The 26 Best Glenn Close Roles Ranked

With a career that has risen to legendary status, Glenn Close has become one of the most treasured actors of her time. With characters have empowered female viewers everywhere and performances that have scared audiences from the first frame onward, Close has proven time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with. Plus, with all of the incredible powerhouse directors she's collaborated with, Close has genuinely cemented herself as the secret ingredient to any great movie, regardless of the genre.

But given that Close has played so many memorable characters throughout her multi-decade-long career, it can be hard to decide which ones are  truly among the best of the best. From movies that are nostalgic blockbusters, intense family dramas, costume extravaganzas, and even some animated fare, Glenn Close's filmography offers a lot to choose from within  Without further ado, here are 15 significant roles from this dynamite actress' resume.

26. Férula Trueba - The House of Spirits (1993)

As Hollywood has proven time and time again, some legendary novels shouldn't be adapted. A messy example is Billie August's "The House of Spirits," a 1993 film adaptation of Isabel Allende's iconic multi-decade-spanning family drama that features everything from clumsy editing to strange directorial choices. Yet one of the shining elements within the film is Glenn Close's performance as Férula Trueba, the sister of the plot's leading wealthy miner (and overall antagonist), Esteban (Jeremy Irons). How so? Well, with the beautiful queer undertones of her performance and the nervous energy she evokes throughout, Close does as best she can to portray her character's introverted and tragic nature with elegance and grace.

But why does this movie rank so low amongst Close's best? Everyone in this movie (including Close) is miscast. Not only are the characters supposed to be of South American descent, but no one really fits the personalities of Allende's melodramatic ensemble. Despite this messy casting decision, Close makes an impression, which helps the film recover from this and other questionable cinematic blunders. Plus, it's a treat to see her work alongside acting contemporaries like Meryl Streep and Irons and outshine them in almost every scene.

25. Mrs. Wittenborn - Evening (2007)

While Close is no stranger to playing '50s-era housewives, one of her most underappreciated turns at this archetype appears in Lajos Koltai's "Evening," a star-studded drama that deals with heartbreak and everything in between. Close portrays Mrs. Wittenborn, a wealthy housewife focused on planning the wedding of her beautiful daughter, Lila (Mamie Gummer). As the movie proceeds, we see glimpses of how image-obsessed Mrs. Wittenborn is. It's a factor that has played into Lila's life choices but likely is the cause of the darkness within her son, Buddy (Hugh Dancy), and Mrs. Wittenborn's entire family, all of which Close's performance evokes with disturbingly beautiful poise.

Even with all of these fascinating aspects within Close's work in "Evening," it's a role that is otherwise "a blink, and you'll miss it" pick within her filmography. She gets less screen time than the rest of the cast, which is why this role isn't ranked as high as others. Still, it's a delicious example of how well Close can balance being radiant and downright despicable. In her first on-screen exchange with Claire Danes' Ann, Close's Wittenborn gives a look filled with love and judgment. Ultimately, Close's work in "Evening" proves how perfect she is for any role that requires a strand of pearls, class, and deep-seated insecurity.

24. Claire Wellington - The Stepford Wives (2004)

If one were to compare Close's work to the amp in "Spinal Tap," her portrayal of Claire Wellington in the 2004 version of "The Stepford Wives" would also be at an 11. That description fits the rest of this take on Ira Levin's feminist horror tale of women losing their individuality, which might be why it's garnered less-than-favorable reviews from audiences and critics. Still, even with Frank Oz's odd interpretation of the source material, it's hard to deny the majestic silliness of Close's acting choices.

From her terrifying blinking eyes to her hilarious excitement over a "provocative" Christmas catalog, Close's Claire evokes the campy bliss that drag queens aspire to achieve. Her performance wonderfully blends sincerity with unhinged delusion. But even with all of Close's additions to this modern take on "The Stepford Wives," it's a struggle to ignore how the film doesn't do justice to the original 1975 adaptation, making it hard to put higher on the list. Still, there's no denying Close's performance leaves a memorable, campy impression on anyone willing to give it a shot. 

