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18 Great Comedy Lead Performances By Women

18 Great Comedy Lead Performances By Women

This weekend, go see “Trainwreck.” Partly because, according to our review, it’s one of Judd Apatow‘s “most hilarious films to date.” Partly because it boasts a host of wondrous supporting roles from John Cena, LeBron James, and Tilda Swinton (and when’s the next time we’re going to get to list off that particular triumvirate?). But partly too, go see “Trainwreck” because it stars (and was written by) Amy Schumer, making it a film that unapologetically features a relatively rare bird: a comedic lead role for a woman. Now, while obviously in the last few years a few more of these have been rising to the surface, a lot due to the brilliant “Bridesmaids” and the depth and breadth of that ensemble who’ve all gone on to great things, it is by no means a movie category that is overflowing, especially if you consider the following “rules”: the female actor has to be a lead  that is to have top or equal-top billing; she has to actually make jokes, and not just be their object or the pretty thing that the funny male lead gets to lust after; and we’re talking primarily comedies (mostly studio comedies too), rather than romantic comedies, black comedies, or satires, which are often not particularly funny, and have an agenda other than merely to make you laugh.

Suddenly, the landscape feels a bit emptier, when you realize how many of the great female comedy performances you love probably don’t fit all those criteria  even some of our favorite comic actresses didn’t make it onto this list because they’d never had an actual lead, or when they did it was in some sappy rom-com. But to celebrate the arrival of an inarguable and most welcome addition to this canon, we’ve put together this list of 18 women who embodied 18 great lead roles in comedies dating from right now, back through the last seven-and-a-half decades of movie history.

Sandra Bullock  “The Heat”
With new comedy powerhouse Melissa McCarthy earning her own entry on this list, it was a slight surprise to us that when we considered which Sandra Bullock role to include (and let’s face it, she was never not going to be here), we opted for her recent co-lead with McCarthy in “The Heat.” But while the “Miss Congeniality“s and “The Proposal”s and “Two Weeks Notice“s of the world are more centrally Bullock vehicles, the fact is it simply feels like she’s getting better all the time, and “The Heat” saw her raise her game once more in response to a wittier script and superb chemistry with her co-star. If we contrast this role with the surface-similar part in makeover movie “Miss Congeniality,” it’s also just a much funnier turn, despite being kind of the straight-guy role, deriving its humor less from awkwardness and insecurity and more from her character’s stubborn, bloody-minded professionalism, casting the blooming buddy dynamic between the women as the single most important relationship within the film, which is touching and unusual. And also hilarious.
Most Memorable Moment: It’s a straight-man gag for Bullock, but the way she delivers, “You mean ‘curtains’?” to McCarthy’s character, who has apparently never seen such things before, is perfection.

Cameron Diaz  “There’s Something About Mary”
Diaz had already played the smoking hot object of desire in one big comedy hit, “The Mask,” but her turn as the titular Mary in the Farrellys‘ best and funniest film (we will argue till dawn about this, “Dumb and Dumber” fans) is the one that made everyone realize she was not just gorgeous and game, but actually funny herself. Underpinning her Mary, with whom everyone in the film is in love, with an edge of unselfconscious dorkiness is a great choice, that, of course, just makes her even more lovable and even more relatable. Her most famous and iconic “gag” is one that is not so much from her as on her  the mistaking of semen for hair gel  but while there are plenty of opportunities to laugh at her, there are even more so to laugh with her: she is usually, sparklingly, in on the joke. Diaz showed the kind of triple threat status here  sexy and funny and smart  that she’s rarely been able to fully express since.
Most Memorable Moment: The date scene with her ridiculous hair is probably the best-remembered part of the film overall, but for her performance, we’re going to go with her taking a leaf from her dad (Keith David!) and after casually torturing Ben Stiller‘s Ted, deadpanning, “I’m fucking with you, Ted.”

