Geena Davis movies have been a staple in Hollywood for four decades. The 67-year-old Oscar-winner has starred in beloved women-power films like Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own, and long been a passionate advocate for better representation of women on screen.
Born Virginia Elizabeth Davis, Geena had a humble upbringing in Massachusetts, and knew she wanted to be an actress from a very young age. “I told my parents when I was three that I wanted to be in movies… I was very confident, very sure that’s what I wanted to do,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. Thanks to her striking features, eye-catching height — at 6 feet, she’s one of the tallest actresses in the business today — and classically pretty visage led to a career as a model in her early 20s, and from there, she transitioned into film and TV roles.
Davis’ big break came when she was cast in a small part in Sydney Pollack’s classic 1982 comedy Tootsie, starring Dustin Hoffman. A role in the short-lived sitcom Buffalo Bill followed, and she starred in a string of 80s cult classics, which lead her to take on more unique and unforgettable roles…and to ultimately steal our hearts.
Top 12 Geena Davis movies
Here’s a look back at 12 of our favorite films that we can easily watch on repeat!
1. Tootsie (1982)
Geena Davis made her onscreen debut in a small part as April Page, a soap opera actress, in Tootsie, the popular gender-bending comedy starring Dustin Hoffman. She sarcastically described the role as “someone who’s going to be in their underwear a lot of times,” but soon she’d have much more to do onscreen.
2. The Fly (1986)
The Fly, cult director David Cronenberg’s creepy ’80s remake of a classic ’50s horror movie, featured Jeff Goldblum as the lead and Davis as his love interest (the two would marry in 1987 and divorce in 1990). Notably, Davis says the film’s iconic line, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
3. Beetlejuice (1988)
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Tim Burton’s madcap horror comedy features Davis as a straitlaced suburban woman whose life is turned upside down by the bizarre and otherworldly title character (Michael Keaton).
4. Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum joined forces once again in this sci-fi comedy. Davis plays a manicurist, while Goldblum plays a furry blue alien who falls for her. While it was one of the few Geena Davis movies that wasn’t a success, it became a cult classic thanks to its colorful ’80s style.
5. The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Davis won an Oscar for her role as Muriel Pritchet, an eccentric dog trainer with a sickly son, in the romantic drama The Accidental Tourist. She was shocked to win, and revealed that when she went onstage she worried she had lipstick on her face.
6. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma & Louise is one of Geena Davis’ most iconic movies. Susan Sarandon and Davis star as best friends who go on an intense road trip that ends with unforeseen consequences, and the film’s themes of female friendship, vengeance and sacrifice remain just as resonant today as they were over 30 years ago. The Oscar-nominated role was for Davis — as she recalled in a New Yorker interview, “I changed a lot during this movie. And Susan and I became really good friends, which we still are. It just gave me an insight into a whole new way to live.”
7. A League of Their Own (1992)
What do you get when you put movies with Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks on a baseball field? Pure movie magic, of course! The ’40s-set A League of Their Own tells the inspiring true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Davis plays Dottie Hinson, catcher for the Rockford Peaches. She’s spoken of the importance of the movie within her career and says she and her fellow actresses “still remain a team.”
8. Hero (1992)
In 1992, Davis also starred alongside Andy Garcia and Dustin Hoffman in Hero. She played a TV newswoman who gets rescued from a plane crash. Critic Roger Ebert was mixed on the movie but praised Davis’ performance for being “bright and convincing.”
9. Speechless (1994)
In 1994, Davis jumped into producing, and had her first producer credit on Speechless, a rom-com in which she starred as a political speechwriter who just so happens to fall for the speechwriter for her political rival. Davis would continue producing and branch into TV production in the ’00s.
10. Cutthroat Island (1995)
Is there anything Geena Davis can’t do? For the swashbuckling adventure Cutthroat Island, she learned horseback riding and sword fighting. The film may have been a box office bomb, but it gave her the opportunity to flex her action movie prowess. Davis was married to the film’s director, Renny Harlin, at the time and the pair collaborated on multiple movies.
11. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Davis and Harlin worked together again in The Long Kiss Goodnight, one of the most thrilling Geena Davis movies in which she played an amnesiac teacher who discovers she used to be an assassin. Davis learned Tae Kwon Do, pistol shooting and ice skating for this butt-kicking role and called it one of her favorites.
12. Stuart Little (1999)
Davis plays a mom just as well as she does an action hero! In 1999, she played Eleanor Little, the mom of a boy who takes a cute talking mouse as his brother in Stuart Little. Based on a classic children’s book, the film soon became a franchise and Davis reprised her role in two more movies.
What has Geena Davis been up to lately?
Since the early ’00s, Davis has taken on more TV roles. She starred in her own sitcom, aptly titled The Geena Davis Show, in 2000, and in 2005, she played the first woman president in Commander in Chief. Both of these shows lasted just one season. She then appeared in a TV adaptation of The Exorcist in 2016 and had a recurring role in the long-running medical drama Grey’s Anatomy.
In 2019, Davis brought ’80s energy to GLOW, a comedy series about female wrestlers in the era. She’s also appeared in a handful of movies, like Accidents Happen, In a World…, Marjorie Prime, and Ava.
Davis has been candid about the challenges she faced once turning 40, telling The Guardian, “[Once I had] a four in front of my age, I fell off the cliff. I really did.” It was painful for Davis to experience the dearth of roles for mature women firsthand, but she channeled her frustration into activism and creating much-needed change in the film industry.
In 2004, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, an organization dedicated to “mitigat[ing] unconscious bias while creating equality, fostering inclusion and reducing negative stereotyping in entertainment and media.” The organization advocates for onscreen gender inclusivity, as well as better representation of age, race and disability. In 2022, she received an honorary Emmy Award for this important work.
With a filmography that includes horror movies, comedies, family movies, thrillers and more, Davis has some serious range, and she’s used her Hollywood clout to be a force for good in an often difficult industry.
For more talented leading ladies, read below!
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