23. First Lady Marsha Dale - Mars Attacks! (1996)

While many movies on this list showcase Close as a glamorous, high-society lady, only one involves intergalactic aliens. "Mars Attacks" is a Tim Burton-helmed cult classic, now admired for its wacky aesthetic and dark comedic tone. In the film, Close plays First Lady Marsha Dale, the dedicated wife of President James Dale (Jack Nicholson). She tries to support her husband, daughter (Natalie Portman), and country during a martian invasion. Although some viewers might think this role is beneath Close's talents, the wacky Marsha Dale perfectly fits Close's comedic abilities.

Throughout her career, Close has shown time and time again that she's a master of camp. Close's performance as Marsha Dale proves that fact marvelously. From exaggerated expressions to exceptional deliveries of one-liners, Close nails the mid-century sci-fi vibes of the movie with excellence. It's equally a treat to see her work alongside Nicholson, who knows a thing or two about being in B-Movies of the era. Though much like the roles mentioned above, this Close part gets less narrative attention than other characters on this list, making it hard to top her other more fleshed-out performances when ranking them. But if you ever doubted Close's abilities at being a comedy powerhouse, watch her hilarious skills at play in "Mars Attacks!"

22. Irani Rael - Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Throughout the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, several high-profile actors have been involved in more minor (yet beloved) roles. From Anthony Hopkins in "Thor" to Ben Kingsley in "Shang-Chi," each acclaimed performer has brought something fun to the MCU. Yet easily one of the most underappreciated examples is Close's work as Nova Prime Irani Rael in 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" – A role that some would deem forgettable, yet, thanks to Close and James Gunn, became a magical addition to the MCU.

From the moment she steps on-screen, Close embodies Irani with strength and grace. She, like Close, is a character who has had to work up the ranks to be taken seriously in her field, an aspect that Close plays up when Irani has to keep calm amongst her chaotic co-workers. But the best part of Close's performance is noticing how much fun she's having within the MCU — so much so that she brings it up frequently (like in her Vanity Fair retrospective). Yet even with all of these aspects, there are many juicer characters that Close has breathed life into within this ranking — hence why it lands in this lower spot. But even with that being the case, it doesn't take away from Glenn Close's fabulous accomplishments in this fantastic role. 

21. Camille Dixon - Cookie's Fortune (1999)

While one of the more mixed-bag creations in Robert Altman's directorial filmography, the Southern-focused dark comedy "Cookie's Fortune" has its charms. The film centers on a wacky Mississippi town and how its community handles the unexpected passing of Cookie (Patricia Neal), the legendary local dowager. Camille Dixon (Close), Cookie's theatrical niece, doesn't want the town to realize the truth behind her aunt's passing. While the movie's subject is more taboo than others on this list, Close's performance surpasses the film's awkward cinematic choices.

With her silly entrance involving a fruit bowl and her wild interactions with the cast, Camille is another delightful example of how Close is at her best when she's allowed to go full camp. This especially comes across when Camille has to creatively shift the narrative of her aunt's death, showcasing Close's brilliance at balancing comedy with drama. Overall, her work in "Cookie's Fortune" is easily one of her most underrated and deserves to be admired for its accomplishments. Yet despite all of the dark comedic delights this Glenn Close performance contains, there are much wilder and funnier roles within her acclaimed filmography that outshine this turn just a tad more.

20. Caroline Caldwell in The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

Set in an unspecified future, "The Girl with All The Gifts" tells the story of a world destroyed by a fungal virus and the people trying to survive. A key figure in the story, Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Close), believes that the young "neonates" (children born with the infection inside them) can aid in finding a solution. Through riddles and physical tests, Caldwell does everything she can to get the answers she needs from the zombie-like hybrid children — even though some of her colleagues disagree with her methods. With the character's excellent blend of intellect and stubborn techniques makes the role tailor-made for Close in the best of ways. 

First and foremost, there's something oddly magical about watching Glenn Close in a sci-fi/horror project. Maybe it's her striking appearance or the elegant way she says technical science jargon, but Close deserves to be used more in films like this. Why? Because Close brings the complicated arc of her character to life without going too bold in her acting choices. It's a decision that makes her a thrill to watch, especially when Close goes head-to-head with young talents like Sennia Nanua and Gemma Arterton – both of which she has excellent acting chemistry with on-screen. Ultimately, while this role doesn't stand out as a game changer in Close's career, it certainly demands appreciation for showing how well she fits into all genres. 

