Great Character Actresses

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1.
Linda Hunt
Veteran character actress Linda Hunt was Born April 2, 1945 in Morristown, New Jersey to Raymond Davy Hunter and Elsie Doying Hunter. She attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago (now part of DePaul University). Her film debut was in Robert Altman's Popeye...
 
2.
Zelda Rubinstein
Actress, Poltergeist
A marvelously quirky and distinctive 4' 3" character actress, with a larger-than-life presence on film and TV, Zelda Rubinstein gave up a long and stable career in the medical field as a lab technician in order to strive for something more self-fulfilling as middle age settled in. At the age of 45, the feisty lady gave up the comfort of a stable paycheck and attempt an acting career...
 
3.
Karen Black
Karen Black was born Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, Illinois, to Elsie Mary (Reif), who wrote children's books, and Norman Arthur Ziegler, an engineer and businessman. She was of Norwegian (from her paternal grandmother), German, and Bohemian (Czech) descent. Karen entered Northwestern University at 15 and left two years later...
 
4.
Kathleen Freeman
Actress, Shrek
Kathleen Freeman's introduction to show business came very early in life. Her parents were vaudevillians, and she made her debut at age 2 in their act. Later she attended UCLA with intentions of becoming a pianist, but was bitten by the acting bug and never looked back. She gained experience on stage in various stock and repertory companies...
 
5.
JoBeth Williams
Actress, Poltergeist
The product of a musical family, Margaret JoBeth Williams was born in Houston, Texas, to Frances Faye (Adams), a dietitian, and Fredric Roger Williams, a wire/cable company manager and opera singer. Her father encouraged her early interest in theater during high school. She made her professional debut at age 18 in a Houston-based musical production...
 
6.
Glenne Headly
Actress, Don Jon
For the past fourteen years, she has said that family has been the most important thing to her and she has set most of her time aside to be a "present" mother to her son. Movies, plays and television are chosen, for the most part, when they occur in town or on a school break. She has taken the current year to homeschool her son for his seventh grade...
 
7.
Eileen Brennan
Actress, The Sting
A supremely gifted, versatile player who could reach dramatic depths, as exemplified in her weary-eyed, good-hearted waitress in The Last Picture Show, or comedy heights, as in her sadistic drill captain in Private Benjamin, Eileen Brennan managed to transition from lovely Broadway singing ingénue to respected film and television character actress within a decade's time...
 
8.
Melinda Dillon
Melinda Dillon was born October 13, 1939, in Hope, Arkansas, to Norine and W.S Dillon. She attended Hyde Park High School. Melinda started in improvisational comedy, and stage acting before she made her feature-film debut as an eccentric neighbor of Catherine Deneuve's in The April Fools. After a seven year absence...
 
9.
Cathy Moriarty
Actress, Raging Bull
Cathy Moriarty was born November 29, 1960 in the Bronx, New York, to Irish immigrants, Catherine and John Moriarty, a warehouse worker. She was raised in Westchester County, New York and began acting in local dinner theaters while still in high school. At 17, she auditioned for what would be her most memorable role to film aficionados...
 
10.
Diana Scarwid
Listed as one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1980" in John Willis's Screen World, Vol 32. Diana Scarwid was Born August 27, 1955 in Savannah, Georgia. She left Georgia for New York at the age of 17 to pursue acting. She attended Pace University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After various performances in television and made-for-television films...
 
11.
Nancy Allen
Actress, RoboCop
Nancy Anne Allen was the daughter of a police lieutenant from Yonkers, New York. At a young age, she trained for a dancing career at the High School of Performing Arts, and then attended Jose Quintano's School for Young Professionals. In dozens of television commercials from the age of 15, Nancy made her first film appearance in The Last Detail with Jack Nicholson...
 
