Total Recall

Definitive Sally Field Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we look back at the roles that helped define the Hello, My Name is Doris star's career.

by | March 9, 2016 | Comments

This weekend’s Hello, My Name Is Doris brings Sally Field back to the big screen after far too many years between leading roles, and in honor of this happy occasion, we decided to turn our attention to some of the most definitive performances in this two-time Oscar winner’s illustrious filmography. It’s time for Total Recall!


Stay Hungry (1976) 67%

Field started her strong 1970s run with an appearance in Bob Rafelson’s Stay Hungry, a Jeff Bridges dramedy about a layabout whose duties for a shady real estate developer lead him into a below-board deal that’s supposed to lead to the shutdown of a gym — until he falls for the gym’s receptionist and strikes up a friendship with one of the biggest bodybuilders (Arnold Schwarzenegger). It would be misleading to suggest that anything truly unexpected happens here, but Stay Hungry goes a long way on the youthful charms of its talented cast, and you can’t really go wrong with a movie that asks you to believe Schwarzenegger as a bluegrass fiddler. “It has its slack spells,” admitted Time Out’s Nigel Floyd, “but Rafelson’s sure feel for the inexpressible subtleties of emotional relationships is evident throughout.”

Watch Trailer


Smokey and the Bandit (1977) 80%

A man, a plan, a whole bunch of beer — Smokey and the Bandit! At the time, this cheerfully knuckleheaded road-trip comedy about a scofflaw (Burt Reynolds) who bets he can speed a shipment of beer across state lines (and against the law) under the nose of a sputtering sheriff (Jackie Gleason) may have seemed like an awfully thin excuse to make a movie, but its artful blend of cornpone humor and high-octane action can be found imprinted upon the DNA of countless films to follow. Bandit inspired a pair of sequels and legions of imitators, yet while some of them may have had cooler stunts and sleeker cars, very few could come close to finding a starring duo with the breezy chemistry enjoyed by Reynolds’ Bandit and Sally Field as Carrie, the runaway bride whose spurned dimwit of a fiance just happens to be Gleason’s son. The end result, chuckled Marjorie Baumgarten for the Austin Chronicle, is “the king of the ‘good ol’ boy’ movies.”

Watch Trailer


Norma Rae (1979) 89%

Field won her first Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of the labor heroine that Norma Rae is named for — a feisty union organizer based on Crystal Lee Sutton, the cotton mill worker whose real-life struggle to improve conditions at her factory inspired a bestselling book, not to mention countless moviegoers. When it was released in 1978, Norma Rae was a tip of the hat to the sacrifices borne by union members in the early 20th century (including Sutton, who ended up losing her job); today, it serves as a reminder that the battle for workers’ rights is far from over. Either way, it’s the movie that Ken Hanke of the Asheville Mountain XPress called “A beautifully made, splendidly acted film that more than achieves its aims.”

Watch Trailer


Absence Of Malice (1981) 81%

Media-bashing has become so trendy that you’d almost never know that being part of the Fourth Estate was once regarded as an honorable profession — a public service, even. Of course, that isn’t to say reporters haven’t always been dogged by questions of ethics — and few directors were better at framing a thorny ethical debate than Sydney Pollack. In Absence of Malice, Paul Newman plays the son of a Mafia boss who is outed as the subject of a murder investigation by an ambitious (and somewhat scruple-deficient) reporter played by Sally Field. Though a large number of critics felt Pollack and screenwriter Kurt Luedtke failed to present a truly compelling picture — and some, like Dennis Schwartz of Ozus’ World Movie Reviews, dismissed it as a “well-meaning liberal message story” — others praised its strong performances and overall intelligence. As James Rocchi wrote, “the ultimate conclusion of the film will leave you thoughtful and even perhaps a touch sad — rare for any film, and even more rare for a thriller.”

Watch Trailer


Places in the Heart (1984) 89%

Field won a Best Actress Oscar and John Malkovich earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for their work in this 1984 drama, which tells the story of a widowed woman who struggles to keep her Texas farm afloat during the Great Depression while her sister (Lindsay Crouse) deals with her crumbling marriage to a carouser (Ed Harris). The kind of film whose plot doesn’t seem to cover a lot of ground, but which deals with some unmistakably weighty themes (in this case racism, adultery, and family commitment), Places in the Heart wasn’t necessarily one of the most exciting pictures of the year, but it was an Academy favorite — Field’s Best Actress win prompted her oft-lampooned “you like me” speech — and a source of admiration for critics like Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who wrote, “Out of the memories of his boyhood in Waxahachie, Tex., during the Great Depression, and within the unlikely tradition of the old-fashioned ‘mortgage’ melodrama, Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American.”