19. Dr. Elaine Keener - Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000)

Directed by Rodrigo García ("Fried Green Tomatoes"), "Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her" is an interweaving tale about various women and how love and emotional struggles play out in their complicated lives. One such story revolves around Dr. Elaine Keener (Close), a doctor trying to balance her loneliness while caring for her elderly mother. As audiences witness her story unfold, it becomes clear that Elaine craves intimacy. However, she refuses to acknowledge it in a healthy manner — all of which Close evokes perfectly without speaking a word of dialog.

Though Close is known for playing larger-than-life individuals, Dr. Elaine Keener is one of Close's most complicated roles. She not only has to showcase the professional angle but also her internal shame and turmoil towards her situation. But in the grand scheme of her acting career, her performance as Elaine Keener doesn't get as much time to flourish compared to other iconic roles within her catalog. Yet even with that being the case, the brilliant moments offered in "Just by Looking at Her" are a great example of Close's artistry when playing a more subdued character.

18. Karin Anderson - Meeting Venus (1991)

Before Cate Blanchett gave life to Lydia Tár, Close brought another music-focused diva to the big screen in 1991's "Meeting Venus." Directed by István Szabó, the film details the struggle of artists trying to mount Wagner's opera "Tannhäuser." Within the musical intensity is Karin Anderson (Close), a prima donna at odds with the conductor, Zoltan Szanto (Niels Arestrup), due to their different backgrounds. Like any story involving two warring sides, the film's odd pair find themselves drawn to each other in ways that are sexy and dangerous for the production.

Similar to other roles in Close's catalog, Karin is a character that is just as much a monster as an angel. Sure, she's a harbinger of chaos who wrecks any relationship within ten feet of her, but deep down, Karin has a heart full of the kind of love written about in books. Still, even with the rare elements of tenderness within her performance, Close's work in "Meeting Venus" isn't the most significant acting stretch compared to other roles on this list. It's a delicious display of Close's talents, but there are other more risky (and interesting) characters further into her career.

17. Mrs Farraday - Mary Reilly (1996)

Though a more minor role than others on this list, Close's work in "Mary Reilly" needs to be mentioned because it's the definition of outrageous. In the horror movie, audiences follow the story of the titular maid, Mary (Julia Roberts), a young woman working for Dr. Henry Jekyll (John Malkovich). He asks Mary to deliver a letter to the brothel owner, Mrs. Farraday (Close), so she can give a room to Jekyll's mysterious assistant, Edward Hyde (Malkovich). As soon as audiences encounter Farraday, it's clear this bold figure is (like Close) someone you'll never forget.

While there's no denying "Mary Reilly" is an odd gothic tale, it has its charms, including Close's unhinged performance as Farraday. Close steals the film from the rest of the ensemble with her wild accent and hilarious curling of her red lips. Close comes across like she's having the time of her life portraying this campy lady of the night. Some fans might be baffled to see a supporting role like this ranked higher than others within Close's filmography. But if you've seen this strange little movie, it's easy to see how Close landed the iconic role of Cruella de Vil years later.

16. Teddy Barnes - Jagged Edge (1985)

Throughout her career, Close has been paired with some talented gentlemen with electric chemistry. One such example can be found in "Jagged Edge," a courtroom drama with an erotic thriller edge that couples Close with the equally exciting Jeff Bridges. Close plays lawyer Teddy Barnes, who suddenly finds herself defending Jack Forrester (Bridges), a man accused of brutally murdering his wife. As the two learn more about each other, Teddy finds herself at a (complicated) cross road — an arc that Close portrays with calculated precision.

But why should Close's work in "Jagged Edge" gain such a glorious spot on this list? It's all about how Close commands the screen with just a glance at the camera. It's a magic trick very few can perform at any time in their career, but it's fantastic to see how much cinematic power Close could achieve with only a handful of movies on her resume. But the true treat is witnessing Close act alongside Bridges, who she not only has incredible romantic chemistry with but equally matches in their dramatic crime-fueled sequences. Overall, if you're looking for a Close performance that proves how powerful a leading lady she can be, "Jagged Edge" is a great place to start.

