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) 77%

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) 90%

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) 74%

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) 72%

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) 72%

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) 70%

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

Tag Cloud

batman harry potter worst movies discovery joker royal family CMT Endgame classics new star wars movies ESPN comic book movie south america Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sag awards canceled TV shows Paramount criterion Musical 2018 Opinion mutant thriller Disney+ Disney Plus Amazon Studios kids scorecard The Arrangement OWN toronto films Classic Film gangster Star Trek HBO biography Image Comics Walt Disney Pictures MTV obituary GoT BET Christmas Esquire children's TV australia YA sequels OneApp werewolf El Rey Nat Geo A&E Wes Anderson psycho kong Tarantino 45 See It Skip It Marathons Acorn TV Apple The Walking Dead Family reboot CBS All Access A24 Paramount Network Epix Trailer toy story HBO Go Neflix South by Southwest Film Festival Lifetime Sneak Peek remakes Comic Book festivals Video Games venice Women's History Month king arthur golden globe awards Apple TV Plus Brie Larson Heroines IFC nature strong female leads 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Peacock emmy awards singing competition 94th Oscars Musicals ABC Signature Black Mirror CBS golden globes Sci-Fi Martial Arts Avengers Sundance TV scene in color james bond scary PaleyFest saw Music spanish language football DC Universe hidden camera franchise 73rd Emmy Awards MSNBC indiana jones President rotten casting what to watch rotten movies we love Food Network E3 Nickelodeon green book Red Carpet IFC Films NYCC PBS superman Columbia Pictures trophy cars Oscar Fall TV TNT olympics hollywood Cosplay talk show dragons Exclusive Video Winners black streaming movies movie Spectrum Originals posters ratings Teen VICE documentary Logo 007 sopranos Superheroe biopic Hallmark Christmas movies tv talk FXX cancelled TV series Fox Searchlight Mary Tyler Moore Fox News anthology stand-up comedy worst TruTV Calendar rt labs Creative Arts Emmys comics History international FOX hispanic 71st Emmy Awards AMC Plus cancelled television TCA Winter 2020 GLAAD Reality Competition halloween blockbuster reviews YouTube elevated horror Pop cinemax BAFTA politics video cats science fiction 99% 1990s Tokyo Olympics Apple TV+ comic Country leaderboard Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2015 hist Interview Funimation technology Holiday First Look Shondaland Emmy Nominations Holidays Year in Review FX on Hulu Sundance Now ITV TV One Rom-Com Binge Guide jurassic park facebook french twilight concert new zealand Box Office Turner Classic Movies Tags: Comedy SXSW 2022 Lucasfilm doctor who feel good richard e. Grant 2017 dceu zero dark thirty spanish Tumblr boxing disaster BBC America Ovation Photos Freeform ID Marvel Television archives Television Critics Association The CW Certified Fresh spain Trivia Rocketman RT21 Election Set visit Lionsgate Action Hulu SDCC stop motion SXSW young adult unscripted Schedule spider-man MGM mission: impossible Comics on TV LGBT Best Actress Toys Film Festival Superheroes Pacific Islander docudrama aapi TV renewals pirates of the caribbean HBO Max heist movie anime lord of the rings cooking Awards Tour streaming Film period drama Pirates mockumentary italian halloween tv zombies marvel comics king kong fast and furious VOD New York Comic Con Legendary Oscars target adaptation know your critic Crunchyroll American Society of Cinematographers trailers Kids & Family Ghostbusters wonder woman TCM Valentine's Day kaiju Captain marvel space WGN video on demand Premiere Dates teaser ghosts 72 Emmy Awards 2020 rom-coms Syfy FX indie Warner Bros. transformers quibi adventure dexter Paramount Plus The Academy japanese 2019 CNN die hard 24 frames chucky First Reviews jamie lee curtis razzies Rock adenture Black History Month Podcast crime drama Fargo nfl TV Mary Poppins Returns Western mob genre black comedy Shudder true crime foreign Starz natural history PlayStation ABC robots dramedy spider-verse Prime Video Character Guide Chernobyl blockbusters scary movies Amazon Prime universal monsters spy thriller hispanic heritage month all-time TV movies canceled Countdown Turner Netflix Ellie Kemper high school Amazon Cartoon Network Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt independent YouTube Premium Nominations Britbox 4/20 popular The Walt Disney Company women parents Instagram Live X-Men Drama cops best asian-american based on movie Comic-Con@Home 2021 Lifetime Christmas movies NBC Thanksgiving godzilla japan telelvision dreamworks composers dogs 93rd Oscars Marvel Studios Hallmark Stephen King cults free movies marvel cinematic universe CW Seed Fantasy blaxploitation fresh sitcom streamig TCA 2017 Biopics Comedy Spike justice league San Diego Comic-Con Star Wars Extras Pride Month Netflix Christmas movies zombie series aliens Disney Plus BET Awards Animation DC streaming service critic resources social media suspense Crackle Winter TV docuseries live event new york Disney Channel romance live action festival Baby Yoda breaking bad book adaptation TLC Reality Cannes directors Comedy Central comedies Song of Ice and Fire National Geographic prank cancelled nbcuniversal supernatural witnail crime war satire Vudu BBC Broadway Infographic Writers Guild of America BBC One 90s TIFF Best Director cancelled TV shows serial killer Bravo slasher DC Comics Pet Sematary comiccon 2016 child's play animated E! Arrowverse Sony Pictures MCU debate Dark Horse Comics Tubi Mudbound historical drama Masterpiece spinoff dark Spring TV Showtime Summer Mindy Kaling latino medical drama VH1 diversity 2021 DGA miniseries mcc Best and Worst obi wan versus Sundance renewed TV shows travel HFPA 20th Century Fox game show Rocky 21st Century Fox Alien laika ABC Family Discovery Channel RT History Hear Us Out Watching Series legend finale critics stoner Super Bowl Anna Paquin binge AMC TBS documentaries The Purge vs. television basketball Television Academy superhero action-comedy GIFs USA Network Mary poppins USA Polls and Games Mystery boxoffice TCA Awards screen actors guild news art house Universal Pictures Universal Trophy Talk Emmys The Witch Pixar Tomatazos rt archives romantic comedy rt labs critics edition Travel Channel Adult Swim Awards crossover Best Picture psychological thriller APB LGBTQ award winner slashers Disney streaming service cartoon vampires sports Best Actor Quiz political drama screenings Disney YouTube Red Horror NBA Marvel Amazon Prime Video Academy Awards SundanceTV Grammys police drama comic books TCA sequel 79th Golden Globes Awards name the review comic book movies IMDb TV dc a nightmare on elm street DirecTV TV Land theme song revenge crime thriller book WarnerMedia christmas movies ViacomCBS monster movies game of thrones Elton John movies deadpool Pop TV