6 Great Underrated Movie Roles Of Jennifer Jason Leigh

Jennifer Jason Leigh has talent radiating from her pores. She’s a disgustingly talented actress and yet, very few people seem to know that. I recently had a JJL movie marathon and was amazed at just how many great performances she’s delivered throughout her undervalued career. I say undervalued because JJL has never gotten a bloody Oscar. Heck, she’s never even come close with a nomination.

For those of you who might not know a whole lot about JJL, she’s Nancy Botwin’s older sister on Weeds – Jill Pryce. She also recently got cast to play Emily Thorne’s mother on ABC’s Revenge. But Leigh’s talent deserves more than just some mom-role on television because she’s got more flair in her pinky than most Hollywood ladies, no offense. She’s probably, maybe the most underrated actress of our time. Here are six of her most overlooked performances.

Single White Female

If you’ve never watched The Roommate, don’t. Watch Single White Females instead. This movie brings together two undervalued gems – Leigh (the subject of this article) and Bridget Fonda. Both ladies give chilling performances and they give this otherwise bleak film some substance.

Dolores Claiborne

Not only is JJL’s performance underrated here, but Dolores Claiborne as a whole, is a forgotten film. Based on Stephen King’s psychological thriller, this movie stars Kathy Bates and Leigh as mother and daughter. It’s a movie that mixes horror with family relationships, and it’s got great performances by both leads.

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

Leigh took on the witty American poet Dorothy Parker in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. She took the role very seriously and modeled her voice on recordings of the writer. Thankfully, she did get some recognition for her hard work in this film. Her performance got her a Golden Globe nomination, but sadly, she lost to Jessica Lange in Blue Sky.

Last Exit To Brooklyn

Leigh’s performance in Last Exit to Brooklyn reminds me of Jodie Foster in The Accused. The difference there is that Leigh didn’t get squat for playing a tough prostitute (who submits herself to gang rape) and Foster got an Academy Award for playing a rape victim (who gets gang raped at a bar).

The Hudsucker Proxy

Leigh got a role in the Coen Brothers movie, The Hudsucker Proxy. In it she played a fast-talking, feisty reporter named Amy Archer. She beat out Winona Ryder and Bridge Fonda for the role, and went the extra mile by modeling her character after the great Katherine Hepburn.


Leigh took me on a roller coaster ride with her performance in Georgia. She made me laugh. She made me cry. She made me loathe her for being so weak, and then love her for being so brave. Leigh lost a bunch of weight to portray Sadie Flood, a barroom singer who falls hard into drugs. 1995 should’ve been the year JJL won an Oscar, but she didn’t even get nominated.

  • Dustin

    I agree completely. I’ve loved Jennifer Jason Leigh in everything I’ve seen her in. Most underrated actress of our time.

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    I’d agree that she’s got serious acting chops. The only problem I have is that it seems that she gravitated toward roles where women are pretty self-destructive and/or REALLY hates themselves throughout her early career, so much so that it felt like she was repeating herself.

  • john v.

    @E. Lee Zimmerman: I would agree with that. She was awesome in The Machinist too… where she played a prostitute. And in Rush…. where she played a self-destructing druggy. I’d imagine you wouldn’t count those as underrated roles though. For being 50 yrs. old she’s aged pretty well too. Maybe it’s just me but I think her and Elisabeth Shue look a lot alike.

  • Cambonez

    The Hudsucker Proxy is a fantastically fun movie, and she’s half the reason it is. Such a great, specific performance in that one.

  • Straenge

    Out of all of the movies she has done, there are two roles that I think of when I see or hear her voice. Hudsucker Proxy, for obvious reasons and her small part in the Kevin Bacon movie, “The Big Picture” where she plays an artist.

  • Michael O.

    Flesh+Blood! Existenz!

    But I love Hudsucker Proxy the most.

  • Julie

    Rush. Cant believe you left it out.

  • Ranchoth

    Also for a sadly underrecognized for her guest role as Eunice “Weirdie” Eulmeyer in the (also sadly underrecognized) animated series “Mission Hill.” She was cool.

  • NovaJake

    Fantastic list and I agree 100% about Georgia.