Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
From Junebug to American Hustle, Amy Adams has been lighting up our screens for nearly two decades, and, thank God, shows no signs of stopping. With two Golden Globe wins and five Oscar nominations (opens in new tab), Adams has put forth some memorable powerhouse performances: She's played ditzy actresses, innocent nuns, conniving con-women, and blown us away every single time. But which ones were her very best? We've sorted through all the film credits to her name—no Sharp Objects or The Office here, great as she was in those roles—to come up with the top 20, ranked here for your viewing pleasure.
1. 'Cruel Intentions 2'
Before you get all hot and bothered, yes, Adams showed a ton of early-career promise in this direct-to-video prequel of the classic 90s film. She stars as Kathryn Merteuil, the same character played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, and if possible, she's even more terrifying. It's kind of a non-compliment to talk about how good Adams was as a mean girl.
2. 'Man of Steel'
Lois Lane is one of the most famous characters to come out of any superhero comic, and Adams is stellar in her turn at the role. She doesn't stand out as much as she does in other films—hence the low ranking—but she stays strong in a part that might have swallowed others.
3. 'The Muppets'
Adams is a capital-S Serious Actress, but she can also be devastatingly funny. And she's next-level in this hilarious musical comedy about everyone's favorite monster puppets teaming up to save the Muppet Theater.
4. 'Drop Dead Gorgeous'
For Adams' first IMDB credit, "pageant contestant" seems like a natural fit. She gives a completely underrated and hilarious performance in this cult comedy as Leslie Miller, the cheerleader who loves her boyfriend...a lot.
5. 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'
Adams is a surprise and a delight in this sports comedy from Will Farrell and Adam McKay (whom she reunited with for Vice), in which she plays Bobby's (Farrell) mild-mannered, slightly nerdy assistant. She's an inspiration, as in, she gives a speech so inspiring you'll go out and accomplish that task you put off for weeks. (Never said it was earth-shatteringly inspiring—just maintaining your expectations.)
6. 'Julie & Julia'
The second pairing of Streep and Adams, Julie & Julia is the weaker outing, and one of the weakest performances Adams has delivered to date. It's not that she's terrible in it, it's just that Meryl came to slay, as she usually does. It's enough that someone made a fan-edit (opens in new tab)of the film...sans Julie.
7. 'Sunshine Cleaning'
Sunshine Cleaning may have a morbid plotline—two sisters forming a crime scene cleanup company—but Adams is a marvel in this film. It's worth watching for the amazing chemistry she shares with an early-career Emily Blunt alone.
8. 'Nocturnal Animals'
Adams is a wealthy art gallery owner haunted by her ex-husband's manuscript in this Tom Ford–helmed film. The flick is appropriately filled with fashion and decor porn, but it's also dark, unnerving, and utterly suspenseful.
She's barely in the film, but Adams makes the most of every single second she spends on camera in this Spike Jonze film, proving their are no small parts. As Joaquin Phoenix’s neighbor and best friend, Adams shows her acting prowess by fluidly moving through emotions so convincingly and approaching the role with such sensitivity, she's nearly as essential to the film as Scarlett Johansson's operating system voice.
10. 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day'
Adams just oozes charm in her role as a ditzy singer-actress in this period romantic comedy. See it if only for the nightclub scene and try hard not to fall in love (with Frances McDormand, that is).
Adams owns her role as the woman behind the man behind the president. Sure, Vice is all about Christian Bale BECOMING Dick Cheney, but Adams holds her own as Lynne, Dick's power-hungry wife.
12. 'Big Eyes'
In a story that's so frustrating it has to be true, Adams plays a painter whose husband takes credit for her work. Adams' own work is marvelous, and it's no surprise she won her second Golden Globe for the performance. Her exasperation comes through on screen, and by the end, you're as tired as she is, but you can't keep your eyes away from her.
13. 'Catch Me If You Can'
It's a shame that Adams's performance in the film is overshadowed by the performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, because she's absolutely stellar and charming as southern belle Brenda Strong. You can see early glimmers of the star she would become.
