Hailing from the small city of Plainfield, Illinois, Melissa McCarthy began her entertainment career as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles, which isn’t always easy for women. She made her way through the L.A. stand-up scene and eventually took her hilarious wit to New York City as well.
McCarthy is also an alumnus of The Groundlings, an L.A.-based improv comedy group that’s included many other notable performers such as Kathy Griffin, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell, and GloZell. Being a part of this exclusive society helped catapult McCarthy’s career to international stardom, and today, her boisterous demeanor and endearing smile are known to comedy fans around the world.
If you recognize the last name, McCarthy, well, it’s probably because it’s an incredibly common last name. However, this last name actually connects Melissa McCarthy to her cousin Jenny McCarthy, actress, model, and former Playmate of the Year. I guess entertainment just runs in the family tree.
Another fun fact about Melissa McCarthy? Before she starred in hysterical blockbusters like Bridesmaids and Identity Thief, she played Sookie in the hit TV show Gilmore Girls. Maybe I’ve been living in a different dimension, but for some reason, it never registered to me that Melissa McCarthy was in Gilmore Girls. That just speaks to what a long and impressive career this iconic actor has had.
So, in honor of Melissa McCarthy’s fruitful career, let’s take a look back at the 7 best movies that she ever appeared in.
1. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
In one of the most dynamic roles of her career, Melissa McCarthy plays down-and-out novelist Lee Israel in the 2018 film Can You Ever Forgive Me? (directed by Marielle Heller). This film, which is based on a true story, follows Israel’s descent into criminality as she struggles to find ways to support herself financially after her writing career goes down the tubes. And after meeting a grifter named Jack Hock (played by Richard E. Grant), Israel becomes involved in a racket that she never would’ve imagined.
Melissa McCarthy’s performance in this film is humorous at times and incredibly heartfelt. Despite the fact that Lee Israel is committing a number of serious crimes, the audience can’t help but feel sympathy toward her. While many of McCarthy’s roles have proved how funny she is, this role showed a deeper and more serious side of her.
2. Bridesmaids (2011)
Melissa McCarthy’s performance as Megan in the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids is perhaps her most famous role of all time. And, considering that the cast of this film was essentially just a lineup of the funniest women of the generation, Bridesmaids was destined to be a lasting success.
McCarthy’s character Megan is the bride-to-be’s sister-in-law, a raunchy goofball who’s constantly making inappropriate comments. Personally, Megan made me laugh harder than any other character in this entire film. She just seemed so out of place in the classy and pristine setting of the wedding.
However, Megan sort of saves the day when she goes to visit Annie (played by Kristen Wiig) and motivates her to grab her life by the horns. This ultimately creates a shift in Annie that allows her to help find Lillian (played by Maya Rudolph) and resume her role as the maid of honor.
3. Tammy (2014)
Coming in at number 3 on our list of the best Melissa McCarthy movies is an iconic flick. It’s hard to see Melissa McCarthy’s face without immediately thinking of Tammy, the titular character of the hilarious 2014 comedy blockbuster. Tammy was actually directed by Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy’s husband, who she met while working with The Groundlings, and the two of them wrote films together.
Tammy stars Melissa McCarthy as Tammy Banks, a foul-mouthed ruffian who catches her husband cheating on her with her neighbor. Pissed off and done with it all, Tammy decides to take her grandmother’s Cadillac and hit the road. What she doesn’t expect is that her grandmother (who’s only ever expressed resentment for Tammy) wants to come along too. The rest of the film follows the duo as they search for adventure, learn about themselves, and begin to enjoy each other’s company.
4. Identity Thief (2013)
In a fairly similar role to the one she played in Tammy, Melissa McCarthy plays yet another goofy, unhinged maniac in the 2013 comedy Identity Thief. This film stars McCarthy alongside Jason Bateman, who plays an uptight businessman named Sandy Patterson.
In the midst of a stressful day, Sandy purchases phony identity theft protection over the phone from a con artist named Diana. However, when his card gets declined at a gas station, Sandy realizes that his identity has been stolen. As the police are unwilling and unable to help Sandy in any way, he embarks on a journey to Florida to apprehend Diana himself.
However, in a strange turn of events, Diana agrees to help Sandy restore his reputation, and the duo embarks on a road trip across the United States in a car that Sandy purchased with his last $200. McCarthy’s character in this film is hilarious, absolutely insane, and strangely lovable. Overall, Identity Thief is a great laugh all the way through and might even get you a little sentimental towards the end.
5. Spy (2015)
The 2015 film Spy is a great blend of the action and comedy genres, and Melissa McCarthy’s performance as Susan Cooper, a CIA office employee who gets called into action when an investigation goes awry, is one for the books. At the start of the film, she’s sporting a cat t-shirt and looking like a blissfully unaware lady next door. By the end of the film, she’s kicking ass, taking names, and toting pistols like a pro.
McCarthy stars alongside Jude Law and Jason Statham, both stars of very serious action films, which makes this movie all the more hilarious. It’s as if they wrote a typical action flick and then decided to throw a wrench in the machine by adding Melissa McCarthy’s character. And the result was a truly unique and gut-wrenchingly funny movie that’s absolutely worth a watch.
6. Life of the Party (2018)
What would you do if your mother decided to enroll at the same university as you? What would you do if your mom started taking shots and hooking up with frat boys alongside you and your friends? These are the questions that the 2018 film Life of the Party answers.
Melissa McCarthy stars in this film as Deanna, a woman whose husband is divorcing her after she just dropped her daughter off at Decatur University. Suddenly all alone, Deanna formulates a plan to also enroll at Decatur University and finish her degree in archaeology which she never finished because she became pregnant with her daughter.
However, when Deanna arrives at the university, archaeology is just about the last thing on her mind. She ends up becoming, well, the life of the party. Getting drunk and dancing at frat parties, joining a sorority, and even having sex in the library with a college boy, Deanna lives her college life to the fullest. But, eventually, Deanna’s wild antics put a rift between her and her daughter. This movie is fun, entertaining, and guaranteed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
7. The Heat (2013)
Last on our list of the best Melissa McCarthy movies is The Heat. This movie follows the classic buddy cop trope, except the stars are two females, and the film is absolutely hilarious from start to finish. Melissa McCarthy stars alongside Sandra Bullock. McCarthy’s character is a liquor-loving, plays-by-her-own-rules Boston cop, and Bullock’s character is a by-the-book FBI Special Agent. Of course, the two of them are forced to work together on a high-profile, high-risk case.
Both cops employ very different styles, and, at first, Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) can’t stand working with Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). However, as the film goes on, Ashburn discovers that she can learn a lot about policing and about life from hanging around with Mullins.