Best Meryl Streep Movies: Top 5 Iconic Films Most Recommended By Fans

Meryl Streep is one of the most acclaimed and beloved actors of all time. When you talk about extremely established actors, Streep is one of the first names that comes up. She’s won three Oscars, and she’s been nominated for 21. To say that is impressive is an understatement. Trying to pick the best Meryl Streep movie is tricky, but we searched through expert sites to find five fan favorites. 

Love when a movie has a happy ending? You’re definitely not alone, and some Meryl Streep movies deliver. According to a study, feel-good films contain an element of humor and the classic happy ending, and they often involve outsiders in search of true love. And even in the tense, dramatic moments, the movies somehow remain lighthearted. These factors are what make feel-good flicks so appealing. 

Aside from Meryl Streep’s acclaimed works, you may not always agree with the Academy’s Oscar pick: People’s movie preferences turn out to be highly individual. “What we find enjoyable in movies is strikingly subjective — so much so that the industry’s targeting of film-goers by broad demographic categories seems off the mark,” says Pascal Wallisch, a clinical assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology. 

So, what are this beloved actress’s most legendary roles in film? There are probably handfuls of Streep’s movies we could add to this list, but StudyFinds has checked in with 10 expert websites to find the best Meryl Streep movies, according to fans. If there is one of your favorites that we missed, please leave it in the comments below!

Meryl Streep at the Oscars in 2012
Meryl Streep at the Oscars in 2012 (Photo by Jaguar PS on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Meryl Streep Movies, According to Film Experts


1. “Kramer Vs. Kramer” (1978)

Streep won her first Oscar for playing a mother bitterly fighting her ex-husband for custody of their child in this domestic drama. The Gold Derby informs us of its award history, “Despite being the female lead, Streep won in the supporting category over costar Jane Alexander. The film also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Benton), Best Actor (Hoffman), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Benton).”

Meryl Streep executes a stellar performance in a movie that examines relevant themes like gender roles, single parenthood, and work-life balance. “Already a Broadway star in revered revivals of Anton Chekhov and Tennessee Williams (and an Emmy winner for the earnest 1978 miniseries Holocaust), Streep steps warily into movies but find immediate success. The Deer Hunter (1978), a small role, is her first Oscar nomination. Still, it is in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), playing a complex Manhattanite who chooses independence over motherhood, that she shows her way with tricky material,” adds TimeOut.

Another one of Streep’s best dramatic performances, which garnered her first Oscar for the story of a couple’s painful divorce and custody battle over their young son. “This was the film that established Streep as a force to be reckoned with as an actor. Starring alongside Dustin Hoffman in a tumultuous family drama, both Streep and Hoffman took home Oscars. This was Streep’s first Oscar win, but certainly not the last. It’s also the second Best Picture winner that Streep was in,” says Yardbarker.

2. “Sophie’s Choice” (1982)

In “Sophie’s Choice”, Meryl Streep plays a woman forced to live with the unimaginable decision of saving her son or her young daughter. How harrowing. “There is no better film in Meryl Streep’s filmography than Sophie’s Choice, a brutal post-war drama that sees the actor play the leading character. a woman. Winning Streep an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress, the Oscar was well-deserved to say the very least, with the ‘choice’ scene alone being worthy of tremendous praise. Shining alongside Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol, Streep gives an exceptional performance in this drama, making it one of the most interesting post-war tales in cinema history,” states Far Out Magazine.

Some critics have noted this psychological thriller as one of Meryl Streep’s best, and it is no secret why. “The actress plays Sophie Zawistowski, a Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor who lives with her abusive and emotionally unstable partner. Set after World War II, the film chronicles the couple’s relationship with their neighbor and reveals the details of Sophie’s dark past,” describes PureWow.

Screen Rant shares more of the plot, “Sophie’s Choice depicts the story of a Holocaust survivor named Sophie played by Meryl Streep, and her abusive lover, the Jewish-American Nathan, who is obsessed with the Holocaust. Their rocky relationship is affected by this obsession, as well as Sophie’s traumatic past, as they befriend Stingo, a writer, and the narrator of the film.” 

3. The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)

Yes, having a marital affair is frowned upon, but how romantic is “The Bridges of Madison County”? Despite her marriage, you find yourself rooting for Francesca and Robert to be together. “Based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Robert James Waller. The Bridges of Madison County released in 1995, proved almost as commercially and critically successful as the beloved book itself. Starring Meryl Streep in the film is Clint Eastwood, a photographer in the 1960s who spends four days immersed in the life of a humble housewife, and her perspective on life changes. An enchanting love story, the film earned Streep her tenth Oscar nomination and enjoyed a respectable run at the box office, though it marked a change of course for Eastwood’s often violent films,” informs UK Daily News.

