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Meryl Streep broke her own Oscar record with her nomination on January 24, for “Florence Foster Jenkins.” The actress earned her 20th nomination for playing a New York heiress who dreams of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice. In honor of this historic moment, click through our gallery to see what films brought her all those Academy Award bids. Streep earned her first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for “The Deer Hunter” (1978), which won Best Picture. She won her first prize the very next year for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), another Best Picture winner. Not a bad way to start your acting career. Her next two victories came in the Best Actress category for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982) and “The Iron Lady” (2011). In between those wins came 16 other bids, which in a way, makes her the world’s biggest Oscar loser. Her three victories places her in an elite group of thespians, which includes Ingrid Bergman, Walter Brennan, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jack Nicholson. Should she win a fourth, she’ll tie Katharine Hepburn for the most wins by any performer.
20. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016)
Director: Stephen Frears. Writer: Nicholas Martin. Starring Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson.
After proving her musical theater chops with “Mamma Mia!” and “Into the Woods,” Streep portrayed one of the worst singers of all time in Stephen Frears’ biographical comedy. She plays Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite who dreams of becoming an Opera singer despite having a terrible voice. Streep received her 20th Oscar nomination for the film, losing the Best Actress prize to someone with a slightly better vocal range: Emma Stone (“La La Land”).
23. INTO THE WOODS (2014)
Director: Rob Marshall. Writer: James Lapine, based on the musical by Lapine and Stephen Sondheim. Starring Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp.
While some will swear by “Mamma Mia!” (2008), our favorite Streep musical is Rob Marshall’s lavish adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony-winning stage hit. Streep stars as an evil witch who tasks a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with retrieving magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse on their family tree. The film brought her an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress, which she lost to Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”).
18. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013)
Director: John Wells. Writer: Tracy Letts, based on his play. Starring Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham.
Streep goes full Southern-gothic in John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play. She plays Violet Weston, the pill-popping, chain-smoking matriarch of a large, dysfunctional family that has gathered for her husband’s (Sam Shepard) funeral. Streep lost another Best Actress Oscar for the role, this time to Cate Blanchett as a boozing, delusional socialite in “Blue Jasmine.”
10. THE IRON LADY (2011)
Director: Phyllida Lloyd. Writer: Abi Morgan. Starring Jim Broadbent, Iain Glen, Olivia Coleman, Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam.
As far as movie monsters go, there are few more frightening than former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Despite some spotty filmmaking, Streep is eerily uncanny as the controversial politician in Phyllida Lloyd’s biographical drama. After nearly 30 years and 12 failed nominations, Streep finally added a third Oscar to her shelf for the film, her second for Best Actress.
15. JULIE AND JULIA (2009)
Director: Nora Ephron. Writer: Ephron, based on the books “Julia & Julia” by Julie Powell and “My Life in France” by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme. Starring Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Messina, Lina Emond.
In what would be her final film, Nora Ephron writes and directs this comedy that contrasts the life of French chef Julia Childs (Meryl Streep) with a New York blogger (Amy Adams) who aspires to cook all of her recipes in one year. Although the Julie sections of the film leave a lot to be desired, Streep is a hoot as the spirited cook during her formative years. She was once again nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars, losing to Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”).
5. DOUBT (2008)
Director: John Patrick Shanley. Writer: Shanley, based on his play. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis.
If you’re a former alter boy, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep) is your worst nightmare. In adapting his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, John Patrick Shanley provides the actress with one of her meatiest roles ever as a Catholic school principal who questions the ambiguous relationship between a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the school’s lone black student. Though it has trouble escaping its stage roots, the film is still an acting tour-de-force for its four Oscar-nominated stars. Streep won her first SAG Award as Best Actress for the film, but lost at the Academy Awards to Kate Winslet (“The Reader”).
8. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)
Director: David Frankel. Writer: Aline Brosch McKenna, based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger. Starring Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Adrian Grenier.
