Oprah Winfrey is known for her TV network, her inspiring personal story, and her long-running talk show, but she is also an actress. And here’s the crazy part, she’s a damn good actress, too.
How, you must be asking, does a media mogul have the time not just to taking acting work but to commit to roles in such impressive ways?
Compared to most actresses in their sixties, her resume might be short, little more than twenty roles, but it is filled with challenging parts in important stories.
Let’s consider her very best stints on the big screen.
The Color Purple – In a role that earned Winfrey an Oscar nomination, she portrayed Sofia, a poor woman in rural Georgia in the 1930s who, along with Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), had to fight to be respected, as well as fighting physical abuse. It’s a harrowing story loaded with brave and touching moments.
Oprah’s performance, the Southern grit she conjures, as well as her character’s determination and fierce delivery are simply unforgettable.
Beloved – This isn’t an easy film to watch, but that’s a testament to the types of difficult roles Oprah is drawn to. She portrays Sethe, a mother and former slave coming to terms with discovering that a lost child has returned to her by supernatural means.
With every smile and gesture, Winfrey communicates the struggle to be a good parent, and simply a good person when faced with devastating choices.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler – The film tells the true story of an African-American butler, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who witnesses numerous significant events at his post in the White House. Oprah plays his strong, dutiful wife.
In one particularly memorable scene, Cecil and his wife’s son returns home to proclaim that he has joined the Black Panther movement. But his announcement only leads to an altercation. Winfrey once again embodies both charm and boundless strength in the supporting role.
Selma – If you haven’t seen Ava DuVernay’s film chronicling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, add it to the list. And although Oprah’s role in the film is small, her scenes are invaluable, as is her performance.
She portrays Annie Lee Cooper, a real resident of Selma, Alabama, who attempted numerous times to register to vote. However, the white registrar does everything he can to thwart her attempts. Her struggle to vote is part of the catalyst that results in the historic march.
Her performance is understated, but her wary expressions and quiet determination is spellbinding.
Have I forgotten a particular role? Let me know in the comments section!