Jamie Lee Curtis was destined for stardom. As the daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, performing was in her blood, and her talent backed it up. After a few television roles, Curtis broke through in the slasher Halloween, the movie that would change her life. Over the next four decades, Curtis has become a mainstay in Hollywood and one of the most respectable actors of her generation.
One of the reasons behind Curtis' success is her versatility. You cannot box Curtis into one genre. Horror, comedy, drama, action, thrillers — Curtis has done it all and even has an Academy Award to top it all off. Narrowing down Curtis' career to a few roles can be difficult, but here are five of the best movies in her filmography.
Imagine starting a 45-year film acting career with one of the most iconic characters in horror. Curtis’ film debut came in 1978 when she starred in John Carpenter’s Halloween. As a child on Halloween night in the early 1960s, Michael Myers viciously stabbed his sister to death, resulting in his incarceration in a psychiatric hospital. 15 years later, Michael (Nick Castle) escapes the hospital and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, where he eventually sees teenager Laurie Strode (Curtis).
Michael becomes infatuated with the young girl and stalks Laurie and her friends the rest of the day, which happens to be on Halloween. That night, Michael transforms from creepy stalker to brutal killer as he hunts down the young teenagers, culminating with an epic showdown against Laurie. Thanks to Curtis’ performance, Carpenter’s direction, and a memorable horror villain, Halloween is on the shortlist of the most influential horror films ever made.
Watch on Prime Video
To a certain generation, Curtis is best known as the mother from Freaky Friday, the 2003 adaptation of Mary Rodgers’ 1972 novel. Widowed mother Tess Coleman (Curtis) and her rebellious teenage daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) are polar opposites. Tess disapproves of Anna’s musical ambitions, and Anna rejects her mother’s fiancé (Mark Harmon). At a Chinese restaurant, the duo receives magical fortune cookies, and the next day, Tess and Ryan wake up to discover they’ve switched bodies.
Unaware of how to fix their situation, Tess and Anna must act as one another in the other’s body. What starts as a nightmare becomes a blessing in disguise as the two women gain a better appreciation for each other. The chemistry between the two leads is excellent, and Curtis’ terrific performance proves her comedic instincts are as good, if not better, than her horror skills.
Watch on Disney+
Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the top of his game in 1994 as the biggest action star in the world. James Cameron had just worked with Schwarzenegger on Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the groundbreaking sequel to The Terminator. For their next project, the duo collaborated on True Lies and cast Curtis as the female lead, the perfect partner to match Schwarzenegger’s action persona and comedic attributes.
By day, Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a boring software salesman. By night, Harry is a secret agent for a U.S. counterterrorism agency. While pursuing a terrorist faction led by Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik), Harry learns that his wife Helen (Curtis) is in a midlife crisis and contemplates having an affair. Before they can work out their marital issues, Harry and Helen are kidnapped by Aziz. However, Harry is surprised to learn that the best way to resurrect a marriage is to save the world with your wife.
Watch on Hulu
From 1978 to 1982, Curtis developed a scream queen reputation for her roles in Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, and Halloween II. To break the mold and go against type, Curtis played the role of Ophelia in John Landis’ Trading Spaces. Dan Akroyd stars as brokerage firm executive Louis Winthorpe III alongside Eddie Murphy as con man Billy Ray Valentine. The firm’s owners, the Duke brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), make a wager where they switch the lives of Winthorpe and Valentine.
The Dukes hire sex worker Ophelia to ruin Winthorpe’s life. Yet, Ophelia eventually pivots and helps Winthorpe and Valentine exact their revenge against the brothers. Curtis’ gamble to switch genres paid off, and she received universal praise for her comedic and endearing performance. Curtis went on to win the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for her work as Ophelia.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Enter the multiverse in the sci-fi action adventure comedy, Everything Everywhere All at Once. Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is a Chinese-American immigrant who owns a laundromat with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Evelyn is at a low point in her life: Waymond wants a divorce, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) refuses to open up about her life, and the laundromat comes under fire by Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Curtis) of the IRS.
During the IRS meeting, Evelyn is visited by another version of Waymond from a parallel universe. This version of Waymond informs Evelyn the fate of the universe is at stake, and he needs her help to save it. It’s a race against time as Evelyn develops powers in multiple universes to fight against a dominant force trying to destroy it. Everything Everywhere All at Once was met with universal acclaim thanks to its unique premise and the sensational performances from its cast, including Curtis, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.