Board of Actor-Directors: 30 Who Excel in Dual Role
The Cable Guy (1996)
This underrated, very dark comedy is about a cable customer (Matthew Broderick) harassed by a friendless technician (Jim Carrey) who seems to have bubbled up from the very id of television itself. Sorta like child-of-pop-culture Stiller, who famously grew up in a caustic showbiz household as the son of comics Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
Stiller directed and starred in this classic satire of the fashion world, playing a vacuous model-turned-Manchurian Candidate-style unwitting assassin. Bonus points for naming its villain, Mugatu (Will Ferrell), after an old Star Trek monster.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
It took 20 years for Stiller to turn his failed Platoon audition into this merciless satire about pampered Hollywood actors (Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr.) whose Vietnam War epic goes violently awry.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Costner's directorial debut, a three-hour Western starring himself as a Union soldier adopted by Indians, was derided during production as a likely flop (''Kevin's Gate,'' wags called it). But it was a huge hit with critics and audiences, earning seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
The Postman (1997)
If not for 1995's Waterworld, critics and viewers might have forgiven the Dances With Wolves director another three-hour adventure, but most turned up their noses at this post-apocalyptic epic about an itinerant actor (Costner) who fights a warlord (his No Way Out antagonist Will Patton) and restores order by...delivering the mail.
Open Range (2003)
Costner returned to the public's good graces with this modest Western, starring himself and Robert Duvall as aging cowpokes drawn reluctantly into a showdown with a feudal rancher (Michael Gambon). —Gary Susman
Eastwood had been portraying violent cowboys and trigger-happy cops for more than three decades, and directing pulpy thrillers for more than 20 years, when he directed and starred in this Western, an implicit critique of the violence so casually depicted in Hollywood movies (including his) for generations. His turn as a reformed gunslinger who falls too easily back into his old ways earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor; he won for Best Director and Best Picture.
Mystic River (2003)
Eastwood's quiet, methodical directing style pays off in this thriller about three lifelong friends (ex-con Sean Penn, cop Kevin Bacon, and childhood molestation survivor Tim Robbins) whose paths cross tragically once again after another horrible crime.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Hilary Swank won her second Best Actress Oscar as the film's striving boxer, but the emotional arc belongs to Eastwood's grizzled trainer, who risks coming out of his emotional shell only to be dealt a cruel blow. Eastwood won his second Best Picture and second Best Director Oscars. —Gary Susman
Antwone Fisher (2002)
This Good Will Hunting-like tale of a troubled young man (Derek Luke) who comes to grips with his Dickensian past via therapy has the added virtue of being based on a true story; Fisher, a security guard on the Sony Studios lot, wrote the autobiographical screenplay himself. In his directorial debut, Washington also gave himself the plum role of the therapist.
The Great Debaters (2007)
Washington directed and stars in this inspirational, based-in-fact tale of a Depression-era debate coach at a rural, all-black Texas college who led his team to victory over forensic teams from all-white schools. —Gary Susman
After the intimate drama of his first directing project, The Man Without a Face, this stirring historical drama about 13th-century Scottish rebel leader William Wallace (Gibson) showed he had a mastery of epic action as well, earning him Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Gibson sunk $25 million of his own money into this seemingly foolhardy project, a subtitled religious epic in two dead languages (Latin and Aramaic) with no proven stars. Despite controversy over its extreme violence and its unflattering depiction of Jews, Gibson's version of the last hours in the life of Jesus Christ (Jim Caviezel) became one of the top-grossing films of all time.
With the success of Passion, Gibson was free to make another movie in a language no one speaks. Audiences weren't sure what to make of this parable about the fall of a decadent civilization (here, that of the Maya), but they couldn't help but be dazzled by its relentless action. —Gary Susman
On the Town (1949)
In his first directing gig (shared with the more experienced Stanley Donen), Kelly ably condenses the hit Broadway musical about three sailors (Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin) on shore leave in Manhattan, opening up the stage version with the then-novel use of real NYC location shots.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Kelly and Donen co-direct this, the greatest movie musical of all time. A fizzy satire on Hollywood's conversion from silents to talkies, it features Kelly's iconic title-tune splashfest and Donald O'Connor's gravity-defying ''Make 'Em Laugh.''
