Total Recall

Sigourney Weaver's 10 Best Movies

We look back at the best-reviewed work of the A Monster Calls star.

by | January 4, 2017 | Comments

Sigourney Weaver’s distinguished career includes three Oscar nominations, more than $2 billion in lifetime grosses, and roles in a pair of James Cameron-helmed sci-fi franchises — not to mention an impressively eclectic array of films that runs the gamut from serious dramas to ribald comedies and back again. This weekend, she’s back on the big screen with A Monster Calls, which expands into wide release, so we decided to pay tribute by taking a fond look back at some of her brightest critical highlights. It’s time for Total Recall!

10. Working Girl (1988) 84%

Career advancement often has as much to do with who you know — and your gender — as the quality of your work. It’s a sad fact that’s handled with a light touch in Mike Nichols’ Working Girl, a sharply written, solidly cast romantic comedy starring Melanie Griffith as a secretary whose acumen for investment banking is ignored at her firm because she didn’t go to the right school. Using an injury to her boss (Sigourney Weaver) as an opportunity to make her move, she proves her hidden potential — while falling in love, of course, with an executive (Harrison Ford) who doesn’t know she’s “just a secretary.” Portions of the plot seem dated now, but in its day, Working Girl offered audiences a bright blend of screwball comedy and social commentary. As Rita Kempley wrote for the Washington Post, “This scrumptious romantic comedy with its blithe cast is as easy to watch as swirling ball gowns and dancing feet. But oh me, oh my, how much more demanding it is to be a fairy tale heroine these days.”

Watch Trailer

9. Death and the Maiden (1995) 82%

Rich with ambiguity, dark secrets, the looming threat of violence, and a hint of domestic dischord, Ariel Dorfman’s play Death and the Maiden couldn’t have been better suited for the Roman Polanski treatment if Polanski had written it himself. Starring Sigourney Weaver as Paulina Escobar, a woman whose haunting memories of imprisonment and rape are reawakened when her husband (Stuart Wilson) brings home a man she believes tortured her (Ben Kingsley), Maiden united one of Polanski’s strongest casts with some of his most familiar themes. Though it wasn’t one of his biggest financial successes, it signaled a critical return to form after the comparative disappointment of 1992’s Bitter Moon; Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle was one of the writers who offered praise, calling Death and the Maiden “a streamlined razor-ride of a movie: taut, riveting, and a psychological horror show that will leave nail-marks in your palms for days afterwards.”

Watch Trailer

8. Cedar Rapids (2011) 86%

Nobody plays an adorable nerd with unsuspected emotional depth quite like Ed Helms — which made him the ideal leading man for 2011’s Cedar Rapids, a tender comedy about a naive insurance agent who’s called into duty at the last minute when he’s asked to head out to the “big city” and represent his company at the all-important regional convention. As Helms’ girlfriend back home, Weaver didn’t get to join in any of the memorable, John C. Reilly-assisted debauchery that follows, but their relationship helped add poignant overtones to a film that Tom Long of the Detroit News described by saying, “Considering it has to do with infidelity, bribery, drugs, drinking, loutish behavior, fraud and prostitution, Cedar Rapids is really kind of a sweet movie.”

Watch Trailer

7. The Year of Living Dangerously (1983) 88%

Starring Mel Gibson as a journalist whose hunger for a big story leads him into the heart of an Indonesian coup — and earns him a busted eye in the process — 1983’s The Year of Living Dangerously reunited Gibson with his Gallipoli director Peter Weir, earned Linda Hunt an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (and for good reason: She played a half-Chinese dwarf named Billy Kwan), and gave Weaver the chance to have some high-stakes romance in an impeccably crafted war drama inspired by true events. “The Year of Living Dangerously is a flawed film,” wrote Dan Jardine of the Apollo Guide, “but it is richly textured and imbued with enough emotional and intellectual subtlety to make it a rewarding experience.”