15. Gutless — Hook

In Steven Spielberg's "Hook," Peter (Robin Williams) returns to Captain Hook's ship after many years away, covered in a hilarious pirate disguise. As he listens to Hook (Dustin Hoffman) regale his crew with tales of how he kidnapped Peter's kids, he questions who amongst the crowd didn't believe in him. He eventually points to an older, bearded pirate — Gutless, a crew member who bet against Hook's ability to get revenge on Peter Pan. As punishment, Hook throws Gutless into the "Boo Box," resulting in a terrifically campy and absurd set of circumstances.

Though many casual viewers might be scratching their head when reading this, yes, Glenn Close did indeed portray this poor unfortunate pirate. And while Gutless doesn't last too long on screen, when you realize what part Close is playing, it's easy to see why Gutless deserves to be mentioned among her most memorable performances. She simply disappears into this over-the-top cameo.

14. Kala — Tarzan

Though many tend to forget Close's voice acting work, it's hard to deny that her vocal talents made her a perfect fit for the role of Kala in Disney's adaptation of "Tarzan." A much more down-to-earth role for the typically dramatic actress, Kala gave Close a chance to show both her whimsical singing voice along with her tender side. And though some might think this was an easy task to accomplish, Close had a Disney legacy to live up to — one that she continued in her own unique way.

But what makes Kala one of Close's best (and underrated) performances is all about the voice acting chemistry she has with the rest of the "Tarzan" cast. From the moments when she has to stand up to her Gorilla husband, Kerchak (Lance Henriksen), to the sequences in which Kala has to advise Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn), Close embodies the great moms of Disney's past while still bringing a modern and empowering sensibility to the role.

13. Alicia Clark — The Paper

Though considered a forgotten movie by most, Ron Howard's "The Paper" contains one of Glenn Close's most refined, calculated performances. In the movie, Close plays Alicia Clark, a managing editor of a New York tabloid who is more focused on advancing her career than preserving her integrity as a journalist. Clark is trying to be one of the guys in an industry that immediately assumes she's a mean girl simply because she wants something more. And that relatable aspect of Alicia is the core of Close's fantastic performance.

In one particular sequence, Alicia goes to a business dinner to try and speak to her boss' boss, hoping to get the kind of contract negotiation that she thinks she deserves. Although audiences would hope that the outcome would have changed in the decades since the movie's release, both "The Paper" and Glenn Close's performance remind viewers about the constant struggles women face in male-dominated industries.

12. Iris Gaines — The Natural

In Barry Levinson's "The Natural," audiences follow the fairytale-like story of Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), a '30's baseball player with extraordinary abilities who rises to the top. Close takes on the role of Iris Gaines, a part that shows off a glamorous side that many of Close's prior roles hadn't, proving that she was (and still is) a perfect match for Redford in both acting and visual presentation.

Close's abilities recall a memorable sequence in the film in which Iris stands out in a baseball-focused crowd. In the scene, Iris is watching Roy as he makes an impressive hit. Yet even with all eyes on his sports-driven successes, all Roy can think about is looking at Iris. The mixture of Close'scontrolled acting, the brilliant cinematography, and the romantic aesthetics, showcase how this talented individual truly takes command of the screen. Even without uttering a single word, the camera and audiences love her.

11. Vice President Kathryn Bennett — Air Force One

While "Air Force One" follows many of the same beats as action staples like "Die Hard," there's nothing in the genre comparable to Glenn Close as Vice President Kathryn Bennett. Serving alongside Harrison Ford's President James Marshall, it's up to Kathryn to "hold down the fort" as Marshall tries to stop a group of terrorists from taking over the titular plane. And while the President is kicking some Russian bad guys to the metaphorical curb, the real unsung hero of the film is Kathryn, who has to take on both the White House and the world during a highly intense situation.

Both regal and remarkably blunt, the best aspect of Close's performance in "Air Force One" is how she knows what kind of movie she's in. Whether it be the bold delivery of her over-the-top one-liners or her trailer-worthy looks during the most intense sequences, Close perfectly matches the movie's tone. Plus, seeing Close acting alongside heavy-hitters like Ford and Gary Oldman is the definition of cool — she holds her own against them with her uniquely captivating style. 

