The 15 Best Michelle Pfeiffer Movies, Ranked

The 15 Best Michelle Pfeiffer Movies, Ranked

Michelle Pfeiffer's acting career has spanned over 40 years, with critically acclaimed performances across multiple genres. She is an icon of classic Hollywood beauty and charisma. Though she often took breaks between projects early on, her poise and talent both on-screen and off made her a bona fide star by the late 1980s.

Let's count down Michelle Pfeiffer's 15 greatest films, from her early supporting roles up to her most recent return to film.

15. 'THE WIZARD OF LIES' (2017)

This HBO original drama film sees Pfeiffer take on Ruth Madoff, wife of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff (played by Robert De Niro). Though a television movie, Pfeiffer provides a grounded and sympathetic portrait of a woman caught under the scrutiny of her husband's Ponzi scheme and shocking betrayal. She earned a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe nomination for her performance.

"Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic as Madoff’s wife, often observing events as an outsider yearning to understand." MaryAnn Johanson, FlickFilosopher

14. 'WOLF' (1994)

This Mike Nichols-directed fantasy romantic thriller saw Pfeiffer pair once again with Jack Nicholson. Pfeiffer plays Laura Alden, an editor who is bitten by a wolf and starts to see changes within herself. Roger Ebert praised the film as "a smart, elegant variation on werewolf themes," with particular commendation for Nicholson and Pfeiffer's chemistry. Though not a blockbuster hit, Wolf has developed a cult following over the years.

"Pfeiffer is such fun to watch, so bold and hot and scary and ultimately endearing." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

13. 'THE PRINCE OF EGYPT' (1998)

This beloved animated musical from Dreamworks casts Pfeiffer as Tzipporah, wife of Moses (Val Kilmer). Though Tzipporah has limited screen time, Pfeiffer's voice work for the character is alternately gentle and fierce. The film was well-received critically and remains the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film. Given Pfeiffer's show-stopping musical theatre turn in Hairspray nearly a decade later, perhaps we were robbed of hearing more of her vocal talents in The Prince of Egypt.

"Michelle Pfeiffer imbues Tzipporah’s few lines with a regal assurance." Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle
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12. 'ANT-MAN AND THE WASP' (2018)

Marking Pfeiffer's return to superhero films after her iconic role as Catwoman, she joined the wildly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe as Janet van Dyne. Though only featured in flashback scenes, Pfeiffer brings warmth, resilience, and a palpable emotional weight to the original iteration of the Wasp. Her long-awaited return from the quantum realm, nearly thirty years later, sets the stage for more adventures to come in the MCU's Phase 5. For superhero film fans, Pfeiffer's involvement here carried great hype and meaning.

"The prospect of Michelle Pfeiffer getting to spread her wings again as a different kind of superhero entirely is exciting." Angie Han, Mashable

11. LADYHAWKE (1985)

Pfeiffer plays Isabeau d'Anjou, a young woman cursed to eternally be a hawk during the day, while her lover Navarre (Rutger Hauer) becomes a wolf at night. Roger Ebert praised her performance as "luminous" while bemoaning the film's thin character development and worldbuilding. Though the plot leaves something to be desired, fantasy fans and Pfeiffer diehards agree that her radiance leaves an impression.

"As always though, Michelle Pfeiffer proves she can shine even when everything else feels a little lacklustre." Angie Han, Mashable

10. 'FRENCH EXIT' (2020)

Another showcase for Pfeiffer's comedic talents, this black comedy features her as Frances Price, a suddenly widowed New York socialite. With no money left, she cashes out and plans to live her final days in a friend's apartment in Paris. Pfeiffer carries the film with her deadpan wit as her prim character's grip on reality unravels. Though the film saw a limited release, critics praised Pfeiffer's deft balance of high-society manners and surreal, morbid humour.

“We hang on her every word and gesture, so expertly she crafts a woman clinging to the wreckage of her life.” Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

9. 'STARDUST' (2007)

This fantasy adventure film, adapted from Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name, sees Pfeiffer sink her teeth into another villain role. As the vain and ruthless witch Lamia, she hunts for a fallen star to regain her youthful beauty. Pfeiffer relishes the role, slinking around her castle as she plots bloody deeds. Though the film underperformed at the box office, Pfeiffer's scene-stealing performance earned plenty of praise.

“Michelle Pfeiffer, playing the crone Lamia like a ragged Mae West, nearly steals the picture.” Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central
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8. 'HAIRSPRAY' (2007)

Pfeiffer starred alongside John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes and Zac Efron in this remake of the hit Broadway musical. Set in 1960s Baltimore against a backdrop of racial segregation and burgeoning youth counterculture, Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) seeks stardom as she integrates a local TV dance show. Pfeiffer plays Velma Von Tussle, the racist producer who tries to undermine Tracy's success. Pfeiffer is clearly having a blast as she viciously tears down the ingenue. Her musical numbers are a revelation as she jazzily struts across the screen, showing off some formidable pipes.