12.
Kathy Baker
For someone who has made an award-winning impact in all three mediums (stage, film and TV), actress Kathy Baker has been strangely denied all-out stardom, yet continues to demonstrate her versatility in whatever material comes her way. The comely blonde was born Katherine Whitton Baker in Midland, Texas...
“ Very prolific film and television actress who has appeared in such films as "Edward Scissorhands", "The Right Stuff", "The Cider House Rules". On television she's appeared in "Monk", "Boston Public", and "Grey's Anatomy". ” - aladdinsane85
 
13.
Sondra Locke
Sondra Locke was born May 28, 1944, in Shelbyville, Tennessee, a quiet little town about 60 miles southeast of Nashville. She was the daughter of Raymond Smith, a military man stationed in the area, and Pauline Bayne. Smith departed the scene before Sondra's birth. Later, her mother wed Alfred Locke...
 
14.
Ruth Gordon
When Ruth Gordon convinced her father, a sea captain, to let her pursue acting she came to New York and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She acted in a few silents made at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1915. She made her Broadway debut in "Peter Pan" as Nibs the same year. The next 20 years she spent on stage...
 
15.
Estelle Parsons
The charming, witty, and immeasurably gifted Estelle Parsons was born November 20, 1927 in Lynn, Massachusetts, to Elinor and Eben Parsons. She attended the Oak Grove School for Girls in Maine, and later graduated from Connecticut College in 1949. She worked as a singer with a band before she became the first Women's Editor on Today...
 
16.
Catherine O'Hara
Born March 4, 1954 in Ontario, Canada. Attended Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute. Began career with starring on television series SCTV. Notable films roles include: the over-dramatic and self-centered Delia Deetz in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, Kate McCallister, Macaulay Culkin's on-screen mother in Home Alone and its sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York...
 
17.
Edie McClurg
Actress, Frozen
Edie McClurg began her performing career at age five with the oxymoronic Kansas City Rhythm Kids. She retired when the dance teacher was arrested on a morals charge for "dating" the tall and lissome, yet underage, star dancer in the troupe. That girl's big number culminated with a back-bend where Edie drank a soda upside down (of course)...
 
18.
Pamela Reed
Veteran character actress Pamela Reed was born April 2, 1949 in Tacoma, Washington. She received her B.F.A at the University of Washington. With over 60 film and television credits under her belt, we should acknowledge her work in film with performances in The Long Riders, The Right Stuff, Kindergarten Cop...
 
19.
Carol Kane
Actress, Annie Hall
Carol Kane was born Carolyn Laurie Kane on June 18, 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Elaine Joy (Fetterman), a jazz singer and pianist, and Michael Myron Kane, an architect. Her family is Jewish (from Russia, Poland, and Austria). Due to her parents' divorce, Carol spent most of her childhood in boarding schools...
 
20.
Amanda Plummer
Actress, Pulp Fiction
The daughter of Canadian actor Christopher Plummer and American actress Tammy Grimes, Amanda Plummer was born in New York City on March 23, 1957. Her breakthrough role came when she starred opposite Robin Williams in The Fisher King. However, Plummer may be best remembered for her work in the Quentin Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction...
 
21.
Margaret Hamilton
Margaret Hamilton was Born December 9, 1902 in Cleveland, Ohio to Jennie and Walter Hamilton. She later attended Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and practiced acting doing children's theater while a Junior League of Cleveland member. Margaret had already built her resume with several performances in film before she came to her most memorable and astronomically successful role...
 
22.
Jennifer Tilly
Jennifer Tilly burst onto the scene playing the tone deaf Monica Moran in The Fabulous Baker Boys, and has been playing unforgettable characters ever since. She earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the spectacularly untalented Olive Neal in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. She followed that up...
 
23.
Katharine Ross
Actress, The Graduate
Katharine Juliet Ross was born on January 29, 1940 in Hollywood, California, to Katharine W. (Hall) and Dudley T. Ross. Her father, who also worked for the Associated Press, was away in the US Navy when she was born. His navy career shuttled the family around to Virginia, then Palo Alto, and finally to Walnut Creek...
 
24.
Carrie Snodgress
Actress, Pale Rider
A student of Northern Illinois University, Carrie switched to drama at Chicago's Goodman Theatre School where she won the Sarah Siddons Award as outstanding graduate. After graduating, Carrie worked in Television and also appeared in Television movies. She made her big screen debut in Rabbit, Run...
 
