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Meryl Streep’s 10 best roles

On her 71st birthday, we look back at the legacy of one of Hollywood's greatest stars.

By Will Stroude

US President Donald Trump once said 21-time Academy Award nominee Meryl Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood”.

US President Donald Trump needs an education (and not for the first time).

Emmeline Pankhurst – Suffragette (2015)

  Although she’s only on screen for a matter of minutes, Streep commands the screen as one of the most heroic women of all time. When she gives her major speech under threat of arrest you can feel the air crackle and the hair stands up on the back of your neck.

Merylism: “We are fighting for a time in which every little girl born into the world will have an equal chance with her brothers. Never underestimate the power we women have to define our own destinies! We do not want to be law breakers, we want to be law makers!”

Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada (2006)


Quite possibly the most deliciously camp turn since Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, Meryl plays the meanest boss in the history of fashion or cinema. The speech about the cerulean belt is still ringing in our brains.

Merylism: “You have no sense of fashion… no, no that wasn’t a question…”

Suzanne Vale – Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Essentially playing Carrie Fisher at the height of her fame as a wildly unbalanced drug and love addict, this is one of the best films ever made about Hollywood or addiction. Meryl sparring with her mom Shirley MacLaine is even camper than our next choice. Yes, really.

Merylism: “Flowers? Who died?… Aw, they’re from the guy who pumped my stomach…”

Madeline Ashton – Death Becomes Her (1992)

Meryl plays a bitter actoress sick of her husband and the ageing process. She stumbles across a cure for getting older but all is not as it seems. Full of campy oneliners and special effects, this is so much fun it’s almost impossible.

Merylism: “You’re a fraud, Helen, a walking lie. And I can see… right through you!”

Violet Weston – August Osage County (2013)


The movie of the smash hit Broadway play was not the uber success it might have been but Meryl’s turn as the pill popping matriarch from hell shows off her acting at it’s ferocious best. It’s literally ALL. ABOUT. MERYL.

Merylism: “Everybody listen: I’m a drug addict. I love drugs! Especially pills. Especially downers. You see these little blue babies? These are my best fuckin’ friends and they never let me down. You try to get them away from me and I’ll eat ya alive!”

Sister Aloysius – Doubt (2008)


The film adaptation of the John Patrick Shanley play sees Meryl as an angry, spirited Bronx born Catholic nun and school principal who believes Philip Seymour Hoffman’s priest is abusing boys. She’s certain he is and determined to stop him. He’s adamant he is innocent…

Merylism: “I will do what needs to be done though I’m damned to hell! You should understand that or you will have mistaken me!”

Clarissa Vaughan – The Hours (2002)


As a lesbian woman coping with her friend’s AIDS-related illness, Meryl gives a poignant and moving portrayal of how AIDS affected not just those with the illness but the people close to them.


“I remember thinking to myself this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course, there’ll always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was the moment. Right then.”

Francesca Johnson – The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Meryl plays an Italian-American woman who has an extra marital affair while her husband is away. Poignant, pained and desperately romantic, Meryl plays the moral outsider and faces her own and her community’s judgment.

Merylism: “And in that moment, everything I knew to be true about myself up until then was gone. I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before.”

Lindy Chamberlian – A Cry in the Dark (1988)


Tough and cold, in this true story, Meryl plays a mother who claimed her baby had been eaten by wild dingos in the Australian out back – but faced two trials – in a court of law and also by media.

Merylism: “A dingo stole my bay-bee!”

Karen Silkwood – Silkwood (1983)  

The gripping true story of a worker at a plutonium processing plant who faced the consequences of blowing the whistle on unsafe working practices, Meryl stars alongside Cher. Yes. Really. Don’t thank us.

Merylism: “My urine sample container! Somebody put plutonium in my urine sample container!”

Overrated? We think not, Don…