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56 Memorable Kathy Bates Movies Ranked Worst To Best

It is an unfortunate fact of Hollywood that most actresses over 40 are considered "past their prime." Sure, there will always be the Meryl Streeps of the world, but many of these popular middle-aged actresses had already risen to stardom when they were younger. It's hard to keep succeeding in showbiz after hitting 40.

Enter Kathy Bates, a talented actress who wasn't even on the map until she had already gone "over the hill." With the exception of two or three films on the list below (and a couple of small cameos that won't be mentioned here), every single one of these roles Bates played after turning 40 (via Rotten Tomatoes). While it's true that her career may have declined a little since her award-winning streak in the 1990s –- like most actors, Bates has inevitably ended up in some pretty awful films -– we think it's safe to say that she's doing pretty well. After all, it's not often that an actress well over 60 gets to be a returning guest star on popular shows like "American Horror Story." Matt Mazur from PopMatters concludes, "Bates has fostered a career against the odds in an age where the public demands young, blond, tiny starlets play every role."

We'll be compiling every single Kathy Bates movie, counting not her work on documentaries, animated films, and TV movies (aside from three outstanding examples). We'll also be omitting any films where she only plays a minor role or a cameo part. Even still, that leaves a massively impressive filmography. Let's dive in.

56. A Little Bit of Heaven

"A Little Bit of Heaven" attempts to somehow reconcile two very different genres: a cute romcom and a melodrama about terminal illness. The result isn't pretty. Marley (Kate Hudson) is a marketing executive who's the life of the party, but her priorities change whenever her doctor (Gael Garcia Bernal) diagnoses her with colon cancer. So Marley decides she might as well have a bit of fun before she dies, and along the way she has a relationship with her doctor (not creepy at all).

It makes no sense. If director Nicole Kassell wanted to make an escapist romcom, then why did she bring cancer into it? And if she wanted to make an impactful drama about terminal illness, then why did she make cancer have such a minimal presence in the movie? 

Peter Knegt from Indiewire can't even comprehend why Bates would sign onto such a project. In the role of Marley's mom, Bates "looks like she's trying so hard with such unforgivable material," according to Salon. Despite her efforts, "A Little Bit of Heaven" earns the honor of being the worst Kathy Bates movie.

55. Relative Strangers

You know it's got to be bad when there's a character named Agnes Menure. Nothing good ever came out of a manure pun. In "Relative Strangers," self-help writer Richard (Ron Livingston) learns he was adopted and decides to meet his birth parents. He quickly regrets this choice; it turns out he is the son of the Menures (played by Danny Devito and Kathy Bates), an embarrassingly loud and obnoxious couple. According to DVD Talk, Richard comes off as too complain-y and the comedy relies too much on well-worn "hillbilly jokes."

Paul Griffiths from Eye For Film was incredulous that any big-name actor agreed to do this project. "What on earth are Kathy Bates and Danny DeVito thinking [...] ?" he wrote, adding, "It must have been a dare for Kathy." Bates and her co-star get "a few chuckle-worthy moments," according Reel Film Reviews, but their initially-amusing personalities quickly grow tiresome. This movie's low-brow sense of humor ultimately drags it down.

54. The Bridge of San Luis Rey

After the collapse of a rope bridge in 1714 Peru leads to the death of five people, Brother Juniper (Gabriel Byrne) decides to uncover the stories behind the five victims -– each of whom is tied in some way to the actress La Perichola (Pilar López de Ayala) –- in the hope of proving that their deaths are not just a coincidence but instead divine providence. His wild theories anger the Archbishop of Lima (Robert De Niro), who threatens to have Juniper burned at the stake. With a Pulitzer Prize-winning book as source material and several brilliant actors, how could the 2004 adaptation of "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" go so wrong?

Even with the frame story of Juniper attempting to pull things together, the story is a tangled mess of supporting characters who are only tangentially relevant, according to The Seattle Times. To make matters worse, the film suffers from a "ponderous, heavy-handed" mood, says Dr. Frank Swietek of One Guy's Opinion.

One of the five victims, the wealthy Doña María, is played by Bates. Swietek describes Bates as "[alternating] between blank serenity and overwrought weeping, neither very successfully." Likewise, Film Freak Central couldn't believe Bates would even sink low enough to participate in this project, let alone give a performance so disappointing.

53. You May Not Kiss the Bride

In terms of genre, "You May Not Kiss the Bride" is all over the place. It's a romcom crossed with a crime thriller crossed with we-don't-even-know-what. After accidentally injuring the cat of a Croatian crime boss (Ken Davitian), Brian (Dave Annable) must repay his debt by agreeing to participate in a fake marriage to the kingpin's daughter Masha (Katherine McPhee) in order to get her a green card. Brian and his "wife" (who is actually betrothed to a Croatian man) honeymoon in Tahiti, though the mob boss intends to make sure that Brian won't get too comfortable with the arrangement.

According to Hollywood Chicago, "You May Not Kiss the Bride" is a tonally inconsistent film with characters impossible to care about and jokes that aren't even funny. "God alone knows how they persuaded Kathy Bates to get involved with this," writes Leadbetter on Film, adding that her performance is "phoned-in" — literally. As Brian's mom, Bates only interacts with the other characters via phone conversations, which prompted Brian Orndorf from BluRay.com to ask why her character even needed to appear in the film at all.

52. Curse of the Starving Class

Theater doesn't always translate very well to film. This is especially true of "Curse of the Starving Class," which is adapted from the acclaimed Sam Shepard play of the same name. The 1994 movie follows the alcoholic Weston (James Woods), his wife Ella (Kathy Bates), and their children. They're a dysfunctional family who insist that –- money troubles notwithstanding -– they are not "the starving class."

Schuster at the Movies says that it's impossible to care about any of the characters. Meanwhile, Jimmy Fowler from The Dallas Observer was incredulous that an adaptation of such a great play with such a talented cast could possibly be such a disaster. Fowler concluded that it must have been because director Bruce Beresford tried to play it semi-seriously, when the original play was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

Emanuel Levy from Variety argues that Bates (who is normally top-notch and in fact did an excellent job playing the same character on the stage) is "no more than okay" in the movie. Of course, this may not be completely her doing — as Levy points out, it certainly doesn't help that the filmmakers rely too much on unnecessary close-ups of Bates that reveal absolutely nothing about her character's inner life.

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51. Arthur 2: On the Rocks

Hollywood ordered another round of "Arthur" after the successful 1981 comedy, but the sequel is undoubtedly watered-down. In "Arthur 2: On the Rocks," the drunk man-child Arthur (Dudley Moore) and his wife Linda (Liza Minelli) decide to adopt a baby, but when Arthur goes bankrupt, it becomes a tad difficult for him to convince his adoption counselor (Kathy Bates) he would make a good parent.

"It's not a sequel, it's a relapse," wrote Rita Kempley of The Washington Post. Here Linda has lost all the acerbic wit she had in the first movie, instead existing purely to offer cheerful support to her husband. (And given that Arthur is an alcoholic playboy who still plays with bath toys, this requires some suspension of disbelief.) Bates is equally sickening-sweet as the social worker, little more than "a walking happy-face," writes Kempley. Blogger Mystery Man insists, "Kathy Bates gets a few zingers in," but he admits that there's not enough of a story here to justify rounding up the cast for a sequel.

