Meryl Streep's best singing moments in movies, including 'The Prom'

Patrick Ryan

Meryl Streep is brilliant at many, many things, not the least of which is singing. The three-time Oscar winner has frequently shown her impressive vocal chops on and offscreen over the course of her 45-year career, as early as 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and most recently in Netflix's "The Prom" (now streaming).

In Ryan Murphy's candy-coated adaptation of the feel-good Broadway musical, Streep, 71, plays fictional Broadway star Dee Dee Allen, who along with three other washed-up thespians, travels to a conservative Indiana town to help a lesbian teen (Jo Ellen Pellman) take her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose) to prom. 

In honor of the film's arrival on Netflix, we rank Streep's best (and worst) singing moments through the years. 

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Meryl Streep, clockwise from left: "Ironweed," "Mamma Mia!," "The Prom" and "Into the Woods."

12. 'Mary Poppins Returns' (2018)

No amount of sugar could help this joyless, soulless rehash of 1964's practically perfect "Mary Poppins" go down any easier. In a glorified cameo, Streep plays the orange-mopped Topsy, the eccentric cousin of Mary Poppins (a sadly miscast Emily Blunt), whom the magical nanny calls upon to fix a broken bowl. Slathering on an overdone Eastern European accent, Streep leads Blunt and children in the deeply annoying "Turning Turtle" as they gallivant on the ceiling. It's an assault on the eyes and ears, and you won't be able to reach for the remote fast enough.

11. 'Ricki and the Flash' (2015)

For all her crimped hair and heavy eyeliner, Streep never gets lost in the rock 'n' roll of "Ricki and the Flash," about a fading rock star trying to make amends with her estranged family. Her performance of Mentor Williams' rousing "Drift Away" mostly falls flat, while the film's emotional centerpiece, "Cold One," is lovely but forgettable. 

10. 'Florence Foster Jenkins' (2016) 

Streep is very good at singing very badly, even earning an Oscar nomination for playing the real-life, egregiously tone-deaf opera singer. Streep makes you root for the delightfully delusional Florence as she struggles to hit a high C, but you'll also be plugging your ears during her strident arias. 

9. 'Ironweed' (1987)

Strong finish aside, this isn't Streep's greatest vocal work. But she also brings intense emotion and resolve to her unbridled rendition of "He's Me Pal," adding depth to her ailing, drunken character in this Great Depression-era drama. 

8. 'The Deer Hunter' (1978)

Our first taste of Streep singing on screen was in this Oscar-winning masterpiece about the horrors of the Vietnam War. As the grieving Linda, Streep leads a funereal version of "God Bless America" at a local bar. It's a haunting moment, but she only sings briefly and "Deer Hunter" is about the furthest thing from a musical (although it's doable!). 

7. 'Death Becomes Her' (1992)

Dee Dee Allen in "The Prom" would not exist without Madeline Ashton, a deliciously self-absorbed actress who goes to twisted lengths to stay young. Although she only gets one musical number in the dark comedy's opening minutes, Streep brings plenty of pizazz and fancy footwork to the splashy "I See Me." 

6. "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006)

Streep harmonizes marvelously with Lily Tomlin, reuniting with "Nashville" director Robert Altman for his final film. Although "Prairie" never reaches the electrifying power of "Nashville," Streep and Tomlin's stirring take on "My Minnesota Home" is worth the price of admission. 

5. 'Into the Woods' (2014) 

Look, there's just no topping Bernadette Peters, who originated the role of The Witch in the Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's adult fairy-tale mashup. But even with caked-on makeup, Streep still conveys heartache and devastating loneliness in "Stay with Me," a ballad to her frustrated daughter Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy). "Last Midnight" is a powerful showcase of the actress's wide vocal range, as is the show's more subdued signature song "Children Will Listen." 

4. 'The Prom' (2020)

It's a riot to watch Streep really let loose in "The Prom," hamming it up as a Broadway diva with a cause but absolutely no self-awareness. She comes in like a hurricane on the tongue-in-cheek "It's Not About Me," as her character Dee Dee feigns humility while dropping theater jokes and "woke" calls to action. She can't quite match the ferocity of her Broadway predecessor Beth Leavel on the lofty "The Lady's Improving," although her belt has rarely sounded better. It's almost enough to make you forget about the cringey credits song, in which she clumsily raps about pride and Michelle Obama.

3. 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' (2018)

Sure, we're still a little peeved that the "Mamma Mia!" sequel killed off Streep, whose character, Donna, is mostly seen in photographs and flashbacks to her younger self (played by Lily James). That said, we're still a blubbering mess at the end of the movie, when Donna duets from beyond the grave with daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), offering reassurance as she forges into new motherhood on ABBA's "My Love, My Life." It's a beautiful coda at the end of a blissfully ridiculous movie, and Streep and Seyfried sound positively angelic. 

2. 'Mamma Mia!' (2008)

Sorry, "Hairspray," but we still maintain that "Mamma Mia!" is the best stage-to-screen musical adaptation since "Chicago." That's in large part thanks to Streep, who brings just the right amount of silly and serious to this infectious ABBA musical about a mom trying to run away from her past on the eve of her daughter's (Seyfried) wedding. Her renditions of "Money, Money, Money" and the title track are gleefully mischievous, while "Slipping Through My Fingers" is a tear-jerking ode to growing up and growing old. And we dare you to find a more transcendent moment in cinema than Streep standing in a red shawl on a windy cliff, impassionedly belting "The Winner Takes It All" to a befuddled Pierce Brosnan. 

1. 'Postcards from the Edge' (1990)

One of Streep's all-time greatest movie performances is in "Postcards from the Edge," Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about addiction, recovery and her tumultuous relationship with her mother (Shirley MacLaine, doing her best Debbie Reynolds in the role of Doris Mann). Playing the Fisher role of Suzanne Vale, Streep gets two stunning singing showcases, starting with a full-throated cover of Ray Charles' "You Don't Know Me" at a dinner party early in the film. 

After personal and professional heartbreak and much-needed reconciliation with her mom, Suzanne later returns to work on a major studio movie, singing the original song "I'm Checkin' Out" (penned by children's poet Shel Silverstein). The achingly poignant number slowly builds into a foot-stomping country-western anthem, and a mesmerizing Streep leaves it all out there on the stage. Triumphant and life-affirming without ever feeling mawkish, it perfectly encapsulates all the magic that Streep is capable of as a performer.