Meryl Streep, the actor with the most Academy Award nominations in history (she’s been nominated a whopping 18 times), turned 65 yesterday. At an age where most actresses struggle to remain relevant in an industry that tries its best to ignore actresses over the age of 50, Streep has gone against the grain by proving she’s still as popular as ever. This year alone she has three films opening: “The Homesman,” “The Giver” and the anticipated film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s beloved musical “Into the Woods.” In honor of her enduring legacy, the Indiewire team has picked their favorite scenes of hers, all of which you can view below. What are some of your favorites? Tell us in the comments section.
Nigel M. Smith, Managing Editor
The Film: “She-Devil”
Why It’s My Favorite: Meryl Streep can do anything. Proof? She can play Margaret Thatcher in
one film and go head-to-head with Roseanne Barr in another. In the
underrated 1989 comedy “She-Devil,” Streep delivers her nuttiest comedic
turn to date as Mary Fisher, a romance novelist with a penchant for
anything pink and muscular pool boys. In this scene, her character
discovers her lover’s been cheating on her with his secretary. What
follows is an epic tantrum that in anybody else’s hands could have
turned into lame farce. In Streep’s, it’s an expertly modulated
breakdown, hilarious in delivery and endlessly re-watchable. Try not hitting the replay button after watching it.
Liz Shannon Miller, TV Editor
The Film: “Death Becomes Her”
Why It’s My Favorite: “Death Becomes Her” is a movie about holding onto the past, at the expense of not just the present but also the future. So there’s something weirdly fitting about this opening musical number, an over-the-top excerpt from Madeline Ashton’s big Broadway moment that mashes together every available genre of show for a gloriously embarrassing mess. Prefaced by comments from an annoyed walk-out crowd, Meryl takes the stage for some singing, dancing, a Marilyn Monroe impression and the dead-since-disco “whoo whoo” noise. Most importantly, she’s utterly convincing as an actress who’s not very good at her job — which, when you consider her innate talent, is an amazing feat.
Eric Kohn, Film Critic
The Film: “Manhattan”
Why It’s My Favorite: You could argue that the city symphony at the start of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” steals the show from its neurotic lead character. But in the minute-long take that tracks Jill (Streep) and Isaac (Allen) on the street as he asks his ex-wife if she’s writing a book about their breakup, it’s the young actress who briefly takes over. In 1979, Streep was on the verge of global success with her Oscar nomination for “The Deer Hunter,” but hardly a marquee name. Still, everything about her distinct combination of fierce attitude and intelligent restraint is conveyed over the course of this brief outdoor exchange. Always one step ahead of Isaac as he pursues her down the street, she constantly shrugs him off with casual asides, but the look at the fluctuations of that face: from disinterest to smug satisfaction and finally utter contempt as Isaac continues to ramble behind her. “Look at you,” she sighs. “You’re so threatened.” And many audiences can surely relate.
Casey Cipriani, Assistant Editor
The Film: “Julie & Julia”
Why It’s My Favorite: There was a brief moment in my life when I considered going to cooking school for exactly the same reason that Streep’s Julia Child expresses in this clip: I love to eat. Streep was so good as Julia Child in 2009’s “Julie & Julia” that I stopped caring about the Julie half of the film; Amy Adams’ character became insufferable until the fabulous Streep came back on screen. She managed to create a representation of Child that captured all of her adorable quirks (the voice, the inflections, her slouching from being so tall) without turning the performance into a caricature. Not only that, her chemistry with Stanley Tucci as husband Paul Child was absolutely adorable. Plus, my god, the food porn in this film is glorious to behold.
Ben Travers, Assistant TV Editor
The Film: “Stuck On You”
Why It’s My Favorite: If anyone can make a cameo the highlight of an already excellent film, it’s Meryl Streep. The Farrelly Brothers’ 2003 comedy starring a never funnier Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear features the directing duo’s signature mix of raunchy humor with genuine heart, and the Streepster’s cameo role fits in perfectly with their M.O. It doesn’t make sense for a three-time Oscar winner to show up for this silly little comedy (that, again, is absolutely terrific), but there she is, doing a song and dance number as herself in a “Bonnie and Clyde” musical to close out the film. She, of course, nails it and continues to prove there’s nothing she can’t do.