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50. The Day the Earth Stood Still

In this 2008 remake of the 1951 sci-fi film, the alien Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) comes to Earth intent on wiping out humanity before they end up destroying the whole planet themselves. It's up to Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) to convince Klaatu to give Earthlings a second chance.

Despite its attempts to update the tale for a modern audience (Klaatu is motivated by the desire to stop global warming instead of nuclear war), "The Day the Earth Stood Still" doesn't hold a candle to the original. According to Silver Screen Analysis, the movie feels derivative of other blockbuster disaster movies, with a few plot points lifted from the 1951 classic. Roger Ebert wrote that Keanu Reeves is positively robotic in the role of Kaatu, making it difficult to become emotionally invested in the movie.

Bates plays Regina Jackson, the U.S. Secretary of Defense. According to The Guardian, Bates is "very much channeling the spirit of Hillary Clinton in her 3am-crisis-phonecall mode." Rodney Twelftree from Fernby Films says that Bates perfectly embodies the suspicion and paranoia that humanity would display whenever faced with an alien invasion. In fact, Twelftree even goes so far as to say that Bates alone gives the only decent performance in this disastrous remake.

49. Bad Santa 2

According to Vox, "'Bad Santa 2' is 'Bad Santa,' but without any of the good parts." The sequel is missing much of the first movie's clever wit, and suffers from the absence of the late Bernie Mac. It doesn't help that the novelty of Billy Bob Thornton's dirty St. Nick has worn off, in part because he's no longer even the dirtiest character in the movie. This time, Thornton's Willie is overshadowed by his partner-in-crime Marcus (Tony Cox) and his mother Sunny (Kathy Bates), who rope him into a con job that involves robbing a charity.

As it turns out, Willie takes after his mother; Sunny is tattooed biker who is "smart-a**ier than all the men combined" in the words of the Miami New Times. Before "Bad Santa 2," Kathy Bates never really had the chance to play such a vulgar character, which Behind the Lens found refreshing. However, that doesn't necessarily mean her character is funny. Vox insists that Sunny's character is built entirely on the joke that the Bad Santa's mom is "badder" than he is, and the joke quickly grows old.

48. Krystal

"A Little Bit of Heaven" wasn't the only Kathy Bates movie that attempted to smash together a romcom with more serious themes of mortality (and then fail spectacularly). In "Krystal," Taylor (Nick Robinson) has a condition that makes his heart rate accelerate to dangerous levels whenever he gets excited. Naturally, he starts to fall in love with Krystal (Rosario Dawson), who can literally make his heart skip a beat. However, Krystal is afraid to commit to a relationship, especially since her last boyfriend (played by T.I.) was an abusive jerk.

According to Robert Kojder from Flickering Myth, Taylor's heart problem doesn't even make any sense, since it conveniently only kicks in whenever the plot requires it. What's more, Taylor lies to Krystal in order to appear cool around her, and the movie treats that like it's okay.

Bates is featured in the trailer, even though her character (Taylor's boss at the art gallery) plays such a small role. The filmmakers were probably just trying to capitalize on her status as an Oscar winner, but even then her immense acting talent is largely wasted. Every Movie Has a Lesson writes, "She gets a half of a hospital scene to remind us of her chops, but that scene and her presence is of little consequence when it should mean more."

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47. Failure to Launch

In the romcom "Failure to Launch," Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) is 35 and still lives with his parents (played by Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw). But his folks hire a self-proclaimed "life interventionist" named Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), who intends to trick Tripp into falling in love with her so he'll find the self-confidence to move out.

The movie is terrible, even if you can forget for a moment that the premise makes no sense. (It begs the question: what happened with Paula's previous charges after she dumped them? What was keeping them from moving right back in with their parents?) Critics agree that Tripp and Paula have zero chemistry and are the least interesting characters in the entire movie.

Bates hardly gets to be a scene-stealer here -– that honor goes to Zoey Deschanel, who is "far too talented for a movie like this," in the words of IGN –- but Screenage Wasteland admits that even Bates is "more fun to watch than Tripp and Paula."

46. Tammy

After the titular Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) loses her job and catches her husband (Nat Faxon) cheating on her, she decides to leave her small-town life behind. So Tammy and her grandma Pearl (Susan Sarandon) get into a bunch of hijinks (including robbing a fast food joint). Bates plays Tammy's rich lesbian cousin Lenore, and she leans too much into stereotype for this role, according to Chris Cummings from The Cinephiliacs. Cummings adds, "She is so, so much better than this."

Ian Buckwalter from NPR insists Tammy is a far cry from McCarthy's character in "Bridesmaids," who had plenty of heart underneath her absurdity, and whose scene-stealing performance was fitting because she was part of an ensemble cast. In "Tammy," however, McCarthy is the lead and needs to carry the whole movie. She's trying too hard to steal every scene — as Buckwalter says, her performance "screams for attention when you already have it."

45. The Boss

After "Tammy," Kathy Bates collaborated with Melissa McCarthy again in "The Boss." McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a flamboyant yet cutthroat billionaire who goes bankrupt after being arrested for white-collar crimes. Forced to bunk with her former secretary Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson), Michelle decides to reclaim her fortune by transforming Rachel's Girl Scout cookie fundraiser into a lucrative business.

Bates appears briefly as Michelle's mentor Ida, who helped Michelle become a billionaire because she saw a kindred soul in her, as Bates explained in a behind-the-scenes interview. That's why it hurt Ida all the more whenever Michelle double-crossed her. The Wrap insists that the scene with Ida is one of the most interesting parts of the movie, adding, "Bates brings gravitas to pretty much any sorry project she shows up for." Unfortunately, the movie's script doesn't give her much to do, and the loose ends between Michelle and Ida are mostly left hanging.

44. Diabolique

When we say "Diabolique," we're not talking about the creepy French horror movie from 1955, but instead the 1996 remake. Still, you'd be better off watching the original. After teacher Nicole (Sharon Stone) grows fed up with her abusive lover (Chazz Palminteri), she teams up with the man's timid wife (Isabelle Adjani) to murder him. According to The Baltimore Sun, "Diabolique" is all style and no substance, and it's not even all that scary. The script is a mess, littered with "appallingly crude patches of dialogue," per The Spokesman.

Still, it's worth mentioning that the detective investigating the murder was a man in the original. In the sole interesting departure for the remake, Detective Vogel is played by Bates. "Bates ... genuinely brings the film alive when she arrives on the scene, a cynical and very funny '90s feminist twist on the old Bogart-style detective," wrote Deseret News, and some of the best scenes involve Vogel butting heads with Nicole. Still, not even Bates can pull off a salvage job here.

43. Dragonfly

"Dragonfly" was an attempt by director Tom Shadyac ("Ace Ventura: Pet Detective") to delve into the realm of thrillers and melodrama. Dustin Putman from The Film File insists Shadyac would've been better off sticking with comedies.

