10 Times Jennifer Coolidge Proved She's An Onscreen Icon

The second season of The White Lotus is officially here, and while fans have gotten to know a whole new cast of characters, there is one familiar face from Season 1: Jennifer Coolidge. Fresh off winning an Emmy for her performance as Tanya McQuoid, a woman seeking peace following the death of her mother, Coolidge is back in the fold for the newest season of the hit show.


And while Coolidge is finally being rightly recognizes as a star, the beloved actress has developed a dutifully devoted fanbase over her career thanks to her ability to take even the smallest role and make it entirely unforgettable. So, in tribute to one of the best actors working today, here are 10 roles from Coolidge's acclaimed career that show she has been one of the greats for over two decades.

1.American Pie (1999)

Eddie Kaye Thomas and Jennifer Coolidge talking to each other.

Before American Pie, Coolidge's most famous role was playing one of Jerry's many one-episode love interests on Seinfeld (specifically, the masseuse who refused to massage Jerry, much to his chagrin). But her life forever changed when she was cast as Stifler's Mom, who was infamously deemed a "milf" and ended up sleeping with her son's rival Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Coolidge is only in a couple minutes of the movie, but her presence forever altered the sexual awakenings of teens for decades to come. At this point, milf is so ingrained in our cultural lexicon that it can be easy to forget a time when we didn't have a term paying tribute to bangable moms. But it was originated in this raunchy teen comedy to honor Coolidge, firmly establishing her as a sex icon for the rest of her career.

Watch it on Tubi.

Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.Best in Show (2000)

Patrick Cranshaw and Jennifer Coolidge sitting next to their dog.

Following her breakout in American Pie, Coolidge was given the chance to show off her comedic skills in this Christopher Guest mockumentary about a prestigious dog show. Coolidge plays Sherri Ann Cabot, the trophy wife to the elderly Leslie Cabot (Patrick Cranshaw). Coolidge is hysterical in the part, as Sherri barely attempts to hide the fact that she is only interested in her husband for his money and ends up falling for Christy (Jane Lynch), who trains their dog with an iron fist.

Watch it on Prime Video via Showtime.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.Legally Blonde (2001)

Jennifer Coolidge doing Reese Witherspoon's nails.

Before The White Lotus, if you had asked people to name the first Coolidge movie or show that came to mind, Legally Blonde probably would have been the most popular answer. What's really impressive is that Coolidge isn't even in the movie that much, and she has no actual relevance to the plot. But her short time as Paulette, the beauty stylist who befriends Elle (Reese Witherspoon), is unforgettable, as the "bend-and-snap" routine remains an undeniably iconic piece of cinematic history. Plus, with the help of Elle, Paulette gets to dump her loser boyfriend, get her beloved dog back, and hook up with the hot UPS guy (Bruce Thomas).

Watch it on Prime Video.

MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.Friends (2003)

Jennifer Coolidge talking to Matthew Perry.

Once again proving that nobody can do more with less screen time, Coolidge is only in a single episode of Friends but left a lasting impression as Amanda Buffamonteezi, an old friend of Phoebe's (Lisa Kudrow) and Monica's (Courtney Cox) who tries to reconnect with them after moving back from England. Coolidge has one assignment on the show: Be the most annoying human imaginable. And she unsurprisingly nails it, busting out a terrible fake British accent, using every opportunity to shamelessly brag about how amazing she is, and forcing Chandler (Matthew Perry) to watch her awkwardly dance. She only needs three minutes to make everybody hate her, and that's the sign of true comedic talent.

Watch it on HBO Max.

Warner Bros.

5.A Cinderella Story (2004)

Jennifer Coolidge and Hilary Duff by the pool.

For the most part, A Cinderella Story is a forgettable modern reimagining of the classic fairytale, but there is one major exception: Coolidge, as Cinderella's evil stepmother. Every second Coolidge shows up, the movie instantly becomes 95% funnier, as she is a perfect combination of casual cruelty and unchecked narcissism that results in an endless string of brutally funny zingers directed at her stepdaughter (Hilary Duff), who she openly cannot stand. Seriously, "you're not very pretty and you're not very bright" remains one of the best movie insults ever, and it's all thanks to Coolidge's masterful deliver.

Watch it on Netflix.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Jennifer Coolidge and Tom Bower arguing.

Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) is an insanely corrupt police detective in New Orleans who only really cares about one thing in this world: painkillers. That addiction does not make him the most pleasant person to be around, and he ends up butting heads with almost everyone he encounters, including his father Pat (Tom Bower), a recovering alcoholic, and his stepmother Genevieve (Jennifer Coolidge), who is very much still an alcoholic. Coolidge gets to play outside of her usual repertoire here, though she still gets to have fun delivering an over-the-top performance, even if it is more dramatic than comedic in nature.

Watch it on Peacock.

First Look Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

7.Promising Young Woman (2020)

Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge eating dinner.

Coolidge is not known for her subtlety as an actor (and I mean that as a massive compliment), but here, she shows that she can deliver a completely nuanced performance without needing to say or do much at all. As Cassie's mom, Coolidge creates a fully fleshed-out character with the slightest facial expressions and line deliveries, revealing that she is a parent who is worried about her daughter but also has no real clue how to reach out and connect with her in any meaningful way.

Watch it on HBO Max.

Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

8.Swan Song (2021)

Jennifer Coolidge looking upset.

Pat Pitsenbarger (Udo Kier) is a retired hairdresser who heads across town to style the hair of a former client for her funeral. Along the way, he encounters Dee Dee (Coolidge), his old protege-turned-enemy who now runs her own salon and seemingly helped drive Pat out of business. The two mercilessly exchange cutting barbs back and forth, yet Coolidge reveals a bit of tenderness beneath Dee Dee's ice cold exterior, as she has a clear respect and affection for her former mentor and his talent.

Watch it on Hulu.

Magnolia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

9.Single All the Way (2021)

Michael Urie and Jennifer Coolidge looking excited.

Yet another example of Coolidge being the best part of pretty much any project she's in is this otherwise perfectly adequate Netflix holiday romcom. While Single All the Way mostly sticks firmly in the well-worn tropes of the genre, the movie gets a massive boost when Aunt Sandy (Coolidge) appears to throw some much-needed chaos into the mix for good measure. Whether she is yelling at children while trying to direct a Christmas pageant or talking about how gay people are always obsessed with her, Aunt Sandy brings this movie up to a whole new level with her outrageous charm and outstanding style.

Watch it on Netflix.

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

10.The White Lotus (2021-)

Jennifer Coolidge sitting on a boat.

After more than three decades in show business, Coolidge finally received the critical recognition she so clearly deserved for her brilliant performance in The White Lotus. In many ways, Tanya McQuoid is the type of character we've all seen Coolidge play before (vapid, slightly dim, and blissfully unaware of social decorum), but there's also a vulnerability and underlying sadness to her that brought out a new side of Coolidge as a performer. As a result, she won an Emmy and is the only character from the first season to carry into the second season of the highly-acclaimed show. It looks like the best may be ahead for Coolidge as an actor and an icon.

Watch it on HBO Max.

Warner Bros.