The Bridges of Madison County
“The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)

There are many memorable scenes in the film like when Francesca watches Robert from her husband’s truck window as they’re both stopped at a traffic light in the pouring rain. “Streep’s acting can sometimes skew big and operatic, but her underrated performance in this Clint Eastwood–directed romance is as quiet and restrained as a haiku. Ranked 90th on AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Passions list, the film traces a whirlwind, four-day love affair between an Italian war bride (Streep) and National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood, 90), who has traveled to Iowa to shoot covered bridges. Streep conveys multitudes in her stolen glances, her silent expressions, and all that is left unsaid,” adds AARP

Not only did Clint Eastwood break his string of “spaghetti westerns” by playing Robert, but he also directed it. “It is based on James Waller’s novel about a photographer who wanders into the life of a housewife for four days in 1960s Iowa. Certainly more slow-moving than Eastwood’s action fare, it gives the stars a worthy showcase, with Streep earning one of her record 21 Oscar nominations,” writes AL.

 4. “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

There’s no other way to describe Meryl Streep’s depiction of Miranda Priestly other than epic. You find yourself anxious and stein with stress just watching the character. “There’s no shame in loving The Devil Wears Prada (2006), in which Streep finds a frosty way through the Anna Wintour–inspired Miranda Priestly: This is as iconic a performance as any in her filmography. A new generation was turned on by Streep’s cool exterior and glints of internal dissatisfaction. This would be the beginning of a golden decade,” states TimeOut.

"The Devil Wears Prada" (2006)
“The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

Fun fact: Rachel McAdams was nearly solidified as the star of “The Devil Wears Prada” which she turned down and now regrets. Would it have been the same dynamic between her and Meryl’s character Miranda? “A film that explores toxic work culture and passes the Bechdel test? Um, yes, please. The comedy-drama follows college grad Andy Sachs (Hathaway), who heads to New York and starts her ‘dream job‘ as assistant to Miranda Priestly (Streep), AKA one of the most powerful women in the fashion world,” boasts PureWow.

How good was Meryl’s performance? Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who the role was based on called the film “really entertaining.” “Based on Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel, this comedy follows aspiring journalist Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), who nabs a coveted position at the fictitious fashion magazine Runway as the personal assistant of the fierce and fearsome editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly. What could have been a tyrannical villain role is, of course, given layers upon layers of nuance at the hands of Streep,” says AARP

5. “Adaptation” (2002)

Meryl Streep plays alongside Nicholas Cage as a sinister writer. It is hard to picture sweet Streep as sinister, but she is an Academy Award winner and is convincing no matter what role she plays. “Not dissimilar from his role in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage starred in Adaptation from Spike Jonze, an ingenious film in which Cage portrayed two sides of the same Hollywood screenwriter struggling to adapt a novel to the silver screen. Truly showing off, Cage often acts against his own reflection as well as Meryl Streep who stars as the strange and sinister writer of the novel in question. Streep’s role is not an easy one to play, and indeed Jonze’s film is not entirely straightforward either, but with both Cage and Streep at the helm, it’s an utter triumph,” says Far Out Magazine.

"Adaptation" (2002)
“Adaptation” (2002)

“Adaptation” is a twisty mind-bender that really pays off at the end. There are few films as wild, weird, and labyrinthine as this. “Nicolas Cage stars as Kaufman himself, who’s struggling to adapt Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) bestseller about her experiences with an eccentric orchid thief (Chris Cooper). He also stars as Kaufman’s imaginary twin brother Donald (who’s credited as a co-writer), who’s having much more luck writing his own script. Streep returned to the Oscars with a Best Supporting Actress nomination, losing to Catherine Zeta-Jones,” writes The Gold Derby.

When Charlie Kaufman was hired to write an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief” for the screen, he suffered from severe writer’s block and decided to turn his struggles into the movie instead, resulting in one of the most meta movies of Meryl Streep’s career. “Streep plays Orlean, and plenty of supporting actress award nominations for the role, but it’s Nicolas Cage as Kaufman who really carries the movie. He also played Kaufman’s fictional twin, who succeeds at screenwriting while Kaufman struggles to gain his footing. Streep was so intrigued by the movie that she reportedly took a pay cut for the role,” explains Screen Rant.

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