Greta Garbo  “Ninotchka”
“Garbo Laughs!” went the tagline to Ernst Lubitsch’s “Ninotchka,” a nod to both the “Garbo Talks!” tagline for the silent goddess’s sound debut in 1930’s “Anna Christie,” and to her rather serious screen persona before then. Garbo wasn’t the only laughing, it would turn out: among a career that produced some of the best screen comedies ever, “Ninotchka” is one of Lubitsch’s finest hours. The Swedish star plays the title character, an envoy from the Soviet Union in Paris to flog jewelry taken from the aristocracy in the revolution, only to fall for Melvyn Douglas’s Count Leon, who plans to reclaim the jewelry for its previous owner. In her initial appearances, she’s as frosty as you might imagine from her previous roles, but as both Douglas and the joys of capitalism (you can’t deny that the film’s serious propaganda, but would that all propaganda was as much fun as this), she becomes warm to the point of luminosity, all the more impressive for it being so against type. It’s an incredibly game performance, and one that makes you wish that Garbo had had more opportunity to tackle lighter fare (she only made one more movie before retirement).
Most Memorable Moment:
Ninotchka: “I’m only interested in the shortest distance between these two points. Must you flirt?”
Leon: “I don’t have to, but I find it natural.”
Ninotchka: “Suppress it.” (It’s in the way she says it…)
Whoopi Goldberg  “Sister Act”
Goldberg’s first go-round in a habit is by no means a great film, and it’s possibly not even the most cherishable comedy role in her long career (her supporting turn in “Ghost” might take that crown, while some of us also have a weirdly deep love for “Jumping Jack Flash“), but it is a great example of a comedic performer making a lot out of very little. In fact, she takes a rather formulaic “good-time gal on the run from gangsters” plot and makes it pretty close her iconic, signature role. Of course it’s down to the high concept of the earthy, even bawdy Goldberg masquerading as a pious Bride of Christ, but it’s her distinctive presence that saves the film from becoming all-out sap, as Delores will always be ready with a wisecrack, a pop-culture reference, or a double entendre aside. That, for all her sass, she turns out to have a heart of gold isn’t exactly one for the Book of Revelations, but Goldberg’s salty presence, amid a strong supporting cast, keeps “Sister Act” from going off the rails until the very end (the less said about the sequel, the better).
Most Memorable Moment: We’d love to say it’s something more cerebral, but Goldberg in her nun’s garb praying in pig Latin to distract her assailant and then kicking him in the crotch is pretty much our abiding image from “Sister Act” and we’re not going to apologize for it.

Goldie Hawn  “Private Benjamin”
Dispiritingly, it’s 13 years since we’ve seen Goldie Hawn on screen (“The Banger Sisters” in 2002 was her last appearance), a sad reflection of how Hollywood treats older actresses. Perhaps people need to remind themselves of her work, which stretches back to “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In” in the 1960s, an Oscar for “Cactus Flower,” but which might peak, as a comic performer, with 1980’s “Private Benjamin,” one of her biggest hits. Howard Zieff’s film sees the star plays Judy Benjamin, a woman whose whole life has been building towards marrying “a professional man,” only for her husband (a cameo-ing Albert Brooks) to die on their wedding night. Left adrift, she’s talked into joining the Army by a recruiter, and though she’s initially dismissed by both her commanding officers, her colleagues, and her world outside, she finds her inner strength instead. The film’s final act is a bit rote, but Hawn carries the film throughout, finding the right balance between naive and smart, and never losing track of the reality of the character. Anna Faris and Rebel Wilson have been linked to remakes in recent years, and while they’re both enormously talented, we can’t imagine anyone being Private Benjamin as well as Hawn.
Most Memorable Moment: We’re especially fond of Benjamin being told that she has to keep training until she pukes, only to immediately stick her fingers down her throat and do just that.

Katharine Hepburn  “Bringing Up Baby”
From the earliest days of the screwball comedy, with “It Happened One Night” (Claudette Colbert’s performance in that being another tremendous one), the dynamic was a straight-laced guy paired with a free-spirited, crazy woman, and given that performances like Katharine Hepburn’s in “Bringing Up Baby” were the result, it’s a formula we wish the genre had returned to more often. Howard Hawks’ film stars Cary Grant as a paleontologist who meets Hepburn’s Susan, the niece of a wealthy woman he’s trying to get a donation out of, on the eve of his wedding. Marching very much to the beat of her own drum, thanks in part to the pet leopard of the title, she’s an agent of chaos who successfully blows up Grant’s life, and makes him fall in love with her in the process. Hepburn was a killer comic force in plenty of movies before and since, including multiple roles with Grant, and many more with real-life partner Spencer Tracy (“Adam’s Rib” being a particular favorite of ours), but her easy presence, her disarming ability with physical comedy, and her almost supernatural sense of comic timing were never better deployed than here.
Most Memorable Moment: She’s great throughout “Bringing Up Baby,” but perhaps our favorite moment is a little one, when she for no particular reason, impersonates the talking clock on the telephone.  

