The 17 Best Jamie Lee Curtis Movies, Ranked

The ultimate scream queen

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best jamie lee curtis movies
Compass International Pictures

Ladies and gents, allow us to introduce one of the greatest Scream Queens of all time: Jamie Lee Curtis.

Many know her as the daughter of Hollywood icons Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, while others remember her as the famed Final Girl of the Halloween franchise. Some even watched her character, Tess Coleman, swap bodies with her daughter in Freaky Friday (ahem, guilty). But these well-known blockbusters barely scratch the surface when it comes to the best Jamie Lee Curtis movies.

The Academy Award-winning actress and producer has proven her ability to explore different genres, whether it's a horror film, silly comedy or romantic drama. So, in honor of her incredible, decades-long career, we're highlighting some of her best work, including Knives Out, True Lies and more flicks that are available on Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+. Keep reading for 17 of the best Jamie Lee Curtis movies, ranked from good to all-time favorite

17. Terror Train (1980)

  • Additional Cast Members: Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner
  • Rating: R

It's not the most memorable slasher film, but we can appreciate the unique setting and Curtis's strong performance. The film gives major Train to Busan vibes, following a group of pre-med students who find themselves trapped aboard a moving train with a mysterious killer on New Year's Eve. Alana's chase scene is, by far, one of the most terrifying moments in the film.

16. Forever Young (1992)

  • Additional Cast Members: Mel Gibson, Elijah Wood, Isabel Glasser
  • Rating: PG

To avoid having to watch his partner slowly die, Daniel volunteers to participate in a cryogenics experiment, where he can stay frozen for a year. However, when the young pilot wakes up, he's more than five decades in the future. Curtis shines as Claire, Daniel's love interest, and the chemistry between these characters alone makes this film worth the watch.

15. The Fog (1980)

  • Additional Cast Members: Adrienne Barbeau, John Houseman, Janet Leigh
  • Rating: R

Fair warning, this film will legit make you jump out of your skin—and maybe inspire you to bolt your doors and lock your windows. It takes place in a small California town that becomes enveloped by a dense and ominous fog. When supernatural events and mysterious deaths occur, people start to suspect that something evil is hiding within the fog. Curtis stars as Elizabeth, a hitchhiker-turned-love-interest who, quite frankly, would've benefited from more screentime. Still, she managed to make her small role memorable.

14. Blue Steel (1990)

  • Additional Cast Members: Ron Silver, Clancy Brown, Elizabeth Peña
  • Rating: R

On her very first day of duty, Officer Megan Turner shoots and kills a robber at a supermarket. As a result, she gets suspended because no weapon was found on the intruder. When she tries to clear her name, she starts to date someone new, not knowing that he's a killer who stole crucial evidence from the crime scene at the supermarket. Call us biased, but Curtis's compelling, layered portrayal of Megan totally elevates this film.

13. The Tailor of Panama (2001)

  • Additional Cast Members: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Brendan Gleeson
  • Rating: R

Henry is a former con artist-turned-tailor who works for wealthy and powerful clients in Panama. His life takes a wild turn, however, when a ruthless British Spy arrives and blackmails him into spilling sensitive information about government corruption. Curtis brilliantly plays Harry's loving wife, Louisa, who catches on to this scheme rather quickly despite being unaware of her husband's criminal past.

12. Dominick and Eugene (1988)

  • Additional Cast Members: Tom Hulce, Ray Liotta, Todd Graff
  • Rating: PG-13

This thoughtful drama explores the complicated bond between two adult twin brothers, Dominick and Eugene. The latter, who's attending medical school, looks after Dominick because of his learning disability. But when Eugene's career and romantic relationship start to take off, he's faced with a tough decision: stick around and help his brother or leave and focus on his own success. While Liotta is the true star of the film, Curtis holds her own as Eugene's ambitious love interest.

11. Veronica Mars (2014)

  • Additional Cast Members: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Krysten Ritter, Ryan Hansen
  • Rating: PG -13

Set nine years after the finale of the popular teen series, Veronica heads back to Neptune mere hours before her law school graduation to investigate the death of a former classmate. The twist? Her ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, is the prime suspect. Veronica Mars boasts strong performances all around. Curtis only appears briefly as Gayle Buckley—a lawyer who works at the firm where Veronica wants to work—but her cameo is still icing on the cake.

10. Knives Out (2019)

  • Additional Cast Members: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon
  • Rating: PG-13

This star-studded whodunnit follows Benoit Blanc, a private detective who's hired to investigate the death of a wealthy author named Harlan Thrombey. Curtis shines as his successful, sarcastic daughter, Linda. As it turns out, the star identified with the character because of her backstory.

Curtis told The Hollywood Reporter, "I've been an actress for a long time, and I am also the daughter of someone famous, and people have a funny way of taking away anything you do creatively and reduce it to your privilege. Linda is very defensive about the assumption that she was given anything, and I've had the same defense." It's no wonder Curtis dominated this fascinating role.

9. Trading Places (1983)

  • Additional Cast Members: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Ralph Bellamy
  • Rating: R

Two successful brokers decide to conduct an elaborate experiment that upends the lives of Louis Winthorpe III, a rich executive, and Billy Ray Valentine, a street-smart hustler. After Winthorpe is fired and replaced by Valentine, they quickly discover that they're part of a bet and decide to turn the tables on the brokers. Curtis, who was labeled as just a horror star at the time, pleasantly surprised critics with her comedic chops in this fun satire, where she plays a friendly prostitute named Ophelia.

