The 10 Funniest Female Performances From the Past 5 Years

With Bridesmaids out now and Bad Teacher set to premiere later this summer, the conventional wisdom goes like this: We're living in a time when comic actresses are finally appreciated, honed, and challenged. They're not resigned to wifely roles or pally Judy Greer-types; they're hilarious as full-fledged protagonists who deservedly wield top-billing. This is why conventional wisdom is often a problem.

For all the funny women in film who've made their mark in the past five years, it's fair to say that women starred in better (read: funnier) films in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. There's no contemporary parallel for Barbra Streisand, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Diane Keaton, or even Goldie Hawn (if you consider the critical respect still paid to much of her work). Bridesmaids may signal a comeback, but I hope it makes theatergoers consider that beyond the ten hilarious female performances of the past five years that are listed below, women still need more of a big-screen comic presence. That said, these ten are damn funny.

10. Emily Blunt as Emily Charlton in The Devil Wears Prada

Whether she's playing Queen Victoria or a ballet dancer in The Adjustment Bureau, Blunt exhibits a steely cool that often gives way to immense vulnerability. In The Devil Wears Prada, her steely steel gives way only to more steel, before we watch her crumble after a car accident. She may not eat, but Emily Charlton has spunk -- which is edifying enough. (Skip to 7:58 for some Blunt Prada goodness.)

9. Amy Poehler as Angie Ostrowski in Baby Mama

The Upright Citizens Brigade alum has been funnier -- Regina George's velour-festooned mother in Mean Girls, anyone? -- but Amy Poehler's no-frills performance as a trashy, sink-peeing surrogate makes you happy that women still "go there" for comedy. It's what SNL matriarch Gilda Radner ordained!

8. Frances McDormand as Linda Litzke in Burn After Reading

Sporting a blonde haircut inspired by Linda Tripp's post-Lewinsky makeover, Frances McDormand plays a woman who decides, "I've gotten about as far as this body can take me," and undergoes plastic surgery treatments on nearly every square-inch of her body. She's always been a whiz with earnestly audacious roles, bu McDormand is possibly the funniest, most poignant character actress of her generation.

7. Kristen Wiig as Jill in Knocked Up

In just a couple of quick scenes, Kristen Wiig undermines Katherine Heigl's budding E! anchor character to the point of disbelief. Her weight-loss instructions for Heigl -- "We would just like it if you go home and step on the scale, and write down how much you weigh, and subtract it by like, 20. And then weigh that much" -- comprise the funniest single line of dialogue in the past five years.

6. Anna Faris as Shelley Darlington in The House Bunny

She may be one of Hef's ingenues, but Shelley Darlington is a candid, sometimes-Exorcist-voiced loon with optimism aplenty. If Anna Faris could pull off "funny" in the Scary Movie franchise -- which, I'm still shocked to say, she could -- then a bawdy, ridiculous role like The House Bunny should be comparably effortless for her. It certainly seemed that way to me.

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  • Martin Cavanaugh says:

    That scene where she tries out accents is pitiful and embarrassing. It's not funny at all. Other than that scene, there is nothing funny about Leslie Mann's character. She plays it pretty straight. Where's Jane Lynch for Role Models on this list?

  • Thera Pitts says:

    No, not at all, Mila Kunis wiped the floor with Kristen Bell.

  • anonymous says:

    Cool list, but 2 problems:
    1. Why only past 5 years? Why not go for the whole decade and include standout performance such as Christina Applegate in Anchorman, or Lindsay Lohan/Tina Fey/Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls?
    2. Amanda Bynes in Easy A, Queen Latifah in Chicago, and Jane Lynch from Grown Ups deserve to be here more than Page, Mann, and McDormand (another performance on this list from a highly overrated movie).

  • anonymous says:

    My bad, here are edits
    *Latifah isnt eligible for this list (she's still funnier than those mentioned as being overrated)
    **The parentheses next to ManDormands name referenced an ealier comment that I deleted going in length about my distaste for Juno