Judy Holliday  “Born Yesterday”
The novel idea of putting the dumb blonde trophy girlfriend/mistress character so beloved of gangster films front and center of her own story is already a slyly compelling one, but putting squeaky-voiced Judy Holliday in that role and standing back is really where the genius lies in George Cukor‘s 1950 classic. Based on the stage play of the same name, Holliday plays Billie, the prickly, crude, Bronx-accented girlfriend of Broderick Crawford‘s lunkish mobster. Convinced that she’s showing him up with how dumb and uncultured she is (he’s no refined sage himself) he hires a teacher for her, in the comely shape of a bespectacled William Holden. Holliday’s inherent sweetness and wicked timing means Billie’s journey from ditzy kook to smart cookie, and her journey to self-respect via books and Abraham Lincoln, whether or not she ends up with Holden, is one of the gentlest but most satisfying personal liberation narratives that the notoriously conformist 1950s would serve any of its leading ladies. She won the Best Actress Oscar too  itself a rare feat for a comic role, and she was up against Bette Davis for “All About Eve” and Gloria Swanson for “Sunset Boulevard.”
Most Memorable Moment: Any of the gin rummy games that Billie invariably wins. During one she even hums/screeches, “I can’t give you anything but love, baby,” the song that features so heavily in “Bringing up Baby

Holly Hunter  “Raising Arizona”
“I had to write a part for Holly Hunter, I didn’t care what the eff it is,” said Zack Snyder this weekend, talking about her appearance in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice.” Whatever the “Man of Steel” director’s other flaws are, he does at least have excellent taste in actresses: despite an Oscar and decades of great performances, we don’t see enough of Hunter on screen these days, and particularly in the kind of comedies in which she first emerged. In the year in which she broke out as an essential unknown, she starred in two of the best comedies of the 1980s. She rightly won an Oscar nod for a textured, glorious lead turn in James L. Brooks’ “Broadcast News,” but she might be even better in the Coens’ “Raising Arizona.” The brothers’ second movie, a knockabout comedy in which Hunter’s cop, Ed, and her bank-robbing husband, Hi (Nicolas Cage), unable to have a child of their own, kidnap one of a set of quintuplets from a wealthy family, shouldn’t work. A mix of Looney Tunes, Faulkner, and Preston Sturges: that it does so well comes down in large part to Hunter’s performance. Louder and bigger than her tiny frame might suggest, she’s driven, badass, fast-talking, and has perfect coming timing. Can the Coens please write a new role for her?
Most Memorable Moment: Any time that Ed cries: few actresses could make the act as simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking as Hunter can.

Diane Keaton  “Annie Hall”
Lah-di-dah. How much Woody Allen‘s conception of Annie Hall is actually Diane (a.k.a. Annie) Keaton (nee Hall) is by now pretty much moot, as seldom has there been a character and an actress that have conflated in such a holistic way. Maybe even more extraordinary is that the role has not become a prison for Keaton subsequently  Annie is so real and feels like such an entire person that it’s impossible to typecast. She’s also genuinely, to-the-marrow, funny in her delivery of Allen’s quotable ripostes, but also in everything he could not have written: her lived-in mannerisms, her hesitations, her odd line readings. It’s actually Alvy’s (Allen) head that we spend the most time in, but Keaton embodies Annie so thoroughly that it somehow feels like it’s her we know best, and, oddly, in this very funny film, through this exceptionally brilliant, but lighthearted performance, Allen perhaps came closest to the kind of depth he longed to achieve in his more serious films. That’s because the best jokes always have a kernel of truth to them, and Keaton’s Annie Hall is simply one of the truest characters ever.
Most Memorable Moment: Lobsters, subtitles, there are a lot of classic moments, but for Keaton we’ll go with that first awkward encounter after the tennis match, in which we are all, like Alvy, instantly in love with her.