Paula Bernstein, Filmmaker Toolkit/Technology Editor
The Film: “Adaptation”
Why It’s My Favorite: Meryl Streep was nominated for an Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress in 2003 for playing a highly fictionalized version of The New Yorker writer, Susan Orlean in Spike Jonze’s “The Orchid Thief,” loosely based on Orlean’s book of the same name. In this scene, her character breaks out of her comfort zone and snorts the magical powder from the elusive ghost orchid. It takes a few beats for the drug to hit, but when it does, Susan loses herself in the acts of brushing her teeth, staring at her toes and re-creating the sound of a dial tone (in harmony with romantic interest, John Laroche, played by Chris Cooper). Though Streep is often lauded for her versatility in taking on different accents and playing characters of varying ages and ethnicities, in this case, she plays a character similar to herself — and still manages to bring the quintessential Streep subtlety to the role. Trust us, there are few things more pleasurable in life than watching Meryl Streep brush her teeth while stoned.
Shipra Gupta, Editorial Assistant
The Film: The Devil Wears Prada”
Why It’s My Favorite: As Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-Chief of Runway, Streep infuses a certain elegance and finesse into the screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s semi-autobiographical chick-lit novel, “The Devil Wears Prada.” Despite the fact that the novel is set in the fashion universe, every character, aside from Priestly (thanks to Streep’s performance), resembles a caricature of their real-life counterparts. Streep simultaneously undermines and reinforces Priestly’s terrifying professional reputation via an even-keel performance. She matches Priestly’s exquisite taste with a certain composure, resulting in a complex portrait of the modern-day professional woman. Had anyone else been cast as Priestly — who is not-so-secretly based on storied Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour — “The Devil Wears Prada” would not carry the same sort of pop culture caché that it does today.
Eric Eidelstein, Intern
The Film: “Kramer Vs. Kramer”
Why It’s My Favorite: “Kramer vs Kramer,” the 1979 film that chronicles the divorce and custody battle between two parents, won a heap of awards following its release. And while the film was a showcase for all three main actors–Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and the young Justin Henry, it’s the drama’s final (and famous) scene that will always constitute as one of Streep’s finest moments.That is saying a lot. After winning the custody battle for her son, Streep’s character ultimately decides to leave him with his father. As she exits their once shared apartment, she asks her ex-husband a surprising question, “How do I look?” He responds “Terrific.” It’s an earth-shattering scene in a even more earth-shattering film. It also won Streep her first Oscar.
Brandon Latham, Intern
The Film: “Doubt”
Why It’s My Favorite: John Patrick Shanley’s self-adapted moral mind bender is based on his own semi-autobiographical play which stars only four characters. When producing the film, casting these four was pivotal to successfully telling the story, and Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep is about as good as you can do. Streep shines as Sister Aloysius, the strict commander of a New York City parochial school. Her confrontations, private vocal battles with the Parish’s Priest played by Hoffman make of some of the best acting in the two monumental careers. Their dialogue is quick and delivery honest as they take turns backing one another into corners, and then go right back on the offensive.
Taylor Lindsay, Intern
The Film: “The River Wild”
Why It’s My Favorite: After Streep charms so effortlessly in several romantic roles, it’s kind of a shock to to see her turn vindictive, grim and savvy in “River Wild.” In this scene she’s become a victim, after a dangerous river trip turns out to reveal more menace in her companions than the river itself. But her verbal threat to Kevin Bacon is far more foreboding than the gun he holds in his hand.
Oliver McMahon, Intern
The Film: “The Iron Lady”
Why It’s My Favorite: Streep time and time again immerses herself completely into a role. She rounds out the characters and is earnestly concerned with all of their particularities. This is clear in her portrayal of former British PM Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Steep humanizes this controversial figure, showing the true complex feeling and thought that transpired in her and how she wasn’t simply void of emotion or care. In The Playlist’s review of the film, James Rocchi wrote “her dissection of Thatcher’s every turn and twitch is the motion-capture performance of the year, albeit one given by an actual human.”