It’s time for another list on this here blog of mine and Saturday Night Live has been on the mind lately. With The King of Staten Island garnering solid reviews and serving as a launching pad for the film career of current cast member Pete Davidson, I’ve decided to compile my own personal list of top 25 performances from the 45 years of SNL alumni.
And this is sure to be a list where many moviegoers would have their own choices that do not reflect my own. Obviously SNL has a rich history of performers that have made the transition to the big screen and there are lots of notable comedic (and some dramatic) highlights.
A couple of notes before we start with numbers 25-21:
- There are couple well-known actors that I chose to leave on the cutting room floor due to their very brief tenures on the show. Ben Stiller was a cast member for only 4 episodes and Laurie Metcalf was a not ready for prime time player for exactly 1 show. That didn’t seem like enough to include them. In short, if you lasted a season or more on SNL, you are eligible.
- This list is undeniably dominated by men. That’s just a fact. On the other hand, if I did a list that included TV (which I may after this), you would certainly see a more substantial presence of former female performers. Think Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and their acclaimed small screen work.
- We have a couple of cinematic legends like Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray and I could have chosen plenty of their roles for inclusion. I tried to limit that, but you will see them make quite an impact in the top 25.
And with that, let’s get to the list!
25. Jan Hooks, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
OK, maybe this is cheating a little bit since Ms. Hooks (who was brilliant on SNL) gets about three minutes of screen time in Tim Burton’s team-up with Paul Reubens for his iconic character. Yet her work as the cheery tour guide with the southern drawl is so memorable that I couldn’t leave it off. Six words: “There’s no basement at the Alamo!”
24. Bill Hader, It Chapter Two (2019)
Hader has been one of the most versatile cast members in recent times and has had memorable film roles in Superbad and Trainwreck, among others. I include this horror sequel because he was the undeniable bright spot in an otherwise inferior sequel.
23. Will Forte, MacGruber (2010)
Count me in as one of the ardent defenders of this SNL spin-off featuring Forte doing a feature length version of his idiotic MacGyver like role. MacGruber was a box office flop upon release but has since turned into a deserved cult classic (with a rumored sequel happening).
22. Tina Fey, Mean Girls (2004)
Before her fantastic work on 30 Rock, Fey wrote this hit comedy that has spawned a massive following and a Broadway musical. Her work as a teacher here served as a springboard to an impressive TV and movie career.
21. Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Crystal has certainly had his share of hits, but I’ll give the nod to his romantic leading man role opposite Meg Ryan in Rob Reiner’s blockbuster.
That does it for now, folks! I’ll continue the list with numbers 20-16 in short order…