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Michelle Pfeiffer Young: A Look Back Through Her Glamorous Hollywood Evolution

From 'Scarface' to 'Hairspray,' this star proves she's more than just a pretty face!

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.

Related: Rita Moreno: 10 Rare Photos of the Trailblazing Star’s Life and 70-year Career

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.

Portrait of Michelle Pfeiffer, 1980
Michelle Pfeiffer in 1980Silver Screen Collection/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer on set of Grease 2, 1981
Michelle Pfeiffer on the set of Grease 2Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

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.

Scarface (1983)

Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Scarface,' 1983
Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface@michellepfeifferofficial/Instagram

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)

The cast of The Witches of Eastwick, 1987
Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher in The Witches of EastwickHulton Archive/Getty

Pfeiffer starred along fellow A-listers Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon and Cher in this comic fantasy.

Married to the Mob (1988)

Matthew Modine and in Married To The Mob, 1988
Matthew Modine and Michelle Pfeiffer in Married To The MobOrion/Getty

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)

John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons, 1988
John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous LiaisonsHulton Archive/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer on set of The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1998
Michelle Pfeiffer on the set of The Fabulous Baker BoysSunset Boulevard/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Connery in The Russia House, 1990
Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Connery in The Russia HouseWojtek Laski/Getty

Pfeiffer was widely praised for the accuracy and specificity of her Russian accent in this tense spy film.

Frankie and Johnny (1991)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino in Frankie And Johnny, 1991
Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino in Frankie And JohnnyParamount/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, 1992
Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman ReturnsWarner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

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)

Martin Scorsese directs Michelle Pfeiffer, 1993
Martin Scorsese directing Michelle Pfeiffer in The Age of InnocenceSunset Boulevard/Getty

In Martin Scorsese’s lush period drama, Michelle portrayed an upper-class New York City Countess in the 19th century.

Dangerous Minds (1995)

Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds, 1995
Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous MindsHollywood Pictures/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford in Up Close & PersonalFrank Trapper/Corbis/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford at the premiere of What Lies Beneath, 2000
Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford at the premiere of What Lies Beneath

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)

Alison Lohman and Michelle Pfeiffer at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2002
White Oleander stars Alison Lohman and Michelle Pfeiffer at the Toronto International Film FestivalGeorge Pimentel/WireImage/Getty

Pfeiffer was simultaneously seductive and evil in her tense performance as a manipulative mother.

Hairspray (2007)

Michelle Pfeiffer at the premiere of Hairspray, 2007
Michelle Pfeiffer at the premiere of HairsprayKevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty

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)

Michelle Pfeiffer at the Murder On The Orient Express premiere red carpet, 2017
Michelle Pfeiffer at the Murder On The Orient Express premiere Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty

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?

Michelle Pfeiffer Quantummania premier
Michelle Pfeiffer attends Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, 2023

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.

Keep reading for more of your favorite ’80s actresses!

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Jamie Lee Curtis Movies: A Look Back At the Scream Queen’s Most Memorable Roles

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