Joe (Kevin Costner) is still mourning the loss of his wife Emily (Susanna Thompson) after she drowned in an accident in Venezuela. He soon starts to see signs that Emily is communicating with him from beyond the grave, including the recurring image of Emily's favorite animal: the dragonfly. This predictable supernatural thriller borrows a page or two from the same book as "The Sixth Sense," but it's not executed half as well.

Bates plays Joe's neighbor Mrs. Belmont, the only person who seems to believe him. Alas, her character is little more than the stereotypical role of the "sage lesbian," according to GamesRadar. Robin from Reeling Reviews insists the role is a complete misuse of Bates' talent, while his fellow reviewer Laura points out that seeing Bates in bad films like this tarnishes her Oscar-winning legacy.

42. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan

"The Death and Life of John F. Donovan" is inspired by director Xavier Dolan's own experience as a boy writing fan letters to a celebrity (except in real life, he wrote to Leonardo DiCaprio instead of John F. Donovan). The film follows young Rupert Turner (Jacob Tremblay) as he exchanges letters with closeted gay actor John F. Donovan (played by Kit Harrington). After Donovan's death nobody believes Rupert when he says they were pen pals.

Hal Kitchen from 25 Years Later says that the movie doesn't hold a candle to the other works of Xavier Dolan, but that might just be because almost two hours of scenes ended up on the cutting room floor (including every single scene with Jessica Chastain's character). Kitchen adds that Bates, who plays Donovan's manager, "nearly steals the film with a tough love monologue in the last third." Variety disagrees, describing the monologue as more like a lecture. All in all, says Variety, it's a self-absorbed film that focuses too much on Dolan's self-insert and not enough on the tragic story of the actor who inspired him.

41. American Outlaws

"American Outlaws" is a loose -– and we mean really loose -– retelling of the legend of Jesse James. It follows Jesse (Colin Farrell) and his brother Frank (Gabriel Macht) as they team up with the Younger brothers (Scott Caan and Will McCormack) to drive an invading railroad company off their land. Bates plays Jesse and Frank's mother, who is killed halfway through; her small role feels like a missed opportunity, according to Hollywood.com. For what it's worth, RazorFine points out that Bates does "gleefully [chew] every piece of scenery in sight" in the scenes where she does appear. Kelsey Wyatt from Ninth Symphony Films wrote that only in the scenes with Bates did she start to even remotely care about any of the characters. 

This Western more or less throws historical accuracy out the window, and its humor is often immature, but RazorFine admits the movie is at least a source of "dumb fun," if you're into that sort of thing.

40. Fred Claus

"Fred Claus" proposes that Santa Claus (Paul Giamatti) has a brother named Fred (Vince Vaughn). In their mother's (Kathy Bates) eyes, St. Nick has always been the golden child. When Fred wants to open his own casino, Nick lends his brother money in exchange for Fred's assistance up at the North Pole, giving Fred an opportunity to show that he is just as capable as his saintly brother. Most reviewers agree that Bates (who plays Mother Claus) is wasted in "Fred Claus"; her main contribution to the movie is simply lending another well-recognized celebrity to the cast list, argues Mountain Xpress. "Kathy Bates' nagging mom shtick grows a bit weary," adds The Independent Critic.

Eric Snider from MTV writes that "Fred Claus" is a sloppy mess. It suffers from plot holes, gratuitous romantic subplots, and a lack of a unifying purpose. Meanwhile, Sounds of Cinema says that director David Dobkin (who previously helmed the R-rated comedy "Wedding Crashers") must have a bit restricted by the PG rating, and as a result, the comedy "always holds back, waiting for permission to be naughty." The movie isn't as terrible as "Bad Santa 2," but it's certainly no "Bad Santa."

39. Used People

"Used People" follows Jewish widow Pearl Berman (Shirley MacLaine) who begins dating an Italian man named Joe Meledandri (Marcello Mastroianni) right after her husband's funeral, to the utter dismay of the rest of her family. Bates plays Pearl's daughter Bibby. Unfortunately, the scenes in which Bibby confronts Pearl about her shortcomings as a parent come off as "so histrionic that they're more amusing than heartrending," says The Miami New Times.

"Used People" brings together a bunch of talented Hollywood veterans (including Jessica Tandy) in an ensemble comedy that doesn't quite spend enough time on any individual character's story, says The Radio Times. It doesn't help that Meledandri seems too good to be true, less like a character and "more like an all-purpose writer's device," wrote Roger Ebert. The film does have its highlights, especially the penchant of Marcia Gay-Harden's character to dress like Marilyn Monroe as a defense mechanism.

38. Little Black Book

In "Little Black Book," Stacy (Brittany Murphy) begins to wonder if her boyfriend (Ron Livinston) is actually staying faithful to her, so she teams up with her coworker Barb (Holly Hunter) to poke around in his past and investigate all his exes, under the pretense of interviewing them for a talk show. Needless to say, some of the things Stacy finds convince her that maybe ignorance is bliss.

Credit where credit is due: "Little Black Book" tackles a fascinating premise. Alas, it doesn't do much with the idea, instead settling for "sitcom situations and thinly-realized characters," says DVD Talk. Ken Hanke from Mountain Xpress writes that the movie misses an opportunity to make a biting satire of reality TV. By far the best part of the movie is Holly Hunter, who brings a delicious complexity and unpredictability to her character.

Bates plays the heroine's boss, a chatty talk show host named Kippie Kann. Most critics agree that her performance here was middle-of-the-road. Bates is "far too talented to waste her time with such mediocre material," according to USA Today.

37. Unconditional Love

In "Unconditional Love," the middle-aged Grace (Kathy Bates), still recovering from a divorce, decides to attend the concert of her longtime idol Victor Fox (Jonathan Pryce). But after Fox is murdered by the Chicago Crossbow Killer, Grace decides to seek vengeance with the help of Fox's secret lover (Rupert Everett). Each of these wildly contrasting plot threads might have made an interesting comedy, but throwing all of them together results in a very cluttered movie.

"Bates has difficulty carrying this movie," wrote Jason Bovberg of DVD Talk, "and in fact, doesn't seem to really understand the type of film she's in." Bates plays it like a romcom, when the film is largely meant to be black comedy. To her credit, Bates portrays Grace with a "warmly empathetic performance," according to Variety

36. Swept From the Sea

Adapted from a short story by Joseph Conrad, "Swept From the Sea" follows a shipwrecked Ukrainian immigrant named Yanko (Vincent Perez) after he washes up in a village in Cornwall, where the village wants nothing to do with him. However, a quiet girl named Amy (Rachel Weisz) soon falls in love with him because he is an outcast like her.

According to The New York Times, the movie tries too hard to be romantic, and comes off as cloying instead. "Swept From the Sea" has so much potential, wrote Roger Ebert, thanks to Ian McKellen's performance as the doctor who disapproves of Amy and Yanko's romance. The implied reason for the doctor's disapproval is that he's in love with Yanko himself, but Ebert wished the movie had directly confirmed the doctor's sexual orientation.

