Critic's Picks: Goldie Hawn's 10 Best Performances

6:15 AM 5/12/2017

by Sheri Linden

A THR film critic ranks the 'Snatched' star's best work, including turns in Steven Spielberg's debut, two films with Warren Beatty and one alongside fellow comedy icons Diane Keaton and Bette Midler.

The First Wives Club_The Sugarland Express_Split - Photofest - H 2017
Courtesy of Photofest
  1. 10


    Paired onscreen with Warren Beatty for the first time, Goldie Hawn plays a high-flying but self-doubting call girl named Dawn Divine. The role is definitely second fiddle to Beatty’s bank-heist mastermind, and it's easy to wish that Richard Brooks had given her more to do in this cleverly suspenseful, Hamburg-set caper. What she does get to do, though, is often memorable, not least her swooningly orgasmic reaction to stacks of freshly stolen cash.

  2. 9


    In a low-key change of pace, Hawn plays a down-but-not-out waitress, divorced and raising her son (David Arnott) in 1969 Key West. The coming-of-age memory piece, directed by Chris Menges from Scott Sommer's adaptation of his own novel, gives Hawn a chance to stretch her dramatic muscles. By turns flinty and vulnerable, loving and testy, she crafts a portrait of motherhood as clear-eyed as it is poignant.

  3. 8

    Butterflies Are Free

    The stage roots of this message-y romp are all too evident, but Hawn shines as 19-year-old Jill Tanner, a sort of Holly Golightly of Haight-Ashbury. In Jill's headlong romance with her blind neighbor — played by Edward Albert, in his first adult screen role — and her conflict with his fiercely protective mother (Eileen Heckart), Hawn's ebullience and uninhibited sexuality are the film's pulse.

  4. 7

    Swing Shift

    While Hawn and costar Kurt Russell became involved during production of this period piece, she and director Jonathan Demme clashed, with the actress seeking a lighter take on the World War II home front than the one he envisioned. But whatever the studio politics and creative-control maneuvers, Hawn's lead performance in this superbly cast Rosie the Riveter romance, as a married woman who falls for a musician, is deeply felt and compellingly conflicted.

  5. 6

    Cactus Flower

    More than holding her own with such heavyweights as Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman, Hawn won an Academy Award for her supporting performance in this fizzy rom-com, her first major film role. She was already a small-screen star thanks to Laugh-In, and the movie, directed by Gene Saks from a screenplay by Billy Wilder collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, builds upon her signature giggle and go-go gamine quality. Its war-of-the-sexes premise may be dated, but her effervescence is timeless.

  6. 5

    Best Friends

    The chemistry between Hawn and Burt Reynolds is sublime in Norman Jewison's underappreciated gem, written by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson and loosely based on their relationship. As screenwriting partners who tie the knot after living together for years, the leads imbue every moment with a lived-in comfort but also a sharp sense of uncertainty. Navigating couplehood from a new angle, Hawn is a winningly reluctant bride.

  7. 4

    The Sugarland Express

    Steven Spielberg's theatrical debut, a crowd-pleasing spin on true events, gave Hawn a chance to dig deeper than her giddy It-girl persona. Her disarming childlike qualities are still evident in the role of Lou Jean Poplin, but she's also feral and tough as a woman hell-bent on retrieving her child from foster care, and willing to lead law enforcement on a long-distance chase to do it.

  8. 3


    As the girlfriend of Warren Beatty's hairdresser lothario, Hawn's seemingly naïve Jill is always last in line for his attention. But she's also the only one who tells him the truth, and Hawn deftly reveals that Jill is shrewder than anyone, including the audience, imagines. Her awakening is the cleansing fire that brings Hal Ashby's brilliant comedy of manners, one of the best films of the '70s, to its bitter morning-after conclusion.

  9. 2

    Private Benjamin

    Hawn's first project as a producer was the perfect showcase for her verbal dexterity and dancer's physicality. In the Oscar-nominated title role of a Jewish American princess who's shocked to find that there's no maid service in basic training, her deadpan delivery deepens the disconnect. She turns what might have been a caricature into an endearing portrait in self-discovery.

  10. 1

    The First Wives Club

    Almost 30 years into her career, Hawn was at the top of her game, headlining this freewheeling comedy with Bette Midler and Diane Keaton as middle-aged castoffs turned sweet revengers. The surprise hit spun around their ace timing, and Hawn's boozy turn as Hollywood has-been Elise Elliott, clinging to youth at all costs, is a masterful sendup of movie star vanity.