Since her movie debut in Halloween, the Oscar-winning actress has proven she is more than a scream queen.

Born to Hollywood legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis thought she was going to become a cop — but she was destined to be a star. The Oscar-winning actress got her start in small TV roles, and has since gone on to enjoy an exceptional career spanning over four decades, across movies and television (not to mention her ventures as a children's book author, activist, and philanthropist). 

Slashers, romances, comedies, action films, heartfelt dramas, animated voiceovers — nothing is out of range for the original scream queen of Hollywood. From her mesmerizing film debut as Laurie Strode in the Halloween franchise to roles in recent works like Knives Out and Everything Everywhere All at Once, here are our picks for Curtis' best TV and movie performances.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins in 'The Fog'
Credit: Everett Collection

13. The Fog (1980)

Fresh off her career-defining role in Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis reunited with director John Carpenter for The Fog, a horror film about an otherworldly mist that swallows the small coastal town of Antonio Bay 100 years after the mysterious sinking of a ship. Curtis plays Elizabeth Solley, a rebellious hitchhiker teen who becomes wrapped up in the mystery when day breaks and the fog appears. Balancing the role with the duality of confidence and feigned naivety, the actress delivers a wonderful performance in an otherwise lower-tier horror entry from one of the genre's best directors. The Fog also was the first of two films that featured Curtis alongside her mother, Janet Leigh.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Blue Steel'
Credit: Everett Collection

12. Blue Steel (1990)

In this action thriller directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Curtis stars as rookie cop Megan Turner, who engages in a game of cat and mouse with a deranged psychopath. Blue Steel sees Bigelow flex taut direction in a genre normally dominated by male filmmakers and leads, while Curtis adds depth to what could have easily been a one-dimensional character. Turner is determined, misunderstood, and seductive as she tries to clear her name and prove her worth in an admittedly audacious film. It's a great role for Curtis, who by this time was used to spanning genres and styles.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Nicholas' Gift'
Credit: Everett Collection

11. Nicholas' Gift (1998)

Curtis earned an Emmy nomination for Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her role in Nicholas' Gift as Maggie Green, a mother who is attacked by highway bandits in Italy with her husband (Alan Bates) and two children. When the couple finds out one of their sons is brain dead, they make the difficult decision to donate his organs and save countless lives. Curtis delivers a tragic, heartfelt performance as a mother stricken with grief — and she's the best part of this moving, fact-based TV drama.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Perfect'
Credit: Everett Collection

10. Perfect (1985)

Curtis stars opposite John Travolta in the steamy drama Perfect as Jessie, an aerobics instructor who meets a reporter doing a story on how health clubs are the singles bars of the '80s. Although Jessie doesn't want to be interviewed for Adam's story, an ambivalent romance develops between them. While the film itself received mixed reviews, it still cemented Curtis' cinema standing as a sex symbol, and, more importantly, as a powerful actress gyrating and working (out) her way into our hearts.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis
Credit: ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

9. Anything But Love (1989-1992)

In this ABC sitcom about two co-workers at a Chicago magazine who can't seem to shake their attraction to one another, Curtis plays Hannah Miller, an effortlessly charming and strong-willed writer who, upon flying home after a breakup, meets journalist Marty Gold (Richard Lewis) on her flight, which marks the beginning of their complicated relationship — and helps her to land her dream job in the process. 

While Anything But Love is not necessarily the most memorable comedy series from the early '90s, it did last for four seasons thanks to the chemistry between Lewis and Curtis — and is a great example of how good Curtis is at adding dimension to her characters. She won a Best Actress Golden Globe in 1990 for her performance.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline in 'A Fish Called Wanda'
Credit: Everett Collection

8. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda is a hilarious romp in which two Brits (Tom Georgeson and Michael Palin) enlist a couple of Americans — scam artist Wanda Gershwitz (Curtis) and weapons expert Otto West (Kevin Kline) — to team up with them on a jewel heist. Naturally, things go awry and they all end up trying to double-cross each other, with Wanda attempting to seduce George's lawyer Archie (John Cleese) in an attempt to locate the stolen diamonds. Curtis is unforgettable as the fun, sexy, and sneaky Wanda, who uses her feminine wiles to get what she wants — and ultimately make bumbling fools of the men around her. She plays the role to perfection and received her first Golden Globe nomination as a result.

Credit: Claire Folger/Lionsgate

7. Knives Out (2019)

Curtis' performance in Rian Johnson's 2019 murder mystery hit Knives Out is a standout in an amazing ensemble cast, including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas. Here, she plays Linda Drysdale, the eldest daughter of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) in a family of vultures more concerned about the late mystery author's fortune than his actual death. Curtis imbues Linda with a tough and confrontational gravitas, crafting an often funny and surprisingly tragic character. ("The party? Pre-dad's death? Oh, it was great.") While she and the rest of her dysfunctional family were missed in the sequel Glass Onion — which focused on a brand-new mystery with Craig still in tow — Curtis won't soon be forgotten for her performance as the sarcastic and blunt Linda in the Oscar-nominated box office hit.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Scream Queens'
Credit: Everett Collection

6. Scream Queens (2015)

Who knew that getting terrorized by serial killers could be such a hoot? Curtis was a mainstay in the Ryan Murphy series Scream Queens, whose first season focuses on a group of sorority girls (Emma Roberts, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, Lea Michele, and Abigail Breslin) targeted by a killer who wears their university's Red Devil mascot as a disguise. As Cathy Munsch, the school's dean, Curtis is able to showcase her action skills and comedic timing in a show that's so unhinged that she can really lets loose. (Would we expect anything else from a Ryan Murphy show?) Plus, the homage to her mother's iconic Psycho shower scene in season 1 is all the more reason to enjoy this performance from the original scream queen. 