10. Gertrude — Hamlet

While many doubted that a Mel Gibson-led adaptation of "Hamlet" could work, this version of the classic Shakespeare tale surprised audiences, and while Gibson's performance in the title role is quite memorable, the secret sauce of this rendition is, of course, Glenn Close as Hamlet's mother, Gertrude.

Being one of the two leading ladies of the piece, Close's Gertrude is more comforting than other versions of the character. Close's take on the Danish matriarch is kind yet flawed. She's willing to do anything for her kingdom, especially if it gives her a distraction from her thoughts. But, as with any tremendous Close performance, there is a hidden layer to her approach — Gertrude seems to be keeping secrets close to the symbolic vest. And when Close gets to act alongside Gibson and the movie's other excellent cast members, the strength of her acting becomes crystal clear.

9. Jenny Fields — The World According to Garp

Famously known as Close's feature film debut, the role of Jenny Fields in "The World According to Garp" is undoubtedly an odd one. Not only did Close play mother to a then 31-year-old Robin Williams as Garp, but Jenny was certainly not your typical movie mom. From wanting to have a baby out-of-wedlock in the '40s to interviewing prostitutes at coffee shops in front of her son, Jenny is a character that certainly likes to color outside the lines of life — an aspect Close perfectly captures.

Despite the problematic elements of the plot (especially how Garp comes to be) and the awkward age difference in casting, Close elevates the character of Jenny into something even more special than she was in the pages of John Irving's original novel. And through countless fantastic sequences (mainly those with Williams in the later portions of the film), it's easy to see why this role established Close as a powerhouse of both the big and small screen.

8. Albert Nobbs — Albert Nobbs

Having played the role both on the stage and then on the screen, Glenn Close's performance as the quiet but complicated Albert Nobbs is one of the most intriguing pieces of her filmography. Based on the book and play "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs," the film centers around a late-19th century butler born biologically as a woman who works hard to create his dream life. From opening a tobacco shop to getting married to a beautiful maid named Helen Dawes (played by Mia Wasikowska), all Albert wants is to have the life he's always dreamed of. Yet, it seems his already tough existence has more than a few bumps on the road ahead.

Though uneven with its LGBTQ+ representation from start to finish, there's no denying that Close's performance carries you through the film's cinematic flaws. Paired with the great Janet McTeer in many of the movie's most memorable sequences, Close truly becomes an acting force, proving that some iconic stage performances can indeed successfully translate to the screen, even if there are many years between them.

7. Sunny von Bulow — Reversal of Fortune

Based on a true story, the darkly funny "Reversal of Fortune" is about the murder trial in which Claus von Bulow (played by Jeremy Irons) is charged with killing his wife, Sunny von Bulow (Close). In the film, Sunny lies in a coma, trying to help the audience put together the puzzle of how she arrived at this moment. The film then takes us on a journey through both Sunny's past and the present day, allowing us to come to our own conclusion about the crime at hand.

Dressed to the nines and beyond, Close's take on Sunny von Bulow is a perfect blend of camp and the refined. She's a Hitchcock blonde without Alfred's direction. She looks at her life from a wickedly comedic angle, serving as both the narrator and the victim (in a "Sunset Boulevard" sort of way). Close showcases every piece  of Sunny's complexity from start to finish, making "Reversal of Fortune" intoxicating to watch. She also has a great collection of garments and hairstyles, and Close inhabits this character with dignity and grace.

6. Sarah Cooper — The Big Chill

Known as one of the most significant parts of her early career, Close's work in Lawrence Kasdan's "The Big Chill" set the tone for the kind of roles she'd take later on. Though Close would eventually play juicer and bolder characters throughout her filmography, Sarah showed Close's down-to-earth vulnerability in the best of ways. The film revolves around a group of friends who celebrate their late pal, Christopher, who took his own life. And though the film deals with many incredibly dark subjects, Close and the rest of the cast make it an enjoyable ride.

From her sweet dance sequences with the rest of the ensemble to the isolated moments in which she reflects on the intensity of the situation (especially the shower sequence), Close's portrayal of Sarah stands out as one of the more memorable aspects of this classic film. And when paired with the legendary cast, which includes Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline, and so many others, it's easy to see why both the movie (and Close's performance) left such an impact on movie-goers during its initial release.

