BMD Picks: Our Favorite Frances McDormand Roles

We pay homage to one of the greatest actresses of all time.

We're not worthy of Frances McDormand.

She's been a femme fatale, a superhero's love, a no nonsense pregnant cop, a body-obsessed gym instructor. There's nothing the woman cannot do, and now with the impending release of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (and all the Oscar Buzz surrounding her performance), it sounds like we're going to be graced with another iconic turn from one of America's very best actresses.

So, in order to celebrate this momentous occasion, we here at BMD got together to pick our favorite Frances McDormand parts. Check 'em out... 

Blood Simple [1984] (d. Joel Coen, w. Joel & Ethan Coen)

Frances McDormand shows up in her first screen role in Blood Simple with a kind of permanent look of disbelief on her face. Indeed, Abby is a femme fatale so unlikely she seems scarcely able to comprehend her own actions and the situations in which he’s found herself. She’s surprised at her own infidelity, surprised by her husband’s plan to have her killed, and ultimately surprised by her own survival instincts and wells of resolve. That was 33 years ago, and in a career of over 60 screen credits (seven more with Blood Simple’s Coen Brothers) she’s been surprising us ever since. - Phil Nobile Jr. 

Darkman [1990] (d. Sam Raimi, w. Chuck Pfarrer, Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Daniel Goldin & Joshua Goldin)

Flash back to 1990 - before superhero movies were dominating the box office, and Sam Raimi had to literally invent a character so that he could live out his dream of crafting a rollicking action/adventure/horror yarn fit for the funny books. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Darkman - and there are quite a few - is the fact that he cast Frances McDormand as its beautiful, beating heart. She's the stern, independent object of affection in this hyper-violent Phantom of the Opera riff, challenging gangsters and crooked real estate developers, while beckoning to the man in the mask to come be with her forever. Forget Mary Jane Watson, McDormand's Julie Hastings will always have this horror fan's heart. - Jacob Knight 

Fargo [1996] (d. Joel Cohen, w. Joel & Ethan Coen)

Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson doesn’t just define Fargo; she kinda personifies the Coen Brothers’ entire filmography. Her down-to-earth, no-nonsense Minnesota cop grounds a movie populated by strange characters and stranger goings-on - her stony face a quiet, precise, hilarious study in observation. Making the Coens’ dialogue sing, McDormand is instantly likeable and identifiable, her Academy Award win one of the category's most unassailable. We wouldn't have a beer with Margie - she's pregnant, after all - but oh yah, we'd stand out in the snow and drink coffee with her until we, too, thought we were gonna barf. - Andrew Todd

Almost Famous [2000] (d. & w. Cameron Crowe)

"Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that. It's not too late for you to become a person of substance." In Almost Famous, Frances McDormand plays Elaine Miller, the kind of mom who will humiliate you in front of your hero and the kind of woman we should all be so lucky to have in our corner. She's fiercely protective of her son's future, a one-woman stalwart support system with unflagging belief in the importance of education, integrity and hard work. McDormand's performance is half-terrifying, half-vulnerable, stubbornly emanating off the screen with every single line and expression. Elaine Miller is a person of substance, and she makes you want to be a person of substance, too. - Meredith Borders
 

Burn After Reading [2008] (d. & w. Joel & Ethan Coen) 

In a film as over-the-top as Burn After Reading, Frances McDormand is tasked with the delicate balance of being both an equally over-the-top part of the Coens' farcical world, as well as one of its realistic grounding points. All Linda Litzke wants is to stay beautiful and chirpy as she gets older, but she's also willing to do anything for it, even if it means paying for plastic surgery through a web of extortion that sends her flying into the paths of paranoid security suits who are all way in over their heads themselves. A beautiful part of a beautiful mess. - Siddhant Adlakha 

This Must Be The Place [2011] (d. Paolo Sorrentino, w. Umberto Contarello & Paolo Sorrentino) 

It takes a special presence to share the screen with This Must Be The Place’s version of Sean Penn and not get completely overshadowed. Francis McDormand was able to pull it off, taking a small role and filling it with life and a strong lived-in history that helps humanize Penn’s bizarre ex-rocker. This Must Be The Place is definitely Penn's show, but without McDormand's support, that show wouldn't be worth nearly as much. - Evan Saathoff 

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