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'True Lies'
Credit: Everett Collection

5. True Lies (1994)

In James Cameron's 1994 action-comedy True Lies, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Harry, a secret agent whose family thinks he's a boring businessman. While he's trying to track down nuclear warheads that have been smuggled into the U.S. by terrorists, Harry discovers his neglected wife, Helen (Curtis), may be having an affair with a used car salesman (Bill Paxton). But Helen isn't looking for love, she's simply looking for a little adventure — and she gets that and more when Harry stages a spy mission for her. Of course, Helen ends up getting kidnapped for real, but is rescued and eventually winds up becoming an agent herself and joining Harry on his missions.

Curtis is captivating as Helen, a role that sees her transform from a suburban housewife into an action hero, earning her a Golden Globe and utilizing her talents in the best way possible. While speaking about True Lies at CinemaCon in 2019, Curtis said: "The truth is I am an untrained person... but that movie took advantage of everything that is good about my talent and the freedom that I had to be Helen and just the very nature of it... I just think that was probably the most complete experience I ever had."

Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Akroyd in 'Trading Places'
Credit: Everett Collection

4. Trading Places (1983)

Landing a role in the John Landis comedy Trading Places was a nice change of pace for the scream queen. "John Landis had chosen me against everyone's feelings, advice, whatever," Curtis told EW of being cast in a movie that allowed her to finally break free from the horror genre and flex her comedic chops.

In the 1983 film, Curtis plays Ophelia, a sex worker hired by the greedy Duke brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) to help them ruin the reputation of pompous commodities broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) as part of a bet they make in which they scheme to switch Winthorpe's life with street hustler Billy Valentine's (Eddie Murphy) for their own entertainment. Sweet Ophelia eventually pivots to help Louis and Billy Ray get their revenge on the corrupt old men.

Balancing humor with heart, Curtis more than holds her own in the film and scooped up a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA Award, as well as a Golden Globe nomination, for her performance.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Everything Everywhere All at Once'
Credit: A24

3. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

After almost 50 years in show business, Curtis finally secured her first-ever Oscar nomination and win for her role as the cranky, cynical IRS inspector Deidre Beaubeirdre in the Daniels' astounding film Everything Everywhere All at Once. As Evelyn Wong (Michelle Yeoh) is swept into a multidimensional battle for the fate of the universe while her laundromat is getting audited, she comes face to face with many different versions of both her loved ones and her bureaucratic foe. 

There's a phallic hot-dog-finger-wielding variant of Curtis in one universe, a long-term-yet-strained romantic relationship with her in another, and a poignant resolution with the stressed-out IRS inspector in her own universe. If that doesn't describe how incredible the absurd comedy-drama is, Curtis' plethora of Instagram posts about how much she loves the Best Picture winner may convince you.

FREAKY FRIDAY, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, 2003, (c) Walt Disney/courtesy Everett Collection
Credit: Everett

2. Freaky Friday (2003)

Freaky Friday proves just how much fun Curtis can have in front of the camera if you let her. She stars opposite Lindsay Lohan in Disney's third adaptation of Mary Rodgers' novel about a mother and daughter who switch bodies and are forced to adapt to their very different lives until they can find a solution. The charm of the film lies in each actor channeling their inverted age, with Lohan acting as a middle-aged matriarch made to cosplay as a teen against her will, while Curtis completely sells herself as an angst-ridden teenage girl who must cluelessly carry a family and a career in her mother's (sort of) absence. 

The hijinks that ensue turn the mundane into the hilarious, also flipping the fraught relationship between the two into a sentimental and moving familial portrait — and one of the best identity swap movies of all time. At the center of it all is Curtis, who embodies the spirit of a miserable teenager in her mom's body so effortlessly and wholeheartedly that she steals every scene she's in.

Credit: Everett Collection

1. Halloween franchise (1978-2022)

Halloween will probably go down as the career-defining role of Curtis' career. Following in her mother Janet Leigh's fright-filled footsteps —Leigh starred as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho – Curtis made a name for herself as Laurie, a babysitter who becomes the target of escaped killer Michael Myers. Her character is one of the most iconic of the genre — a powerful protagonist who, unlike many of the scream queens that followed, actually holds her own against the antagonist time after time, appearing in seven of the whopping 13 franchise installments. The latest came in 2022, when Curtis returned to her most famous role yet again with Halloween Ends, this time as a determined, revenge-stricken grandmother who wants to rid the world (and herself) of Michael Myers once and for all. 

Though the Oscar winner has come a long way since her 1978 film debut, when you think Jamie Lee Curtis, odds are you still think of Laurie, too.

Related content: