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The Best Allison Janney Movies And TV Shows And How To Watch Them

Allison Janney on The West Wing
(Image credit: NBC)

Whenever the conversation of the best living actors and actresses starts up, the name Allison Janney isn’t typically one of the names, which is a crime that should be punishable in all 50 states. Seriously, over the course of her career, the talented film, TV, and stage star has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, seven Primetime Emmy Awards, and dozens of other accolades, including two Tony nominations.

Don’t believe me? Well, just take a look at some of the best Allison Janney movies and TV shows that show off everything she’s working with, whether it be comedy, drama, or one of the most respected series of all time (which she has referenced time and again). And just in case you want to check these out for yourself, we’ve included streaming links and other ways to give them a spin.

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

(Image credit: Neon)

I, Tonya (2017)

Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Tonya Harding was at the center of the 2017 biographical drama, but it was Allison Janney who stole the show, and won her first Academy Award for her take on the infamous figure skater’s mother, LaVona Golden. How the actress played the abusive mother who pushed her daughter to greatness but also down a troubled path was nothing short of masterful.

What’s really impressive about Janney’s performance in Craig Gillespie’s shocking and wickedly funny sports drama, which also netted her a Golden Globe, is that there are times where it’s hard to tell if you’re watching the real LaVona Golden or an actress. And the mockumentary style of the picture also gives Janney’s character even more time to shine.

Stream I, Tonya on Hulu. (opens in new tab)
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Allison Janney on The West Wing

(Image credit: NBC)

The West Wing (1999 - 2006)

Over the years, there have been several great TV shows set in the White House, like Veep and House of Cards, but neither of those or others like them hold a candle to the greatness that was Aaron Sorkin’s landmark series, The West Wing. And who had a prominent role in the show’s expansive ensemble cast? None other than Allison Janney, whose character, C.J. Cregg, went from Press Secretary to Chief of Staff by series end. 

Janney won an impressive four Primetime Emmy Awards (twice as a Supporting Actress, twice for Lead Actress), four Screen Actors Guild Awards, and and a whole slew of nominations and other accolades. I think the hardware speaks volumes about Janney and her breakout role. And don’t get me started on her walk and talk technique.

Stream The West Wing on HBO Max. (opens in new tab)
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Elliot Page and Allison Janney in Juno

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Juno (2007)

As far as movie moms go, there are few that are in the same category as Bren MacGuff (Allison Janney) in Jason Reitman’s 2007 coming-of-age comedy, Juno. When Juno MacGuff (Elliot Page) becomes pregnant at a young age and decides to go through with the pregnancy and give up the baby for adoption, her stepmom is right there beside her through it all and is supportive as can be, even though she is under no obligation to be so.

In a movie that is also filled with tremendous and heartfelt performances by the likes of J.K. Simmons (in one of his best roles), Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Michael Cera, Janney remains one of the most beloved and endearing throughout. Upon repeated viewings, it’s easy to catch subtle acts by the caring woman that show she is willing to sacrifice her own happiness and comfort for that of her child.

Stream Juno on Hulu. (opens in new tab)
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Allison Janney and Anna Faris on Mom

(Image credit: CBS)

Mom (2013 - 2021)

When talking about the best Allison Janney movies and TV shows, you can’t go too long before her long-running sitcom, Mom, is brought up. Over the course of eight seasons, Janney took on the role of Bonnie Plunkett, a recovering alcoholic who rekindled her relationship with her daughter, Christy (Anna Faris), who was also battling addiction.

Janney would end up taking home two more Primetime Emmy Awards for her role on the successful series, and she was more than deserving of both. The way Janney handled some delicate topics with grace, care, and most importantly, humor, was a breath of fresh air to the format. And, it doesn’t hurt that she and the rest of the cast had tremendous chemistry.

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Allison Janney in American Beauty

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

American Beauty (1999)

A movie that made a surprisingly large amount of money at the box office, American Beauty largely centers on Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a middle-aged man in the midst of an existential crisis that wraps up not just his family but also his neighbors, coworkers, and his children’s friends as he begins losing touch with the world around him.

But the Burnhams aren’t the only family going through their own personal hells in American Beauty, as their new neighbors, the Fitts, also have a tremendous amount of pain and confusion in their home. This is best seen in the character of Barbara (Allison Janney), who is largely silent and despondent throughout the movie. And even though she says few words, Janney’s body language speaks volumes.

