Whoopi Goldberg movies: 15 greatest films, ranked worst to best, including ‘The Color Purple,’ ‘Ghost,’ ‘Sister Act’

Whoopi Goldberg celebrates her 63rd birthday on November 13, 2018. The actress, comedian, and talk show host has had one of the most varied careers in show business and has even achieved the EGOT, which has come to symbolize success across the board in all mediums.

Goldberg won her Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for the film “Ghost.” She had previously been nominated for her screen debut for Steven Spielberg in “The Color Purple” and stood a good chance at becoming the first African-American woman to win Best Actress, but controversy surrounding the film’s depiction of black men scared voters away from the film and it lost all 11 of its nominations.

Goldberg’s Emmy wins both came for daytime work. Her first win was for hosting a documentary about Hattie McDaniel of “Gone With the Wind,” the Best Supporting Actress for that film. She also won a second Emmy for her current job as host of the daytime talk show “The View.”

Goldberg had been doing character comedy and monologues for a while when she was discovered by director Mike Nichols, who brought her to Broadway in a one-woman show. That show, in which Goldberg stood alone onstage and told four different monologues as different characters, made her a bit of a sensation and led to her being cast in films. She would win the Grammy portion of her EGOT for the recording of this show.

It is often thought that Goldberg won her Tony for her one woman show but that isn’t the case. Due to constant rule changes with the Tonys, Goldberg’s show was not eligible for an award the two times she did it on Broadway. Despite also appearing in the shows “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Xanadu”, and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Goldberg received her Tony not as a performer but as one of the producers of the show “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Tour our photo gallery of the 15 greatest films in Goldberg’s film career, ranked worst to best, including “Ghost,” “The Color Purple,” “Sister Act,” “Boys on the Side” and Clara’s Heart.”

15. THE PLAYER (1992)
By 1992 director Robert Altman had become pretty fed up with the movie industry and how far it drifted from the artistic ideals it had when his career was at its peak in the seventies. This crime satire was his expression of that frustration. Goldberg played a cop investigating the murder of a screenwriter.

“For Colored Girls” started out as a highly acclaimed play that ran on and off-Broadway in the seventies. The piece was actually called a choreo-poem by its author Ntozake Shange, who just passed away. The stage version was more surreal, with the women dancing and telling stories of their life. Tyler Perry adapted the play into a more literal screen version of which Goldberg was a part of the all-star cast.

Roles as housekeepers have been both a blessing and a burden to African-American actresses. While they have often brought meaty roles to the actresses, they have sometimes been criticized for being stereotypical. That said, Goldberg does well with her role as a housekeeper who brings life back to the household of a widower and his young daughter.

This film almost comes across as a sequel to the very popular “Waiting to Exhale” since it reunites Angela Bassett with the novelist Terry McMillian. While Bassett’s character was going through a turbulent divorce in the first film, in this one Bassett plays a divorcee who travels to Jamaica and finds love with a much younger man. Goldberg plays her best friend, who instigates the trip in order to try and encourage Bassett to live again.

11. THE LION KING (1994)
“The Lion King” has become one of the most beloved Disney animated films and the inspiration for the long running Broadway musical of the same name. Goldberg gives voice to Shenzi, one of three hyenas who are disciples of the evil Scar. The film features an all-star list of actors providing the voices and its score features a number of songs that have become standards, such as the Oscar winning “Circle of Life.”

Goldberg stars in this true-life story of Myrlie Evers, who worked for 25 years to bring the assassin of her husband, civil rights activist Medgar Evers, to justice. James Woods earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the killer who escaped justice for many years.

9. SOAPDISH (1991)
“Soapdish” was a modest hit upon its release but it grew in popularity into a cult hit in the subsequent years. The film tells the behind the scenes story of a New York based soap opera whose drama off camera rivals that on camera. Goldberg plays the shows head writer, who teams with the shows star (Sally Field) to fight off a rival faction of the staff who are trying to take over the show.

8. CLARA’S HEART (1988)
Goldberg had another housekeeper role in this film where she plays a woman who is hired by a family suffering from grief after the loss of a child. Goldberg’s character brings peace back to the family and particularly to the young boy of the family, played by Neil Patrick Harris in his professional acting debut.

“Jumpin Jack Flash” marked the first time Goldberg would try comedy on screen after her dramatic film debut in “The Color Purple” the year before. Goldberg plays a bank employee who stumbles onto a complex international banking scheme, part of which she finds encoded in the Rolling Stones song “Jumpin Jack Flash.”

This film is set during the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of the fifties, when African Americans refused to ride the cities public transportation due to its segregation laws. The story focuses on Goldberg’s character’s compliance with the boycott and how that strengthens the bond with her employer, played by Sissy Spacek.

Angelina Jolie won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and caused a bit of a sensation in film circles with her dynamic portrayal of a sociopathic young woman confined to a mental institution. Goldberg plays the nurse who tends to Jolie and also the film’s star Winona Ryder, who suffers from borderline personality disorder. Goldberg is a strong, sympathetic and wise figure in the story, and her scene where she encourages Ryder not to become a perpetual inhabitant of the institution is quite strongly delivered.

4. SISTER ACT (1992)
Originally written as a vehicle for Bette Midler, Goldberg took the role when Midler dropped out of the film. Reports were that Goldberg initially didn’t think the film had turned out that well, so she was a bit shocked when the film became a hit. Goldberg plays the girlfriend of a mob hitman who goes into the witness protection program as a nun after she witnesses a murder. While in the convent she works with the convent’s choir. The film’s final moments featuring Goldberg directing the choir singing sixties’ girl group songs such as “I Will Follow Him” is feel good cinema at its best.

3. BOYS ON THE SIDE (1995)
Goldberg gave one of her most heartfelt performances in this story of three very different women who join together to drive across country. Goldberg plays a lesbian who platonically falls in love with the character played by Mary-Louise Parker and becomes her caretaker as she begins to suffer from a fatal illness. The dynamic between Parker and Goldberg is quite touching and Goldberg is wonderfully subtle in the film.

2. GHOST (1990)
Goldberg became the second African American woman to win an Oscar when she took the Best Supporting Actress prize for this film. It had been over fifty years since Hattie McDaniel became the first for “Gone with the Wind” in 1939. Goldberg was only five years into her film career at this point but things had become rocky for the actress after a series of flops. The studio didn’t want her for the role but as Goldberg is always quick to point out, Patrick Swayze insisted she get the part.

Goldberg was given the lead in “The Color Purple” after her one woman show on Broadway became a surprise hit. Spielberg took a huge chance casting the unknown actress as the center of his film but the gamble paid off. Possible controversy over having a white director tell the story caused Oscar voters to avoid the film in their final balloting. Despite 11 Oscar nominations overall, Spielberg was not nominated for Best Director. The various controversies made the Academy go for a safer choice for Best Actress too, and they awarded Geraldine Page for “The Trip to Bountiful” since she had suffered seven prior loses.


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