Jamie Lee Curtis’ reputation as one of cinema’s all-time great scream queens would be enough to earn the prolific actress a spot on the list of hardest-working faces in Hollywood, but her track record outside of the world of horror movies is just as impressive, if not more than her work in the genre. Over the years, Curtis has appeared in everything from the long-running Halloween franchise to ferocious whodunits like Knives Out, and even mind-bending kung-fu movies like Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that the list of the best Jamie Lee Curtis movies is something that other actors and actresses strive for, it’s that great and full of heavy-hitters. And since now seems like as good a time as any to break down Curtis’ most iconic performances, let’s get this show on the road…
Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
Just as essentially every aspect of life is crumbling away — a failing marriage, a broken mother-daughter relationship, tax issues — Chinese immigrant Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) finds her situation becoming more out of hand upon realizing she is the key to preventing an evil and powerful force from destroying the multiverse.
There is plenty to love about the Daniels’ 2022 mind-bending kung-fu movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once, from its meticulously-choreographed fight scenes to its surprisingly emotional story and so forth. But one of the best things about the potential Oscar nominee is the performance by Jamie Lee Curtis as Deidre Beaubeirdre, who is involved with Evelyn’s life in more than one dimension.
Daddy And Them (2001)
In 2001, Billy Bob Thornton wrote, directed and starred in Daddy and Them a dramedy about a struggling married couple (played by Thornton and Laura Dern) who have to get through their own insecurities and jealousies to help an uncle who has been charged with attempted murder while also making sense of their large southern family.
Tucked in the middle of Daddy and Me are two of the shortest yet most hilarious characters in the entire movie — Elaine (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Lawrence Bowen, attorneys at law. Though only in the movie for a cup of coffee, these two steal the show with their constant bickering, badgering, and one-upmanship as they discuss the legal case. Curtis, in particular, is outstanding and gives one of her most over-the-top performances. No surprise the actress used Elaine Bowen as her reference for Deidre in Everything Everywhere All At Once, as she revealed on Instagram.
Upon escaping a sanitarium years after viciously murdering his sister, Michael Myers (Nick Castle) returns to his childhood home of Haddonfield, Illinois, and proceeds to on a murderous rampage throughout the quiet and idyllic town.
Jamie Lee Curtis burst onto the scene with her commanding portrayal of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s landmark 1978 horror film Halloween. The way Curtis’ character goes from a young high school student to one of the strongest female characters in the history of horror is absolutely astonishing and instantly turned her into one of the most interesting actresses around. It’s no surprise some think she’s the greatest horror character ever.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
When a big-time heist goes south leaving them with the short end of the stick, would-be criminals Wanda Gerschwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Otto West (Kevin Kline) set off to find the men responsible for job-gone-wrong and find the missing diamonds that were supposed to bring fortune their way.
Charles Crichton’s 1988 crime comedy A Fished Called Wanda (which he co-wrote alongside John Cleese) features one of the most hilarious and complex characters Jamie Lee Curtis has ever played, and even though Wanda is an undeniably bad person, you can’t help root for her because of that charm. Wait, did I get grifted here?
Knives Out (2019)
When best-selling crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (the late Christopher Plummer) dies under mysterious circumstances, eccentric private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called to the writer’s massive estate to get to the bottom of the crime, even if one of the deceased’s loved ones is responsible.
Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunit Knives Out quickly earned a spot on the list of best murder mysteries upon release, and a lot of that is due to the amazing performances by the ensemble cast. That includes Jamie Lee Curtis and her take on Linda Drysdale, the dead writer’s oldest child, and the way she can jump from a sensible person to maniacal egotist in the same breath. And though filming the movie was a tough experience for Curtis, you can’t tell by her masterful performance.
Trading Places (1983)
Wall Street executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and street hustler Billy Ran Valentine (Eddie Murphy) find themselves in the center of a sinister plan being carried out by a pair of greedy and ruthless brothers. Upon uncovering the nefarious plan, the unlikely friends team up for some old-fashion revenge.
John Landis’ beloved 1983 classic Trading Places was the first major non-horror release of Jamie Lee Curtis’ film career, and the prolific scream queen did not disappoint. The way she jumps into the role of street-smart prostitute Ophelia is to die for, and really helped open the door for other comedies that came in the years following.
My Girl (1991)
Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky, in a performance she doesn’t like discussing), the daughter of the widower funeral home director, experiences perhaps the most consequential summer of her young life as she enters her pre-teen years with all its pain, loss, and confusion.
