Best Bette Midler Performances, Ranked
BY EM SHORT
October 22, 2022
Mister D: I don’t know who Em Short is and whether Em is male or female, but we have a bona fide BetteHead here. These are some glowing reviews. I’d be interested if you would rank these differently or add or subtract any if we keep it at eight performances. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see one on here. I think you’ll know which one it is. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s number 6.
Bette Midler is one of the greatest performers ever to live, proven by her Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Tony Awards. Here, MovieWeb Ranks Bette Midler’s Best Performances
Bette Midler is one of those performers who can do it all. Over her career, which spans five decades, she has won four Golden Globe Awards, three Grammy Awards, three Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Kennedy Center Honor, and two Academy Award nominations.
Midler began her career in the late 1960s on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof before working in stand-up comedy while building her career as a singer. Her first major role came in 1979 with The Rose, which gained Midler her first Oscar nomination. Since then, Midler has continued to prove why she should be sitting among the greats. These are eight of the best Bette Midler performances.
8. Ruthless People
Ruthless People is one of those classic 1980s black comedies directed by the slapstick comedy filmmaking trio David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (Airplane!, Hot Shots). The 1986 film stars Danny DeVito as fashion tycoon Sam Stone and Midler as his wife Barbara, who is kidnapped by a lower-class couple Stone stole his million-dollar idea from. The film is dark but funny, which is to be expected from comedians like DeVito and Midler, who gives a hilariously nasty performance.
7. Big Business
Big Business stars Midler and Lily Tomlin as sets of identical twins, mismatched at birth. The film, directed by Jim Abrahams, has its stars playing two roles and features a pretty good green screen for 1988. Midler and Tomlin are both hilarious in this fun watch that is currently streaming on Disney+.
6. Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus is easily one of Bette Midler’s most iconic roles. The classic Halloween film stars Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Nejimy as the hilarious and villainous Sanderson sisters who return to Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night after 300 years. The 1993 film was directed by Kenny Ortega and continues to be one of the most-watched films during the fall. The sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released this month and reunited the original cast as the fan-favorite witches. Hocus Pocus and Hocus Pocus 2 are both streaming on Disney+.
Gypsy was a made-for-TV movie based on the 1959 stage musical and one of the best adaptations of a Stephen Sondheim musical, as they brought in Bob Mackie to design the costumes and the original production’s choreographer. The play is based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s 1957 autobiography, and Lee’s son was instrumental in getting the 1993 version made.
The author of Gypsy’s stage book, Arthur Laurents, hated the 1962 film version and was the big reason it took so long for this version to get made. Laurents wrote the script for this version of Gypsy, while Emile Ardolino, who died of AIDS three weeks before the film was broadcasted, directed it. Bette Midler outdoes herself as Mama Rose and is considered one of the best actresses to take on the legendary theatrical role.
4. The Rose
The Rose was almost a biopic about Janis Joplin, but after her family declined the rights to Joplin’s story, it was fictionalized to create The Rose. The 1979 film follows Mary Rose “The Rose” Foster (Midler), a self-destructive rockstar who struggles to cope with the pressure of her career.
Midler is amazing in her screen debut and performed all the songs for the soundtrack, including the title song, which became one of her biggest singles. The Rose was directed by Mark Rydell and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Midler’s performance, making her another singer nominated for an Oscar.
3. Divine Madness
Divine Madness is a concert film starring Midler and the Harlettes. Director Michael Ritchie filmed four concerts during Midler’s 1979 tour and cut them together seamlessly to create the 94-minute film. Midler shows off her talents by mixing different performances, including stand-up comedy, where Mider built a career before becoming a great actor. Divine Madness proves why Midler is a force to be reckoned with.
2. The First Wives Club
The First Wives Club is one of the best movies that embrace being single. The 1996 film is directed by Hugh Wilson and is an adaptation of Olivia Goldsmith’s 1992 novel. The First Wives Club stars the incredible Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Midler as divorcées seeking retributions after their husbands left them for younger women. The funny film was nominated for an Academy Award and has become a cult classic. The First Wives Club is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Beaches is an adaptation of Iris Rainer Dart’s 1985 novel about a friendship between two women from polar opposite worlds. Bette Midler plays C. C. Bloom, an actress and singer who befriends heiress Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) when they meet as kids under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Although critics did not embrace the 1988 film, it was a box office success and has become a cult classic for depicting pure love between friends and Midler’s performance. Beaches, directed by Garry Marshall, is a guaranteed tear-jerker and is also responsible for Bette Midler’s classic rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings.