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16 of Meryl Streep’s Most Iconic Roles

Meryl Streep, Oscars

Meryl Streep is the most nominated actor in Oscar history, with 21 nominations and 3 wins throughout her multi-decade career. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actors of our time, starring in some of the most iconic movies Hollywood has ever produced and filling our hearts and homes with unforgettable characters for more than four decades. The seasoned star’s accolade-heavy career champions her as the most nominated actor in the history of the Academy Awards, with a staggering 21 nominations and three well-deserved wins. In honor of the leading lady’s birthday today (June 22), we round up some of Streep’s most memorable roles to date.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Kramer vs. Kramer, Meryl Streep

Kramer vs. Kramer. Photo: Instagram/@movie__dream

This heartwrenching family drama following the fallout of a couple’s difficult divorce and the custody battle over their young son pulls at your heartstrings and explores contemporary social themes, such as familial gender roles and single parenting, in a poignant manner not typically seen on the big screen at that time. Although this wasn’t Streep’s first cinematic role, it’s long regarded as the one that catapulted the up-and-coming actress to stardom—and to her first Oscar triumph.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophie's Choice, Meryl Streep

Sophie’s Choice. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

A critically-acclaimed classic adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name, Sophie’s Choice brings to life the tragic story of a woman who survives the horrors of the Holocaust in one of Streep’s best dramatic performances to date, and she has the Academy Award for Best Actress to attest to that.

Silkwood (1983)

Silkwood, Meryl Streep, Cher

Silkwood. Photo: Instagram/@theacademy

In a harrowing tale based on actual events, Streep plays the role of a whistleblower and labor union activist who vocalizes the unsafe working conditions at the Oklahoma nuclear-plant of which she is a chemical technician at and, in turn, becomes weaved in a life-threatening web of conspiracy. Sharing the screen for the first time with soon-to-become close friend Cher, this duo of Hollywood legends are the complex female protagonists we never knew we needed together.

Falling in Love (1984)

Falling in Love, Meryl Streep

Falling in Love. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

Robert de Niro joins Streep in this timeless depiction of the sometimes easy but usually complicated nature of falling in love, inviting audiences to experience the bittersweet serendipitous circumstances that follow this pair of New Yorkers as they try to make sense of their growing feelings and the consequences giving in to them will have.

Heartburn (1986)

Heartburn, Meryl Streep

Heartburn. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

It’s hard to beat a Nora Ephron romance from the 80s and with an all-star cast of Streep and Jack Nicholson as the leads, this dramedy is a must-watch for fans of clever comebacks and charismatic chemistry.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

Postcards From the Edge, Meryl Streep

Postcards From the Edge. Photo: Instagram/@gabrieleon

Mother-daughter relationships —especially under the spotlight of fame—are not easy to navigate. The late Carrie Fisher who was the daughter of America’s Singin’ in the Rain sweetheart Debbie Reynolds lends her experience in this to write the screenplay of a compelling narrative starring powerhouse talents Shirley MacLaine and Streep.

Death Becomes Her (1992)

Death Becomes Her, Meryl Streep

Death Becomes Her. Photo: Instagram/@invsout

Proving the limitless depth of her multigenre talent, Streep subverts all preconceived expectations and steps outside her award-winning dramas in this over-the-top dark comedy that is heavily innovative in both the storyline and special effects. Comedic veteran Goldie Hawn stars alongside Streep as two rivals who drink a magic elixir to gain eternal youth without realizing the unwelcome side effects of immortality is in fact death.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Bridges of Madison County, Meryl Streep

Bridges of Madison County. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

A love story for the ages, this book-turned-movie-turned-Broadway musical dramatizes a passionate romance between a housewife (Streep) and a traveling photojournalist (Clint Eastwood) that physically lasts four days but emotionally changes the love interests’ lives forever.

Marvin’s Room (1996)

Marvin's Room, Meryl Streep

Marvin’s Room. Photo: Instagram/@miwa_movies

Outlining the story of an estranged family who begins growing closer together tragedy, Marvin’s Room is a heartfelt look at the importance of spending time with your loved ones featuring a young Leonardo DiCaprio as Streep’s son and Oscar-winning Diane Keaton as her sister.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep

The Devil Wears Prada. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

An instant-cult classic that needs no introduction, The Devil Wears Prada continues to inspire fashion enthusiasts and aspiring writers more than a decade later, gifting us with the fiercely intimidating and ambitiously successful Miranda Priestly as the magazine editor who infamously taught us all the trickle-down effects of fashion through a “lumpy” cerulean blue sweater.

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Mamma Mia, Meryl Streep

Mamma Mia! Photo: Instagram/@mammamiamovie

As one of the most widely celebrated musicals of our time, it’s no surprise Mamma Mia! became one of the highest-grossing films of the year, especially with a star-studded ensemble including Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth as the lead characters. Streep wowed audiences with her flawless renditions of the hit numbers that will leave you singing long after the credits (but make sure you stay for the post-credit scene for a groovy treat featuring flamboyant bell-bottoms and a must-watch group number).

Julie & Julia (2009)

Julie & Julia, Meryl Streep

Julie & Julia. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

Renowned culinary expert Julia Child is credited for revolutionizing the gastronomic stratosphere and introducing French cuisine to the wider American public. Streep’s exceptional portrayal of the eccentric chef catalyzed yet another generation of passionate cooks-to-be while Amy Adams’ portrayal of a blogger committed to crafting all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook in 365 days is a reflection of the good and bad times many of us face in the kitchen.

The Iron Lady (2011)

The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep

The Iron Lady. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

In this intimate biopic of the United Kingdom’s first female prime minister, Streep completely transforms into a nostalgic Margaret Thatcher reflecting on her life as a trailblazing politician in her third Oscar-winning performance.

August: Osage County (2013)

August: Osage County, Meryl Streep

August: Osage County. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

This dramedy adapted from a Pulitzer-Prize winning play revolving around a dysfunctional family starring a seasoned cast of thespians, with the emotionally-charged scenes between Streep and Julia Roberts undoubtedly most captivating.

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Florence Foster Jenkins, Meryl Streep

Florence Foster Jenkins. Photo: Instagram/@romacinemafest

A feel-good movie highlighting the heartwarming true story of a woman who follows her dreams of becoming an opera singer, despite her terrible vocals. Her off-key recording attempts and charming camaraderie with Hugh Grant makes for a hilarious timepass.

The Post (2017)

The Post, Meryl Streep

The Post. Photo: Instagram/@merylstreep

In this Steven Spielberg-directed historical drama about a pivotal moment in deciding the American press’ role as watchdog journalists, Streep characterizes the first female publisher of a major US newspaper who courageously weighs to what lengths she and her editor-in-chief (Tom Hanks) will go to unravel a major political scandal.

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