25.
Piper Laurie
Actress, Carrie
Piper Laurie was born Rosetta Jacobs in Detroit, Michigan, on January 22, 1932, to Charlotte Sadie (Alperin) and Alfred Jacobs, a furniture dealer. Her father was a Polish Jewish immigrant and her mother was of Russian Jewish descent. Her father moved the family to Los Angeles, California, when she was 6-years-old...
 
26.
Lynne Thigpen
Multi-talented actress Lynne Thigpen was born Cherlynne Thigpen in Joliet, Illinois, on December 22, 1948. She performed in community theater and university theater productions while attending the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Following graduation, she taught high-school English for a short time...
 
27.
P.J. Soles
Actress, Halloween
P.J. (Pamela Jayne) Soles was born on July 17, 1950 in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father came from Holland and her mother from New Jersey. Because her father was working for an international insurance company, the family moved all over the world. P.J. lived in Casablanca, Morocco, and Maracaibo, Venezuela...
 
28.
Conchata Ferrell
It took 30 years since it was first predicted, but Conchata Ferrell finally achieved television stardom, albeit of the supporting variety, as the housekeeper "Berta" in the situation-comedy Two and a Half Men. Ferrell originally had been tipped for stardom with her turn as the prostitute "April" in the Norman Lear-produced series Hot L Baltimore...
 
29.
Anne Ramsey
Actress, The Goonies
American character actress Anne Ramsey was quite busy in the 1980s despite being in her later years at the time. It wasn't until quite late in her life that Ramsey pursued an acting career in motion pictures. Ramsey was born Anne Mobley in Omaha, Nebraska, to Eleanor (Smith), a national treasurer of the Girl Scouts...
 
30.
Embeth Davidtz
Embeth Davidtz was born on August 11, 1965 in Lafayette, Indiana. She is known for her role as Miss Honey in the film Matilda. Her parents, Jean and John Davidtz, were South Africans, with Dutch, English, and French ancestry. The family moved to Trenton, New Jersey, before returning to her parents' native country...
“ This lady deserves to be better known. Most will recognize her as "Miss Honey" from 1996s "Matilda", based on the Roald Dahl book. She also made appearances in two other underrated films, "13 Ghosts" and "Fallen", opposite Denzel Washington. ” - aladdinsane85
 
31.
Meg Tilly
Actress, The Big Chill
Meg Tilly was set on being a dancer, and at 17 connected to the Connecticut Ballet Company and later Throne Dance Theatre. It was in this capacity that she had her screen debut in Alan Parker's Fame. Unfortunately, an injury to her back cut short her plans for a dance career, and a small...
“ Sister of Jennifer, Meg had excellent roles in "The Big Chill", "Agnes of God" and opposite Anthony Perkins in "Psycho II" ” - aladdinsane85
 
32.
Anne Haney
Actress, Liar Liar
Anne Haney held prominent roles acting on stage, on the screen, and on TV. All these achievements came in her mid 40s, after she had raised a daughter and buried a husband. It wasn't until after she had packed her daughter off to college and "the maid quit", as she said, that she decided to try her hand at acting...
“ Provided some of the more memorable moments in "Lair, Lair" as Jim Carrey's overworked secretary. ” - aladdinsane85
 
33.
Karen Allen
Karen Jane Allen was born in Carrollton, rural southern Illinois, to Patricia (Howell), a teacher, and Carroll Thompson Allen, an FBI agent. Karen spent her first 10 years traveling around the country with her parents and two sisters. She was always "the new girl in school". Acting did not really cross...
 
34.
Frances Bay
Actress, Happy Gilmore
Cute, tiny, and prolific little old lady character actress Frances Bay worked constantly in both films and TV shows alike after making her debut at the age of 59 in life with a small part in the comedy Foul Play in 1978. She frequently portrayed eccentric elderly women and good-hearted grandmothers in all kinds of pictures and television programs...
 