Stream American Beauty on Hoopla.
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Gil and Peach in Finding Nemo

(Image credit: Pixar/Disney)

Finding Nemo (2003)

Although not the best Pixar movie, Finding Nemo is in that top tier of the studio’s body of work, and a lot of that can be attributed to the cast and the way they help flesh out the story about a clownfish going to great lengths to reunite with his missing son. And yeah, that includes Allison Janney’s character, Peach, the sea star who helps Nemo escape a fish tank.

One of the best examples of Janney’s brilliance in this role comes during a scene when the group of sea creatures living in the fish tank are supposed to escape, an attempt that is thwarted by a new filtration system. The way she goes from saying “Good morning” with so much glee to a state of panic is incredible, and adds a nice pop to the scene.

Stream Finding Nemo on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
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Allison Janney and Emma Stone in The Help

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

The Help (2011)

Tate Taylor’s 2011 hilarious and poignant comedy-drama, The Help, has its share of incredible characters played by Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain, but it would be impossible to discuss the movie about a young writer shedding light on the stories of the Black women who worked in prominent Jackson, Mississippi households without mentioning Allison Janney.

Sure, Janney’s character, Charlotte Phelan, doesn’t have the courage of her daughter, Skeeter (Stone), at least not in initially, but she more than makes up for it in the latter part of the movie. Everyone loves a good story of someone coming around and seeing the flaws in their ways, which is very much the case here.

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Allison Janney on Masters of Sex

(Image credit: Showtime)

Masters Of Sex (2013 - 2015)

The Showtime drama series, Masters of Sex, largely focused on the professional and personal lives of human sexuality researchers William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) in the mid-part of the 20th Century, but the show also featured a great number of guest stars, including Allison Janney.

Throughout parts of the series, Janney popped up as Margaret Scully, a close friend of Masters and Johnson who goes throughout a sexual reawakening thanks to their research and becomes a stronger, more independent, and happier woman in the process. And, it should be noted Janney won a Primetime Emmy Award for her portrayal.

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Allison Janney in The Way Way Back

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

The Way Way Back (2013)

The 2013 coming-of-age comedy, The Way Way Back, is a movie that doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as it deserves, which is a shame considering it tells a tremendous story about an awkward teen named Duncan (Liam James) who finds himself over the course of a summer spent at the seaside. 

It also doesn’t hurt that Nat Faxon and Jim Rash put together one hell of a cast that includes Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, and Allison Janney, who plays Betty, Duncan’s neighbor for the summer. She’s direct, honest, and always with a drink in hand, making her one of the most electric and exciting characters of the bunch.

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Kirsten Dunst and Allison Janney in Drop Dead Gorgeous

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

The 1999 dark comedy mockumentary, Drop Dead Gorgeous, follows a group of teenagers participating in a small town beauty pageant, but things take a turn when the contestants begin dying under rather suspicious circumstances. 

In addition to serving as one of Amy Adams’ first movies, Drop Dead Gorgeous also helped take other rising stars to the next level, including Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, and Allison Janney. Throughout the movie, Janney’s character, Loretta, is an absolute firecracker who gets the most out of every scene, even those where she’s in the background. You won’t find it streaming (for now), but it’s more than worth the DVD purchase to see Janey in action.

Get it on DVD on Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Allison Janney in Bombshell

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Bombshell (2019)

Bombshell, which followed several female Fox News employees in their attempt to expose Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) for unwanted sexual advances, is a wild ride from start to finish. In the middle of that storm is Susan Estrich (Allison Janney), a complicated character who provides Ailes with legal device.

Throughout each of her scenes, Janney does an incredible job of personifying the conflicted nature of her character. By the end, you don’t necessarily love the character or what she represents, but it’s impossible to not give the actress props for her approach to the role.

Rent/Buy Bombshell on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
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Allison Janney in Hairspray

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Hairspray (2007)

Hairspray, the 2007 remake of John Waters’ cult classic of the same name, tells the story of Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Bolonsky), a teenage girl with aspirations of earning a spot on The Corny Collins Show in hopes of bringing about radical change to the popular series and the city of Baltimore in general, while also having a lot of fun.

Allison Janney steps in as Prudence “Prudy” Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend’s racist, close-minded, fun-hating, nosy mother who fears change more than she fears God. Janney is remarkable in her portrayal of such an unlikable person in the musical comedy and stands out as one of the most detestable characters of the movie.

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This barely scratches the surface of the great Allison Janney movies and TV shows, because including every single one of her amazing roles would have us stuck in an infinite scroll.

Philip Sledge
Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.