If you have to choose the 10 best actors in the history of Hollywood, then Meryl Streep’s name is sure to figure high up on the list.
Streep is an extraordinary actor with an extensive range which moves from intense to normal to comic with ease. Such is her ability that she features regularly in the Oscars or any other awards list.
She has been nominated for an Oscar 21 times, winning three. She has also received 31 nominations for the Golden Globe and won eight. Even if she had not won any, nobody would deny her a place among the best actresses of all time.
Here are some of her earlier works where she was in top form.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, David Warner, Leo McKern
Director: Karel Reisz
Two love stories go parallel in this film with endings which are different but open to interpretations. In the first, Charles (Irons), a palaeontologist, falls in love with a complex personality Sarah (Streep). Set in Victorian times, the plot revolves around the intensity of the affair and how Sarah disappears one day at the peak of their romance.
Charles, who was already engaged to another, gets into a breach of promise case but he searches for Sarah until he finds her. The second story deals with actors Anna (Streep) and Mike (Irons) who are playing the roles of Sarah and Mike in a film and they too fall in love until Anna walks away.
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol
Director: Alan J Pakula
A Polish immigrant Sophie (Streep) gets involved a love triangle after she comes to Brooklyn in 1947. Her lover Nathan (Kline) is an unpredictable character who can get violent. Meanwhile, writer Stingo (MacNicol) has come to Brooklyn to write a novel and becomes friendly to Sophie.
Sophie reveals that she is a daughter of a Nazi sympathiser. Her dad is executed while Sophie with her two children are sent to a concentration camp where she is given the choice of sending one of her children to the gas chamber. She chooses her daughter. She is again left with a choice when she is caught between the jealous Nathan and Stingo. Streep won the Best Actress Oscar for this film.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, Cher, Craig T Nelson, Fred Ward, Ron Silver
Director: Mike Nicols
Based on the life of Karen Silkwood (Streep), a nuclear plant worker and trade activist, it tells the story of how the protagonist battles the nuclear plant bosses on safety from radiation. She lives in a ramshackle house with her boyfriend Drew (Russell) and a lesbian friend Dolly (Cher).
Karen believes that the plant has endangered workers and exposed them to radiation. The plant is already behind schedule on a contract for fuel rods and workers are made to do overtime which poses more dangers. She takes the battle to the bosses but they try to halt her by falsifying reports. But Karen won’t let go.
She Devil (1989)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Roseanne Barr, Ed Begley Jr, Sylvia Miles, Linda Hunt
Director: Susan Seidelman
Rose (Barr), an overweight housewife, tries hard to please her accountant husband Bob (Begley Jr). The latter meets romantic novelist Mary Fisher (Streep) and is attracted by her. He quits his home, leaving behind his assets.
But Rose will have none of it. She plots her revenge and first sends her kids to live with their father. But Mary hates children and cannot cope. Then Rose burns down the house and goes to work in a home as a nurse. She takes help of another nurse there and now aims to completely destroy Bob and Mary. Streep takes a break from her usual mould and does a light-hearted role.
The Bridges at Madison County (1995)
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Annie Corley, Victor Slezak
Director: Clint Eastwood
Italian war bride Francesca (Streep) has a torrid four-day affair with National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) when he is on a visit to Madison County. This is recounted by her two children through the letters, diaries and instructions she has left behind after her death.
She had an understanding husband but the temptation to see the world along with Kincaid made the couple to almost run away. But better sense prevails and Francesca stays back and Kincaid goes away to pursue his love for photography.