Michelle Pfeiffer has been one of Hollywood’s most talented and stunning stars since the early ’80s. The three-time Oscar nominee has proven time and again that her talent equals — or even surpasses — her pretty face. Now 65, Pfeiffer first came to acting via the beauty pageant circuit in Southern California and soon started appearing on TV shows like CHiPs and Fantasy Island. Her striking beauty may have gotten her get through Hollywood’s door, where so many other hopefuls failed, but it was her intelligence and sense of humor that made her stand out from the competition.
Pfeiffer made her film debut in 1980, acting opposite Tony Danza in The Hollywood Knights. Two years later, she’d get noticed for her starring role in Grease 2, and soon enough she was starring in popular movies like Scarface, The Witches of Eastwick, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Batman Returns. Throughout her career, Pfeiffer has played a diverse assortment of characters — everything from an ingénue to an action hero — and she was one of the most in-demand actresses of the ’80s and ’90s.
Pfeiffer has often been modest about her extraordinary talents, telling Interview magazine, “I didn’t have any formal training… I was just getting by and learning in front of the world.” She clearly learned well, as she’s still acting today, most recently appearing in Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s most iconic roles
Whether she’s in a musical, a cult classic, a comedy or an acclaimed drama, Pfeiffer is always a charismatic actress worth watching. Here’s a roundup of some of her most memorable roles.
Grease 2 (1982)
Grease is one of the most beloved movie musicals of all time. Grease 2, on the other hand, was a critical and commercial flop. However, the movie put young Michelle Pfeiffer in the spotlight for the first time, and she’d go on to many more successful films from there.
Pfeiffer played Al Pacino’s glamorous but cocaine-addled wife in this over-the-top ’80s classic. Her disco-ready dresses and delivery of sassy lines like “I’m not your baby” became icons of the era.
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Pfeiffer starred along fellow A-listers Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon and Cher in this comic fantasy.
Married to the Mob (1988)
Pfeiffer played against type as a murdered gangster’s widow wearing a curly brunette wig. She received her first Golden Globe nomination for the role, which began an impressive six-year streak of consecutive Best Actress nominations.
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Pfeiffer is striking in any era. In this juicy adaptation of an 18th-century novel, she played the virtuous Madame de Tourvel and received her first Oscar nomination for the role.
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
Pfeiffer received her second consecutive Oscar nomination for her role as an escort turned lounge singer. Pfeiffer’s performance was universally acclaimed, and she even did her own singing for the role, something she hadn’t done since Grease 2.
The Russia House (1990)
Pfeiffer was widely praised for the accuracy and specificity of her Russian accent in this tense spy film.
Frankie and Johnny (1991)
Pfeiffer and her Scarface husband Al Pacino reunited in this sweet rom-com. Pfeiffer played Frankie, a struggling waitress who becomes romantically involved with Pacino’s Johnny.
Batman Returns (1992)
Meow! Pfeiffer put on Catwoman’s signature sexy latex bodysuit for this stylized comic book movie sequel. She famously did her own stunts and had to be vacuum-sealed into the suit (which she called “the most uncomfortable costume I’ve ever been in“).
The Age of Innocence (1993)
In Martin Scorsese’s lush period drama, Michelle portrayed an upper-class New York City Countess in the 19th century.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
Pfeiffer cofounded a production company, Via Rosa, in 1990. Via Rosa co-produced Dangerous Minds, in which she played a former Marine who becomes a teacher at an underprivileged high school.
Up Close & Personal (1996)
Robert Redford starred as a news director in this romantic drama, and Pfeiffer played his protégée. The film was written by acclaimed author Joan Didion.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer played husband and wife in this Alfred Hitchcock-influenced thriller. The film received mixed reviews but Pfeiffer’s performance was praised.
White Oleander (2002)
Pfeiffer was simultaneously seductive and evil in her tense performance as a manipulative mother.
Pfeiffer took a break from acting in the ’00s to spend more time with her family. She returned to the screen in this 2007 musical, playing Velma Von Tussle, the racist manager of a TV station in the ’60s.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
2017 was a prolific year for Pfeiffer. She starred in the indie film Where Is Kyra? and played Ruth Madoff, wife to disgraced financier Bernie Madoff, in the HBO TV movie The Wizard of Lies. She also was part of the starry ensemble cast of Murder on the Orient Express, and performed an original song for the soundtrack.
What has Michelle Pfeiffer been up to lately?
In recent years, Pfeiffer has acted in both blockbusters like the Ant-Man movies and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and arty films like Mother! and French Exit. For over 40 years, she’s been one of the most elegant and versatile stars out there, and we’re thrilled that she’s still giving powerhouse performances as a mature woman.
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