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Mary-Louise Parker’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes

Mary-Louise Parker is a talented American actress who has made an indelible mark in movies and television since her career began in the late ’80s. With over 60 big and small screen credits, Parker is best known for her role as Nancy Botwin on the hit drama series Weeds. However, one look at her filmography and Rotten Tomatoes page proves Parker has excellent taste in choosing scripts and directors to work with.

While Parker can currently be found voicing the lead role in the podcast series Murder in Bermuda, it’s time to reflect on the actress’ best movies to date. From revisionist Westerns and legal thrillers to fantasy adventures and homespun dramas, Parker’s most well-received movies are eclectic as can be.

10 The Five Senses (1999) – 74%

Fine Line Features

The Five Senses is a Canadian drama that weaves multiple narratives together to make a larger statement about the fragility of human connection. As the title suggests, each character is represented by a human sensation. Parker plays Rona, a cake maker who has lost her sense of taste and becomes romantically entangled with a house cleaner in her apartment building.

Perhaps lost in the shadow of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, a far superior multi-narrative drama released in 1999, TheFive Senses struck much more of a cord among critics than general filmgoers. The festival darling was praised for its unique and ambitious premise and committed performances by the ensemble cast. However, others felt the material was a bit too pretentious and lofty to resonate beyond the avant-garde arthouse crowd.

9 Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) – 76%

Ruth stands in the kitchen in Fried Green Tomatoes
Universal Pictures

Directed by Jon Avnet, Fried Green Tomatoes is a powerfully uplifting tear-jerker about life in the American South. The story charts a bored homemaker named Evelyn who finds newfound vim and vigor after befriending an elderly woman at a nursing home and listening to her inspiring life stories. Parker plays Ruth Jamison, a woman who has an illicit affair and bears the child of an abusive man despite having feelings for a woman.

Despite being criticized for being manipulative and calculated, the movie received glowing plaudits for its stellar performances by Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy. The movie tugs at the heartstrings mostly through Ruth’s complicated story of unrequited love, loss, and illness. Yet, the film never feels depressing or downbeat. Instead, the movie ends up being a joyous celebration of life.

8 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – 77%

Zerelda and Jesse stand together in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Warner Bros. Pictures

Andrew Dominik’s epic tale of revenge on the American frontier follows Robert Ford, a man who idolized the notorious outlaw Jesse James and did his best to join his gang. Upon failing to do so, Ford targets his lifelong idol in a revenge campaign for the ages. Parker plays Zerelda James, the wife and first cousin of Jesse James.

Although The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a box office disappointment, earning just $15 million worldwide against a $30 million budget (via Box Office Mojo), the movie was extolled by critics. The performances by Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in the title roles were singled out, with the latter earning an Oscar nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. Meanwhile, Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography of the American West also earned an Oscar nomination.

7 Grand Canyon (1991) – 78%

Dee sits at a dinner table in Grand Canyon
20th Century Fox

Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon follows the lives of several people who randomly intersect in Los Angeles, with the racial divide between Black and white citizens driving the narrative. Parker plays Dee, the secretary of a white immigration lawyer who befriends a Black tow-truck driver (Danny Glover) who saves him from a mugging on the street.

Related: Best Danny Glover Movies, Ranked

According to Kasdan via The Hollywood Interview, “Part of what Grand Canyon is about is that we have accepted the fact that our city is not our own. That for people from South Central, for them to go into Beverly Hills and West L.A., the police are on the lookout. They feel unwelcome, are under threat. And vice-versa. Our cities have become these little armed camps.” Grand Canyon drew acclaim for its stellar cast, adroit direction, and willingness to tackle a deep issue without being preachy or pedantic.

6 Solitary Man (2009) – 78%

Jordan talks on the phone in Solitary Man
Millennium Films

Solitary Man stars Michael Douglas as an unlikable automobile tycoon named Ben whose life begins to unravel thanks to his poor life choices. Parker plays Jordan, Ben’s girlfriend. When Ben attempts to get Jordan’s daughter into the college he attended, their bond leads to an untoward romantic affair.