Watch Trailer


Murphy's Romance (1985) 73%

Even back in 1985, they weren’t making ’em like Murphy’s Romance anymore — which would be reason enough to celebrate this quiet, small-town tale of a divorced single mom who finds love with an older man even if it didn’t serve as a showcase for the talents of Sally Field and James Garner. Predictably, Field (who also served as a producer) had to fight to get it made her way, up to insisting on casting Garner (who earned an Oscar nomination for his work), but she was vindicated by the overall favorable reviews that greeted Murphy’s Romance during its reasonably successful box-office run. “The whole point of this movie,” observed Roger Ebert, “is how it looks at those characters, and listens to them, and allows them to live in a specific time and place.”

Watch Trailer


Soapdish (1991) 69%

The over-the-top melodrama of soaps is part of their enduring appeal, but what if things were just as crazy behind the scenes? That’s the novel twist imagined by Soapdish, in which a daytime drama’s longtime star (played by Field) finds herself under professional attack by a rival (Cathy Moriarty) and her disenchanted producer (Robert Downey, Jr.). Their efforts unearth real-life secrets after the return of an old star (Kevin Kline) and the ascent of a new cast member (Elisabeth Shue) — all of which have the unintended effect of making the show, and Field’s character, more popular than ever. “Soapdish is pure joy,” wrote Rita Kempley for the Washington Post, calling it “a lemon-fresh spoof of daytime drama that does the dishing and may even soften your hands.”

Watch Trailer


Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) 71%

It was Robin Williams who undoubtedly got most of Mrs. Doubtfire’s laughs — and carried the movie, as well as several pounds of latex, while wearing a dress — but aside from offering proof that Williams would have made a fairly convincing elderly woman (and delivering cinema’s first recorded run-by fruiting), this dramedy takes a bittersweet look at the wreckage left behind after Williams’ man-child antics push his wife (played by Field) beyond her breaking point. With Pierce Brosnan adding additional support as Field’s dashing boyfriend, Doubtfire offers a deceptively even-handed picture of post-divorce parenting between the guffaws. “In terms of plot, the film is rather feeble,” admitted ReelViews’ James Berardinelli. “But sometimes there’s more to a movie than story, and this is one of those rare occasions when all the other elements pull together and lift the production.”

Watch Trailer


Forrest Gump (1994) 71%

All things considered, Sally Field probably shouldn’t have been playing Forrest Gump’s mom — she is, after all, only a decade older than Tom Hanks — but setting that bit of Hollywood chicanery aside, there isn’t a thing wrong with her performance in this Oscar-winning hit. After all, who better to personify the precise blend of sweetness and determined pragmatism that leads Mrs. Gump to get it on with a reluctant principal in order to get young Forrest into public school? A massive hit that was later the victim of a backlash, Gump earned mostly positive reviews from critics who, while far from blind to the film’s flaws, were powerless to resist its good-natured charm. “It might hit you right in the feels, even as your eyes are rolling,” wrote Slant’s Rob Humanick. “To quote one of Forrest’s truest pieces of wisdom: Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

Watch Trailer


Lincoln (2012) 89%

He presided over the most tumultuous time in our nation’s history, accomplished great things while in office, and ended his administration — and his life — in violent tragedy. Needless to say, Abraham Lincoln’s life is the stuff that Oscar-winning films are made of — and with Steven Spielberg at the helm, directing a stellar cast that included Tommy Lee Jones, Hal Holbrook, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and an almost unrecognizable Daniel Day-Lewis as the man himself, Lincoln was a virtual shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination even before it arrived in theaters. Of course, it helped that the finished product was one of 2012’s best-reviewed films thanks to critics like Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, who wrote, “It blends cinematic Americana with something grubbier and more interesting than Americana, and it does not look, act or behave like the usual perception of a Spielberg epic.”

Watch Trailer

  • john in denver

    It was TV’s Sybil (1975) that woke me up to the fact me she was one hell of an actress.

  • TomNewYorker

    My 10 Favorite Sally Field Movies are
    1-Forrest Gump
    2-Mrs. Doubtifre
    3-Smokey & The Bandit
    4-Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2
    5-Steel Magnolias
    6-Soapdish
    7-Where The Heart Is
    8-Norma Rae
    9-Lincoln
    10-Sybil

    • TheTwoJakes

      Steel Magnolias! She was so good in this….love the cemetery scene. “Take a whack at Weeza!”

    • Sean Jones

      She came out saying she HATED doing Amazing Spiderman movies, but she did it for her friend, she knew it was going to be the producer’s last movies, so she did it for her. Sally Field isn’t your average normal Hollywood snob, she’s a real human being who has a good heart & one of my fav actresses.

  • Joe Mack

    No Amazing Spider-man?

  • Ross H

    Gee… I thought that “Not Without My Daughter” was one of her better ones for sure…. a true story too.

    • tb thomas

      That was a terrific film and great performance of hers. When I saw the trailer for Doris, one of the first things that popped into my head: “I like her…I really like her!”

  • Sharon Mahart

    I’ll still watch Smokey and the Bandit every time it’s on!