"Even Bates, who's normally dependable, is awful," says Deseret News, which criticized her distracting attempt at a British accent. Although Bates brings some warmth to Miss Swaffer, the only other villager sympathetic to Yanko's plight, her role in the frame story is largely unnecessary.

35. Complete Unknown

Without a doubt, the premise of "Complete Unknown" has a lot of potential. A woman named Alice (Rachel Weisz), who is constantly shedding her identity and adopting a new one, meets a man who knows she is not who she seems –- because he once dated her when she went by the name Jenny. A film that explores the thrill of changing your identity should by all rights make a fascinating movie. "Complete Unknown" is not that movie.

The problem, says IndieWire, is that the film lays all its cards on the table. Viewers already know the heroine's secret early on. Alice readily shares her backstory and motivations with her former lover Tom (Michael Shannon). Since viewers are given the answers directly, it takes away the mystery, leaving little for them to ponder after the credits roll. Which is a shame, because the movie has great acting all around.

One scene involves Alice and Tom pretending to be licensed doctors as they assist a stranger who hurts her ankle (Kathy Bates). IndieWire insists that Bates is not the least bit memorable in this role, but Zekefilm points out one thing that stands out about her performance. Bates makes a cheeky reference to the title of her famous Oscar-winning role whenever her character jokes, "I'm in misery."

34. P.S. I Love You

In "P.S. I Love You," Holly (Hillary Swank) is still mourning the death of her husband Gerry (Gerard Butler) when she receives a posthumous letter from him. As it turns out, Gerry wrote her a bunch of letters before he died, meant to be given to Holly incrementally through the grieving process and encourage her to start living again.

This romcom certainly deserves credit for killing off its primary love interest at the beginning of the movie, and kudos to Butler for stepping outside his action-hero comfort zone. But the problem, according to James Berarddinelli of ReelViews: "The execution is sloppy and the writing often seems amateurish."  AV Club, meanwhile, points out that the way that Gerry tries to tell Holly how to live her life from beyond the grave may come off as unintentionally creepy.

In the role of Holly's mother, Bates isn't given much to do, aside from disapprove of Gerry's letters, saying they will only make it harder for Holly to let go in the long run. (She might have a bit of a point.) Derek Armstrong from AllMovie argues that Bates is easily the best part of the movie, but "her superlative scene comes far past the point when most viewers will have given up."

33. The Waterboy

In this Adam Sandler movie, 31-year-old Bobby (Sandler) holds the thankless job of a waterboy, fetching water for football players who constantly bully him. Bobby meekly takes the abuse, until one day he tackles one of his tormentors -– and is promptly recruited to join the team. Yet Bobby's overprotective mother (Kathy Bates) doesn't approve.

Roger Ebert wrote that he would've been rooting for the movie's neurodivergent underdog, except Sandler plays Bobby as teeth-grindingly annoying with a distracting accent, which means any chance of empathy from viewers is sent up in smoke. Still, Ebert conceded that Bates is the film's real redeeming quality, since at least she "knows the line between parody and wretched excess." On the other hand, Jen Johans of Film Intuition insists that Bates is "a long, long way from her usual Oscar worthy self." Although the film is supposedly meant to send the message that you can't judge a book by its cover, the over-the-top portrayal of Bobby and his mom as eccentric hillbillies seems to be working against that message.

32. Bonneville

In this road-trip comedy, the middle-aged Arvilla (Jessica Lange) travels with her friends Margene (Kathy Bates) and Carol (Joan Allen) from Idaho to California to transport her late husband's ashes. Despite her daughter-in-law's wishes, Arvilla decides to scatter a bit of her husband's ashes at every stop.

Through no fault of the three leads — all of whom had been Oscar nominees in the past — "Bonneville" is a little underwhelming. The movie is bogged down by a generic script, and it tries a bit too hard to be sentimental, but the charisma of the three heroines is almost enough to redeem the film. "Thank heavens for the practical presence and humor of Bates," wrote Paul Byrnes of The Sydney Morning Herald, who said that Bates overshadows the lead actress by far. "Bonneville" is by no means a complete failure, but as Matt Mazur of PopMatters wrote, "It isn't befitting of the American acting royalty that acquiesced to star in it."

31. The Family That Preys

Tyler Perry's "The Family That Preys" tells a multi-generational story that juggles a bunch of half-baked storylines and is too tangled to properly summarize here. However, the most important threads revolve around modest diner-owner Alice (Alfre Woodard) and her wealthy childhood friend Charlotte (Kathy Bates). Meanwhile, Alice's materialistic daughter Andrea (Sanaa Lathan) has an affair with Charlotte's power-hungry son (Cole Hauser).

Blogger Brian Orndorf gives credit to director Tyler Perry (of "Madea" fame) for stepping outside his comfort zone, but that's about all he can say for the movie, which he describes as a poorly-written soap opera that seems to endorse one character's act of domestic violence (when Andrea's husband finds out about the affair).

Critics overwhelmingly agree that the interactions between Woodard and Bates are the best part of the movie. "They banter, they let silences hang ... and generally act like a pair of people who have known each other for 30 years," writes Tim Brayton from Alternate Endings. "What might easily have been annoying and cloying in the hands of lesser actresses is enjoyable here," according to Claudio Puig of ABC News. Puig adds that the performances of most of the other actors seem "amateurish" in comparison.

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30. Dash and Lilly

Picture "A Star is Born" as a TV movie, except with two real-life Hollywood screenwriters who had an affair during the mid-20th century, and you might get something like "Dash and Lilly." Dashiell Hammett (Sam Shepard) is an alcoholic screenwriter whose career is taking a nosedive, especially after he's arrested during the McCarthy-era Red Scare. His lover Lillian Hellman (Judy Davis) still has a promising career ahead of her, yet is speaking in Hammett's defense before the House Un-American Activities Committee. According to Caryn James from The New York Times, Shepard and Davis give very convincing impressions, but their performances are just that: impressions. As James points out, both actors are so talented they could have easily done more.

Here Kathy Bates steps behind the camera to direct. Tom Wiener from All Movie argues that Bates is "timid" at the helm of the project. However, Variety wrote, "Bates' directorial debut is visually stunning," insisting that the movie fails thanks to writer Jerry Ludwig, whose script seems to hero-worship the two stars and misses an opportunity to explore their flaws. Nevertheless, Bates got an Emmy nomination for her work.

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29. Boychoir

Contrary to what its title suggests, "Boychoir" pays more attention to the grownups than the young choirboys. Nevertheless, the film still manages to strike a chord. "Boychoir" follows Stet (Garrett Wareing), a Texan boy whose mother dies in a car crash. Stet soon enrolls in the National Boychoir Academy, where the perfection-obsessed choirmaster (Dustin Hoffman) pushes him to hone his singing voice.

Most critics agree that Wareing does a great job in his screen debut, but it's really the experienced adult actors like Hoffman and Kathy Bates who are "the backbone of the film," says The Sydney Morning Herald. We Got This Covered argues that Bates (who plays the stern-faced headmistress) steals all her scenes, though Dog and Wolf points out that she goes through a rather sudden change of heart.