Hello, Dolly (1969)
Kelly's overstuffed version of the Jerry Herman musical about a matchmaker (Barbra Streisand) who becomes her own client may not be his best work, but according to WALL-E, it's the one movie that'll survive the apocalypse to offer lessons about love and romance. —Gary Susman
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Clooney made his directing debut with this off-the-wall adaptation (scripted by Charlie Kaufman) of Chuck Barris' outrageous memoir, in which the Gong Show host (played by Sam Rockwell) claimed he'd also been a government assassin. Clooney gives himself a small but juicy role as Barris' spymaster.
Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
This striking black-and-white film recounts the battle by 1950s CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) against both the hysteria whipped up by Sen. Joseph McCarthy's slanderous witch hunts against alleged communists and the corporate timidity of his own network. Clooney plays Murrow's loyal producer Fred Friendly (yes, that was really his name).
The Ides of March (2011)
For his feature directing debut, Favreau reunited with Swingers pal Vince Vaughn in a shaggy dog tale of two inept, low-level mob goons who get involved in a money-laundering scheme.
This unlikely, kid-friendly Christmas comedy, starring Will Ferrell as a man raised by elves in Santa's workshop who travels to New York to meet his birth father (a Scrooge-y James Caan), became an enormous hit, proving Favreau's commercial viability as a director and Ferrell's bankability as a comic leading man.
Iron Man (2008)
Favreau directed another unlikely lead, Robert Downey Jr., to box-office glory in this smart, idiosyncratic adaptation of the Marvel comic series about an industrialist and weapons designer who turns over a new leaf and fights for the downtrodden in his self-designed suit of armor. —Gary Susman
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Beatty's directing debut was this sparkling romantic comedy, a remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan, in which Beatty also stars as Joe Pendleton, a jock who is spirited to Heaven due to a celestial snafu and is forced to return to Earth in the body of a doomed tycoon.
Beatty won a directing Oscar for this biopic, an epic like no other. The story of American journalist John Reed (Beatty), who enthusiastically reported on the Russian Revolution, only to become disillusioned by the Soviet government's totalitarianism, is interspersed with talking-head testimony from real-life witnesses to the events of the film.
Beatty's corrosive satire about the sclerotic cynicism of Washington politics didn't find an audience — maybe because politically-minded moviegoers were preoccupied with the stranger-than-fiction Lewinsky scandal, or because they didn't get Beatty's character, a senator who suddenly starts speaking in awkward, hip-hop rhymes. —Gary Susman
Annie Hall (1977)
After several very funny movies in which he directed and played the nebbishy romantic lead, Allen made a more serious, impressionistic romantic comedy-drama — and it was a rambling mess. He saved it in the editing room, cutting an hour and reshuffling the pieces to create this sparkling kaleidoscope about a mismatched New York couple (Allen and Diane Keaton, at their most autobiographical). Allen won Best Director and Best Picture for his first real masterpiece.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Allen not only cast his 1980s girlfriend/muse Mia Farrow as the Earth-mother-y Hannah, who tries to keep dithery sisters Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey grounded, but he also shot much of this delightful, poignant comedy-drama in her sprawling apartment.
Match Point (2005)
After years of hit-or-miss movies, Allen recharged his creative batteries by ditching New York for London and casting Scarlett Johansson as a tempestuous aspiring actress who has the bad luck to fall for an amoral social climber (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who's already engaged to an heiress. A reworking of Allen's 1989 drama Crimes and Misdemeanors, the movie is both a suspenseful thriller and a chilling meditation on a universe without justice. —Gary Susman
Waiting for Guffman (1996)
Following in the tradition that he and director Rob Reiner had pioneered in This Is Spinal Tap of scripted characters performing improvised scenes, Guest directed this satire of small-town theater companies and cast himself as Corky St. Clair, the director who believes a Broadway critic is about to bless his little civic pageant. Here, Guest assembles much of the repertory company he'll use in his next several films, including Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, and Parker Posey.
