If you had to pick Kathy Bates's best role, which would it be? If you're a horror buff, you probably think of her as Annie Wilkes in Misery. If historical dramas are more your speed, her portrayal of Molly Brown in Titanic is a clear winner. Even if you only watch comedies, Kathy Bates has it covered as the "foosball"-hating Mama Boucher in The Waterboy.
From only three roles, the expanse of Kathy Bates's acting talents is on display, and that's not even mentioning her TV work. Below, we'll look at some of the best Kathy Bates movie and TV roles, which span three decades and multiple genres. While we explain why she's amazing in every role, you get to decide which one of Kathy Bates's many iconic roles is her best.
- Photo: Columbia Pictures
Annie Wilkes was the role that made Kathy Bates a star, and to this day, it's still one of her most famous characters. Based on the novel by Stephen King, Misery is a horror film in which author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) gets into a car accident and is rescued by his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes. Annie also happens to be a former nurse and helps Paul recover from his injury, although she never actually tells anyone that Paul is in her care.
While Paul recovers, Annie reads the draft of his latest novel and finds out that he's killed off the main character so he can finally end the series. She is not pleased, to say the least. As Annie makes every attempt possible to ensure that Paul never leaves her care, Paul realizes that only one of them is leaving alive.
Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for this role, and it comes as no surprise when you consider the character's complexity. Annie transitions from slightly odd to fully demented over the course of the film. The audience feels a slow-burning hatred for Annie Wilkes grow as the film escalates, and it's all thanks to Bates's nuanced performance. Bates joked in an interview that when her mother saw the film, she wasn't that impressed with her daughter's performance, saying that it wasn't much different from how Bates acted as a teenager.Great Bates?
‘Titanic’ - As The Unsinkable Molly BrownPhoto: Paramount Pictures
Molly Brown was a real person, a socialite and philanthropist who survived the 1912 sinking of the Titanic. Kathy Bates's portrayal of Brown in James Cameron's Titanic is a true highlight of the 1997 film. The real Molly Brown was said to have a larger-than-life persona, and as such, Bates brings her grace, humor, and courage to life. Bates plays quite an active role in the film's plot, especially when she helps Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) dress for a first-class dinner. When she sees Jack in a tuxedo, she beams, "You shine up like a new penny."
Bates turns her character's jovial attitude around when Brown and the other passengers realize that the Titanic will sink. In a tense scene during the film's climax, Bates as Brown demands that her lifeboat return to the ship's wreckage and rescue survivors, something the real Molly Brown actually did. While the love story between Rose and Jack may be the film's main storyline, Bates steals every scene she's in, and for good reason.Great Bates?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Kathy Bates uses both her comedic and dramatic talents as Evelyn Couch in Fried Green Tomatoes, a film adaptation of Fannie Flagg's bestselling novel. We meet Evelyn Couch as a woman disenchanted with life. She's ignored by her husband, self-conscious about her appearance, and can't seem to catch a break.
While visiting her husband's aunt at a nursing home, Evelyn forms a friendship with another resident, Ninny Threadgoode. As the bond between the two women strengthens, Evelyn begins to gain confidence. When two younger women cut her off in a parking lot, she runs into their car not just once, but six times. When relaying the event to Ninny, Evelyn says, "I never get mad, Ms. Threadgoode. Never! The way I was raised, it was bad manners. Well I got mad, and it felt great!"
You can't help but love Kathy Bates as Evelyn Couch. She starts out as a rather unassuming character, but quickly morphs into a vibrant, powerful person. Evelyn even takes charge of her marriage: When her husband asks if she's trying to kill him after she serves a "low-cholesterol" dinner, she responds, "If I was gonna kill you, I'd use my hands."Great Bates?
'American Horror Story' - As A Whole Mess Of Twisted CharactersPhoto: FX
Although she's not an original member of the ensemble cast, Kathy Bates has left an indelible mark on the American Horror Story franchise, co-starring in five of the series' nine seasons. Bates first appears in Season 3, Coven, where she plays Delphine LaLaurie, a real person who tortured enslaved people in the attic of her New Orleans mansion in the 1800s. Bates is pure evil as Delphine, who is both immortal and jarringly racist, though she eventually forms a weird bond with Gabourey Sidibe. Fans love to hate Bates as Delphine, and no one feels too badly about the character's gruesome fate.
Kathy Bates also appears in subsequent seasons of American Horror Story, namely as a bearded woman in Freak Show, a concierge turned vampire in Hotel, an actress who takes her role a little too seriously in Roanoke, and a Satanist turned cyborg in Apocalypse. Bates makes each character uniquely her own, and each is equal parts intriguing and disturbing.Great Bates?