Elaine May  “A New Leaf”
A notoriously troubled production from Elaine May’s short directorial catalogue (here’s our retrospective), if this is what was left after significant studio butchery, we’d love to see the director’s cut. Partly because we’d presumably get a new take on May’s own performance  which is already one we absolutely love  as the sappy, clumsy, dowdy heiress whom Walter Matthau marries for her money. Her Henrietta is a performance of great physical comedy as much as anything else  May makes getting into a sports car a hilariously inelegant side-gag  but she’s also shot through with a kind of cockeyed sweetness, and an innocence that makes you root for her, not just to survive her husband’s murderous intent, but to somehow win the bastard over. We can only wish there were more of her, and less of Matthau’s sour-spirited playboy (despite Matthau being a guy we can never get our fill of usually).
Most Memorable Moment:
Henry: “Tell me about yourself, Miss Lowell  your work, your hopes, your dreams.”
Henrietta: “I work as a teacher and I also do field work and write monographs. My hope is to discover a new variety of fern that has never been described or classified. I don’t know what my dream is. Do you think it could be the same as my hope? Well, at any rate, that is my work and my hope except for my dream, which I’m not sure of.”

Melissa McCarthy  “Spy”
Yes, it’s still in theaters, but as we’ve already written at length about why we think that Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Paul Feig’s “Spy” is deserving of awards recognition, it seems fair to include it as part of a list of great female comedy performances. McCarthy had already been the standout in “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” (as well, to a letter extent, in “Identity Thief”), but “Spy,” in which she plays Susan Cooper, an undervalued CIA analyst forced into the field to bring down an arms dealer, represents the best showcase so far for a scorching talent. The film mostly abandons her brash, don’t-give-a-fuck persona from earlier pictures in favor of a character turned in on herself: sad, downtrodden and with virtually no self-belief. But that’s just the first iteration of Susan Cooper. As the film goes on, she takes on and sheds subtle variations of her character, maintaining a continuity while also letting us track her journey towards being someone with an earned self-confidence, blossoming after forty years on Earth. In many ways, it’s a metaphor for McCarthy’s surprising path to megastardom: that she can do all this and be hilarious throughout is sort of remarkable.
Most Memorable Moment: McCarthy’s deft 180 degree turn on the plane as she pretends to be a foul-mouthed bodyguard, consistently and hilariously insulting Rose Byrne’s Rayna, might be her finest hour here.

Ellen Page  “Juno”
As is so often the way, “Juno” went from underdog festival hit to unexpected smash to Oscar nominee, and then straight into a backlash that’s lasted for quite some time. And it’s a damn shame, because Jason Reitman’s second movie, and the breakout of star screenwriter Diablo Cody, is a smarter and richer film than those who dismissed it for its hip dialogue and indie soundtrack give it credit for, not least because of the starmaking central turn by Ellen Page. The young Canadian actress (who’d terrified a year or two previously in “Hard Candy”) plays the title character, a whip-smart teen who unexpectedly finds herself pregnant by best bud, Michael Cera, and decides to give the future-child up for adoption to golden couple Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Cody’s rat-a-tat, pop-culture-reference-filled dialogue isn’t something every actor can pull off (Exhibit A: “Jennifer’s Body”), especially at this density, but it’s seemingly made for Page, whose low-key, understated, consistently unexpected deliveries, like a sort of adorable Daria, makes the script sing like poetry. She’s consistently funny, and then heartbreaking when her faith in the adoptive parents is broken, when the weight of her decision catches her, and when she realizes she loves Cera, and all the film’s acclaim was worth it just for her.
Most Memorable Moment:
Vanessa: “Your parents are probably wondering where you are.”
Juno: “Nah… I mean, I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?”

Rosalind Russell  “His Girl Friday”
Simply the never-bettered template for fast-talking, wisecracking career gals, Rosalind Russell’s Hildy Johnson, in Howard Hawks‘ genius retelling of “The Front Page,” is dissuaded from marrying her doting fiance Bruce (Ralph Bellamy, playing the patsy/cuckold role again so brilliantly), manipulated back into a tempestuous marriage to her ex-husband (Cary Grant, the greatest), and tricked into returning to a job she believed she was done with. And yet somehow, Russell’s performance, and the naturally egalitarian chemistry she shares with Grant, makes it feel like her arc is one of personal, professional, and romantic fulfillment. There’s a no-nonsense solidity to the gorgeous Russell that is not something many actresses of the time could have brought, as well as a facility with the language that means that even when she doesn’t get the zinger lines, it often feels like she “wins” the rapid-fire, breathlessly verbal confrontations. Perhaps a lot of the writing of Hildy Johnson reflects that her character in “The Front Page” was a man, but the performance is its own kind of feminine, whipsmart and sexy, and unashamed of both those qualities.
Most Memorable Moment:
Bruce: “He’s not the man for you. I can see that. But I sort of like him. He’s got a lot of charm.”
Hildy: “Well, he comes by it naturally  his grandfather was a snake.”

