The Best Jamie Lee Curtis Comedies

Jamie Lee Curtis burst onto the scene in 1978 in John Carpenter’s Halloween. She soon became a horror star, until she found her way into other genres in the 1980s. As the daughter of Hollywood Royalty, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, it’s not difficult to see where she inherits some of her talents. Famous parents aside, Jamie Lee has had a long career with each role more beloved than the last. She has an eclectic resume filled with movies to choose from besides horror films, but here are five comedic performances that are some of her best.

Trading Places (1983)

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Two billionaires decide to stage a social experiment by switching the lives of a con man from the streets, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), and a generationally wealthy Harvard grad, Louis Winthorp III (Dan Aykroyd) just for kicks. Billy Ray thrives with his newfound money and employment. However, with no real-life skills, Louis is lost until he meets Ophelia (Curtis), a savvy sex worker who takes pity on his helplessness and agrees to help him as long as he pays her when he “gets his life back.” Louis shows immediate contempt for not only Ophelia’s living quarters but her profession, which she quickly shuts down. Ophelia is smart, she is a survivor, and she is not ashamed of her life. Most importantly, she is helping Louis as a business arrangement, nothing more, and in doing so, she has no time for his judgment. Curtis gives layers to Ophelia, who could easily be one-dimensional and it is the layers that Winthorp falls in love with. Ophelia winds up being a valued member of their team, and it is her survival skills that help save Billy Ray and Louis from destruction in the end. (It should be noted that due to the time period, some jokes do not age well.)

Best Jamie line – “By the way, food and rent aren’t the only things around here that cost money. You sleep on the couch.”

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A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

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Image via MGM/UA

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned heist film? Throw in some Monty Python alums (John Cleese and Michael Palin) and an Oscar-worthy performance by Kevin Kline and you have a winner. And all of that is great, but the movie isn’t anything without Curtis who plays the titular Wanda. As a con woman, it gets increasingly harder to figure out who Wanda is truly loyal to. She manages to seduce every man in the film, playing on all their weaknesses while trying to secure the loot for herself. It is clear from the start that Wanda is running the show, even if no one notices, which seems to be true for Curtis herself in everything she does. (As with Trading Places, not all jokes and gags stand the test of time.)

Best Jamie line – “To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. I’ve known sheep who could outwit you. I’ve worn dresses with higher IQs, but you think you’re an intellectual, don’t you, ape?”

True Lies (1994)

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Helen (Curtis) thinks she is in a boring marriage to Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is actually a spy. When Harry is forced to come clean about who he really is, Helen immediately gets sucked into her husband’s world of international intrigue and danger – just the excitement she felt was missing from her marriage. Even next to one of the (literal) biggest action stars in the world, Curtis stands out in True Lies. The pinnacle of her comedic gold is her striptease scene in a hotel room as she bounces back and forth between hilarious and downright tantalizing. Ranging from a bored housewife, to being terrified while flirting with a mysterious stranger (Bill Paxton), to the rage and excitement of finding out her husband is a super spy, Curtis’ portrayal of Helen makes this one of the best action movies of the 90s.

Best Jamie line – “I married Rambo!”

Freaky Friday (2003)

Body-switching movies are formulaic, but always (inexplicably) popular. In this version, Tess (Curtis), who has been recently widowed, and her daughter, Anna (Lindsay Lohan) switch bodies. The usual plot ensues: Tess understands her daughter’s teenage problems better and Anna realizes that her mom’s new fiance isn’t so bad. Although predictable, this movie is not only watchable but downright charming thanks to the genuine performances of Curtis and Lohan. Jamie Lee portraying a Goth teen is her at her comedic best. It’s not a caricature, but an honest depiction of someone whose hormones are raging and is in a permanent state of being misunderstood. Her chemistry with Lohan is that of a typical mother and daughter, but ultimately it’s the grief and love that binds them together. And sometimes a body switch is what it takes to realize that.

Best Jamie line – “Root canal? That’s not fair, they’re not my teeth.”

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

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In a Christmas-obsessed neighborhood, Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora Krank (Curtis) want to take the year off after their daughter (Julie Gonzalo) leaves for the Peace Corps in Peru. Luther suggests they go on a cruise instead of doing their yearly Christmas party and decorations. Nora is reluctant to let go of their traditions, but also game to try something completely new to soothe her heart. When their daughter decides to surprise them at the last minute to bring her new Peruvian fiance (Rene Lavan) to see the wonder of Christmas at her parents’ house and neighborhood, the Kranks are thrown into a panic to make it happen before she arrives. When it’s time to get things done, she goes into militant mom mode and takes charge. Nora Krank runs through a roller coaster of emotions in this underrated holiday film, and it is a genuine and heartfelt portrayal of a mother who is learning how to navigate her new life once her kids are gone.

Best Jamie line – “You forgot the white chocolate!”

KEEP READING: The Best Jamie Lee Curtis Horror Performances That Aren’t ‘Halloween,’ Ranked


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