Despite the occasional cliché, the movie is uplifting, especially in scenes where the choir is singing. We Got This Covered concludes that it "doesn't surprise, but it does satisfy."

28. Bruno

"Bruno" (renamed "The Dress Code" for its DVD release) didn't get a lot of recognition, but New York Mag insists that it deserved better; "Bruno" is much smarter than the average cable movie and a "surprisingly affecting fable." The titular Bruno (Alex D. Linz) attends a Catholic school. He is bullied by his classmates and Mother Superior (Kathy Bates) because he likes to wear dresses, but Bruno gets a chance to earn everyone's respect when he rises to the top of the Catholic National Spelling Bee Championships.

"Bruno" is Bates' second collaboration with Shirley MacLaine. According to Lael Loewenstein from Variety, Shirley MacLane's portrayal of Bruno's grandmother is just a variation on the archetype she played in "Terms of Endearment," but she still does a decent job. The reviewer also gives a shout-out to Kiami Davael (who is outstanding in the role of Shaniqua, the Black girl at school who likes dressing up like a boy), though as Loewenstein writes, "Pros like Sinise and Bates are confined to playing one- or two-note characters."

27. Personal Effects

Walter (Ashton Kutcher) finds a kindred soul in Linda (Michelle Pfieffer) in "Personal Effects." Both Walter and Linda have lost a loved one prematurely to a violent crime, so the two support each other and eventually fall in love, as they wait to see if the courts will convict their loved ones' respective killers.

The ending of "Personal Effects" may be awfully easy to predict, says (A Nutshell) Review, but the film's mature exploration of grief is more than enough to compensate. Frank Calvillo from Cinapse praised the film for not letting the romance distract from the deeper story of overcoming loss. He especially loved the film's realistic ending — the man who killed Walter's sister is never brought to justice, and Walter must find peace through other means. Pfeiffer is excellent here, of course, and Kutcher (normally a comic actor) does surprisingly well in this serious drama. In the role of Walter's still-grieving mom, Bates "[adds] even more poignancy to the proceedings," says Calvillo. According to Collider, "She wonderfully embodies a woman who has already lost a daughter to violence and feels she is losing a son to grief."

26. White Palace

In "White Palace," wealthy widower Max (James Spader) falls in love with a scrappy woman named Nora (Susan Sarandon) who works at a burger joint and is more than 15 years his senior. Bates plays Max's boss, who is curious about his new girlfriend, even though he's afraid to publicly announce he's dating an older woman.

It's a pretty nuanced and refreshing take on a May-September couple, and Sarandon especially is magnetic with her take on the character, which Variety called "raunchy yet vulnerable." However, Cinehouse points out that the film is problematic in the same way that "Pretty Woman" is problematic: it places too much emphasis on the male lead "saving" his romantic co-star from a dead-end situation.

Most reviewers didn't pay much attention to Bates, though Psychotronic Cinema argues that Bates manages to steal the spotlight in the handful of scenes where she appears. Meanwhile, The Spinning Image likes that Bates served as an audience surrogate, "[a sounding board] for how we should react [who] contributed to the overall sincerity" of the film. Mostly, though, "White Palace" is significant merely because it came out little more than a month before "Misery" propelled Bates to stardom.

25. Chéri

In this period piece, courtesan Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates) wants to sculpt her wayward young son Chéri (Rupert Friend) into a respectable young man, so she entrusts him to the care of the middle-aged Lea (Michelle Pfieffer), never expecting that Chéri and Lea will have a love affair.

Many critics (including Collider) praise Pfieffer and Friend; they do a wonderful job capturing the sadness of these two lovers who know their relationship cannot last. "Chéri" does, however, rely too much on narration and unfortunately skips over much of the six years the couple spends together.

However, the character of Madame Peloux received a mixed response. Bates is "oddly cast but agreeably lively," in the words of AV Club. On the other hand, The Guardian insists that "the usually reliable Bates overplays a good deal," while Roger Ebert argued that her humorous performance was fitting for her character: a middle-aged sex worker who has learned from years of experience not to take things too seriously.

24. Angus

In "Angus," the titular awkward teenager (Charlie Talbert) doesn't have the guts to tell popular girl Melissa (Ariana Richards) he loves her, until he and Melissa are chosen as Winter Ball King and Queen. It turns out this was a prank meant to humiliate Angus, but he decides to embrace the Winter Ball as a chance to win Melissa's heart.

According to The Spokesman, "Angus" doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel -– it relies on a lot of common high school comedy tropes –- but its earnestness is still endearing, if you can look past all the clichés. Crustula gives credit to the character of Angus, who is a bit different from the average "high school underdog" archetype because he's involved in sports and sometimes even stands up for himself against bullies.

Critics were divided on Bates, who played the hero's mom. The Spokesman described it as a "winning performance," while The Tampa Bay Times argued that Bates was "slumming" in a subpar role.

23. At Play in the Fields of the Lord

"At Play in the Fields of the Lord" follows the stories of several Americans who cross paths with an indigenous community in the middle of the Amazon. These include two out-of-work pilots (Tom Berenger and Tom Waits) who convince the natives they are gods, two novice missionaries (Aiden Quinn and Kathy Bates) blind to what awaits them, and two other missionaries (John Lithgow and Daryl Hannah) who have lived in the village for a long time and have long since given up in their attempts to try and convert its residents to Christianity. 

Bates plays Hazel Quarrier, a naïvely optimistic missionary who loses her son and then her mental stability to the harsh wilderness. Wonderwall praised Bates for her unflinching portrayal, insisting that she "dug deep, and actually got pretty muddy" in this role. On the other hand, Deseret News described her performance as "embarrassing."

Roger Ebert wrote that this 1991 movie is a fascinating reflection on what it means to lose faith (both for the missionaries and for the indigenous people). He added that the director's choice to film on location in the Brazilian jungle lends the film a visceral quality.

22. A Home of Our Own

Critics are divided on "A Home Of Our Own." Variety described it as a sappy family drama that would be more suited as a TV movie, while Deseret News argued that the film is a full step above most others in its genre. The plot: after single mother Frances Lacey (Kathy Bates) loses her job, she and her six children move into a dilapidated house in rural Idaho and begin patching it up.

Although "A Home of Our Own" may try too hard to be moving, says Cinapse, its saving grace is definitely Bates. In the hands of a lesser actress, Frances Lacey "could have been all squishy and soft at the center," according to Desert News. "But Bates plays her as being angry at the cards she's been dealt, and she doesn't intend to take life lying down." 

However, Variety wrote that Bates ultimately just portrays "a variation on the roles that won Oscars for both Ellen Burstyn and Sally Field" (in two better films of the same genre: "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "Places in the Heart," respectively). Regardless, her performance here is "underrated," insists Coming Soon

21. The War at Home

In "The War at Home," Vietnam veteran Jeremy (Emilio Estevez) returns home to his nuclear family burdened by PTSD. Nobody, including his parents (Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez), seem to grasp the horrors he has experienced.

