Michelle Pfeiffer has earned a trio of Oscar nominations; half a dozen Golden Globe nominations (including a win for “The Fabulous Baker Boys”); a pair of BAFTA nominations (including a win for “Dangerous Liaisons”); and, most recently, an Emmy nomination. This year, with big screen turns in “mother!” and “Murder on the Orient Express,” plus a performance on the small screen (“The Wizard of Lies”), she is positioned to once again be an awards season force.
Let’s take a look back at 10 of Pfeiffer‘s finest feature film performances to date. Be sure to sound off in the comments if your favorite is not among these or if you disagree with our rankings.
1. “Batman Returns” (1992)
Among the most stirring performances to ever grace a superhero film, Pfeiffer’s turn as the timid Selena Kyle, who transforms into the fiery Catwoman after surviving a murder attempt by her boss (Christopher Walken), marks the definitive portrayal of the DC Comics character. Pfeiffer landed the role after director Tim Burton’s initial selection for the part, Annette Bening, departed due to her pregnancy. The rest is history, as Pfeiffer roars through the picture like a tornado, stealing scene after scene, in career-best form.
2. “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989)
As the drop dead gorgeous Susie Diamond, a former escort whose shimmering stage presence and sex appeal invigorates and then threatens the flailing piano duo the Baker Boys (Beau Bridges and Jeff Bridges), Pfeiffer is a true tour de force. Though Pfeiffer had a strong awards season run that year, earning a Golden Globe, BAFTA nomination and Best Actress honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle, she would fall short to Jessica Tandy (“Driving Miss Daisy”) on Oscar night.
3. “Married to the Mob” (1988)
Pfeiffer is at her comedic best as Angela de Marco, a gangster (Alec Baldwin)’s disgruntled wife who, following the murder of her husband, bolts for New York City for a fresh start. Comic chaos ensues as mob boss Tony (Oscar nominee Dean Stockwell), who ended Angela’s husband’s life, begins pursuing Angela romantically, as does the FBI agent (Matthew Modine) hoping to use her to bring Tony down. This performance earned Pfeiffer the first of her six Golden Globe nominations.
4. “The Age of Innocence” (1993)
Martin Scorsese‘s lavish adaptation of the 1920 Edith Wharton novel casts Pfeiffer as Countless Ellen Olenska, an enchanting socialite who lawyer Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) longs to marry but cannot as, in the process of divorcing her husband, she is viewed as a social outcast. Pfeiffer shows a grand flair for period drama in this underappreciated Scorsese film, which delivered the actress her sixth and most recent Golden Globe nomination.
5. “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988)
Pfeiffer earned her first career Oscar nomination for her devastating portrayal of Madame de Tourvel, a virtuous and religious woman who becomes the apple of the lecherous Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich)’s eye, in Stephen Frears‘ acclaimed ensemble drama. While Pfeiffer would lose to Geena Davis (“The Accidental Tourist”) at the Oscars, she found better luck at the BAFTAs, scoring their Best Supporting Actress trophy.
6. “A Thousand Acres” (1997)
This film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1991 novel of the same name, a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” was not a commercial or critical success upon release in the fall of 1997. It does, however, feature two of the most underrated Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange performances, as the two acting titans portray sisters whose inheritance of their senile father’s (Jason Robards) farm threatens to tear them apart.
7. “Frankie and Johnny” (1991)
In 1987, Kathy Bates earned rave reviews for her turn as lonely New York waitress Frankie in Terrence McNally‘s off-Broadway play “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” Four years later, Garry Marshall‘s film adaptation of the piece found Pfeiffer taking on the role. She’s in terrific form as Frankie, whose physical and emotional abuse suffered in her last relationship leaves her uneasy about the romantic advances of short-order cook Johnny (Al Pacino). This performance earned Pfeiffer her fourth Golden Globe nomination.
8. “White Oleander” (2002)
Pfeiffer is the clear MVP of this uneven drama, which casts the actress as free-spirited artist Ingrid who, upon discovering her boyfriend is cheating on her with another woman, poisons him using the white oleander flower. With Ingrid imprisoned for this crime of passion, daughter Astrid (Alison Lohman) bounces from one foster home after another during her teen years. Pfeiffer’s riveting turn earned the star her first Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.
9. “mother!” (2017)
Following in the footsteps of Ellen Burstyn (“Requiem for a Dream”) and Barbara Hershey (“Black Swan”), Pfeiffer was the latest veteran actress to land a juicy role in a Darren Aronofsky film. She portrays a mysterious woman who, alongside her husband (Ed Harris), strolls into the isolated home of an acclaimed author (Javier Bardem) and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence). While welcomed with open arms by the author, the author’s wife is more than a little uneasy about their guests. Awards season followers will, no doubt, be keeping a close eye on Pfeiffer in this year’s Best Supporting Actress race.
10. “Love Field” (1992)
While “Batman Returns” is perhaps today the more celebrated of Pfeiffer’s two performances from 1992, it was her turn in this little-seen drama, released two years after its filming (on account of Orion Pictures’ bankruptcy), that earned the star her third and most recent Oscar nomination (a prize ultimately given to Emma Thompson for “Howard’s End”). Pfeiffer is in soulful form as a Dallas housewife who so adores First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, she embarks on a road trip to Washington D.C. for President Kennedy’s funeral.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.