Best in Show (2000)
Guest turns his satirical eye toward dog shows and the high-strung canine owners who compete in them. Jane Lynch and Jennifer Coolidge join the Guest company as an heiress and a trainer brought together romantically by a poodle (''Rhapsody has two mommies!''), while Guest himself plays a backwoodsman who enters his bloodhound in the contest.
A Mighty Wind (2003)
Guest returns to spoofing music with this tale of a reunion of folk singing groups of the 1960s. Guest and Spinal Tap bandmates Harry Shearer and Michael McKean play a trio called the Folksmen, characters they'd invented decades earlier for a Saturday Night Live sketch. —Gary Susman
The Gold Rush (1925)
Chaplin's Little Tramp character goes prospecting in the frozen Klondike in this classic silent comedy, which features such unforgettable sequences as the dance of the dinner rolls and the eating of the shoe.
Modern Times (1936)
Nearly a decade after the rest of the movie world had gone talkie, Chaplin was still making silents, spending years crafting this epic satire on the modern industrial age, in which his factory worker literally becomes a cog in the machine, being threaded through the gears like a strip of film. Wife Paulette Goddard co-stars as a waif befriended by the Tramp.
The Great Dictator (1940)
In his first talkie, Chaplin lampoons the tyrant who had stolen his mustache, playing both a Hitler-like dictator and a lookalike Jewish barber. Some thought Chaplin's satire didactic and heavy-handed; but after the U.S. entered World War II, it suddenly looked chillingly prophetic. —Gary Susman
Henry V (1944)
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre opens up to become the world in this cinematic coup that marked Olivier's directing debut. His performance as the king who led England to victory against the French at Agincourt was the centerpiece of a film that was not just a propaganda tonic for wartime Britain but also a stirring, rousing adaptation.
Some purists have bristled at Olivier's trimming of Shakespeare's four-hour psychological drama into a lean 155 minutes, but there's no arguing with his performance, generally regarded as the definitive screen Hamlet. Olivier won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Picture.
Richard III (1955)
Another Shakespeare adaptation, another definitive performance by Olivier, as the villainous, hunchbacked monarch. Once again, he transforms himself utterly — and sets himself up for a decades-long stretch of playing deliciously evil villains. —Gary Susman
Henry V (1989)
Sure, the brash Branagh was aping Olivier when he made his directing debut with an adaptation of Henry V and played the title role. Damned if the 29-year-old didn't pull it off, however, and with a more naturalistically grim and bloody view of war. Casting his real-life new bride Emma Thompson as his love interest elevated them both to instant power-couple status.
A Midwinter's Tale (1995)
This underrated, black-and-white comedy about a small theatrical troupe's production of Hamlet didn't get the attention it deserved, but it's a funny, affectionate, Guffman-like satire that proved Branagh could work on a smaller, more intimate scale.
Branagh returned to big-scale Shakespeare with this faithful adaptation of the full play. The visuals are striking and the all-star cast is impressive, if distracting — look, there's Charlton Heston! And Robin Williams! Branagh's vigorous performance as the Prince of Denmark again seems to challenge Olivier. —Gary Susman
Ordinary People (1980)
Redford's directing debut, a drama about a family falling apart after one of the two sons dies in an accident, is remembered now for having earned Redford the directing Oscar many felt rightfully belonged to Martin Scorsese (for Raging Bull) and for making an Oscar-winning star out of Timothy Hutton, as the troubled surviving son. But it's worth revisiting for the shocking performance Redford elicited from Mary Tyler Moore as the mom: it's certainly the darkest, bitterest thing she's ever done, and it should have won her a statuette as well.
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Redford directed this graceful, pastoral adaptation of Norman Maclean's memoir about fly-fishing, coming of age in rural Montana, and more fly-fishing. Featuring a standout performance by a charismatic Brad Pitt, whose golden, nature-boy turn reminded viewers of no one so much as the younger Redford.
