1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1966
The verbal fireworks between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton detonate like psychological A-bombs.
2. The Graduate, 1967
An aimless young man (Dustin Hoffman) gets ensnared in a romance with his parents’ friend (Anne Bancroft). “I just want to say one word to you…plastics.”
3. Carnal Knowledge, 1971
A merciless depiction of two best friends (Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson) as seen through the lens of their relationships with women.
4. Silkwood, 1983
Astoundingly lived-in performances from Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher anchor Nichols’ drama about blue-collar workers in an Oklahoma nuclear-parts factory.
5. Heartburn, 1986
This drama about a shattered marriage between a writer (Streep) and her caddish husband (Nicholson) is based on Nora Ephron’s memoir.
6. Working Girl, 1988
A female-empowerment movie disguised as a deliciously screwball NYC comedy. Melanie Griffith is good, but Joan Cusack steals just about every scene.
7. Postcards From the Edge, 1990
A bruise-black comedy about mothers, daughters, and addiction starring Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
8. The Birdcage, 1996
With help from cast members Hank Azaria, Nathan Lane, and Robin Williams, Nichols turned what could have been a swishy soufflé into a poignant meditation on family.
9. Primary Colors, 1998
The veiled account of the Clintons (John Travolta and Emma Thompson) is a wonderful look at what it takes to get elected in contemporary America.
10. Angels in America, 2003
Six hours of pure phantasmagorical magic, with a cast including Streep and Al Pacino. It’s Nichols’ boldest undertaking.