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We're Celebrating Meryl Streep's Birthday With Her 10 Fiercest Characters

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today

Meryl Streep turns 68 years old today — and we kinda get the feeling she's only getting started. The Academy Award-winning actor has been turning out stellar work for decades now, but it almost seems like each role she steps into is better than the last. Who else is waiting on the edge of their seat for The Papers (directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Streep and Tom Hanks) to hit theaters later this year?

In honor of her birthday, we're looking back at some of the fiercest roles that have made her an icon.

1. Miranda Priestly — The Devil Wears Prada

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Giphy

It's hard to believe someone so warm and friendly could portray an ice queen magazine editor, but Streep did — with ease — in 2006's The Devil Wears Prada.

The iconic actor definitely loved playing such a difficult character because she said she's willing play Priestly again if the book's sequel comes to the big screen.

"I'd have to lose the f***ing weight, but yes," she told Access Hollywood in 2012.

Favorite quote: "By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me."

More: Meryl Streep Is Being Forced to Work With Donald Trump

2. Margaret Thatcher — The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Tumblr

Streep won her third Academy Award for her role as Britain's Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. The actor completely enveloped herself in the role, taking on the elderly politician's mannerisms and walk with ease.

"To me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit," Streep said in a statement about Thatcher after the former prime minister's death in April 2013. "To have come up, legitimately, through the ranks of the British political system, class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement."

Favorite quote: "Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become... habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think, we become."

3. Julia Child — Julie & Julia

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Giphy

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Tumblr

Streep is the only actress who can do legendary chef Julia Child any justice — and she definitely did so in the 2009 film Julie & Julia. Seriously, who else could copy Child's shrill voice with ease? Only Streep.

Favorite quote: "If no one's in the kitchen, who's to see?"

More: Meryl Streep Gets Standing Ovation at the Oscars for Her 'Lackluster' Career

4. Francesca Johnson — The Bridges of Madison County

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today

A woman's heart is full of secrets — and sometimes those secrets stay quiet until death. In 1995's The Bridges of Madison County, Streep played Francesca Johnson, an Iowa housewife who had a four-day affair with photographer Robert Kincaid (played by Clint Eastwood) while her family was away. Her tender portrayal of Francesca earned her a Best Actress in a Leading Role nomination at the 68th Academy Awards.

Favorite quote: "I want to love you the way I do now the rest of my life. Don't you understand... we'll lose it if we leave. I can't make an entire life disappear to start a new one. All I can do is try to hold on to to both. Help me. Help me not lose loving you."

5. Madeline Ashton — Death Becomes Her

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Giphy

Streep is mostly known for her serious roles, but she has comedic chops, too. Need proof? Her role in 1992's dark comedy Death Becomes Her still makes us laugh — and gives us nightmares.

Favorite quote: "Wrinkled, wrinkled little star... hope they never see the scars."

6. Suzanne Vale — Postcards From the Edge

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Giphy

Streep also knows how to play women who are seriously off-kilter, as in her role as the drug-addicted Suzanne in 1990's Postcards From the Edge.

Favorite quote: "Thank God I got sober now so I can be hyperconscious for this series of humiliations."

7. Mary Fisher — She-Devil

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today

Only Streep could go toe-to-toe with Roseanne Barr — and win!

Favorite quote: "I'm taking back control of my life, Bob! As long as you're all under my roof, things will be done my way, starting now!"

8. Sophie — Sophie's Choice

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Giphy

Streep won her first Best Actress Academy Award for her poignant role as a tortured Holocaust survivor in 1982's Sophie's Choice.

The role might not be her typical in-your-face character, but it was actually her vulnerability that made her fierce.

"No question that this person was not going to dominate the conversation at a dinner party," she told NPR of Sophie. "So they fell in love with her."

Favorite quote: "Don't you see? We are dying. I longed desperately to escape, to pack my bags and flee, but I did not."

9. Joanna Kramer — Kramer vs. Kramer

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today

Streep blazed yet another trail in 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer when she played a woman who ditched her family for greener pastures — and then wanted it all back.

Favorite quote: "I woke up this morning, kept thinking about Billy and I was thinking about him waking up in his room with his little clouds all around that I painted, and I thought I should have painted clouds downtown because then he would think that he was waking up at home. I came here to take my son home. And I realized he already is home."

10. Linda — The Deer Hunter

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today

Streep's iconic role as Linda in 1978's The Deer Hunter made her quite the hero among men.

"For men, the favorite character that I've ever played is Linda in The Deer Hunter, without question," she told NPR. "The heterosexual men that I've spoken to over the years, they say, 'That's my favorite thing you've ever done.'"

Favorite quote: "What goes through your mind comes out your mouth."

11. Florence — Florence Foster Jenkins

Meryl Streep's best on-screen performances have made her the icon she is today
Image: Giphy

In 2016's Florence Foster Jenkins, Streep once again showed off her comedic chops — and proved (again) that she's one heck of a character actress.

Favorite quote: "They're getting through the potato salad like gannets."

Who's your favorite Meryl Streep character?

Originally published June 2016. Updated June 2017.

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