Quiz Show (1994)
Redford earned another directing Oscar nomination for this thoughtful look at an old scandal, portrayed here as a media-age cautionary tale. Ralph Fiennes is Charles Van Doren, a 1950s Ivy League instructor who too easily sells his integrity for nationwide fame on a rigged primetime game show. —Gary Susman
Citizen Kane (1941)
The mythology that's accrued around the movie often acclaimed as the greatest film ever made — how the 25-year-old actor/writer/director got carte blanche from RKO for his first film, incurred the wrath of media mogul William Randolph Hearst for Kane's thinly veiled portrayal of him, and thereby ruined the rest of his career — has all but buried the film itself. See it again, marvel at its still radical narrative and visual techniques (and at Welles' multilayered performance), and appreciate its up-to-the-minute message that, even in an era of media overexposure, it's impossible to know what's really in anyone's heart.
Touch of Evil (1958)
This lurid noir tale of an honest detective's (Charlton Heston) showdown with a corrupt cop (Welles at his most grotesque) was full of Welles' innovative and baroque touches (notably, the celebrated lengthy tracking shot that opens the film).
Chimes at Midnight (1966)
Welles' brilliant distillation of Shakespeare's historical dramas about Henry V's rise to power (he plays Falstaff, of course) is a terrific and imaginative spin on the classic characters. Plus, it contains some of the greatest battle scenes ever filmed. —Gary Susman
The Indian Runner (1991)
Penn's directing debut spins Bruce Springsteen's song ''Highway Patrolman'' into a gritty, thoughtful domestic drama about two tormented brothers (David Morse and Viggo Mortensen) on opposite sides of the law. Penn also found a rare role for Charles Bronson (as the brothers' dad) that doesn't involve him shooting anybody.
The Crossing Guard (1995)
Penn draws a typically scary and intense performance from Jack Nicholson as a man bent on exacting violent revenge on the drunk driver (Morse) who killed his daughter. Penn also manages the impressive diplomatic feat of getting real-life exes Nicholson and Anjelica Huston to work together.
Into the Wild (2007)
Penn's best film yet is this dreamy biopic of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a privileged young man who shed all his possessions, traveled across America seeking Jack Kerouac-like adventures, then headed deep into the Alaskan wilderness seeking Jack London-like adventures, where he met his fate. Penn manages both to celebrate McCandless' Thoreauvian quest to escape the bonds of civilization and to observe the pain his abandonment caused his family and others who tried to reach out to him. —Gary Susman
While Godard and Truffaut were inventing the French New Wave, Cassavetes was doing the same thing here with this film that would come to define his style: semi-improvisational acting, woozy camera movements, and brooding, intense emotion. Indie film as we know it starts here.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
Cassavetes' wife and muse Gena Rowlands gives a towering performance as a working-class wife and mom who embarrasses her husband (Cassavetes regular Peter Falk) with her increasingly bizarre behavior as she descends into mental instability.
Cassavetes' most accessible, mainstream film finds Rowlands playing a gangland moll whose maternal instinct kicks in when she goes on the lam with a six-year-old boy whose family has been killed by her associates. —Gary Susman
Attenborough won Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for this epic biopic about the Indian leader. Ben Kingsley became a star (and also won an Oscar) for a portrayal of the Mahatma that showed him as a human with foibles as well as a saint.
Cry Freedom (1987)
Attenborough's bio of anti-apartheid martyr Steve Biko launched a cycle of movies critical of the South Africa in the final, hard-line years of the apartheid regime. It also effectively launched TV supporting player Denzel Washington's career as a movie star.
In another biographical tale, Attenborough tells the story of Narnia author C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins), whose professed faith is sorely tested when he romances, marries, and loses to cancer Joy Gresham (Debra Winger). —Gary Susman
In the Bedroom (2001)
Best known for playing bit parts in such films as Eyes Wide Shut and The Haunting, Field made his feature directing debut with this bleak tale, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Marisa Tomei, Tom Wilkinson, and especially Sissy Spacek give searing performances in this drama about a couple undone by the violent death of their son.
Little Children (2006)
Field's pitiless dissection of suburban ennui (which he and Tom Perrotta adapted from Perrotta's novel) features Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson as unhappy parents who embark on a reckless affair. Stealing the film, however, in the role of a paroled pedophile trying to put his life back together, is former Bad News Bear Jackie Earle Haley, whom Field helped rescue from the where-are-they-now file.
