The 10 Best Frances McDormand Movie Performances

Frances McDormand is probably one of the best actresses in the past 30 years. She’s selective in her roles, but It’s very rare, if not impossible to find a weak performance of hers.

In her entire career, McDormand has accumulated 5 Oscar nominations, including a win for the award of Best Actress in 1997 for ‘Fargo.’ She’s mostly known for her performances in films directed by the Coen brothers, but her recent performance in Martin McDonagh’s excellent 2017 drama ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,’ will more than likely become one people will know her for.

The 60 year old actress was born in 1957. She starred in her first feature film, ‘Blood Simple,’ in 1984 and was married the same year to Joel Coen, one of the co-directors of that film. She started her acting career in 1982 after receiving a master of fine arts degree from the Yale School of Drama. Interestingly enough, while going there she roomed with actress Holly Hunter who has worked alongside McDormand in films like ‘Blood Simple’ and ‘Raising Arizona.’

Keep your fingers crossed that she wins the ‘Best Actress’ award and hopefully ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ snags a few Oscars too. McDormand is an exceptional actress with a fantastic filmography that you shouldn’t miss out on. Hopefully you’ll see her in even more great films in the coming years.


10. Hidden Agenda

Hidden Agenda (1990)

This film was directed by Ken Loach and stars Frances McDormand, Brian Cox, and Brad Dourif. It’s a slow burning political crime drama set in Ireland during the country’s fight for independence. McDormand plays the girlfriend of a lawyer sent to Ireland to investigate supposed shady affairs happening within the Irish government. It was released to critical and commercial acclaim back in 1990.

It’s most likely McDormand’s most consistently serious role. There’s barely a hint of comedy or humor in the entire film. No spoilers, but the best scene is at the very end where she gives a very intense and passionate monologue. The scene really encapsulates the film and is a great example of McDormand’s ability.


9. Almost Famous

In the year 2000, ‘Almost Famous’ released and was met with acclaim from both critics and audiences. It’s a film set in 1973 and focuses on a 15-year-old writer named William as he tours across the country with a rock band that’s just on the cusp of fame. The story is based off of real life experiences by writer-director Cameron Crowe. It stars Patrick Fugit as the young writer, Kate Hudson as a seductive “band aid” and Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond, the lead guitarist and posterboy for the band.

McDormand plays William’s mother and gives one of, if not the best performance of the entire film. Her character is as caring as she is overly protective of her children. Although she’s only seen on screen in small doses, her presence clearly looms over Williams head and influences the decisions that he makes throughout the film.

During the scenes where McDormand is on screen, she brings an incredibly strong and tenacious personality to her character that is both mesmerizing and intimidating. For her performance she was nominated for a best supporting actress oscar at the 2001 academy awards.


8. North Country

‘North Country’ is a 2005 docudrama about single mother Josey Aimes’ historic sexual assault lawsuit against a northern Minnesota iron mine. The film stars Charlize Theron as Josey Aimes, Frances McDormand as Glory Dodge, and Jeremy Renner as Billy Sharp.

It seems that audiences and critics liked the film but didn’t feel that it was all that great. It currently sits at a %68 on Rotten Tomatoes. One thing that was widely recognized about the film, however, were the stellar performances by both Theron and McDormand.

Both actresses were nominated at the 78th Oscars for their performances in this film. Charlize Theron is great, but McDormand absolutely knocks it out of the park. Glory is much different at the beginning then she is at the end. McDormand’s portrayal of this is quite amazing and much different than anything she’s done before. Unfortunately McDormand lost the oscar to Rachel Weisz for her performance in ‘The Constant Gardener.’


7. Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona

This 1987 dramedy stars Nicolas Cage as H.I. Mcdunnough and Holly Hunt as Ed. The film centers around the two stealing one of five quintuplets due to their inability to have a child of their own. The film is directed by the Coen brothers and is widely considered to be one of, if not their best. Although McDormand doesn’t have a major role, it’s certainly one of her funniest and most dynamic performances.

McDormand plays Dot, a family friend and mother of six, in a scene where she comes to visit H.I. and Ed so she can see the new baby. Throughout this scene McDormand shows off her “knowledge” of raising children. She’s obviously insane and has no boundaries when it comes to telling people what they should be doing with their life.

In one sequence McDormand yells offscreen and it visibly startles Holly Hunter either because of how the line was delivered or it was just an unexpected ad-lib. If you pay attention you can notice Hunter struggling to hold back a smile and retain her composure. As previously stated, it’s a very small role, but when it comes down to it, it’s also one of Frances McDormand’s most entertaining.


6. Miss Pettigrew

This romantic-comedy period piece is directed by Bharat Nalluri and stars Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, Amy Adams as the femme fatale Delysia Lafosse, and Lee Pace as the smooth-talking piano player Michael Pardue. The film is set just before the beginning of WW2 in London, England.

It’s safe to say that this isn’t a very serious film. It’s also not the best film on this list by any means. It’s extremely predictable and cheesy and probably wouldn’t be deserving of your time if not for the excellent performances.

Miss Pettigrew is a homeless woman that loses her job. As she leaves her previous place of work she hears of an opportunity for employment and decides to see if she can lie her way into some food or a place to sleep. Upon meeting this new client, however, Miss Pettigrew decides that maybe she’ll stick around and help Miss Lafosse fix her messy social affairs.

McDormand is absolutely beautiful in this role. She feels extremely genuine and caring. Even though the characters of Miss Pettigrew and Delysia only know each other for a day, their relationship is adorable and very fun to watch.