There’s the boss from Hell, and then there’s Miranda Priestly. In David Frankel’s adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s best-seller, Streep plays a fire-breathing fashion editor who terrorizes her assistant (Anne Hathaway) with impossible demands, from procuring an unpublished manuscript of the next “Harry Potter” book to finding a new wardrobe. Streep received another Best Actress Oscar nomination, losing to Helen Mirren (“The Queen”).
3. ADAPTATION (2002)
Director: Spike Jonze. Writer: Charlie Kaufman, based on the book “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean. Starring Nicolas Cage, Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Judy Greer.
There are few films as wild, weird, and labyrinthine as “Adaptation,” Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s self-referential satire about screenwriting and flowers. 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 (“Chicago”).
If dying of cancer won’t do the trick, the second easiest way to win an Oscar is playing an inspirational teacher. But given how the Academy will nominate her for reading the phone book, we can assume Streep isn’t so crass in her career choices. In this true life drama from horror-maestro Wes Craven, Streep plays Roberta Guaspari, a schoolteacher struggling to teach violin to students in Harlem. She lost this Best Actress nomination to Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry”).
25. ONE TRUE THING (1998)
Director: Carl Franklin. Writer: Karen Croner, based on the novel by Anna Quindlen. Starring Renee Zellweger, William Hurt, Tom Everett Scott, Lauren Graham.
The quickest way to win an Oscar is playing a character dying nobly of cancer. Given that Streep had already won twice before she made “One True Thing,” it’s possible she had more virtuous motivations. This domestic drama from Carl Franklin stars Renee Zellweger as a woman who puts her career on hold to care for her sickly mother (Streep). She reaped a Best Actress bid for her work, losing to Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love”).
6. THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (1995)
Director: Clint Eastwood. Writer: Richard LaGravenese, based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Starring Eastwood, Annie Corley, Victor Slezak, Jim Haynie.
After a five year drought at the Oscars, Streep returned to the Best Actress race for playing an Italian housewife in the Midwest who falls in love with a charming photographer (Clint Eastwood). What could easily have been a Lifetime melodrama is instead a subtle, intimate story of lost love and sacrifice. Streep lost the Oscar to Susan Sarandon (“Dead Man Walking”), who finally triumphed after four losses.
16. POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (1990)
Director: Mike Nichols. Writer: Carrie Fisher, based on her book. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner.
Carrie Fisher adapted her own loosely autobiographical novel about a substance-addicted actress (Meryl Streep) forced to move back in with her mother (Shirley MacLaine). One can only imagine how much influence the actress drew from the late Princess Leia for this Mike Nichols-directed Hollywood satire. Streep reaped another Best Actress bid at the Oscars for the role, losing to Kathy Bates (“Misery”).
19. A CRY IN THE DARK (1988)
Director: Fred Schepisi. Writers: Robert Caswell and Schepisi, based on the novel by John Bryson. Starring Sam Neill, Bruce Myles, Neil Fitzpatrick, Charles “Bud” Tingwell, Maurie Fields, Nick Tate, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Dorothy Alison.
Based on a true story that captivated Australia, Streep plays Lindy Chamberlain, a mother whose nine-week-old baby was carried off by Dingos while camping in the outback. When she is wrongfully accused of murder, Chamberlain and her husband (Sam Neill) must clear their names in court. Streep competed as Best Actress for Fred Schepisi’ film, losing to Jodie Foster (“The Accused”). So iconic was Streep’s performance that it was later joked about on “Seinfeld,” when Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) ridicules an annoying party guest looking for her “baby.”
22. IRONWEED (1987)
Director: Hector Babenco. Writer: William Kennedy, based on his novel. Starring Jack Nicholson, Carroll Baker, Michael O’Keefe, Diane Venora, Fred Gwynne.
If you’re looking for a fun night at the movies, this is not going to cheer you up. Hector Babenco’s searing drama is about two Depression-era drunks (Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep) coming to terms with their haunted pasts. Streep was once again nominated as Best Actress for the film, this time losing to her “Silkwood” costar Cher (“Moonstruck”).
