The 10 best Glenn Close movies – ranked!

Close’s performance in The Wife is stirring talk of a best actress Oscar nomination. We rank her very best films

10 The Paper (dir. Ron Howard) (1994)

A newspaper office is the site of one of Ron Howard’s and Glenn Close’s most underrated films. She is Alicia Clark, the formidable managing editor of the fictional paper the New York Sun, and is responsible for cutbacks and continually at loggerheads with a mercurial reporter, played by Michael Keaton. It is a very good “corporate” role for Close – a style that probably found its greatest expression in the TV show Damages.

9 Hamlet (dir. Franco Zeffirelli) (1990)

Watch trailer for Hamlet, with Glenn Close as Gertrude

Why hasn’t Close done more Shakespeare on screen? In her younger years, she would have been a wonderful Lady Percy, or Portia, or Olivia – or indeed a gender-bending, crossdressing Hamlet. Here, at any rate, is her Gertrude, mother of Hamlet, who has an eloquent, melodramatic face-off with Mel Gibson’s weirdly mellifluous Dane. She gives real weight to the movie.

8 101 Dalmatians (dir. Stephen Herek) (1996)

Close was the only possible casting in this 90s live-action version of the much-loved story. She is the notorious dognapper Cruella De Vil, her fiercely intelligent, almost Roman face now magnified and distorted by this pantomime dame of a role, and yet strangely – and even though it can hardly be taken seriously – her unconventional beauty and sexiness are very potent in this film.

7 Albert Nobbs (dir. Rodrigo García) (2011)

This film meant an enormous amount to Close, who was co-writer and producer as well as star. It tells the story of a woman in 19th-century Dublin who passed herself off as a man. It is an intriguingly mannered creation, without the uninhibited energy of her greatest work, but only Close could have confected such a theatrically strange figure and bring to it her unique presence.

6 The World According to Garp (dir. George Roy Hill) (1982)

Tortured relationship … Glenn Close as Jenny Fields in The World According to Garp.
Tortured relationship … Glenn Close as Jenny Fields in The World According to Garp. Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

Close made her movie debut with this film and immediately won a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her performance. She plays the potent near-caricature figure of Jenny Fields, the feminist author and celebrity who conceived a child with a dying soldier in the second world war. The child, named Garp (Robin Williams) grows up to become an author who exists in a strange relationship, almost a duel, with his mother’s overbearing reputation.

5 Reversal of Fortune (dir. Barbet Schroeder) (1990)

In this sensational true-crime story, portraying one of the great courtroom scandals of the 20th century, Close was destined to be upstaged a little by Jeremy Irons, but it is fascinating and apposite casting for her nonetheless. She plays Martha “Sunny” Crawford, the fabulously wealthy heiress who marries the charming but sinister oil executive Claus Von Bülow, played by Irons. Almost at once, he appears to play on her ill health and anxieties. Close’s performance, especially when she is young and in love, is captivating.

4 The Big Chill (dir. Lawrence Kasdan) (1983)

One of Close’s earliest roles, a more mainstream acting project for her, perhaps, before her distinctive persona had taken shape, and it’s unusual for her to be submerged into an ensemble. She plays Sarah Cooper, in whose holiday home a group of college friends gather after the shocking suicide of one of their contemporaries. She is the mature one, apparently more together than anyone else, but with a streak of sadness that is the equal of anyone’s.

3 Dangerous Liaisons (dir. Stephen Frears) (1988)

Here is another of Close’s great endings, playing Marquise Isabelle De Meurteuil, the great villain of Christopher Hampton’s movie version of Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses (based on his original stage play). Fanatically pursuing a grudge against an ex-lover, the Marquise plots the seduction of his innocent young fiancee, in tandem with the worldly and cynical Valmont, played by John Malkovich. It is to end in her own disgrace, and the scene in which the entire opera house hissingly turns on her is uniquely disturbing, as Close’s face becomes a chalky mask of incredulous horror.

2 The Wife (dir. Björn Runge) (2017)

This is a terrific performance, and will perhaps come to be seen as Close’s masterpiece: subtle, simmering, menacing. She plays Joan Castleman, self-effacing wife to preening New York literary eminence Joe Castleman, played by Jonathan Pryce. The couple are on their way to Sweden for Joe to receive the Nobel prize for literature. Joe airily assures interviewers that Joan has no literary ambitions, but that is not true. When she met her husband, she was a talented and promising young author who sacrificed her own career for his, and the nature of this sacrifice is horribly revealed in what unfolds.

1 Fatal Attraction (dir. Adrian Lyne) (1987)

Watch clip from Fatal Attraction

There was never any question about it. This is Close’s No 1 role, the one she turned into a cultural icon, the ultimate nemesis, every straying man’s worst nightmare, and the character who donated the phrase “bunny boiler” to the English language. She was a satirical monster in the age of monogamy anxiety and HIV-Aids, but also complex, vulnerable, charismatic – a female equivalent of Max Cady in Cape Fear, only scarier and more righteous. (When I hosted a discussion with Close at the Toronto film festival in 2017, she told me that for years afterwards she saw fear in the eyes of every man she met.) Close plays book editor Alex Forrest who has a one-night stand with married lawyer Dan Gallagher (played by Michael Douglas) when his wife is out of town. He assumes this was just a one-time thing, with no consequences for him. Alex takes a very different view. It is a brilliant and intimately disturbing creation. The bathroom finale is worthy of Hitchcock.


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