With his 1991 coming-of-age drama Howard Zieff definitely made Vada the heart and center of the film’s emotional and sentimental movie, but this isn’t to take away from the supporting cast, which includes Jamie Lee Curtis as Shelly DeVoto, the funeral home’s new makeup artist and the love interest of Harry Sultenfuss (Dan Aykroyd). Shelly is perhaps the character that has the most impact on Vada over the course of the summer and it’s made all the more believable thanks to Curtis’ brilliant portrayal of a woman not afraid of change and a little heartache.
True Lies (1994)
Omega Sector counterterrorism agent Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is one of the world’s most resourceful and successful spies, but to his family he’s nothing more than a mild-mannered computer salesman. When a terrorist gets his hands on a nuclear device and threatens the world, Harry’s professional and personal lives become intertwined, creating a rather complicated mess.
What really sells the double-life of Harry Tasker in James Cameron’s 1994 action-comedy True Lies is the performance by Jamie Lee Curtis as his wife Helen, who seems to have no clue her husband is a prolific spy capable of just about everything. And the film’s major subplot (Helen gets caught up in the game of a supposed spy played by the late Bill Paxton) really gives Curtis a chance to pull off her comedic chops even though Schwarzenegger initially had reservations about giving her the part.
The Fog (1980)
Just as the coastal town of Antonio Bay, California, is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the community becomes enveloped by a mysterious fog that brings with it unimaginable dangers, creatures, and unexplainable death.
John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis had both already established themselves as two of the biggest names in the horror genre, but 1980’s The Fog gave the director and actress another opportunity to only improve their already stellar reputations. Curtis’ portrayal of the mysterious and capable hitchhiker named Elizabeth is the stuff of legend and is up there with her other best horror roles.
Blue Steel (1990)
Rookie NYPD officer Megan Turner’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) life is turned upside-down when she shoots and kills a robbery suspect only for the criminal’s gun to be lifted from the scene, making it appear as if she killed an unarmed man. When the man who took the gun decides to use it in a string of murders, the young cop’s life becomes all the more complicated and dangerous.
Kathryn Bigelow’s 1990 crime drama Blue Steel is a movie that doesn’t seem to get mentioned all that much and that’s a crying shame. Curtis, along with Clancy Brown as NYPD detective Nick Mann, make this a must-watch with their chemistry and ability to lose themselves to their respective roles.
Freaky Friday (2003)
Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) discover they have magically switched bodies after reading a very unusual fortune cookie. As they try to find a way to get back to normal before Tess’ wedding and Anna’s battle of the bands audition, the two are forced to act like each other for a day.
Mark Waters’ 2003 remake of the Disney classic Freaky Friday has a great concept and even better execution by the two leads who were put up to the task of playing two characters throughout the movie. Jamie Lee Curtis is especially great as a middle-aged mom of two acting like an unruly teenager acting like a successful therapist. There are just so many layers to her performance in this amusing body-swap comedy.
Road Games (1981)
Truck driver Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) and young hitchhiker Pamela (Jamie Lee Curtis) find themselves in a race for survival as they become the targets of a vicious serial killer in the Australian Outback.
Directed by Richard Franklin, the 1981 thriller Road Games is a low-key yet high-stakes cat and mouse game that is made all the more terrifying by the mystery surrounding the deadly serial killer (Grant Page) as he toys with Pat and Pamela on lonely stretches of highway. Jamie Lee Curtis is especially strong (despite having only a few acting credits) while also trying something new with less horror and more anxiety-inducing thrills.
Forty years after his night of terror in the sleepy town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Michael Myers is back and looking to pick up where he left off after escaping yet again from a psychiatric hospital. But when he returns, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is waiting for him and is willing to do anything to stop him once and for all.
Though she’s playing the same character from the original film, Jamie Lee Curtis’ turn as Laurie Strode in David Gordon Green’s tremendously scary Halloween is about as different as could be. She’s learned how to protect herself and prepared for this night over the years, and she becomes an undeniable badass in doing so.
With Jamie Lee Curtis having even more movies in the works like Borderlands and Disney’s Haunted Mansion reboot, it doesn't look like the talented and prolific actress is slowing down any time soon. If you want to know when you can see Curtis is the upcoming Halloween Ends, take a look at CinemaBlend's 2023 movie schedule. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to see what 2022 new movies are slated to come out by the end of the year.
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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 barking 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.