Fortunately, she has director John Landis to thank for taking a chance on her. "I moved away from horror at the time," Curtis told Yahoo Entertainment. "Nobody else wanted me. I guarantee you, John Landis was the only person who said, ‘She’s going to play this part.’"

8. Spare Parts (2015)

  • Additional Cast Members: George Lopez, Carlos PenaVega, Esai Morales, José Julián
  • Rating: PG-13

Based on the inspiring true story of four brilliant Mexican high school students, Spare Parts follows a group of teens who start a robotics club at their underfunded school and compete in a super intense national competition. Curtis plays their quirky Principal, Karen Lowry, who adds plenty of depth and humor without taking away from the main stars of the movie.

She told ScreenSlam, "I just wanted to make sure that if I was in it, that I wasn't a distraction, that I was in it for a reason and that my character had some heart and that my character could maybe affect a little bit of change with these kids."

7. Daddy and Them (2001)

  • Additional Cast Members: John Prine, Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern, Andy Griffith
  • Rating: R

In this underrated gem, a struggling musician named Claude and his wife plan to reunite with his extended family after Claude's uncle, Hazel, gets arrested for attempted murder. Along the way, they cross paths with a lawyer and his alcoholic wife, Elaine, played by none other than Curtis. The comedy-drama paints a touching, yet fascinating portrait of a dysfunctional family.

6. Road Games (1981)

  • Additional Cast Members: Stacy Keach, Marion Edward, Grant Page
  • Rating: PG

Continuing her scary movie streak in the early '80s, Curtis plays a hitchhiker named Pamela in this Hitchcockian thriller. The character joins forces with a truck driver to track down a mysterious serial killer who's targeting women, and guys, it'll keep you up at night. While Curtis doesn't get much screen time, she's as charming as ever, and her dynamic with Keach feels genuine.

5. Freaky Friday (2003)

  • Additional Cast Members: Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Chad Michael, Murray Harold Gould
  • Rating: PG

First off, can we acknowledge the fact that Curtis pretended to be a teenager for the majority of this film and totally nailed it? In this classic comedy, her character, Tess, swaps places with her angsty daughter, Anna, after they open a magical fortune cookie, and the end result is chaotic, to say the least.

While speaking about cast selections for the movie, director Mark Waters told The Hollywood Reporter, “[Curtis’ casting] ended up saving the movie because of her energy and also her chemistry with Lindsay. The two of them have a lot of aggressive energy, and aggression is funny. They were not scared to get into it with each other.” Makes total sense.

4. True Lies (1994)

  • Additional Cast Members: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton
  • Rating: R

The Terminator Schwarzenegger stars as Harry Tasker, a salesman who leads a double life as a normal family man and a U.S. government agent. While on an important mission, however, he realizes that his wife Helen (Curtis) is feeling neglected. To make matters worse, he must rescue her after she gets kidnapped by a dangerous enemy. Curtis steals nearly every scene with her engaging performance as Helen, who turns out to be a fearless hero.

While discussing her character at the CinemaCon’s Big Screen Achievement Awards in 2019, she said: "The truth is, I am an untrained person...but that movie took advantage of everything that is good about my talent and the freedom that I had to be Helen and just the very nature of it...that was probably the most complete experience I ever had."

3. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

  • Additional Cast Members: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate
  • Rating: R

Giant everything bagels, googly-eye stickers and hot-dog-shaped fingers are just a few random things that'll stick with you after you watch this mind-bending absurdist adventure. It tells the story of Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese-American woman who learns that she must save the multiverse while meeting with the IRS. In the process, she visits parallel universes and comes face to face with a powerful being who intends to destroy everything.

Curtis is unforgettable as Deirdre, the snappy IRS inspector and her hot-dog-fingered variant. Not surprisingly, the role earned her a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

2. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

  • Additional Cast Members: John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin
  • Rating: R

When a major jewel heist goes south, Wanda, one of the diamond thieves recruited to do the job, tries to seduce the men she teamed up with to get intel on where the diamond is hidden. Curtis is captivating as the ultimate temptress, who's determined to steal everyone's hearts (and their money) with a smile. It's no wonder the role earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy.

1. Halloween (1978)

  • Additional Cast Members: Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis
  • Rating: R

It should come as no surprise that our top spot goes to the iconic role that cemented Curtis's Hollywood standing as the ultimate final girl. In her film debut, Curtis rose to fame as Laurie Strode, a young babysitter who gets stalked by an escaped killer and mental patient. Curtis's Laurie is well-rounded and easy to root for, and the faceless killer is terrifying enough to haunt you after the credits roll.

The movie has since spawned many sequels, which saw Laurie's character evolve quite a bit. While speaking about Laurie's journey on The View, Curtis said, "Laurie Strode has never given up. And that is my legacy. That's because Laurie strode and Jamie coexist in such a web of influence, like a Gordian knot you'll never untangle. ...That's my legacy, which could have been many, many things... It's survival and never giving up and always fighting back against anything oppressive."

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Nakeisha Campbell

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...
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