“The biggest surprise is Pfeiffer, whose enjoyable, pitch-perfect performance proves she's a better singer than Anne Hathaway or Amanda Bynes." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

7. 'MOTHER!' (2017)

This psychological horror film directed by Darren Aronofsky polarized critics, but the performances found universal acclaim. Pfeiffer joined Jennifer Lawrence at the top of an all-star cast including Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, and Kristen Wiig. She has limited but memorable screen time as one half of a mysterious couple who greatly impact Lawrence's crumbling world. Without revealing spoilers, Pfeiffer perfectly encapsulates the film's surreal descent into paranoid madness. Her smile alone leaves a mark.

"Pfeiffer is magnetic in her few minutes of screen time, telegraphing multitudes with one mysterious, Mona Lisa smile." Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly


Pfeiffer earned her first Oscar nomination for playing the virtuous Madame Marie de Tourvel, who becomes entangled in seduction and betrayal. Opposite Glenn Close and John Malkovich, director Stephen Frears adapted Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th-century epistolary novel for the screen. The film became an arthouse hit and cemented Pfeiffer as a leading lady with depth and range beyond just a pretty face. Her tragic characterization and honest emotions lend the film its heart and moral core.

“Pfeiffer’s no less than brilliant. Her porcelain fragility masks a remarkable strength. By the time she reaches her final scene—an unbelievable tension of mixed emotions playing across her face—she's come to a beautiful life.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


Teaming up with director Steve Kloves, Pfeiffer learned piano and sang all her songs live for her role as exiled lounge singer Susie Diamond. Hired alongside real-life brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges as the titular musical duo, romantic tensions inevitably emerge. Pfeiffer's sultry performance of "Makin' Whoopee" atop a piano wearing a curve-hugging red dress cemented her place as a Hollywood bombshell. But her deft comic timing and emotional sincerity rounded out a characterization that earned Pfeiffer her second Oscar nomination.

“Pfeiffer is sensationally good, giving her downtrodden singer a snappy survivor’s wit that helps deflate the film's rose-colored nostalgia.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
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4. 'SCARFACE' (1983)

Despite being only 25 years old, Pfeiffer made an indelible impression as cocaine addict Elvira Hancock, opposite Al Pacino's Tony Montana. Though she played a small supporting role, she matched Pacino's bombast with subtle dexterity. Her glamorous look directly inspired pop star Madonna and cemented her status as a 1980s fashion icon.

Fun fact: The infamous chainsaw scene was partially improvised by Pfeiffer herself, surprising both Pacino and director Brian De Palma.
“We were hungry for someone that embodied old Hollywood while still representing the ‘80s cultural zeitgeist. With her white sheath gowns, platinum coif, and hooded eyes, Pfeiffer’s Elvira achieved just that.” Cady Lang, TIME Magazine

3. 'MARRIED TO THE MOB' (1988)

Pfeiffer united with director Jonathan Demme for this crime comedy portraying a gangster’s widow seeking a fresh start. Freed from her dangerous husband, Angela de Marco (Pfeiffer) tries to escape the mafia and start her own beauty salon. But her ties prove hard to break as she gets embroiled with an undercover FBI agent (Matthew Modine). Pfeiffer gets to flex more comedic muscles here alongside veteran actor Dean Stockwell. Though overlooked by the Academy that year, her performance rates among her very best.

“Pfeiffer has never been more appealing than in this bubbly comedy.” Roger Ebert

2. 'BATMAN RETURNS' (1992)

Pfeiffer famously stepped into Catwoman's skin-tight vinyl suit opposite Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's follow-up to his 1989 blockbuster. As mousy secretary Selina Kyle turned femme fatale, her wit, athleticism, chemistry with Keaton, and iconic character design checked all the right boxes for fans. Despite intense physical training, she performed all her own stunts. Her layered performance remains a fan-favorite portrayal of the classic Batman anti-hero.

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“Arguably the best superhero love interest ever. Michelle Pfeiffer's punky but sensitively tremulous take on Catwoman redefined the character as a feminist force.” Eric Eisenberg, CinemaBlend


In Martin Scorsese's adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel, Pfeiffer captivates as Countess Ellen Olenska. Set among 1870s New York high society, her character returns from Europe after scandalously separating from her husband. She encounters lawyer Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), sparking a flame that threatens his own respectable marriage. Overflowing with longing glances and repressed desire, Pfeiffer matches her co-stars' intensity with anguished restraint as societal pressures forbid their love. She earned her third Oscar nomination, cementing her versatility across any genre.

“Pfeiffer is amazingly fine: concentrated, expressive, trembling with feeling... she has never been more luminous or ardent on screen.” Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Over her illustrious and selective career, Michelle Pfeiffer has captivated audiences with intriguing characters across eras and genres. She took risks and underwent intense preparations, cementing her legacy through several iconic performances. From mob wife to lounge singer, cat burglar to classical beauty, her filmography represents an ambitious and talented actress determined to play by her own rules. With her Hollywood star undimmed in recent returns to film and television, anticipation runs high for Pfeiffer’s next dazzling role.