Lily Tomlin Movies, Ranked: 12 of Her Best Performances

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Born in 1939, in Detroit, Michigan, Mary Jean "Lily" Tomlin discovered her passion for performing at an early age. After studying drama at Wayne State University, she began her career in stand-up comedy and gained recognition for her characters on the sketch comedy show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967) and from there her career took off.

<span><span>Lily Tomlin, 1971</span><br><span>Jack Robinson/Getty</span></span>
Lily Tomlin, 1971
Jack Robinson/Getty

She was nominated for an academy award for her role in Nashville (directed by Robert Altman) and that was the start of her nominations for Emmy, Tony and Grammy Awards. Her ability to seamlessly transition between comedy and drama has solidified her as one of the industry's most versatile performers.

In addition to her cinematic achievements, Tomlin has been a fervent advocate for various social causes. Her activism includes championing LGBTQ+ rights, environmental issues, and women's rights. Tomlin's commitment to using her platform for positive change reflects her belief in the power of art and influence to make a difference in the world.

Tomlin is many things — a trailblazer, a comedian, and an advocate. Her resilience and talent make her a Hollywood favorite. Here, we look at her body of work and rank our favorite Lily Tomlin movies. Let us know if you agree!

12. The Pink Panther 2 (2009)

The Pink Panther 2 (2009) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in 2009
Angela Weiss / Contributor/Getty

Tomlin pairs up with Steve Martin in this action-adventure comedy. Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Martin) teams up with a squad of international detectives to stop a globe-trotting thief who specializes in stealing historical artifacts. Jean Reno and Andy Garcia also appear in this bumbling mystery. Tomlin is her classic deadpan self.

MUST-READ: Steve Martin Movies and TV Shows: From ‘The Jerk’ to ‘Only Murders in the Building,’ We Can’t Help but Love Him

11. I Heart Huckabees (2004)

I Heart Huckabees (2004) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman in I Heart Huckabees pictures

This movie also has a great cast including, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Mark Wahlberg. This philosophical comedy features Tomlin as Vivian Jaffe, who along with her husband (Hoffman), try to help couples solve their existential issues. It’s a quirky and thought-provoking film and tackles the question: what does it all mean?

10. The Late Show (1977)

The Late Show (1977) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in The Late Show Brothers

Starring Art Carney alongside Lily Tomlin, this film blends humor with elements of classic detective stories. A neo-noir mystery-comedy, The Late Show features Tomlin as Margo Sperling, a woman seeking the help of a private detective (Carney) to solve the murder of her former husband.

9. Grandma (2015) Lily Tomlin movies

Grandma (2015) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in Grandma Pictures

Costarring Julia Garner and Marcia Gay Harden, Tomlin takes on the role of Elle Reid, a lesbian poet grappling with her troubled granddaughter's unexpected pregnancy. The film is a heartfelt exploration of family dynamics, acceptance, and the challenges of intergenerational relationships.

8. Short Cuts (1993)

Short Cuts (1993) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin and Danny Darst in Short Cuts Line Cinema

Directed by Robert Altman, Short Cuts has a stellar ensemble cast including Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Andie MacDowell and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The movie is an intricate tapestry of interconnected stories in Los Angeles. Tomlin plays Doreen Piggot, a mother dealing with the aftermath of a tragic accident. The film explores the complexity of human relationships and the impact of chance events.

7. The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) Lily Tomlin movies

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman

A comedic take on science fiction, Tomlin portrays Pat Kramer, a woman who begins shrinking after exposure to household chemicals. As she navigates her shrinking world, the film combines drama with humor to comment on societal expectations and environmental concerns. The film also co-stars Charles Grodin.

6. 80 for Brady (2023) Lily Tomlin movies

80 For Brady (2023) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in 80 For Brady Pictures

The movie has a great cast including Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, Sally Field and Lily Tomlin. Inspired by a true story, 80 for Brady is the story of a group of friends who make it their life-long mission to go to the Super Bowl and meet NFL superstar Tom Brady. This comedy follows the chaos that ensues as they navigate the scene of the biggest sporting event in the country.

5. All of Me (1984)

All of Me (1984) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in All of Me

Costarring Steve Martin, Tomlin plays Edwina Cutwater, a wealthy woman whose soul takes residence in the body of a clumsy lawyer (Martin) after her death. The film is a blend of humor and heart. Tomlin and Martin have comedic chemistry—we could watch them all day.

4. Tea with Mussolini (1999) Lily Tomlin movies

Tea with Mussolini (1999) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in 1999
Steve Granitz / Contributor/Getty

This fabulous cast—including Cher, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith—explores friendship, art, and resilience in the face of historical turmoil. Set against the backdrop of World War II, Tomlin plays Georgie Rockwell, one of a group of eccentric English and American women living in Italy and raising an orphaned Italian boy.

3. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

A Prairie Home Companion (2006) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep in A Prairie Home Companion Line Cinema

Yet another great movie directed by Robert Altman (he was 80 at the time), this film stars Meryl Streep and Woody Harrelson. The movie is a fictionalized account of the final broadcast of the long-running radio show A Prairie Home Companion. It takes a deep dive into what goes on backstage and behind the scenes. Streep, Harrelson and Tomlin all give award-winning performances.

2. 9 to 5 (1980) Lily Tomlin movies

9 to 5 (1980) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton in 9 to 5 Century Studios

Starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, this movie has been a fan favorite for over 40 years (it doesn’t hurt that Dolly Parton sang the catchy theme song that became an instant success). The film is a workplace comedy, starring a trio of women who work together to overthrow their sexist and egotistical boss. It offers a hilarious spin on corporate culture and women's empowerment.

1. Nashville (1975)

Nashville (1975) (Lily Tomlin movies)
Lily Tomlin in Nashville Pictures

This film was directed by the well-respected Robert Altman and started Tomlin’s collaboration with the famed director. It also featured a young Jeff Goldblum. The film weaves together the lives of various characters in the country music scene over the course of several days as they prepare for a political convention. Tomlin was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting role. The film was also nominated for best picture.

Read more about our favorite actresses here!

15 Hallmark Actresses Who Bring Our Favorite Stories to Life

80s TV Show Stars: 30 of Our Favorite Actors and Actresses Then and Now

11 Grey-Haired Actresses Who Prove Grey Can Be Absolutely Gorgeous!