5. Cruella de Vil — 101 Dalmatians

One of Close's most cherished roles, Cruella de Vil from Disney's 1996 live-action "101 Dalmatians" (and its sequel) is a character just as iconic, bold, and memorable as Close herself. From her larger-than-life aesthetic presentation to a laugh that sends shivers down any person or dog's spine, it's no wonder this antagonist continues to delight audiences. Yet it is the unique touches that Close brings to the legendary Disney villain that make this incarnation of the dognapping baddie all her own.

First of all, much like other roles mentioned on this list, Close is no stranger to camp, and while there are other examples on her resume, Cruella gives Close free rein to cut loose. But it is her perfect balance of comedy and terror, along with her tributes to Marc Davis' original animation, that makes Close's portrayal of Cruella a sight to behold. She is one of the few actors to truly bring one of Disney's animated characters to real life in the most delicious of ways.

4. Joan Castleman — The Wife

One of the many roles that should have won her an Oscar, Glenn Close's work in "The Wife" is a masterclass in drama. Based on the novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of Joan (Close) and Joe Castleman (Johnathan Pryce), a married couple who seem to be the yin to each other's yang. Joe is an award-winning writer who is about to be given the Nobel Prize. Though it may seem like Joan is the perfect wife, there's more to her story than just being a supportive figure in Joe's career.

In one of the more outstanding examples of "show don't tell," Close perfectly captures Joan's complexities by simply shifting in her face. And as the film progresses towards its more dramatic sequences, Close produces one of the most compelling examples of intensity ever put on celluloid. She's a genius when it comes to making characters fascinating from beginning to end, and her work as Joan may be one of the most genuine and magnificent examples of Close's particular strengths.

3. Patty Hewes — Damages

Considered her most iconic TV role, Glenn Close's performance as Patty Hewes in "Damages" is an acting tour de force. The FX legal thriller centers around Patty, an incredible lawyer who keeps her emotions tucked under her sleeve. As the series progresses, Patty takes on a multitude of extreme cases. But the truly intriguing part of the show is Patty's relationship with her protégée Ellen (played by Rose Byrne), from their highs to the lowest of lows.

With memorable zingers and a cutthroat mentality, Close brings Patty to life in absolutely astonishing ways. From the character's obsession with perfection to not letting anyone (especially any man) stand in her way, Close makes every ferocious sequence in Patty's story as riveting as the next. And when she's acting alongside the other memorable cast members on "Damages," it becomes clear why Close won so many awards for this magnificent performance.

2. Marquise de Merteuil — Dangerous Liaisons

Driven by love and revenge, the role of the Marquise de Merteuil in "Dangerous Liaisons" is perhaps one of the most significant parts any actress can play. But no one has portrayed the character quite like Glenn Close. Not only did Close add her signature lightning-fast reflexes, unique choices, and delicious spin on villainy to her performance, but she brought this theatrical individual to life in some truly fascinating ways.

But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Close's performance are the hints of vulnerability the character exhibits. The Marquise de Merteuil is an individual who never wants to show her true feelings. Still, as the plot progresses, Close uses the tiniest expressions to convey the character's true feelings, making for one unforgettable finale. When considering that Close had only given birth to her daughter seven weeks before production, the results of her work are incredible.

1. Alex Forrest — Fatal Attraction

While there have been many significant roles in Glenn Close's career, none of them are quite as crucial to her stardom as Alex Forrest in "Fatal Attraction." The film focuses on Daniel "Dan" Gallagher (played by Michael Douglas), a successful lawyer who seems to be existing in marital bliss. But when Alex crosses his path one weekend, the two have a passionate affair — one that Dan thinks is one and done, but Alex feels is more. What follows is the stuff of movie legend, primarily thanks to Close's incredible performance.

In many interviews, Close has said that she never viewed Alex as a villain, a perspective that greatly influenced her overall take on the character. Though many viewers would think otherwise, it is Close's dedication to this complex individual's genuine vulnerability that makes this piece of her filmography truly special. While some might remember Close's work on this movie more for her iconic one-liners and ridiculous antics, it is Close's tireless efforts on "Fatal Attraction" that make Alex arguably the most fantastic role of her entire career.