Top 10 female roles in comedy history

Marilyn Monroe – Sugar Kane in Some Like it Hot

Known for her heightened sexuality, Marilyn Monroe’s pure talent for comedy is often overlooked in favour of her looks and attraction. Monroe’s performance in Some Like it Hot showcases her wonderful talent for comedic timing as Sugar, the young musician in an all-female musical band. Monroe’s sex appeal is never threatening, allowing her audience to laugh at her. Her seduction of Tony Curtis’s faux-millionaire perfectly highlights this talent of hers. In the moment of seduction, when Sugar is attempting to be at her most attractive, she has never been funnier.

Sandra Bullock – Gracie Hart in Miss Congeniality

Eminently likeable, Sandra Bullock excels as Gracie, an FBI Agent forced to go undercover at the Miss United States Pageant. The strength of Bullock’s performance lies in her ability to invoke the audience’s empathy. Her transformation, initially purely physical as she undergoes various beauty treatment, not only effectively satirises the lengths women may go to in making themselves attractive, but in turn aids Gracie’s transformation into an independent woman capable of asserting herself.

Emma Stone – Olive Penderghast in Easy A

Wonderful in the small role afforded her in Superbad, Easy A allows Emma Stone the lead role she fully deserves. Her wit and intelligence shines through, imbuing her performance as Olive with real warmth. Olive, despite her reputation being based upon false-rumour, is ever true to herself. Importantly, it is not just Olive herself that provides the majority of the film’s laughs: her interactions with her off-beat parents create many of the film’s best moments.

Cameron Diaz – Mary Jensen in There’s Something About Mary

Best remembered for that scene in which Diaz uses a rather suspicious substance as hair-gel, Diaz’s role as the titular Mary is so much more than just one scene. Playing the quintessential girl-next-door, Diaz embodies both wit and affability; her portrayal of Mary importantly allows the film’s viewers to laugh at her expense.

Reese Witherspoon – Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

Arguably Witherspoon’s best comedic role is her performance as Tracey Flick in Election; certainly it is Witherspoon’s best performance. For accessibility, however, it is surely her performance as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde that truly succeeds, Tracey Flick may be wonderfully performed, but there is little to like about her. Playing the rather typical ‘dumb-blonde’, Elle, crucially never feels the need to truly transform herself, discovering that her intelligence has been present all along. The scene in which she teaches fellow nail salon inhabitants the supposed time-honoured tradition of ‘the bend and snap’ is wonderfully over-the-top and genuinely funny. Witherspoon is a joy to watch.

Meg Ryan – Sally Albright in When Harry Met Sally

Many may simply remember Rob Reiner’s film for the much-imitated diner scene, but When Harry Met Sally is so much more than a fake orgasm. Witty, intelligent and above all wonderfully human, Meg Ryan’s depiction of the neurotic Sally is at all times a delight, especially when coupled with the banter of Billy Crystal’s Harry. Ryan proves that the straight-man is just as important, acting as the perfect foil to the effervescent Harry: without Ryan, Crystal’s attempts at humour would come off as boorish.

Thora Birch – Enid in Ghostworld

Thora Birch proves in her portrayal of Enid how well equipped for dead-pan comedy she truly is. Struggling with a lack of direction after graduating from high school, Enid feels isolated from the rest of the world, yet for her, this isolation is something to be celebrated. Enid, even whilst sneering at others, is at all times appealing, inviting the viewer to sneer at others along with her.

Amanda Seyfried – Karen Smith in Mean Girls

Tina Fey’s Mean Girls has quickly developed something of a cult following, helped in no small part by the witty dialogue and the rather wonderful Amanda Seyfried. Seyfried plays Karen, proclaimed to be ‘one of the dumbest girls you will ever meet’. Karen’s pure stupidity is not only highly endearing, but wonderfully funny. Seyfried is importantly entirely convincing as she brilliantly informs Lindsay Lohan’s Cadie that her breasts can predict the weather.

Isla Fisher – Gloria Cleary in Wedding Crashers

Playing a clearly unstable character, Isla Fisher is markedly brave in her portrayal of the paranoid, obsessive, sexually-experimental Gloria. Fisher is clearly perfectly content to create laughs, inviting the viewer to laugh at her in her entirely over-the-top, often ridiculous nature. Certainly not a realistic character, Fisher must be praised for giving the role all she’s got.

Katharine Hepburn –Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby

Katharine Hepburn’s great performance as the acerbic, illogical Susan Vance is truly a delight. Highly intelligent and ever-determined, Hepburn’s Susan is genuinely funny, helped in no small part by Hepburn’s excellent delivery of the wonderfully scripted, quick-fire dialogue. Hepburn’s skills as an actress are more than a match for the perfect script.

By Siobhan Denton

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