Meg Ryan  “When Harry Met Sally”
Though the inverse was often true in the early days of the genre, the more recent iterations of the romantic comedy have all too often given most of the jokes and gags to the male lead, refusing to let the female lead in on most of the fun. Not so in “When Harry Met Sally,” perhaps the single most influential rom-com of the past several decades, and probably the best too. Penned by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner near the end of his great 1980s run, it pairs up Billy Crystal’s wisecracking ladies’ man, Harry, with Ryan’s more uptight, Type-A, Sally, and follows their friendship, and eventual romance, over many years, and while that’s a familiar dynamic, the film’s rare in giving Ryan as much time to bloom as the more comedically-experienced Crystal. Sure, to begin with she’s prickly and prim, but almost immediately Ephron’s script and Ryan’s luminous, star-making performance give her layers and layers beyond that, and as many of the film’s big laughs come from her neurotic, vivacious fizz as they do from Crystal’s Catskills charms. Plenty of rom-coms have tried to be “When Harry Met Sally” since, but none have succeeded, in large part because they didn’t have Meg Ryan.
Most Memorable Moment: “I’ll have what she’s having.” Obviously.

Jenny Slate  “Obvious Child”
So, it’s a little early to say if Slate’s turn in last year’s refreshingly spiky indie hit from writer/director Gillian Robespierre will stand the test of time the way, say, “Ninotchka” has, but if we were going to lay money on any 2014 female comedy lead, it might well be this one. Partly because, a little like Amy Schumer‘s show, it’s so confrontationally, unapologetically taboo-breaking about certain aspects of the female experience, most obviously abortion, but also sex and messiness and a generally juvenile outlook that is far more often ascribed to the cinematic man-child. But “Obvious Child” is also surprisingly warm-hearted, for all its hard edges, and turns out to be one of the most understated but appealing of romances to boot, a lot down Slate’s often unlikable but never unlovable performance. Oh, and not to bury the lede, but a film this bouncy, enjoyable and clear-eyed about the still-toxic issue of abortion is little short of revolutionary, in its sweet-natured, foulmouthed, and dirty-minded way.
Most Memorable Moment: Slate’s so great here that she can take a scene that’s essentially become a cliche and deliver the definitively most hilarious version of it  witness the majesty of the repeated, increasingly drunken, maudlin sorry/not sorry voicemail messages she leaves her now-ex in a quick-cut montage outlining her monumental self-pity party.

Emma Stone  “Easy A”
These days, she’s a superheroic foil, a Broadway musical star, a Woody Allen muse, and an Oscar nominee, but five years ago, Emma Stone kicked off her career as a leading lady with “Easy A,” and though she’s made better films since, she’s never given such a tour-de-force performance as she is here. In a very, very loose riff on “The Scarlet Letter,” Stone plays Olive, a bookworm teen with the greatest parents in cinema history (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, who deserve a spin-off of some kind), who tells a white lie about losing her virginity, continues to fib in order to help misfit classmates look like they’re getting some, and ends up at the center of a scandal. Will Gluck’s film (written by Bert V. Royal) gets a bit judge-y towards the end, almost simultaneously as it runs out of narrative steam, but Stone’s magnetic throughout. Goofy and managing to pull off playing both wise-beyond-her-years and out-of-her-depth-teen at the same time, she takes the screen like she was born to play a leading lady, equal parts Hepburn and Lucille Ball. It says something that the film’s teaser trailer was just Stone miming to a Natasha Bedingfield song, and the film still proved a sleeper smash.
Most Memorable Moment: The “Pocketful Of Sunshine” scene still kills, but Stone is best when trading quips with her folks: we could watch her, Clarkson, and Tucci all day.