Despite boasting a middling 50% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics were far more impressed by the movie thanks to Michael Douglas’ commanding performance as an irascible curmudgeon who deserves the bad things that happen to him. At its core, the character-driven movie makes a profound statement about the nature of aging and the lasting consequences of the minute choices people make along the way.

5 The Same Storm (2021) – 79%

Roxy stands behind beads in The Same Storm
Juno Films

Written and directed by Peter Hedges, The Same Storm is an experimental movie largely set over Zoom monitors. The story concerns the lives of 24 people dealing with the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic in the Spring of 2020. Parker plays Roxy, a woman who expresses angst over the future generations of young people dealing with the virus.

While small and a bit stagey, the film was hailed for packing an undeniable emotional punch. Timely and topical, the movie credibly depicted the existential anxieties most people felt during the initial lockdown. While some chapters resonate more than others, Hedges proves that he knows how to direct intimate confessionals that feel real and relatable.

4 The Client (1994) – 80%

Dianne wears a floral dress in The Client
Warner Bros.

Based on the John Grisham popular novel, The Client is a legal thriller directed by the late Joel Schumacher. The plot concerns Mark Sway, a boy who inadvertently witnesses a mobster’s suicide and becomes an unwitting pawn by the D.A. as a result. Parker portrays Dianne Sway, Mark’s protective mother willing to do whatever is necessary to keep her son safe.

Thanks to Grisham’s riveting source material, Schumacher’s solid direction, and the terrific ensemble cast led by Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones, The Client was received favorably by critics at the time. While slightly less popular among general film watchers (68% Audience Score), The Client remains a sterling example of a legal drama geared toward mature audiences. While it hardly reinvents the legal thriller subgenre, the movie continued Parker’s run of working with A-list Hollywood filmmakers as well as Grisham’s bestselling book-to-movie adaptations.

3 The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) – 81%

Helen and Mallory stand together in the kitchen in The Spiderwick Chronicles
Paramount Pictures

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fantasy adventure film directed by Mark Waters. The plot follows Jared Grace and his two siblings after they move to Spiderwick Estates with their single mother Helen (Parker), where they’re suddenly transported to an otherworldly realm full of mythical creatures. As a strict mother who does not believe in her children’s fantastic escape, Parker adds a lot of pathos to the proceedings.

Related: The Spiderwick Chronicles: Plot, Cast, and Everything Else We Know

At the time of its release, the movie was lauded for being a highly entertaining adventure movie for children that is brimming with a big heart. Many critics expressed gratitude for resolving the movie with a satisfactory conclusion rather than setting up a potential franchise with an underwhelming cliffhanger. Although the movie never inspired cinematic sequels, a TV adaptation was announced for Disney+ in 2021 and is expected to hit the platform later in 2023.

2 Longtime Champion (1989) – 91%

Lisa talks on the phone in Longtime Champion
The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Far ahead of its time, Longtime Champion took an honest look at the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and how it affected the lives of several gay men living in New York. In just her second feature film, Parker plays Lisa, an antiques dealer who lives next door to a gay couple and learns that her brother may have contracted the disease.

Perhaps overshadowed by Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia a few years later, Longtime Champion tackles an important issue and offers a sympathetic look at how the fear and paranoia of the early AIDS outbreak began shaping public policy and personal choices. Most critics admired the way the movie treated its characters with sensitivity before delivering an unforgettable finale.

1 Bullets Over Broadway (1994) – 95%

David and Ellen face off in Bullets Over Broadway
Miramax Films

Written and directed by Woody Allen, Bullets Over Broadway is a farcical crime musical loaded with splendid performances. The story concerns David Shayne, a playwright with writer’s block who finds himself in a pickle when forced to cast a mobster’s girlfriend in the lead role of his new production. Parker plays Ellen, Shayne’s partner who catches him in an illicit affair with a faded Broadway star.

A wildly amusing backstage romp, Bullets Over Broadway is the best movie of Mary-Louise Parker’s career to date according to Rotten Tomatoes. The sharp wit, stellar performances, and deft blend of crime and comedy combine to create a delightful moviegoing experience. While Parker holds her own, Dianne Wiest gives a career-best performance that earned her a second Academy Award for a Woody Allen Film after Hannah and Her Sisters.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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