15 of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Most Breathtaking Movie Roles
Michelle Pfeiffer is officially back. The 59-year-old actress has churned out film after film for almost three decades, and after a brief four-year break from the spotlight, she’s moving full speed ahead. We couldn’t be any more excited for Pfeiffer’s return, and luckily for us, she's got a fresh onslaught of projects slated for 2017. First up, she takes on the role of Bernie Madoff's wife, Ruth, in HBO’s new film, The Wizard of Lies (premieres Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m.). Robert De Niro portrays the disgraced financier himself, marking the fourth time that he and Pfeiffer join forces onscreen. And that's not all we have to look forward to. Later this year, the actress will star in the psycho-thriller Mother! alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as in the much-anticipated and star-studded Murder on the Orient Express.
To celebrate Pfeiffer’s much-anticipated return, we’re looking back at 15 of her most memorable movie roles to date. Check them out below.
The 1983 box office hit followed the story of Cuban refugee turned Miami drug lord Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino—and it served as Pfeiffer’s big-screen breakthrough. She stars as Elvira Hancock, the stunning but cocaine-addicted girlfriend of Tony’s fellow drug-dealing friend Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). Soon after meeting her, Tony quickly falls for Elvira—and he eventually marries her after offing his buddy Frank.
Who could forget Pfeiffer’s superhuman take on Catwoman? To put it simply, every girl wanted to be Selina Kyle from the Tim Burton’s 1992 Batman installment. Her dominatrix-esque catsuit is iconic—seriously, it could put Fifty Shades of Grey to shame—and, quite frankly, she made it cool to be a cat lady.
Peiffer earned her first-ever Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actress) after her portrayal of the righteous Madame Marie de Tourvel in the 1988 historical drama, which follows the romantic affairs of France’s royal court in the 18th century. As her character gets tangled up in the seductive web of the vengeful Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), Pfeiffer embraces an unforgettable air of innocence on screen.
The Fabulous Baker Boys
The 1989 film scored Peiffer a Golden Globe, as well as another Oscar nod—this time in the Best Actress category. Her character, singer Susie Diamond, was the perfect addition to The Fabulous Baker Boys, a jazz duo comprised of brothers Jack and Frank (played by Jeff and Beau Bridges, respectively). A former escort, Susie is a bit wacky—but she’s got a voice to kill, and she’s the brothers’ ultimate key to success. Until the band falls apart after her brief fling with Jack, that is.
Pfeiffer’s turn as ‘60s Dallas housewife Lurene Hallett in the 1992 film earned her yet another Best Actress Oscar nomination. Her character’s obsession with First Lady Jackie Kennedy is rooted in the loss of her own child, and it ultimately leads to her presence at JFK’s assassination. To cope with her grief, she decides to attend the President’s funeral—and she forges unlikely lasting relationships along the way.
The Witches of Eastwick
In true dream casting, Pfeiffer stars alongside Cher and Susan Sarandon as a trio of unlucky-in-love women in the 1987 fantasy flick. When a stranger named Daryl—played by Jack Nicholson—moves to their Rhode Island town, he courts each woman and lures them to his mansion together. After levitating a tennis ball together, they discover that they’re witches. Magic, indeed.
How could we not be obsessed with Pfeiffer’s role as Stephanie Zinone, aka the leader of the Pink Ladies? In the 1982 film, she channels her inner ‘60s high-schooler while dancing, singing, and navigating a love triangle between herself, T-Birds leader Johnny Nogerelli, and Cool Rider Michael Carrington. Of course, it all ties up nicely with a group singalong.
We saw a totally different side of Pfeiffer in her role as former U.S. Marine turned high school teacher LouAnne Johnson in the 1995 film. When faced with a challenging and underprivileged group of students, LouAnne takes charge (and throws on a tough-looking leather jacket, to boot). She devises clever ways to teach lessons—karate, song lyrics, and class trips to the theme park—in order to reach them. And ultimately, she does just that.
Up Close and Personal
Pfeiffer had us hanging on her every word as up-and-coming news reporter Sally “Tally” Atwater in the 1996 drama. While working her way to the top thanks to the career advice of journalist Warren Justice (played by Robert Redford), Tally makes a few enemies—first, a veteran reporter played by Stockard Channing, and later, a group of prisoners who take her hostage. Luckily, Tally survives the violent jailhouse riot and her bold inside reporting lands her a national broadcast—her first—followed by a full-time news anchor gig.
The Age of Innocence
Based on Edith Wharton’s classic novel, the 1993 film follows New York City’s elite in the 1870s. Pfeiffer shines as Countess Ellen Olenska, who’s facing social ostracism after the messy end of her marriage to a Polish Count. Without even trying, she comes between her cousin May Welland (played by Winona Ryder) and her fiance Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis). In the end, Newland puts his feelings for Ellen aside and she moves back to Europe for good, leaving the couple in peace.
Frankie and Johnny
Pfeiffer teamed up with Al Pacino once again in this 1991 rom-com. She plays a Frankie, a love-scorned waitress trying to get over her cheating ex and past abuse, and he stars as Johnny, a fresh-out-of-jail short order cook who’s hired at the same diner. After her tumultuous past relationships, Frankie is happily alone—but Johnny is determined to win her over.
Pfeiffer portrayed the ultimate stage mom in the 2007 musical. She stars as Velma Von Tussle, the racist TV station manager who’s determined to keep her 1950s teen dance show, The Corny Collins Show, segregated. Her other goal? Keeping her daughter Amber (played by Brittany Snow) in the limelight. Velma is a true villain, and Peiffer got her just right.
Married to the Mob
Pfeiffer tried her hand at “funny” in the 1988 comedy, and it was a win. She plays Angela de Marco, the widow of a Brooklyn mobster who struggles to leave the mafia life behind following her husband’s murder. Unfortunately for Angela, that’s harder than she thought. She becomes the subject of an FBI investigation, and the lead undercover agent pursues her romantically while surveilling her every move.
What Lies Beneath
In the 2000 psycho-thriller, Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford star as Claire and Norman Spencer, a couple who begin to notice supernatural occurrences after their new neighbors move in next door. As strange and downright creepy events continue to take place, the plot finally zeroes in on the mystery of a missing girl who was having an affair with Norman—and Pfeiffer’s character finds herself fighting for her own life. Chilling, indeed.
I Am Sam
The 2001 drama focuses on Sean Penn’s developmentally disabled character, Sam Dawson, and his daughter, Lucy (Dakota Fanning). A single father, Sam struggles to raise his bright daughter on his own—and when his parental rights are challenged, Pfeiffer steps in as high-profile lawyer Rita Harrison. She works pro bono to prove that she’s not as cold-hearted as people think, and she learns as much from Sam as he does from her.