35.
Marthe Keller
Actress, Marathon Man
Marthe Keller was born on January 28, 1945 in Basel, Switzerland. She studied ballet as a child but stopped after a skiing accident at age 16. She changed to acting, and worked in Berlin at the Schiller Theatre and the Berliner Ensemble. Keller's earliest film appearances were in Funeral in Berlin (uncredited) and the German film Wild Rider Ltd....
“ Particularly memorable as a terrorist opposite Bruce Dern in "Black Sunday." ” - aladdinsane85
 
36.
Margaret Dumont
Actress, Duck Soup
Margaret Dumont would probably consider it a tragedy that she is best-known for her performances as the ultimate straight woman in seven of the Marx Brothers' films (including most of their best). By all accounts she never understood their jokes (offscreen and on), which is of course a major reason why she's so funny...
 
38.
Mary McDonnell
Mary McDonnell is a two-time Oscar®-nominated actress, who is known for her character portrayals in both period and present-day screen roles. Mary Eileen McDonnell was born on April 28, 1952 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to Eileen (Mundy) and John McDonnell, a computer consultant, both of Irish descent...
 
39.
Estelle Winwood
Actress, The Producers
When Estelle saw the girl on a white horse at the circus, she then decided that she wanted to be an actress. And she was from the age of 5, to the disapproval of her father. Her mother had her train with the Liverpool Repertory Company, and Estelle performed in many plays and many roles in the West End...
“ "Hold Me, Touch Me" in the Producers who lived to the astounding age of 101. ” - aladdinsane85
 
40.
Gloria Stuart
Actress, Titanic
Gloria Stuart was born on a dining room table on 4th Street in Santa Monica, California on July 4, 1910. Her early roles as a performing artist were in plays she produced in her home as a young girl. She was the star of her senior class play at Santa Monica High School in 1927. Attending the University of California...
“ Actress who starred opposite Claude Rains in The Invisable Man during the 1930s and garnered rave reviews for her role in Titanic some sixty years later. She died at the age of 100 in 2010, joining a small list of celebrity centenarians in the acting and entertainment field. ” - aladdinsane85
 
41.
CCH Pounder
Actress, Avatar
CCH Pounder (the CCH standing for Carol Christine Hilaria, her birth name). As can be said of other similarly styled actresses such as Alfre Woodard and Cicely Tyson, most of Pounder's characters are enriched with these same positive attributes and it is a testament to this actress' abilities that she continues on such a high plane in a nearly three-decade career...
“ Most will remember her from "The Shield", but for my money her best role was radio host Fran Ambrose in "Psycho IV." ” - aladdinsane85
 
42.
Shelley Duvall
Actress, The Shining
Shelley Alexis Duvall was born in Houston, Texas, to Bobbie Ruth (Massengale) and Robert Richardson Duvall, a lawyer. During her childhood, Shelley's mother humorously gave Shelley the nickname "Manic Mouse", because she would often run around her house and tip over furniture. Shelley however was more than a mouse...
 
43.
Jenny Agutter
Actress, The Avengers
Jenny Agutter was born on December 20, 1952, in Taunton, Somerset, England, UK. The daughter of an army officer, she spent her childhood traveling and living in different countries. Her film career began at the age of 12 in East of Sudan, which was quickly followed by Ballerina: Part 1 and Ballerina: Part 2...
“ Her best role: Alex Price in "An American Werewolf in London" (1981.) ” - aladdinsane85
 
44.
Meg Foster
Actress, They Live
Blue-eyed brunette Meg Foster was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on May 10, 1948 to David and Nancy. She has four siblings and grew up in Rowayton, Connecticut. Foster studied acting at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse. Foster's first role came about in 1969, when she appeared in an episode of NET Playhouse...
“ Underrated role as Rutger Hauer's wife in "The Osterman Weekend" and "They Live", opposite Roddy Piper and Keith David ” - aladdinsane85
 
45.
Kathleen Wilhoite
Born in 1964, Kathleen Wilhoite grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and began singing in her church choir from the first grade. Two years later, she was performing on stage, as part of a back-up choir, with The Carpenters, at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. All the while, she studied piano and songwriting and appeared in her high school's theater productions...
“ She was great in 'Pay It Forward" and in 1986s "Road House". I mainly remember her from the sadly underwhelming film "Murphy's Law", opposite Charles Bronson and Carrie Snodgress. ” - aladdinsane85
 