Tag Cloud

ABC Family Hallmark Christmas movies sports zombie dramedy Academy Awards christmas movies a nightmare on elm street Travel Channel joker Mindy Kaling comiccon game show dc science fiction The Witch YouTube Premium franchise Thanksgiving political drama reviews Interview BAFTA ESPN Trophy Talk Disney+ Disney Plus FXX Calendar DirecTV Superheroe APB Amazon Prime Video all-time BBC Amazon Prime Avengers Drama child's play BET Awards Shudder batman Comic Book free movies slashers First Reviews quibi golden globes Esquire spanish language 24 frames Apple TV+ kids hist Pirates films Video Games Marvel Television President nature The CW reboot Song of Ice and Fire A24 biography Superheroes HBO Biopics richard e. Grant psycho ITV Rock Paramount Freeform Red Carpet Creative Arts Emmys Sony Pictures renewed TV shows Set visit SundanceTV Watching Series USA MSNBC Food Network transformers mission: impossible TLC Pop TV asian-american TCA Winter 2020 Schedule movie Cartoon Network DC Universe Black History Month technology E3 Nominations SDCC cults comics stoner universal monsters Bravo Western cops ABC theme song robots Tarantino dogs screen actors guild Disney Channel facebook Teen Trivia composers Ellie Kemper hispanic unscripted Comedy Central TNT El Rey docudrama Masterpiece Anna Paquin werewolf RT History Marvel TV streaming tv talk GLAAD BET Lionsgate Women's History Month AMC CW Seed 2015 Peacock Binge Guide National Geographic Pride Month zero dark thirty series spinoff TCM talk show Crackle Musical supernatural mockumentary Television Academy Winners Emmys BBC One parents Sci-Fi casting E! Rom-Com teaser Dark Horse Comics Pet Sematary historical drama Shondaland movies dark cancelled TV shows Acorn TV Fox News cartoon Hallmark Discovery Channel Netflix Christmas movies TruTV Podcast Holiday Walt Disney Pictures Photos 4/20 discovery Premiere Dates cars Columbia Pictures medical drama toy story anthology scary movies cats spider-man social media children's TV latino war PaleyFest Apple Year in Review TIFF comic 45 American Society of Cinematographers Logo adventure mutant FOX CMT canceled aliens Tumblr ghosts Music crossover stand-up comedy crime drama Adult Swim Ghostbusters Black Mirror Showtime DC streaming service television Writers Guild of America Fantasy Endgame Kids & Family thriller Summer Box Office Marvel Studios dragons MCU Sneak Peek name the review YouTube Red CNN singing competition sag awards BBC America Horror MTV Musicals Rocketman Star Wars 21st Century Fox versus VH1 Action Classic Film Infographic A&E PlayStation spy thriller Grammys independent anime south america Warner Bros. Tomatazos space San Diego Comic-Con OWN Mary Tyler Moore Disney Plus NBC Toys Stephen King Arrowverse 2020 Cosplay halloween Comics on TV Film Festival indie Paramount Network Nat Geo FX cancelled TV series 2018 Sundance VOD romance Apple TV Plus boxoffice TCA Hear Us Out documentaries criterion strong female leads Heroines spain TV renewals YouTube Lucasfilm Mystery Polls and Games miniseries Baby Yoda Animation news Brie Larson Super Bowl Universal Mudbound FX on Hulu Vudu breaking bad 71st Emmy Awards true crime festivals directors Lifetime binge Reality Competition Epix Pop twilight award winner DGA video Character Guide Amazon Studios Fall TV SXSW Amazon police drama blaxploitation game of thrones Sundance Now Holidays CBS zombies 2017 HBO Go RT21 Mary Poppins Returns dceu vampires chucky screenings HBO Max Nickelodeon GIFs cancelled television Mary poppins harry potter The Walking Dead sitcom critics travel canceled TV shows NYCC blockbuster Valentine's Day video on demand satire Starz cooking Awards LGBTQ Oscars indiana jones Spring TV cinemax Film elevated horror 2016 VICE Martial Arts Star Trek based on movie animated documentary romantic comedy Rocky Turner Classic Movies New York Comic Con IFC Cannes period drama PBS First Look Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 20th Century Fox Lifetime Christmas movies Funimation concert WarnerMedia witnail adaptation Turner justice league Spectrum Originals natural history Hulu what to watch Netflix 2019 TV Land History The Arrangement Tubi Disney streaming service sequel IFC Films cancelled disaster LGBT Elton John Marathons Extras Family OneApp die hard best comedies 007 crime thriller doctor who Chernobyl crime book Emmy Nominations jamie lee curtis revenge Reality Country psychological thriller Certified Fresh TCA 2017 finale Election Winter TV foreign Awards Tour green book Spike Sundance TV Comedy See It Skip It Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Opinion diversity rotten movies we love Captain marvel TBS The Purge Countdown DC Comics Britbox Disney Crunchyroll Best and Worst serial killer Ovation CBS All Access USA Network X-Men Trailer GoT politics WGN Quiz ratings YA Pixar Christmas Syfy