A Complete History of Meryl Streep at the Oscars


Meryl Streep is the ultimate un-hateable celebrity. She’s 64 years old, she has remained a steady presence in Hollywood for over four decades. She’s a national treasure. She can make oatmeal sound sexy, and she is thanked more often than God in acceptance speeches. The world is her fan club. That aside, she’s also a superb actress, with the distinguished honor of being awarded the most Oscars nominations of any thespian, with a whopping 18 nominations and three wins under her belt. (To put it another way, the longest time she’s gone without an Oscar nomination since her first is four years.) This is a journey through her illustrious Oscar history.

1979 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, The Deer Hunter

Meryl’s first Oscar nomination comes with its own tearjerker story. Her boyfriend John Cazale, who also starred in the film, was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer after being cast. Although she initially wasn’t too interested in the part of Linda, she was grateful that it gave her more time to spend more time with Cazale, who passed away nine months before the film was released.

1980 — Won Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Kramer vs. Kramer

Kramer vs. Kramer earned Streep her first Oscar win, playing a woman who leaves her husband (Dustin Hoffman) and then tries to take custody of their son. She famously left her statue on the back of a toilet during the ceremony (though she eventually remembered to retrieve it), which might be why she keeps her awards in her own bathroom now.

1982 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

In this Victorian period drama, Streep plays the titular character as well as her modern-day counterpart. And although she received her first BAFTA win for this role, she lost out to Katharine Hepburn for the Oscar.

1983 — Won Best Actress in a Leading Role, Sophie’s Choice

This was Meryl’s first Best Actress win, only a few years after Kramer vs. Kramer. Even against performers like Jessica Lange, Julie Andrews, Sissy Spacek, and Debra Winger, Streep was an easy winner, playing a tormented Polish Holocaust survivor. Charmingly, she dropped her notes during her acceptance speech — way before Jennifer Lawrence fell at the Oscars. (Though Streep was pregnant with her second child at the time, so falling probably wouldn’t have been so funny.)

1984 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Silkwood

After her win the previous year, Meryl’s turn as labor activist Karen Silkwood lost out to Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment. This would kick off an Academy Awards losing streak that lasted almost 30 years. Still, can being nominated for the Oscars really be considered losing?

1986 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Out of Africa

Streep lived in Kenya for six months while filming Out of Africa, and even though she lost the Oscar, the film itself won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

1988 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Ironweed

Cher won Best Actress for her role in Moonstruck at the 60th Academy Awards, beating her Silkweed co-star Meryl Streep. When Cher’s win is announced, in the video above, you can see Meryl standing up and blowing her kisses from the audience. And Cher thanked Meryl in her acceptance speech, even referring to her by her given name, Mary Louise.

1989 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, A Cry in the Dark

Meryl mastered an Australian accent for her role in this film, based on the case of Azaria Chamberlain, a baby girl who disappeared in a campground in central Australia and whose parents struggled to prove their innocence. But Jodie Foster’s performance in The Accused ultimately won.

1991 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Postcards from the Edge

Streep’s nomination for Postcards From the Edge was overshadowed by events that took place a week before the awards. Multiple members of Reba McEntire’s band and her road manager were killed in a San Diego plane crash, but Reba still decided to perform at the Oscars, dedicating Postcards From the Edge‘s nominated song “I’m Checking Out” to the victims. Meryl later thanked her for her performance.

1996 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, The Bridges of Madison County

Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this romantic drama, a sentimental crowd favorite that, alas, continued her losing streak. But she also earned the only Oscar nomination for the film, so…

1999 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, One True Thing

Cancer drama One True Thing was more about Renée Zellweger’s leading role than Meryl’s, so this loss was kind of a wash.

2000 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Music of the Heart

Madonna was originally slated to play the lead role in Music of the Heart, but left due to “creative differences” with director Wes Craven. While reviews of the film were ultimately mixed, critics lauded Streep’s portrayal of Roberta Guaspari.

2003 — Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Adaptation

For her role as Susan Orlean in Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s dizzying adaptation of The Orchid Thief, Meryl Streep surpassed Katharine Hepburn to become the most-nominated performer in Oscar history. Adaptation bagged Streep her 13th nomination, and since then she’s only continued to dominate. (Hepburn is still the second-most-nominated Oscar actor or actress, with 12 nominations.)

2007 — Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, The Devil Wears Prada

During the 2007 Oscars, Streep’s Devil Wears Prada costars Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt joked about fetching Miranda Priestly/Meryl Streep a cappuccino. It starts out all cute smiles, and then devolves into the greatest fake bitchface in the history of awards shows. Even though she didn’t win Best Actress, she won in facial expressions.

2009 — Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Doubt

After the Oscar nominations for 2008’s films were released, people kept writing thinkpieces about whether Meryl Streep or Kate Winslet was more overdue for an Academy Awards win. In the end, Winslet won for her performance in The Reader. (For the record, Meryl looks very happy for her.)

2010 — Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Julie & Julia

While Streep didn’t win (again), she did wear a gown to the awards ceremony that was designed by a Project Runway alum Chris March — which goes to show that being on a Bravo reality series can get you somewhere.

2012 — Won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep almost turned down the role of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, due to her personal dislike of the former British Prime Minister, but thankfully she didn’t. It landed Streep her third Oscar win. Her speech is the perfect blend of touching and humorous: ”When they called my name, I had this feeling that I could hear half of America going, ‘Ohhh, no, not her,”’ she joked. And you can’t beat the speech Colin Firth gave to the Best Actress nominees while presenting the award, during which he described his time shooting Mamma Mia! with Meryl. “We were in Greece,” he said. “We danced, I was gay, we were happy.”

2014 — Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, August: Osage County

We don’t know if Meryl will win her fourth Oscar this Sunday, but considering even Meryl herself didn’t think her performance was that great (and wrote a long letter to Emma Thompson apologizing for Thompson’s Best Actress nomination snub), she probably won’t win. Then again, this is Meryl Streep we’re talking about, so anything is possible.