Melissa McCarthy’s 5 Best Roles That Mix Heart and Humor

Melissa McCarthy became one of Hollywood’s favorite funny leading ladies after her game-changing performance in 2011’s Bridesmaids, but she’s been getting laughs on screen since long before that. The actress first garnered attention on the long-running show Gilmore Girls and has continued to prove her enviable screen presence with a slew of hilarious TV and film roles, including the  well-received action comedy Spy.

With McCarthy having recently starred in the Ghostbusters reboot, here’s a look back at some of the actress’s other memorable gigs so far. These 5 roles (listed in chronological order) mix heart and humor, a combination that has become a defining element in McCarthy’s career:

1. Gilmore Girls

Source: The WB

Source: The WB

Before she took over the big screen, McCarthy delivered a memorable performance as Lorelai Gilmore’s quirky best friend and eventual business partner, Sookie St. James., on the WB’s beloved series. But though she may have played the “best friend,” Sookie was definitely more than just a sidekick, thanks in large part to McCarthy’s multilayered and heartfelt portrayal. In her hands, Sookie was a complete and complex character all on her own – sweet, lovable, clumsy and slightly manic. She was also funny, in a subtler way than the in-your-face physical comedy that dominates the actress’s later roles. It’s no surprise that her character remained a favorite throughout the show’s run.

2. Mike & Molly

Source: CBS

Source: CBS

The CBS sitcom, which first premiered in 2010, stars McCarthy as Molly, a smart, charismatic teacher (who eventually quits to become a writer) and one half of the happily married titular couple. The actress earned an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal in 2011 and for good reason. In the early seasons, Molly was warm, optimistic, and funny, much like Gilmore Girls’ Sookie. Her character overcame -and also helped the show overcome- the predictable gags that always pop up in a primetime sitcom. But after McCarthy’s rapid rise on the big screen, the series shifted its approach to her character, making Molly louder and way more over-the-top than before. Though the change may not work quite as well, the show is still one of McCarthy’s most memorable roles and continues to serve as an example of her wonderfully genuine screen presence.

3. Bridesmaids

Source: Universal Pictures

Source: Universal Pictures

McCarthy’s career-changing moment came in this 2011 hit, in which she played the no-holds-barred, man-loving, foul-mouthed groom’s sister Megan Price. Though the movie featured the actress among an ensemble of talented and highly skilled comedy stars, it was McCarthy who stole every scene she was in – from the dinner in which she suggests Fight Club as a bridal shower theme to yes, that bathroom scene. McCarthy’s Megan was brazen and unapologetic to be sure, but also smart, kind-hearted, well-adjusted, and most of all, hilarious. The actress earned a slew of award nominations for her funny and filthy performance, including a Best Supporting Actress nod at the Oscars.

4. The Heat

Source: 20th Century Fox

Source: 20th Century Fox

McCarthy piggybacked off her Bridesmaids success by playing a similar character in the 2013 female buddy cop comedy co-starring Sandra Bullock. Like Bridesmaids’ Megan, McCarthy’s Detective Mullins is gruff, crude and unafraid to go outside the rules to catch whatever perp she’s chasing. Though she and Bullock have great chemistry, the movie is once again McCarthy’s to own. The actress delivered the majority of the film’s funniest moments, making every punchline (improvised or not) feel as if she made it up on the spot. And while the comedy may have its fair share of clichés, it’s hard to get hung upon them when you’re busy laughing out loud.

5. St. Vincent

Source: The Weinstein Company

Source: The Weinstein Company

McCarthy took a break from playing brash and unfiltered characters in this 2014 comedy drama, co-staring Bill Murray. Instead, she plays harried mom Maggie who is trying to figure out a way to balance motherhood with her demanding work schedule. After a series of roles that demanded the actress go full-throttle in an increasingly stale comedic routine of over-the-top falls and curse-filled rants (Identity Thief, Tammy), St. Vincent marked a nice change of pace for McCarthy. Her portrayal of Maggie is subtle and pleasantly understated, proving that she is capable of more than only the go-for-broke slapstick comedy we’ve already seen her dominate time and time again.

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