Kitano is his own genre, writing and directing French New Wave-influenced gangster movies that are both hard-boiled and existential, and starring himself (as Beat Takeshi) as a stone-faced badass. Here he's a Yakuza boss whose elaborate revenge scheme is sidetracked when he falls for a woman he's rescued from rape.
In this tale of a retired cop (played by the director) who turns to crime to support his loved ones, Kitano's usual blend of bloody brutality and lyrical tenderness is on display.
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2004)
Kitano goes blonde to play the beloved Japanese action hero immortalized by Shintaro Katsu. The plot is piffle, but the digitally-enhanced swordplay is a sonic and visual marvel. —Gary Susman
The Way We Were (1973)
Two of the biggest stars of the '70s — Barbra Streisand and frequent Pollack leading man Robert Redford — teamed in this glossy romance set against the backdrop of Hollywood during the blacklist era. Really, it couldn't miss, and it didn't.
Pollack and Dustin Hoffman famously fought over the direction this cross-dressing comedy should take; their fractious relationship is echoed in the onscreen tug-of-war between Hoffman's combative actor and Pollack's exasperated agent. In the end, Hoffman won (he wanted to make the film broader and funnier), and he was right. He was also right to coax Pollack back onto the screen after a long absence from acting; the director would spend the rest of his career with a nice sideline performing acerbic cameos in his own films and in those of other directors.
Out of Africa (1985)
Pollack won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for this picturesque epic, based on Isak Dinesen's (Meryl Streep) memoirs of her years spent managing a Kenyan coffee plantation and romancing a rugged outdoorsman (Redford, naturally). —Gary Susman
There were a whole lot of other body-switch comedies that came out around the same time, but the only one anybody remembers now is this one, thanks to Tom Hanks' winningly childlike performance as a boy who becomes a man overnight, and to Marshall's ability to build showpiece moments, like the scene where Hanks and Robert Loggia play that giant piano. On only her second film, Marshall became the first woman to direct a blockbuster that grossed more than $100 million.
In this tearjerker based loosely on Dr. Oliver Sacks' real-life case histories, Marshall elicits a typically multifaceted performance from Robert De Niro as a patient emerging from a decades-long nightmare, and she coaxes an atypically restrained dramatic performance from Robin Williams as the Sacks-like neurologist who also must emerge from his shell.
A League of Their Own (1992)
Marshall's second $100 million-plus blockbuster was this based-loosely-in-fact comedy-drama about the all-female professional baseball league launched during World War II. Along with Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Lori Petty, League featured Madonna in a rare supporting part and Rosie O'Donnell's film debut. —Gary Susman
Howard's charming fish tale made a big you-know-what at the box office, turning everyman Tom Hanks and mermaid Daryl Hannah into movie stars. It also made the former child star into an A-list director.
Apollo 13 (1995)
You'd think it would be hard to make a nail-biting, suspenseful film out of a crisis whose safe and successful resolution unfolded in real time in front of the whole world. But Howard pulls it off with this account of the ill-fated 1970 lunar mission, thanks in part to great teamwork from Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Howard won a Best Director Oscar for his clever misdirection here, as he and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman find a tricky way to convey real-life mathematician John Nash's (Russell Crowe) descent into schizophrenia, and a poignant way to depict his fighting his way back to sanity. —Gary Susman
At first, all Smith had was his voice. Didn't have any money, didn't have any idea where to put the camera (still doesn't, many critics would say), but he had that witty, profane, pop culture-soaked voice that made spending all day at a convenience store with slackers Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) into a fun way to pass the time. Smith also gave himself the not-too-taxing role of Silent Bob, which became his signature character.
Chasing Amy (1997)
The unlikely romance that made stars of Ben Affleck and sidekick Jason Lee, and that gave Smith his biggest acting challenge to date: the monologue that gives the film its title.
