drama, Streep portrays women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst in this fictional story about efforts of British women to secure the right to vote.
13. Marvin’s Room (1996)
> Fellow leads: Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro
> Director: Jerry Zaks
> Domestic box office: $12.80 million
In this family drama, Streep plays Lee, a woman who severed ties 20 years earlier with her father, a stroke victim, and her sister, his caretaker. She is drawn back in when her sister finds out she has leukemia. Streep was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in this role.
12. Julie & Julia (2009)
> Fellow leads: Amy Adams, Chris Messina, Stanley Tucci
> Director: Nora Ephron
> Domestic box office: $94.13 million
In a performance that won her a Golden Globe Award, Streep portrays chef Julia Child in the early part of her career. The comedy-drama contrasts Child with a New York blogger who sets out to cook every recipe in the chef’s cookbook.
11. Out of Africa (1985)
> Fellow leads: Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Kitchen
> Director: Sydney Pollack
> Domestic box office: $79.10 million
In this romantic drama set in 20th-century colonial Kenya, Streep plays Karen Blixen, a Danish woman who owns a plantation in Africa. She encounters romance and the challenges of being a landowner. Streep received Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for this role.
10. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
> Fellow leads: Anne Hathaway, Adrian Grenier, Emily Blunt
> Director: David Frankel
> Domestic box office: $124.74 million
In a performance that won her a Golden Globe Award, Streep portrays Miranda Priestly, the tough editor of a New York-based fashion magazine in this comedy based in part on Vogue.
9. Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
> Fellow leads: Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson
> Director: Stephen Frears
> Domestic box office: $27.38 million
In this biographical film, Streep portrays Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who pursued her dreams of a singing career despite her terrible voice. Streep was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award and a SAG Award for this role.
8. The Post (2017)
> Fellow leads: Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk
> Director: Steven Spielberg
> Domestic box office: $81.90 million
In this historical political thriller directed by Steven Spielberg, Streep portrays Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, as reporters and editors scramble to publish the Pentagon Papers, classified documents about the Vietnam War. Streep was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for this role.
7. Doubt (2008)
> Fellow leads: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis
> Director: John Patrick Shanley
> Domestic box office: $33.45 million
In a role that won her a Screen Actors Guild Award, Streep portrays Sister Aloysius, the conservative principal at a Catholics school in the Bronx. She confronts a priest about concerns that he has an inappropriate relationship with one of the students, the only Black boy in the school.
6. The Hours (2002)
> Fellow leads: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane
> Director: Stephen Daldry
> Domestic box office: $41.68 million
Streep plays Clarissa Vaughan in this drama focused on how Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway” has an impact on three generations of women, all who have been touched by suicide. Streep was nominated for a BAFTA Award and a SAG Award for this role.
5. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
> Fellow leads: Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol, Rita Karin
> Director: Alan J. Pakula
> Domestic box office: $30.04 million
In an Oscar-winning performance, Streep plays Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish immigrant living in Brooklyn who has a dark secret from the time she was interned in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
4. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
> Fellow leads: Clint Eastwood, Annie Corley, Victor Slezak
> Director: Clint Eastwood
> Domestic box office: $71.52 million
Streep plays Francesca Johnson, a housewife in mid-1960s rural Iowa when a photographer shows up on her doorstep and causes her to rethink her life choices. She was nominated for an Academy Award and a SAG Award for this role.
3. Adaptation. (2002)
> Fellow leads: Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton
> Director: Spike Jonze
> Domestic box office: $22.50 million
In a performance that won her a Golden Globe Award, Streep portrays the journalist Susan Orlean in a comedy-drama about a writer’s struggles as he tries and fails to adapt Orlean’s book “The Orchid Thief” into a screenplay.
2. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
> Fellow leads: Dustin Hoffman, Jane Alexander, Justin Henry
> Director: Robert Benton
> Domestic box office: $106.26 million
In a performance that brought her first Academy Award, Streep plays Joanna Kramer, a woman who leaves her husband, a workaholic advertising executive played by Dustin Hoffman, and their young son only to return and pursue a fierce custody battle.
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
> Fellow leads: George Clooney, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman
> Director: Wes Anderson
> Domestic box office: $21.00 million
Streep voices the role of Mrs. Fox in this animated comedy that finds Mr. Fox struggling to give up his life as a barnyard thief for safer pursuits.
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