We've got to give credit to Estevez (who also served as director) for his passion. He agreed to participate in "Mighty Ducks 3" without a cent of compensation, in exchange for the funding to produce "The War At Home" (via ScreenRant). Unfortunately, says SFGate, Estevez can't seem to do justice to his character; his acting is indulgent and never quite believable. Nevertheless, this honest movie will definitely resonate with Vietnam veterans or anybody who has experience with PTSD, insists The Cranky Critic.

Bates is compelling as Jeremy's mom, Maurine, who strains to keep a happy face because she can't think of any other way to help her son –- it's all she knows. However, Maurine is "smarter than anyone [realizes]," says Through the Shattered Lens, arguing that Bates gives what is probably the best performance in the movie. The Austin Chronicle described her take on the suburban housewife as "June Cleaver gone to hell."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

20. The Highwaymen

Created in response to the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde," "The Highwaymen" retells the story of the two outlaws from a different angle. It's written from the perspective of the two Texas Rangers -– Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) -– tasked with hunting down Bonnie and Clyde.

Costner provides a grounding presence, and Harrelson is effortlessly entertaining, according to Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com. Another highlight is Kathy Bates as Governor Ferguson, who only reluctantly calls these two Rangers out of retirement for the job. Collider says Ferguson is "probably the strongest, most colorful and interesting character in the movie," and wishes she had gotten more screen time.

The Atlantic insists "The Highwaymen" is a welcome revision of the myth, since the 1967 film more or less romanticized a pair of serial killers. Meanwhile, The Independent argues that the movie misunderstands why some Depression-era people looked up to Bonnie and Clyde, and that it sends the problematic message that Hamer and Gault are above the law. Regardless of its implications, this Netflix film is a competent Western, if not a groundbreaking one.

19. The Great Gilly Hopkins

Kathy Bates co-stars with Sophie Nélisse in this adaptation of a children's book by Katherine Paterson. 12-year-old Gilly (Nélisse, who's a bit old for the part, but close enough) has bounced from one foster home to the next, so she's understandably distrustful of her newest guardian (Kathy Bates). However, Gilly grows to love her new foster mom, and when Gilly is finally placed in the custody of her birth mother, she's not sure if she wants to go.

"The Great Gilly Hopkins" is surprisingly deep for a family film, according to David Dupree from That Moment In, even if its tone sometimes "swings from drama to comedy." As Gilly's foster mother, Bates is "a rock of support," says Dupree, and her character is always patient with the rebellious Gilly. Peter Debruge from Variety praises Bates for slipping into the role "with nary a trace of vanity." It's a very faithful adaptation, adds Debruge, one that captures the sincerity of the book without ever becoming preachy, and maintains Gilly's stubbornness without ever making her seem bratty.

18. Love Liza

After Wilson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) learns that his wife Liza (Annie Morgan) has committed suicide, he loses touch with reality. He cuts himself off from his loved ones and becomes addicted to inhalants. He doesn't dare open the final message that Liza wrote him before her death, no matter how much Liza's mother (Kathy Bates) wants to read it.

Critics were impressed by the deep performances by Hoffman and Bates. As Liza's mother, Bates is amazing, especially when she interacts with Hoffman's character. (The scene where he shouts up to her window is intense in the best way possible.) The best showcase of her talent arrives in a moment when an oblivious neighbor asks to see Liza, not knowing that she's dead. The reaction Bates gives will moisten the eyes of even the most stoic viewers. On her face, says The Seattle Times, "there's hope (Could Liza still be living? Could it all be a bad dream?), disbelief, then a flood of sadness."

At times, "Love Liza" may suffer from a disjointed plot, says The Independent Critic, but Roger Ebert argued that this was irrelevant, because the film is "not about a plot but about a condition."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

17. On the Basis of Sex

In the 1960s, young Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Felicity Jones) is one of the first female law students at Harvard, but she still needs to work twice as hard in order to be taken seriously. With a little help from her husband Marvin (Arnie Hammer), she decides to take on a 1972 case that will allow her to prove once and for all that American laws discriminate "on the basis of sex."

"On the Basis of Sex" is an inspiring legal drama and not afraid to expose the glaring inequities of the era (such as when the heroine's dean humiliates her by expecting her to explain why she is more deserving of her law-school position than a male student). At times, though, the film can be "a tad too on the nose," writes the Pueblo Chieftain.

Critics were divided on the film's portrayal of Dorothy Kenyon, played by Bates. On one hand, the Pueblo Chieftain feels she was "shamelessly hamming it up." Meanwhile, /Film believes that the scenes where Bates butts heads with ACLU director Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux) are among the best in the movie.

16. Home

Fresh out of prison after serving 17 years for murder, Marvin (Jake McLaughlin) skateboards back into his small-town community to take care of his dying mother (Kathy Bates). He also begins making amends with Delta (Aisling Franciosi), the granddaughter of the murder victim.

Film Threat praises the way that "Home" portrays Marvin and the other characters with empathy. Meanwhile, Carlos Aguilar from The Wrap writes that the romantic subplot may be sappy and cliché, but the film is strikingly original in its portrayal of an ex-convict who is serene instead of bitter. According to Aguilar, "Home" demonstrates that Bates "can make herself noticeable in any given role with the might of her bitter cheekiness."

As Bates explained to The Boston Herald, she took this role very seriously. Not only did she conduct research by reading the accounts of mothers whose children grew up to be killers, but she also requested not to meet McLaughlin in-person until the first day of shooting. That way, she would react to him as if he were a complete stranger -– which is exactly how a mother might feel if she was separated from her son for more than a decade.

15. The Late Shift

A compilation of the work of Kathy Bates wouldn't be complete without "The Late Shift," which is technically a TV movie but still features an iconic Bates performance. The film explores what happens after Johnny Carson (played by Rich Little) retired from the "Late Show." It follows Jay Leno (Daniel Roebuck) and David Letterman (John Michael Higgins) as they jostle for the position as the show's next host. Although some of the actors give little more than surface-level impressions of real-life figures, Higgins manages to brilliantly capture David Letterman's self-conscious anxiety, says Variety.

Most reviewers agree the best parts of the film are the scenes with Bates playing Helen Kushnick, Leno's trash-talking former manager who will stop at nothing to ensure he gets to host the "Late Show." To put it bluntly, "Bates is a tornado," in the words of Haphazard Stuff. While some critics feel like "The Late Shift" went needlessly out of its way to frame Kushnick as the villain, she is nevertheless hugely entertaining in the role.

14. Annie

You know the story:  Annie (Alicia Morton) lives in an orphanage run with an iron fist by the abusive Miss Hannigan (Kathy Bates), but Annie is given a chance at a better life when she's adopted by the wealthy Daddy Warbucks (Victor Garber). Craig Butler from AllMovie.com writes that this 1999 TV movie is a huge improvement upon the 1982 movie adaptation, and truer to the spirit of the original 1977 stage musical. Variety says the movie strikes just the right tone, playing the story "more like a spirited fairy tale and less like a cartoon," even if Bates occasionally slips into caricature in an otherwise subtle performance.