Clerks 2 (2006)
Even slackers have to grow up sometime. That's the lesson facing Dante and Randal (still in service-industry purgatory 12 years later) and Smith himself, as he closes what looks to be only the first chapter in a long career. —Gary Susman
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
If you gave guns to Glengarry Glen Ross' real-estate hustlers, they might become Tarantino's gangsters, with their hypermacho attitudes and hyperliterate speech. Making as bold a directing debut as Hollywood had seen in decades, Tarantino (who had a small role as one of the gang) turns a little tale of a heist gone wrong into an opera of blood and betrayal.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Tarantino's rule-rewriting, time-shifting crime-and-redemption saga changed the game for independent film, for the balance of power at the Oscars, for the whole gangster genre, and of course, for John Travolta. All that for a movie that was really about nothing more than the sheer kinetic joy of cinema, whether its pleasures come from watching Travolta dance, Bruce Willis wield a samurai sword, or Samuel L. Jackson spit out his favorite 12-letter word.
Kill Bill, Vols. 1 and 2 (2003, 2004)
Tarantino took every disreputable action movie from around the world that he'd ever seen and threw them against the wall of his fascination with Uma Thurman to see what would stick. Most of it did, and the two-part revenge epic surprised viewers with both its extreme violence and extreme tenderness. —Gary Susman
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Reiner's directorial debut was this groundbreaking mockumentary about the disastrous tour of an aging heavy metal band (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer). Still one of the funniest movies ever made, and one of the most quoteable (''This one goes to 11...'').
Stand By Me (1986)
After Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing, Reiner proved he could do drama as weil with this sensitive adaptation of Stephen King's coming-of-age tale. He also proved he had a fine eye for talent, casting future stars River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell as the boyhood pals.
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
That's Reiner's mother, Estelle, as the woman at the deli who responds to Meg Ryan's rapturous histrionics with the line, ''I'll have what she's having.'' —Gary Susman
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Jonze had been known for directing visually tricky, pop culture-savvy music videos (Beastie Boys' ''Sabotage,'' Weezer's ''Buddy Holly''), but in 1999, he broke into features in a big way: as an actor, playing a gung-ho soldier in Three Kings, and as a director, with this wild and sad Charlie Kaufman-scripted fantasy about celebrity, identity, and puppetry.
Jonze and Kaufman reunite for another meta-tale, a meditation on the nature of truth and art that's also a wickedly funny parody of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep get to show off their versatility, but the film is stolen, aptly enough, by toothless orchid thief Chris Cooper, in his Oscar-winning performance.
Glen or Glenda (1953)
Wood explores his own fondness for cross-dressing by starring (under the pseudonym Daniel Davis) as the title character, whose girlfriend wonders why he's so fond of her angora sweaters. The drama is presented as a psychological case history, which must be why Wood felt he had to cast Bela Lugosi as the creepy scientist who tries to explain the psychodrama to the audience in screenwriter Wood's tortured, mysterious prose (''Pull the string! Pull the string!'').
Bride of the Monster (1955)
Fans of Wood's so-bad-it's-good oeuvre like to laugh at the octopus-wrestling scene, but also to cry at Lugosi's ''I have no home'' monologue. The horror legend plays Wood's sci-fi camp in all seriousness and delivers his last great performance.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Wood's magnum opus may not live up to its rep as the worst movie ever made, but it does not disappoint. Every inept moment — from the hubcap/paper-plate UFOs to the suitably zombielike acting of Vampira and Tor Johnson to the unconvincing replacement of Lugosi (who died during filming) with Wood's wife's much taller chiropractor — is insanely watchable. —Gary Susman
Streisand's directing debut was this long-gestating labor of love, based on an Isaac Bashevis Singer tale about a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to study at a yeshiva. Sure, she was too old to play the lead, and the songs come out of nowhere, and yet the whole thing works as a marvelous, shameless tearjerker.
Prince of Tides (1991)
Look past Barbra's lacquered nails and gauzy close-ups, and you'll see that this is a top-notch weepie, beautifully shot and acted by Nick Nolte, Streisand, and Kate Nelligan. Horrible family secrets emerge and are purged, touch football is played, and everyone gets to have a good cry and go home.
The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Amateur Babsologists had fun analyzing this romantic comedy for its seemingly autobiographical nature — it touches on the director/star's own issues about personal appearance and mother-daughter relationships — but she certainly created a memorable gargoyle of a mom for Lauren Bacall to play. —Gary Susman