14. 'The Fighter'
Adams' versatility is on display in this film, in which she plays Charlene Fleming, the love interest of Mark Wahlberg's Mickey. The first of two collaborations with director David O. Russell, Adams is easily the highlight of this film, delivering a performance distinct from those we'd seen from her before.
After years on the indie film scene, Enchanted brought Adams to the mainstream, and brought it she did. Adams breezes through the silliest moments of the movie like it's not an issue, and it's hard not to smile whenever she's on screen. Try it. I dare you.
16. 'American Hustle'
In her second (and likely last (opens in new tab)) film with David O. Russell, Adams scored her first Golden Globe win for her role as a con-woman who has mastered the art of accents and deception, and looks good while doing so. It's a stunningly complex role, and Adams is the centerpiece of the entire film, making it look easy.
17. 'The Master'
Adams is a master (pun not intended) in this film, simply because she complements every single person on screen. Just like her character, she's there to uplift and dedicate herself to helping those around her. In the film, it's a little more menacing—but for Adams, it brings out one of her best performances.
It was a massive shock when Adams was snubbed for a Best Actress Oscar nod for her performance in Arrival, as critics firmly believed she not only would be nominated, but win. Adams is at her best in Arrival, starring as a linguistics professor brought in to communicate with aliens. There is a realism and a depth not often brought to sci-fi films, and Adams is absolutely heartbreaking at points.
In a movie full of absolutely stunning performances, Adams stands out as a unsuspecting, hopeful nun. Her role is secondary to Meryl Streep's and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman's, but she gives them exactly what they need to thrive in their performances.
Without question, Amy Adams owes her entire career to her phenomenal, affecting performance in Junebug. Here, she stars as Ashley, a sweet and talkative pregnant young woman who thinks that the baby she’s having is going to fix her relationship with her husband, Jonny (Ben McKenzie). Adams committed to the role whole-heartedly, and she will shatter you at times with her performance. Don't miss this one.
For more celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE HERE (opens in new tab)
Amanda Mitchell is a writer and podcaster with bylines at Marie Claire, OprahMag, Allure, Byrdie, Stylecaster, Bon Appetit, and more. Her work exists at the apex of beauty, pop culture, and absurdity. A human Funfetti cake, she watches too much television, and her favorite season is awards season. You can read more of her work at amandaelizabethmitchell.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @lochnessmanda.
'Virgin River' Season 5: Everything We Know
The fifth season of the Netflix hit is filming this summer in British Columbia.
By Jenny Hollander
'Manifest' Season 4: Everything We Know
The once-canceled NBC show is returning for a final chapter (or two) on Netflix.
By Jenny Hollander
'Bachelor in Paradise' 2022: Everything We Know
There's a lot going on when it comes to 'Bachelor in Paradise' this year—but we probably won't get Lil Jon back.
By Jenny Hollander
Feast Your Eyes on Ryan Gosling as Ken in Upcoming Movie 'Barbie'
Why does that bleached hair look so good on him?
By Iris Goldsztajn
22 Captivating Films About Royal Life
Once you've finished 'The Crown,' cue up one of these royally good films.
By Nicole Briese
Olivia Wilde's Movie Starring Harry Styles and Florence Pugh Officially Has a Release Date
Trying and failing not to scream.
By Iris Goldsztajn
Sandra Bullock Revealed the Movie She's Embarrassed About Making
Also Daniel Radcliffe was in two minds about 'Harry Potter.'
By Iris Goldsztajn
Who Is Jonathan Owens, Simone Biles's Fiancé and NFL Player?
"The easiest yes!" Simone wrote about the couple's engagement.
By The Editors
The 50 Best Celebrity Couple Halloween Costumes Ever
Honestly, we're impressed.
By Charlotte Chilton
The Best Celebrity 'Squid Game' Costumes
A handful of stars chose this year's most popular theme.
By Quinci LeGardye
The Actors Playing Young Harry and William in ‘Spencer’ Are Exact Look-Alikes
Kristen Stewart plays Princess Diana in the buzz-worthy new film.
By Marie Claire Editors