Over her storied career, Meryl Streep has racked up dozens of film credits going back to the ’70s, scored a record-breaking 20 Oscar nominations (along with three wins), and, of course, delivered golden line after golden line.
With the actress turning 68 on Thursday, Variety decided it was as good a time as any to look back at some of Streep’s best lines, from the funny to the sassy to the downright inspirational.
“How do I look?” — Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Following a divorce, and nasty custody battle complete with character assassination and conflicted emotion, Streep as Joanna Kramer seals her first Oscar win with a question — “How do I look?” — as she boards an elevator to see her son.
“The dingo took my baby!” – “Cry in the Dark” (1988)
Often misquoted as “A dingo ate my baby,” Streep’s exclamation after a wild dog snatches her infant from a tent, delivered in a flawless Australian accent, has become part of pop culture. Elaine made it a memorable put-down in a “Seinfeld” episode.
“I’m not a box. I don’t have sides. This is it. One side fits all.” — “Postcards From the Edge” (1990)
In “Postcards From the Edge,” Meryl Streep is Carrie Fisher’s muse, and embodies the late Hollywood royal in all her snarky, unpredictable, and out-of-control glory. With this line, Streep’s Suzanne Vale snaps back at her love interest Jack Faulkner (Dennis Quaid) to make sure he knows exactly where they stand.
“I am a righteous bitch, aren’t I?” — “Dancing at Lughnasa” (1998)
In the long history of Streep delivering flawlessly sassy lines, let no one forget her 1998 role in period film “Dancing at Lughnasa,” where she played Kate “Kit” Mundy. After her sister Aggie (Brid Brennan) declares, “Do you ever listen to yourself, Kate? You are such a damned righteous bitch,” Streep’s Kit can only delightfully agree.
“That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other.” — “The Hours” (2002)
In one heartbreaking scene of “The Hours,” Streep, who plays New Yorker Clarissa Vaughan, has a candid conversation with the AIDs-striken Richard (Ed Harris), who asks her why he should even stay alive, if not for her.
“The assassin always dies, baby. It’s necessary for the national healing.” — “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004)
Meryl Streep played U.S. Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, the manipulative mother of Liev Schreiber’s Raymond Shaw. She perfectly embodies the ruthless nature of her character when she delivers the difficult truth to her son.
Various — “Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
Where to even start with Streep’s endlessly quotable performance as Miranda Priestly? At the end, of course, with the line that the actress brilliantly tweaked during the table read from “Everybody wants to be me” to “Everybody wants to be us.” With this statement we realize how much Andy (Anne Hathaway) has changed (and, really, how much we all have). Some of Streep’s greatest lines stem from her impatient snark (“By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.”) And she has a certain specialty in the way she delivers questions (“Why is no one ready?”; “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.”). But the line that defines Streep’s performance, is the two-word dismissal that becomes her refrain: “That’s all.”
“I have doubts… I have such doubts.” — “Doubt” (2008)
Meryl Streep allows the veneer of stern self-assurance in her character, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, to crack in a moment of emotional release. “I have doubts … I have such doubts,” she breaks down about her ability to expose Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and her faith in the church at large.
“If what I think is happening is happening … it better not be.” — “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009)
Meryl Streep is the matriarch in Wes Anderson’s endlessly quirky and quippy animated masterpiece — stern and even, and a foil for her rambunctious husband voiced by George Clooney. In this scene she calls out his tomfoolery: “If what I think is happening,” she says, and the camera closes in on her judgmental gaze. “… it better not be.”
“These damn things are as hot as a stiff c—!” – “Julie and Julia” (2009)
Meryl Streep totally nailed TV chef Julia Child’s breathy and sometimes risqué enthusiasm, as in this scene where she pulls two large cannellonis from boiling water using her bare hands.
“We will stand on principle, or we will not stand at all.” — “The Iron Lady” (2011)
Streep’s performance as Margaret Thatcher earned her her most recent Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. When she tells Alexander Haig (Matthew Marsh) about why she will go to war with Argentina in an empassioned speech, it’s hard not to get chills.
“Is anybody supposed to smoke?” — “August: Osage County” (2013)
Streep played the delightfully sardonic Violet Weston in John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play. Her response to Ivy’s (Julianne Nicholson) quite obvious question is only one of many memorable lines from the drama (though not uttered by Streep, who can forget Julia Roberts’ “Eat the fish, bitch”?)
What’s your favorite Meryl Streep movie line? Let us know in the comments below!