Kristen Wiig  “Bridesmaids”
There’s not really a duff performance in Paul Feig‘s sublime “Bridesmaids,” which didn’t so much lay to rest the old “women can’t be funny” wrongism, as squat on it in a street in a wedding dress and, well, we all know how that ends. In fact, it’s one of its major achievements that all its massive ensemble get to be individually funny, nary a “straight man” in sight. But it’s also unusual in that the lead, played by Wiig, gets to drive so much of the humor herself  it’s not just a situational thing, the gags come from well-observed truths about a character written to be flawed, funny, and oddly aspirational too. Wiig, who co-wrote the script with Annie Mumulo, manages to embody all those qualities  her Annie Walker does sexy, sarcastic, and slapstick, and sometimes all three at once as in the ludicrous sex scene with Jon Hamm. It’s a role that also investigated and celebrated the whole gamut of female relationships better than many more serious-minded dramas on the subject. In fact, the only difficulty is working out if we want to be Annie’s best friend, to be Annie’s mortal enemy, or to be Annie herself: Wiig’s irresistible, star-making performance makes all three options equally appealing.
Most Memorable Moment: The film’s chock full of great moments, but the climactic passive-aggressive speech-off between Wiig and an equally brilliant Rose Byrne is a masterclass.

Reese Witherspoon  “Election” (and “Legally Blonde”)
The Reese-naissance that began with “Wild” sadly didn’t quite continue with this summer’s underwhelming “Hot Pursuit,” which is odd, given that Ms. Witherspoon began her career as perhaps the most talented comic actress to emerge since Sandra Bullock half-a-decade or so earlier. It began (after a gleefully demented turn in grindhouse fairytale “Freeway”), with Alexander Payne’s “Election,” a wonderfully poisonous satire that also works as a high-school comedy, which pits Witherspoon’s ferociously ambitious Stepford teen against Matthew Broderick’s harassed teacher over a high school election. All clipped tones, rehearsed smile, and dead eyes, it was an immediately iconic performance that, though the film went unseen at the time, became a launching pad for her in a big way. Two years later, it paid off with a very different role in “Legally Blonde,” a sort of 21st century spin on “Born Yesterday,” in which she played Elle Woods, a shallow, Barbie-like doofus who enrolls in Harvard Law School. It’s decidedly imperfect, but also a quietly feminist, deceptively smart kind of broad comedy, and Witherspoon’s deft performance proves to be not only funny, but also unexpectedly moving as she finds a purpose beyond just finding a man.
Most Memorable Moment: Is it odd to say the narration? Witherspoon’s physicality (her sort of puzzled squint is amazing) is great, but many of the best bits of the film come from her self-deluded, occasionally unhinged voiceover.

Some of the female-led black comedy and satire titles that we were close to including were Thora Birch for “Ghost World“; Nicole Kidman in “To Die For”; Kathleen Turner in “Serial Mom” and/or “The War of the Roses“; Bette Davis in “All About Eve” (more a drama really); Winona Ryder in “Heathers“; Ruth Gordon in “Harold & Maude“; while Greta Gerwig in “Frances Ha” feels just too indie in comparison to our “Trainwreck”-influenced model.

That said, there were of course many who fit all out criteria and could well have made the list another day. We’re slightly aghast not to have found room for a Lily Tomlin performance, though which it would have been from “All of Me,” “9 to 5,” or “Big Business” is hard to judge; Anna Kendrick’s turn in “Pitch Perfect” came close; Anna Faris has had some appealing leads, but none quite cut it for us; Carole Lombard could be here for any of “To Be or Not To Be,” Twentieth Century,” or “My Man Godfrey,” while her contemporaries Myrna Loy, Irene Dunne, and Claudette Colbert also came close with several titles each. Renee Zellwegger might feel a little snubbed over “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” a performance we do all like; while TV comedy giants Tina Fey and Amy Poehler haven’t quite done it for us in leading roles on the big screen…yet. Rose Byrne is the secret comedy weapon in everything she’s been in of late, but aside from in the very good “Neighbors,” she has not been the lead per se; Queen Latifah is a tremendously funny presence in a lot of substandard films; Barbara Streisand could have edged in for “What’s Up Doc“; and Cher nearly bypassed our anti-rom-com rule with her great turn in “Moonstruck.”

Meanwhile Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like it Hot“; Jeannie Berlin in “The Heartbreak Kid“; Jean Hagen in “Singing in the Rain“; Jennifer Tilly and Dianne Wiest both in “Bullets over Broadway“; were the performances we most adore that just felt not quite “lead” enough to qualify for this list.

Tell us your own favorites in the comments below. And let us know if you think Amy Schumer’s turn in “Trainwreck” belongs here too. 

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