Does Bates make a good Hannigan? While Carol Burnett is certainly outstanding as Miss Hannigan in the 1982 movie, Rachel Charniak from Onstage Blog points out that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Had Bates tried to take the same route as Burnett, she would have just seemed like Kathy Bates playing Carol Burnett -– and obviously, she would pale in comparison to the original. The New York Times insists Bates is a "genius to make Hannigan simultaneously monstrous and sympathetic, just a victim of career frustration."

13. The Blind Side

Loosely based on a true story, "The Blind Side" follows Leigh Anne (Sandra Bullock) as she takes a homeless Black kid named Michael (Quinton Aaron) under her wing, gives him a home, and encourages him to play football, even though her neighbors and her own husband (Tim McGraw) insist she shouldn't get involved.

"The Blind Side” omits some key details from the true story – namely that Michael was already actively playing football before he met Leigh Anne, and she didn't single-handedly introduce him to the game like the movie suggests. Nevertheless, it's an inspiring narrative that hews pretty close to the truth. Bullock won an Oscar for her performance as the strong-willed yet nurturing Leigh Anne. Of course, Fernby Films argues that Aaron, with his "soulful eyes" and knack for communicating Michael's feelings wordlessly, was even more deserving of an Oscar.

Bates steals many of her scenes as Michael's encouraging tutor. In one such scene, she entrusts Leigh Anne with a secret that she doesn't usually feel comfortable sharing with her employers: she's a closeted liberal in a small-town community that would frown upon it. In another, she eagerly tells Michael a ghost story about dismembered body parts buried beneath a football field, in a roundabout way of helping him decide which college he wants to attend.

12. Revolutionary Road

"Revolutionary Road" was the highly-anticipated reunion of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, more than a decade after "Titanic." These two actors deliver some astounding performances, even if this movie adaptation never quite measures up to the original book. The movie follows Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) as their marriage crumbles, with the once-ambitious Frank content to settle, while April longs to escape her suburban cage and pursue her dream of becoming an actress. The film is mature and unflinching in its portrayal of a relationship that is slowly but surely decaying.

Bates plays Helen Givings, Frank and April's neighbor with a neurodivergent son (Michael Shannon). Screen Daily feels that Bates plays the role competently, even if it's very similar to other archetypes she has played before. Bates is excellent in the moments when her character takes center stage, according to Laura from Reeling Reviews, yet "whenever Bates interacts with other characters it's like she's some kind of emergency stand-in acting with a well-oiled cast." Laura adds that the movie's biggest flaw is that it spends a lot of time on the couple's misery, but never fully explores why the pair might have once loved each other or why their love began to sour.

11. Men Don't Leave

In "Men Don't Leave," widowed single mother Beth (Jessica Lange) moves to the inner city and struggles to adjust to her new life. Meanwhile, her younger son (Charlie Korsmo) misses his late father, and his teenaged brother (Chris O'Donnell) starts sleeping with an older woman (Joan Cusack).

"Mean Don't Leave" could have been a standard death-in-the-family melodrama, as The Greensboro News and Record writes, "but in [director Paul] Brickman's hands, it transcends the genre." One of the film's biggest strengths, according to Entertainment Weekly, is its willingness to consider the viewpoint of every character –- even Cusack's Jody, who would have been so easy to write off as a predatory seductress and nothing more.

Although Lange and Cusack are the real stars here, Bates does a good job as Jessica's nasty boss. The Los Angeles Times describes her performance as "hell-for-leather," and Rolling Stone says she adds layers to what would have otherwise been a one-note character. Notably, this was the first time Kathy Bates worked with Jessica Lange, though it wouldn't be the last — they would later collaborate on "Bonneville" and "American Horror Story."

10. Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

In one of her best roles, Bates plays an obsessive fangirl -– no, we're not talking about Annie Wilkes from "Misery" (though we'll get to her in good time), but instead the character Stella Mae from "Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean." Bates co-stars in this stage-to-film adaptation with Sandy Dennis, Cher, Marta Heflin, and Karen Black as childhood friends who used to call themselves the "Disciples of Jimmy Dean" and are reunited 20 years after the death of the legendary actor.

"Come Back" may be a bit too sentimental and the ending is easy to predict, but David Brook from the Blueprint Review argues that the movie is more about the journey than the destination, as each of these women reflects on how their lives didn't turn out the way they hoped. "Kathy Bates doesn't have the meatiest role in the film," adds Brook, "but she makes an impression." However, AllMovie says that Bates, who was in the original stage production, treats the movie as if she is still onstage, which interferes with the transition from theater to film.

Still, "Come Back" boasts an innovative trick with a two-way mirror (per Roger Ebert), and great acting all around. (At the time, nobody would've guessed that Cher could be such a great actress.)

9. Fried Green Tomatoes

"Fried Green Tomatoes" follows two parallel narratives. In the frame story, meek and dissatisfied housewife Evelyn (Kathy Bates) befriends nursing home patient Ninny (Jessica Tandy) and decides to reclaim control of her life. Meanwhile, Ninny tells the story of a strong-willed young tomboy (Mary Stuart Masterson) –- who may or may not be Ninny herself -– as she helps her friend (Mary-Louise Parker) stand up to her abusive husband.

The Tulsa World describes the movie as "gosh-darned lovable, even if it does get downright sugary at times." Malcolm Johnson from The Hartford Courant says that at times "Fried Green Tomatoes" can be tonally inconsistent, and it has difficulty balancing the two narratives. Yet Bates shines as Evelyn, her comedic timing and inspiring transformation more than enough to compensate for the film's scatterbrained focus. On the other hand, The Seattle Times feels that she "[overacts] outrageously." Regardless, you gotta love Bates whenever she delivers a comeback to the two girls who stole her parking space and made a comment about her age — Evelyn rams her car into theirs and gleefully cries, "Face it, girls. I'm older and I have more insurance."

8. Straight Time

In "Straight Time," Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is fresh out of prison and just wants to stay out of trouble. Yet thanks to the callousness of an uncaring parole officer (M. Emmett Walsh) and the influence of Max's ex-con friends, he gets sucked back into a life of crime.

"Straight Time" marked the first speaking role for Kathy Bates. She plays the wife of Max's friend Willy (Gary Busey), and she warns Max to stay away from her husband. William Boyle from Goodbye Like a Bullet sums up her performance best: Bates "makes something out of a throwaway role ... Her eyes are hard. She knows what Dembo can bring into Willy's life and she wants nothing to do with it."

The basic plot of an ex-convict getting back in the game is a common enough concept, but what makes "Straight Time" unique is its angle, writes Birth. Movies. Death. The film focuses on the gritty and mundane details, the aspects of a post-prison life that don't often get depicted in the movies yet ring incredibly true. Geek Vibes Nation praises Dustin Hoffman for his sympathetic yet unromanticized portrayal of Max. In fact, the performances in "Straight Time" are so excellent that it would arguably rank higher on this list, were it not for the fact that Bates gets such a small role.

7. Richard Jewell

Based on a true story published in "Vanity Fair," this Clint Eastwood film follows Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), a civilian and former cop who lives with his mother (Kathy Bates). Richard helps prevent a bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics, but some media outlets become convinced that he orchestrated the threat himself.