Watch Trailer

6. Eyewitness (1981) 75%

It isn’t especially well-remembered today, despite a terrific cast that includes Morgan Freeman as a police lieutenant embroiled in a murder case that’s also being investigated by a TV reporter (Sigourney Weaver) and a janitor (William Hurt), but with that killer cast and a bit of expert late-period direction from Bullitt director Peter Yates, 1981’s Eyewitness is the sort of perfectly serviceable cat-and-mouse mystery thriller that’ll help you pass a painless 103 minutes on your next lazy Saturday afternoon. “Every scene develops characters,” mused Roger Ebert. “And they’re developed in such offbeat fidelity to the way people do behave that we get all the more involved in the mystery, just because, for once, we halfway believe it could really be happening.”

Watch Trailer

5. Galaxy Quest (1999) 90%

Sporting a blonde wig alongside Tim Allen and a heavily made-up Alan Rickman, Weaver helped parody the conventions of the sci-fi genre — as well as, you know, sci-fi conventions — in 1999’s Galaxy Quest, which sends the washed-up cast of a long-canceled TV show on a real-life space adventure. Funny and affectionate, Quest scored a $90 million box office hit while also earning accolades from critics like Film Threat’s Chris Gore, who called it “A hilarious spoof of Trek and Trek fandom” before pointing out, “While Galaxy Quest could have easily taken potshots at geeks, rather the film acts as more of a celebration of these sometimes misguided devotees.”

Watch Trailer

4. Dave (1993) 95%

Dave is nothing if not laughably unrealistic — a temp agency owner (Kevin Kline) stands in for the President, hires an accountant to fix the federal budget, and dreams up a jobs bill that will provide work for anyone who wants it, making the First Lady (Weaver) fall for him along the way — but even in the go-go 1990s, it appealed to our best and brightest hopes for our elected leaders, and in today’s vituperative political climate, it’s more of a funny, warm ‘n’ cuddly fable than ever. Janet Maslin of the New York Times was certainly charmed during its original release, admitting that “In spite of this sogginess, and despite a self-congratulatory, do-gooder streak that the film discovers within Dave, this comedy remains bright and buoyant much of the way through.”

Watch Trailer

3. Ghostbusters (1984 Original) (1984) 97%

No film makes it to the screen as it’s originally envisioned by its writers, but Ghostbusters took a particularly circuitous journey: Originally, Dan Aykroyd planned to assemble it as a project for himself and John Belushi, with all sorts of big-budget shenanigans, and supporting roles for Eddie Murphy and John Candy. It was only after a ground-up rewrite by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that Ghostbusters became the box office behemoth it was destined to be, racking up an an astounding $238 million tally throughout 1984 and 1985 — and a brilliant ensemble comedy offering memorable characters and quotable lines to a cast that included Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, and (of course) Weaver as Dana Barrett, the concert cellist whose refrigerator happens to be a demonic gateway. Shrugged the Guardian’s Andrew Pulver, “What’s not to like?”

Watch Trailer

2. Alien (1979) 98%

Weaver’s first leading role in a film turned out to be the one that would stick with her for decades: Ellen Ripley, the astronaut whose close-quarters encounter with a frighteningly smart (and lethal) space creature presages a centuries-long war for the fate of the human race. But as deliberately as it teased at the edges of a broader mythology, Alien also worked as a gripping, gleefully inventive standalone sci-fi action thriller. Calling it “A haunted-house movie set in space,” Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir wrote that it “also has a profoundly existentialist undertow that makes it feel like a film noir — the other genre to feature a slithery, sexualized monster as its classic villain.”

Watch Trailer

1. Aliens (1986) 97%

It seems absurd now, but for a time, execs at 20th Century Fox weren’t interested in a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien — they didn’t think it had been profitable enough to justify a second chapter — and even after James Cameron’s persistence earned Aliens a green light, a pay dispute between Sigourney Weaver and the studio almost threw the whole thing off the rails. And even after it officially got started, the production had more than its share of bumps in the road; everything from on-set strife to the sequel’s tonal shift (“more terror, less horror,” to paraphrase Cameron) had the potential to render Aliens just another unnecessary sequel. The end result, of course, was quite the opposite: Ripley’s action-packed return captivated audiences, dominating the box office for a solid month, and earned a near perfect score from critics, who showered it with praise as both a terrific follow-up (Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said it “surpasses the original,” while Combustible Celluloid’s Jeffrey M. Anderson called it “everything a sequel should be”) and a solid chunk of sci-fi in its own right (Empire Magazine’s Ian Nathan declared it “truly great cinema”).

Watch Trailer

Tag Cloud

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