14. OUT OF AFRICA (1985)
Director: Sydney Pollack. Writer: Kurt Luedtke, based on the books “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesen, “Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller” by Judith Thurman, and “Silence Will Speak” by Errol Trzebinski. Starring Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer.
In yet another performance as a real life person with a heavy accent, Streep plays Karen Blixen, a Danish baroness and plantation owner in Kenya who falls in love with a charismatic big game hunter (Robert Redford). Though it’s often ridiculed, the film still works as a sort of “Gone with the Wind” in Africa. Sydney Pollack’s epic won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, yet Streep lost Best Actress to Geraldine Page (“The Trip to Bountiful”).
4. SILKWOOD (1983)
Director: Mike Nichols. Writers: Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. Starring Kurt Russell, Cher, Craig T. Nelson, Diana Scarwid, Fred Ward, Ron Silver.
Few films have captured blue collar life as authentically as Mike Nichols’ “Silkwood.” A sort of “Norma Rae” for plutonium workers, the film tells the true story of Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep), a labor union activist who was killed in a mysterious car crash after blowing the whistle on the power plant where she worked. Rather than making a damning political expose, Nichols and Streep craft a neo-realistic portrait of American life, aided by Patrizia von Brandenstein’s grungy production design and Ann Roth’s straight-from-the-rack costumes. Streep was once again nominated as Best Actress for the role, losing to Shirley MacLaine (“Terms of Endearment”).
1. SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982)
Director: Alan J. Pakula. Writer: Pakula, based on the novel by William Styron. Starring Kevin Kline, Peter MacNichol.
There’s little question that Alan J. Pakula’s Holocaust drama contains what might be the finest performance of Streep’s long career. She won the Oscar as Best Actress for playing Sophie Zawistowski, a Nazi death camp survivor living in New York with her passionate, schizophrenic lover (Kevin Kline). When they meet a young writer (Peter MacNichol), the ghosts of Sophie’s past begin to reemerge, including a long-ago decision that led to devastating consequences. Streep’s characterization is a high wire act of emotions: she’s both funny and sad, haunted and enchanting. It’s a dazzling portrait of a woman who has stared into the abyss of human suffering and lived to tell of its immeasurable horrors.
12. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN (1981)
Director: Karel Reisz. Writer: Harold Pinter, based on the novel by John Fowles. Starring Jeremy Irons, Leo McKern.
In adapting John Fowles’ unfilmable novel, director Karel Reisz and writer Harold Pinter create ironic distance and ambiguity in the story of a social outcast (Streep) who falls in love with a Victorian-era gentleman (Jeremy Irons) by contrasting it with a love affair between two actors (Streep and Irons) playing those same characters in a film. Streep was once again nominated as Best Actress for her dual role, but lost to Katharine Hepburn (“On Golden Pond”).
9. KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979)
Director: Robert Benton. Writer: Benton, based on the novel by Avery Corman. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jane Alexander, Justin Henry.
Streep won her first Oscar for playing a mother bitterly fighting her ex-husband (Dustin Hoffman) for custody of their child (Justin Henry) in Robert Benton’s domestic drama. 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).
2. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
Director: Michael Cimino. Writers: Cimino, Deric Washburn, Louis Garfinkle, Quinn K. Redeker. Starring Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Christopher Walken.
It’s hard to explain the seismic impact “The Deer Hunter” had upon its release in 1978. For a country still reeling from the Vietnam War, this elegiac epic about a group of returning veterans (Robert De Niro, John Savage, Christopher Walken) was like a three hour therapy session. Streep received her first Oscar nomination for playing Linda, the girlfriend of one of the men (Walken), who is psychologically damaged by his experiences in the war. The film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Walken), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound, but Streep lost her Best Supporting Actress bid to Maggie Smith (“California Suite”).