Happy Belated Birthday to Glenn Close! What are Her 5 Best Roles?

Glenn Close’s birthday was yesterday, and I won’t let it pass without a fight. Glenn Close’s birthday will not be ignored, Dan.

To celebrate the gifted and seismically commanding actress’ 66th birthday, I thought we’d rank her five best roles to date and fight about it in the comments. Here we go.

5. Reversal of Fortune

First of all, the idea of Glenn Close narrating a movie is like a magical absinthe dream. Employing the aristocratic, self-consciously demure voice she used to overdub Andie MacDowell in Greystoke, Glenn Close becomes the voice and conscience behind Reversal of Fortune, the 1990 film adaptation of Alan Dershowitz’s look inside the Von Bulow murder case. Look at this scene in which she starts to spill some rage on her weirdo husband. Those eyes! Those pounding fists! Though Jeremy Irons walked off with an Oscar for his role as Claus, Close surely warranted Academy attention for own fearsome work as the haughty Sunny.

4. Fatal Attraction

I always say this, but part of being a grownup is realizing that Glenn Close has never been in a perfect movie. There’s the possible exception of what I’ve listed at #2, but this is mostly an inarguable statement: The World According to Garp is too loony, The Natural is too boring (and Close herself has said her character was written “elliptically”), and Fatal Attraction is downright offensive. Famously, the final scene of the movie was rewritten to please test audiences, but before the film takes us to that climactic bathroom moment, we get an entire movie of Glenn Close ruining Michael Douglas’ life in a streak of unhinged mental illness. She is amazing in this one-dimensional movie, and she looks about as effing gorgeous and kickass as anyone in 1987 is allowed to be. Go, Glenn. Anne Archer, I also love you. 

3. Sunset Boulevard

There was a time when it was unthinkable to imagine anyone playing Norma Desmond except Gloria Swanson, but Glenn Close proved she was thrilling and maniacal and cool enough to fill Norma’s magnificent robes in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage adaptation in the mid ’90s. Glenn earned her third Tony Award for the performance, and I can honestly say that every clip I’ve seen of Glenn in this role is a captivating exercise in Kabuki facial expressions and sorceress stage movement. Plus, the woman can really sing! Unfair! 

2. Dangerous Liaisons

Now here is a one-of-a-kind movie, one that — as I stated earlier — might be the sole, 100% great movie in Glenn Close’s oeuvre. The problem? I honestly am not sure John Malkovich is right for the role of Valmont. But anyway: Glenn is manipulative, self-impressed, austere, and a total jackass as Marquise de Marteuil, an 18th century noble who is entertained by others’ ruin. And who could blame her? Close is usually known for her thundering presence, and while some of that is on display here, the real feat is how much emotion and wickedness she projects through smaller expressions like lip-curls and glares. And not to rehash ancient resentments, but how the hell did Jodie Foster win an Oscar for The Accused over Glenn in this? It still hurts. 

1. Damages

Over its five seasons, Damages has given us everything — Rose Byrne’s lovely, unexpected character development, a grisly end for Tate Donovan, and enough amazing guest-stars (Lily Tomlin! William Hurt! Marcia Gay Harden! John Goodman!) for a revamp of The Poseidon Adventure. But mostly, it has given us Glenn Close’s greatest role and performance, that of Patty Hewes, the militant, deadly intelligent, scary-as-hell doyenne of Hewes and Associates. You cannot take your eyes of Glenn in this role, ever. She leaves a trail of steam wherever she steps, and her lupine expression reigns over the show like a fast-descending nimbus cloud. One of the greatest TV roles ever for one of the greatest actresses ever. Now there is justice, Patty.

What are your favorite Close roles? And happy belated birthday to the fabulous Marquise herself!