47.
Clara Blandick
Clara Blandick was a character actress who was born aboard an American ship off the coast of Hong Kong on June 4, 1880. Little is known about her early life until she became an actress. Although she appeared in 118 films, she was primarily a stage actress. Clara actually began her film career at a late age...
“ Best known as Auntie Em from the Wizard of Oz. ” - aladdinsane85
 
48.
Annie Corley
Actress, Monster
Annie Corley graduated from McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Indiana and later enrolled at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Since 1990, Annie has appeared in several films, her most notable role to date is Meryl Streep's on-screen daughter in The Bridges of Madison County. She later made a chilling appearance as Donna, Christina Ricci's on-screen aunt in Monster.
“ Terrific in her role as Christina Ricci's overwhelmed aunt in "Monster". Corley was also one of the bright spots in the 2002 *beep* "Juwanna Mann" (Kevin Pollak is the other one.) ” - aladdinsane85
 
49.
Ellen Albertini Dow
The multifaceted Ellen Albertini was a student of dance and piano at the age of five, and obtained a B.A. and M.A. in theater from Cornell University. She moved to New York, and studied and worked with the legendary likes of Hanya Holm, Martha Graham, Michael Shurtleff, Uta Hagen, Marcel Marceau...
“ Little old lady actress who appeared as the "rapping granny" in Adam Sandler's "The Wedding Singer", one of the few good things about the film IMHO. ” - aladdinsane85
 
50.
Jane Alexander
Actress, The Ring
Angular in features, reserved in demeanor and more-or-less plaintive in appearance, actress Jane Alexander's has played down the glamor card for the most part. Her true brilliance has come from the remarkable range and depth of her talent. Heralded as one of the finest 70s actresses to arrive in films following a towering Broadway success...
“ Mainly remembered for her debut film performance in "The Great White Hope" opposite James Earl Jones, and for her turn opposite Robert Redford in 1980s "Brubaker". ” - aladdinsane85
 
51.
Kathryn Joosten
Kathryn is best known for her portrayals of "Karen McCluskey" on Desperate Housewives on ABC and of "Mrs. Landingham", secretary to the President (Martin Sheen), on the critically-acclaimed NBC drama, The West Wing. She has also recurred on Dharma & Greg, and guest-starred on many hit television series...
“ Has popped up on all sorts of T.V shows, including, "The X-Files", "Picket Fences", "Dharma and Greg", "The West Wing" and most recently, her recurring role on "Desperate Housewives." ” - aladdinsane85
 
52.
Darlene Cates
The lovable, impressionable and immeasurably talented Darlene Cates was born December 13, 1947 in Borger, Texas, to Dorothy Ann (née Pfrimmer) and Truman Madison Guthrie. She grew up in Dumas. Darlene's parents divorced when she was 12 years, which lead to overeating, which manifested itself into obesity...
“ This lady should appear in more films. Her performance in What's Eating Gilbert Grape was particularly memorable. She also starred in the USA network movie "Wolf Girl", opposite Tim Curry and Grace Jones. ” - aladdinsane85
 
53.
Persis Khambatta
Persis Khambatta was born on October 2, 1948 in Bombay, India. At age 17, as Femina Miss India, she entered Miss Universe 1965, dressed in off-the-rack clothes she bought at the last minute. Khambatta became a model for companies such as Revlon. Her biggest acting break was getting the role of Lieutenant Ilia...
“ Played Lt. Illia in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979 and two years later played Rutger Hauer's fellow terrorist in the sadly underrated film "Nighthawks". ” - aladdinsane85
 
54.
Nancy Parsons
Actress, Porky's
Nancy Parsons, was born in Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, to Mary and Charles Parson. She had two siblings -- Mary Parsons and Theresa Macrae. When she was 17, her father remarried Genevieve Stack and moved with the three girls to South Pasadena, California. It was here that the acting bug first bit, when...