Meryl Streep’s Most Underrated Roles

1
The Iron Lady (2011)
The Iron Lady (2011)
Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
Streep won her third Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in this film, but it’s not widely talked about like some of her nominated roles. Streep’s performance is Oscar worthy but the film got mixed reviews for historical inaccuracies and a middle-of-the-road tone.
2
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Universal via Everett Collection
Streep has plenty of famous roles but this is one of her most infamous. This film has a huge cult following. Streep plays a fading actress who stumbles upon the fountain of youth. Sadly, her frenemy, played by Goldie Hawn, has also taken the potion and wants her dead. The comedy was not a huge box office success but it did make Streep a gay icon and win her a new fan base outside serious theater and drama fans.
3
Plenty (1985)
Plenty (1985)
20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
Everyone remembers Streep being nominated for Out of Africa. However, the same year, she played a resistance fighter with her impeccable English accent. She starred in this rarely referenced film, Streep's own Salt, with Ian McKellen and Sam Neil. She should play a spy more often.
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4
Falling in Love (1984)
Falling in Love (1984)
Paramount via Everett Collection
Streep and Robert DeNiro are some of the most famous and celebrated actors of our time, but we often forget they ever starred together in a film. They play married people who meet on a train and fall in love.
5
Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Prairie Home Companion (2006)
Picturehouse via Everett Collection
This movie based on the popular fictional band did not get the following it warranted. Sadly, it was overshadowed by Lindsay Lohan’s career decline and on-set antics. The kicker: this film proved more than any other that Streep can sing.
6
Defending Your Life (1991)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Geffen Pictures via Everett Collection
Finally, Streep in a romantic comedy. This quirky film finds Albert Brooks and Streep as residents in Judgment City in a unique twist on the afterlife. Streep plays the object of Brooks’ affection and a woman full of joie de vivre. This may be the beginning of the “lean years” of Streep not getting any Oscar nominations but it's fun to see her let her hair down.
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7
Dark Matter(2007)
Dark Matter(2007)
Independent Pictures via Everett Collection
This film is a departure from Streep’s normal roles. She plays a mentor to a Chinese student who works with opera director Chen Shi-zheng. Like all of her films in 2007 this film did not get Streep much press. However, she did bridge out into the international market.
8
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Paramount via Everett Collection
Yes, Meryl can star in major movie franchises... they just might not succeed. This series of children’s books was intended to become a major movie franchise with Jim Carrey as the villain, but they stopped at one. Streep played an eccentric guardian to the literary world’s unluckiest children. Sadly, she was not long for this world and neither was the franchise.
9
Evening (2007)
Evening  (2007)
Focus Features via Everett Collection
Streep finally gets to act with her daughter Mamie Gummer, playing the elder version of the young star's character. The script was co-written by The Hours author Michael Cunningham. Despite the cast the film wasn’t a major success. However, it is pretty cool to see the incomparable Streep play best friends with Vanessa Redgrave and play an older version of her daughter.
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10
Rendition (2007)
Rendition (2007)
New Line Cinema via Everett Collection
Streep stars with Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon in this film about torture. Light and cute, right? Streep plays CIA boss who detains an Egyptian-born family man under suspicion of terrorist leanings. It’s topical and stars major actors of the time. However, the film did not do too well with critics who did not care for Witherspoon’s performance. But Streep was dynamite, as usual.
11
She-Devil (1989)
She-Devil (1989)
Orion Pictures Corp via Everett Collection
This film has a cult following and features Roseanne Barr in one of her few film roles. Streep plays up the camp and comedy as romance novel author Mary Fisher, who steals Barr’s husband and feels her wrath. This over-the-top comedy is not the Oscar-bait that people are used to seeing from Streep. It is refreshing to see her in a normal laffer, though.
12
Lions for Lambs (2007)
Lions for Lambs (2007)
MGM via Everett Collection
It’s unclear if people even remember this film came out. Streep plays a journalist in this film about the war on terror, which features an all-star cast. Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, and The Amazing Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield headline this drama. Streep’s performance, as usual, was heralded as the best facet of the film, but the movie overall was panned by critics. It was also one of Cruise’s smallest box office openings.
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13
Hope Springs (2012)
Hope Springs (2012)
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
This romantic comedy finds Streep playing wife to Tommy Lee Jones. This film snuck in and out of theaters. It did get Streep a Golden Globe nomination but not any Oscar attention. This film was a cute tale of a couple that seems primed for divorce trying to make it work. It was sweet, funny, and poignant.
14
Marvin's Room (1996)
Marvin's Room (1996)
Miramax via Everett Collection
Streep adds more famous actors to her theatrical black book. She plays a questionable mother to Leonardo DiCaprio and absentee sister to Diane Keaton, and reunites with DeNiro for this film. Is the magic behind Streep’s numerous awards and nominations that she cursed DiCaprio to never win an Oscar? Anything is possible with Miss Meryl.
15
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)
United Artists via Everett Collection
After she won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer, Meryl Streep got her first nomination for Best Actress. Sadly, she didn’t win this one. This film splits its time between Victorian England and a modern day version of the love story. Streep plays both the subject of the film and the actress with an impeccable English accent. Based on the novel by John Fowles, Streep's on-screen relationship with Jeremy Irons was applauded but audiences rarely remember it.
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16
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence  (2001)
Warner Brothers
Streep has given her voice to various animated films and television shows. She played a bad girl who won Bart's heart on The Simpsons. In A.I. she plays an important part in the culmination of the film. Spoiler alert: She plays the “blue fairy” figure in this Pinocchio style story.
17
Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Streep was nominated for this film but people rarely mention it. Carrie Fisher is renowned as Princess Leia, a surviving addict, and the face of bipolar disorder. However, people rarely remember this film that featured Streep and Shirley MacLaine playing characters influenced by Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. Based on Fisher’s novel, this film is underrated and a unique dramedy about Hollywood and addiction.

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