Whoopi Goldberg has now been a fixture in the entertainment industry for four decades. From her early days in the ’80’s with Oscar-nominated dramas like The Color Purple and comedy classics like Jumping Jack Flash, into the 90’s when she became a Millenial icon with her roles in the Sister Act series and Ghost, to the current day with her keeping it real and raw on The View and starring in cultural events like the upcoming comedy series Harlem, Goldberg has inspired generations.
Thankfully, this industry icon has been given her flowers over the years in the form of big wins for 2 Emmys (in 2002 for Outstanding Special Class Special for Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel and in 2009 for Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host for The View), a Grammy (in 1986 for Best Comedy Album for Whoopi Goldberg: Original Broadway Show Recording), an Oscar (in 1990, Best Supporting Actress for Ghost), and a Tony award (in 2002, Best Musical for Thoroughly Modern Millie), making her a rare EGOT-recipient.
As she celebrates her 66th birthday today, take a look back at some of her most iconic film roles over the years.
The Color Purple
Whoopi wowed both film fans and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with her portrayal of Celie, the protagonist and narrator of Stephen Speilberg’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Alice Walker’s classic novel of the same name. As Celie moves from abused and insecure to strong-willed and unbreakable through an upbringing in the rural Jim Crow south, we can’t help but root for her.
Sister Act / Sister Act 2
You’d have to literally live under a rock to not resonate with Sister Mary Clarence! Sister Act and its beloved sequel Sister Act 2 followed the plight of a Las Vegas lounge-singer fleeing to witness protection in a West-Coast convent after witnessing her mobster boyfriend getting mixed up in a major crime. Whoopi’s portrayal of the wise-cracking faux nun who gives her new sisters the gift of song has fans STILL clamoring for a third installment nearly 30 years later.
Whoopi’s iconic 1990 portrayal of Oda Mae Brown, the supposedly faux-medium who discovers she has the true gift of clairvoyance through a run-in with a recently deceased spirit (Patrick Swayze), still resonates to this day. Everyone knows exactly where the phrase “Molly…you in danger girl” comes from, and the exact appropriate situations in which to use it three decades later. And who could ever forget the bright pink “power suit” she wore to the bank to withdraw millions?
Whoopi was reportedly the first African American actress ever to complete a film project in South Africa with her portrayal as teacher Mary Masembuko. The story of uprising and unrest among students in apartheid South Africa still resonates to this day.
Ghosts of Mississippi
Whoopi’s powerful depiction of Myrlie Evers, the grieving wife of then-lesser-known civil rights leader Medgar Evers, brought emotional depth to this crime drama following the investigation into Evers’ brutal murder.
Whoopi’s character Valerie Owens, RN was the guiding light and the voice of reason in a psychiatric hospital for young women in the 1999 film Girl, Interrupted, opposite Winona Rider and Angelina Jolie. Her quippy one-liners and sage wisdom added a layer of reason to the skewed perception of our film’s protagonists.