Frances McDormand Movies: The 7 Essential

She's amazing in "Nomadland." But that's just a start. Check out the incredible actress in these 7 essential Frances McDormand movies.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Frances McDormand Movies Nomadland

© Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

She's won 3 Best Actress Academy Awards. And she deserves every one of them. She's an unstoppable force at the movies, and has been for decades. Get your fill of Frances McDormand movies with our list of her 7 most essential. They're guaranteed to entertain, thrill, and move you. They'll also remind you she's a veritable institution we're extremely lucky to have.

1) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Before she was an Academy Award winner for "Nomadland," McDormand was an Academy Award winner for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" just three years earlier. As Mildred Hayes, a woman determined to compel the police to solve her daughter's murder, McDormand is incendiary. She's hot and bothered and not going to take it anymore.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Poster

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri



November 22, 2017

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2) Nomadland

Here, we're pointing out the film that just won Best Picture and Best Actress. But it's worth it as not enough general audiences have seen this slow burn movie. McDormand and the real nomads in "Nomadland" who wander the country in seek of employment and adventure are the heart of the heartland. They have untamed spirits, and we're better for it.

Nomadland Poster




February 19, 2021

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3) Fargo

Frances McDormand won her first Best Actress Oscar playing Marge Gunderson, a pregnant Minnesota police chief. Marge is in pursuit of those responsible for some grisly homicides. This leads to two criminals hired by a lowlife car salesman to kidnap his wife. As a result, the plot is darker than dark. McDormand's performance is the lone ray of light. She cuts through to what ultimately matters – a semblance of humanity.

Fargo Poster




March 15, 1996

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4) Burn After Reading

McDormand and her cohort Brad Pitt are hilarious as two gym workers who end up with a disc of info. from an ex-CIA agent (John Malkovich). This is another awesome Coen Brothers team-up with the actress, who's been married to brother Joel Coen since 1984. It's not on par with "Raising Arizona," "Blood Simple," or "Fargo," but it's still a crazy funny comedy. McDormand's sweet, sassy, and ambitious, and we love her.

Burn After Reading Poster

Burn After Reading


Comedy Drama

September 12, 2008

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5) Almost Famous

As aspiring teen journalist William Miller's mother, Elaine Miller, McDormand is the smart, sincere, supportive mom we all hope to have. Luckily for writer-director Cameron Crowe, whose "Almost Famous" is based on his life as a 15-year-old Rolling Stone writer, McDormand perfectly captures the spirit of his own parent. She's the kind of mom who'll take her son to the cinema to see "To Kill a Mockingbird." As well, while she's not crazy about the drugs at concerts, she'll still drive her son there to interview Black Sabbath.

Almost Famous Poster

Almost Famous



September 15, 2000

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6) Raising Arizona

The actress doesn't have a huge part in "Raising Arizona." It's more an awesome showcase for Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as newlyweds-turned-kidnapper-parents. But McDormand is memorable. She's the wife of Cage's supervisor, and a seeming expert on all parent-child essentials. We love her cameo appearance. We also love that in just their second film, the Coen Brothers are firing on all cylinders.

Raising Arizona Poster

Raising Arizona



March 1, 1987

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7) Blood Simple

This is the debut film for Frances McDormand and the Coen Brothers. 37 years later, it's still a noir classic. The story involves a saloon owner, his young wife, the wife's bartender lover and a private detective. The plot is bonkers. The filmmaking is crazy. And McDormand is perfect as the femme fatale. This was the beginning, and it's still one of the best Frances McDormand movies.

Blood Simple Poster

Blood Simple


Crime Drama

July 7, 1984

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Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango,, MediaTrip, and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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