It's impossible not to like Hauser's Richard, a man who -– in spite of himself –- respects the very authority figures that are trying to incriminate him. Unfortunately, not every character is given as much depth as Richard. /Film insists that the portrayal of journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) as a "mustache-twirling villain" will leave viewers with a bad taste in their mouths.

According to The Guardian, Bates is "quietly outstanding as [Richard's] long-suffering mother," shouldering the weight of the accusations against her son. The actress met with the real-life Bobi Jewell in preparation for the part. In an interview with Deadline, Bates said it was especially challenging for her to do justice to a real-life person. She knew she couldn't just do an impression of Bobi, and instead needed to "create a character of Bobi" so the woman would come to life onscreen.

6. Primary Colors

In this political satire, politician Jack Stanton (loosely based on Bill Clinton and played by John Travolta) tries to win the Democratic presidential primary, with the help of his wife Susan (Emma Thompson) and his campaign team.

While not always historically accurate (per The Guardian), "Primary Colors" is an acute satire and a complex look at politics. The film wisely chronicles the campaign through the eyes of Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), a compassionate campaign manager who grows disillusioned by the end of the movie, and it presents a compelling moral dilemma with great maturity, says The Washington Post. When a good-natured Democratic candidate named Fred Picker (Larry Hagman) threatens to overtake Stanton, Henry must choose: sling mud at Picker so Stanton will win the primary (which goes against Henry's values), or avoid such underhanded tactics knowing that it will probably guarantee the victory of the opposite party, who will no doubt use the same tactics anyway.

ReelViews calls Bates is a "scene-stealer" in the role of Libby Holden, a cynical campaign strategist bent on getting the dirt on Picker. The scene in which she threatens a man at gunpoint until she gets a signed confession is unforgettable, to say the least. Libby's suicide is also unforgettable, though in a very different way. Roger Ebert described her performance as "Oscar-caliber," correctly predicting her Oscar nomination for the role.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

5. Dolores Claiborne

After seeing Kathy Bates in the movie adaptation of his novel "Misery," Stephen King reportedly loved her so much that he wrote the novel "Dolores Claiborne" envisioning Bates in the role of the titular character (per The Ultimate Rabbit). Naturally, Bates ultimately starred in the movie adaptation — nobody could have been better for the job.

Domestic worker Dolores Claiborne (Bates) is suspected of murdering her elderly client (Judy Parfitt). In actuality, Dolores is innocent of that murder, but she is responsible for the death of her abusive husband (David Strathairn) decades earlier. Variety says that "Dolores Claiborne" is well-crafted but may alienate some Stephen King fans, since it's more of a psychological thriller than pure horror. However, Roger Ebert argued that this only makes the movie more powerful, since it focuses on everyday horrors like domestic abuse that are all too familiar. Many consider it one of the best Stephen King movies.

According to C. H. Newell from Father Son Holy Gore, "Dolores Claibrone" demonstrates Bates' wide range. Her Dolores manages to be simultaneously bitter (when she trades barbs with the detective played by Christopher Plummer) and vulnerable (when she tries to protect her daughter from the looming shadow of her past). "Honestly, this is my favorite [performance] out of her entire, splendid career," writes Newell.

4. Titanic

We don't seriously need to review the plot of "Titanic," do we? Okay, if you insist. Rich girl (Kate Winslet) and poor boy (Leonardo DiCaprio) board ship. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Ship hits iceberg. Boy dies to save girl. Of course, that facetious plot summary doesn't even begin to do justice to James Cameron's epic. Everything in this movie somehow works beautifully, when in the hands of a lesser team it would have sunk (no pun intended). The choice to spend several giddy scenes on Jack and Rose's romance halfway through the movie, while the iceberg is fast approaching, could have been a tonal misfire. Instead, it gives viewers a satisfying high point, made all the more poignant with the foreboding knowledge that everything is about to go south. Like all the best tragedies, "Titanic" has highs alongside its lows.

One particular highlight of the movie is Bates in the role of the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown. It's a relatively minor role, but Bates makes it memorable by injecting Molly with a strong personality, one that's totally unlike the stiff upper-crust folks around her. Bates portrays Molly as the only first-class passenger with a sense of humor. She is arguably the only one (besides Rose) with any courage, too, as seen by her heart-wrenching performance in the lifeboat when she pleads to go back and search for survivors.

3. About Schmidt

Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has just retired and is not quite sure what to do with his life. So he decides to send money to sponsor a foster child from Tanzania, and then travel cross-country to attend his daughter's (Hope Davis) wedding, where he hopes he can persuade her not to marry a dorky mattress salesman (Mark Venhuizen).

"About Schmidt" is a curious film –- not quite comedy and not quite drama, instead existing in that quiet space in-between. It's got plenty of hilarious situations, yet it's also got a melancholy score and some deep reflections on mortality. Jack Nicholson is incredible, especially in his voice-over readings of his letters to the Tanzanian boy, which reveal his character's preoccupations all too well.

But the most outstanding performance comes from Bates as Roberta, the eccentric mother of the groom-to-be. She perfectly walks the line between charming, crude, and just plain weird. It's a riot to watch her lick her fingers at the table and cheerfully offer Schmidt her expired medication. But her best moment is the hilarious monologue in which she sets out to reassure Schmidt about his daughter's upcoming marriage, and ends up sharing intimate details about her own sex life instead.

2. Midnight in Paris

In Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," nostalgic writer Gil (Owen Wilson) brings his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) to Paris, but he is more enamored with the city than he is with his lover. So Gil is delighted to discover that, whenever he stays up past midnight, he can travel back in time to the 1920s, where he can meet F. Scott Ftizgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), and so many other writers he admires. One such writer is Gertrude Stein, whose confident and frank personality is captured perfectly by Bates. David Edelstein from NPR writes, "Kathy Bates proves that in an absurd context, playing it straight can make you funnier than a thousand clowns."

Perhaps the most magical thing about "Midnight in Paris," according to Roger Ebert, is that Allen doesn't feel a need to explain why Gil is able to time-travel. There doesn't need to be a reason for it –- it simply is.

1. Misery

"Misery" is pure joy to watch. Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, it follows author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) as he is held hostage by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), an adoring superfan who is bitterly disappointed that he killed off her favorite character. It's impressive what director Rob Reiner can do with such a small cast of characters and only a handful of settings. James Caan is excellent as the self-absorbed writer who must learn to endure all sorts of pain and humiliation in order to survive.

But hands-down, the movie belongs to Bates. In a stroke of genius, she plays Annie Wilkes as awkward and overeager -– deceptively gentle, even. How often do you see a horror movie villain who shouts "Honest-to-Betsy!" instead of cussing? What's more, Bates brings a tantalizing hint of vulnerability to Annie, as shown in the scene where she realizes that Sheldon will never love her the way she loves him.

Not only is it Kathy Bates' best movie role, her Oscar-winning portrayal is considered one of the all-time greatest horror movie performances. From Annie nonchalantly sloshing lighter fluid all over Sheldon's bed to the infamous sledgehammer scene, she's responsible for so many moments that fans will never forget.