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Iconic television mom Lauren Graham has been putting out hits since the nineties, but it’s the much-loved CW series Gilmore Girls that she’s best known for. Born in Hawaii, she didn’t have an acting family, but instead worked her way up the industry, first by taking on small performances where she could, but eventually earning her an MFA in Acting Performance from Southern Methodist University. Although she’s mostly known for her time as Lorelai, Graham has been in dozens of other films and television shows, some great, and some… a little less so. One thing’s for sure, though: her performances are almost always golden, even when she’s not given much to work with. If you spent hours with her in Stars Hollow and want to know where else you can see her, then read ahead for our list of the best Lauren Graham movies and TV shows!
This Disney Junior computer animated series falls into a nice blend of perfect for kids, but with enough great humor in it that adults can enjoy it too. Vampirina follows the Hauntley family, mostly focusing on the daughter, Vampirina “Vee” Hauntley, as they move from Transylvania to Pennsylvania in order to open a hotel for visiting ghouls called the Scare B&B. Vampirina has the body of a child, but is in fact 200 years old, which leads to a lot of shenanigans when she enrolls in the local school. As the family learns to do things the “Pennsylvania way,” there’s a lot of hilarity, especially as the Hauntleys try to keep their ghostly lives separate from their community. Graham voices the mother of the family, Oxana, and brings plenty of charm and humor to the role. A nice watch, especially if you’re with the family.
9. Conrad Bloom
This is one of Graham’s earliest playing television roles, and you can see her talent shine through already. The series follows the titular character, a New York based copywriter who’s trying to get ahead in his career while also searching for love. The sitcom is heavily character-driven with a focus on the women in Bloom’s life: his involved mother, a fun sister, and an ex-girlfriend-turned-best-friend who still seems to have feelings for him (Molly, played by Graham ). A bit zany but also surprisingly heartfelt, the show was canceled after just one season thanks to low ratings, but it received great critical reviews, especially for the cast’s chemistry and acting.
8. Flash of Genius
In a year where we’ve had films about the invention of Air Jordans, the Blackberry phone, and Tetris, you might be fed up with business stories. But this 2008 biographical drama is a little different, as it follows the tale of Robert Kearns — portrayed by Greg Kinnear — a man who took on Ford after they invented a product based on Kearns’ ideas that had been patented. The film itself is based on a New Yorkers article, and is an engrossing watch that will have you rooting for Kearns as he takes on the big boys of American industry. Graham plays Phyllis, the at-first happy wife of Robert. But, as the legal battle takes its toll, their marriage strains, and we see Graham put in a heartfelt performance that makes this film worth watching.
7. Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
An inventive musical comedy drama, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is the sort of shows people either absolutely adore or cannot stand, but as long as you love a good tune you’ll probably fall into the first category. It follows the adventures of Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy), a software developer who realizes she has the power to hear people’s innermost thoughts — but only as songs. Although she’s only billed as a special guest, Graham appears in every episode of season one as Joan, Zoey’s quirky boss who eventually leaves for Singapore, but not before giving Zoey a much-deserved promotion. All singing, all dancing, all laughing: Graham fans will enjoy her turn here for sure.
6. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Plenty of great actors have guest-starred on this long-running iconic Larry David comedy, but few have had as hilarious an arc as Graham. She took on the role of Bridget, a woman who became romantically involved with Larry over the course of three episodes in the ninth season (“Namaste,””Never Wait for Seconds,” and “The Shucker”). While Larry is his usual curmudgeonly self, Bridget actually seems to fit well with him, despite being a bit sunnier. However, their relationship is tested by Bridget’s non-neurotypical son hating Larry, before eventually ending after Larry asks her to sign an NDA before delving any further into a romantic partnership. Graham shows his comedic abilities here, riding the deadpan, awkward wave the show is famous for.
5. Evan Almighty
The spin-off to the Jim Carey classic Bruce Almighty, this film might have been a bit of a bomb, but it did at least provide us with a great Graham performance. She plays the wife of the titular character, a newly-elected congressman who realizes he’s taken on the mantle of Noah in the modern world. Even with Graham doing brilliantly, and some excellent cast members alongside him (Morgan Freeman and Steve Carell, anyone?), the film isn’t exactly a riveting watch, but there are definitely laughs to be had throughout, and Graham balances comedy and emotion as her character is put through her paces with her husband’s new found responsibilities.
4. Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal & The Fight for Coalfield Justice
Graham narrates this moving but infuriating documentary about the impact of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, West Virginia, and delves into its impact on the environment and the locals who suffer as a result. Funded almost entirely by grants, this is a moving portrait of a community not just on the edge, but already in freefall. Graham is clear and professional, but his voiceover and narrating work is imbued with a quiet emotion that further helps you empathize with the aim of this starting documentary. Not one for laughs, but definitely a great watch, buoyed by a superb Graham performance.
This NBC comedy drama was the first long-term role Graham took on after Gilmore Girls, and she ended up with over a hundred episodes to her name and plenty of fans wishing for more. The series follows the Braverman family, headed by Ezekiel and Camille – two elderly residents of Berkeley, California. Their four adult kids are heavily involved in their lives, including divorced Sarah (Graham), who has two teens to look after. In many ways, despite the mostly adult cast, it’s a coming of age story, and we all know how well Graham does in those. She gives one of many great performances, making you feel a lot of empathy for Sarah, even as she makes some… less than smart decisions.
2. Bad Santa
When raunchy comedies take aim at usually wholesome figures, the result is often something kind of cringey and terrible. But this 2003 film is one of the rare times the formula works, and boy does it. It follows a grouchy, alcoholic conman (Billy Bob Thornton) and his criminal partner with dwarfism (Tony Cox), who poses as Santa Claus and his little helper so that they can rob stores over the Christmas period. Graham plays Sue, a bartender with a fetish Santa who ends up hooking up with, and helps the titular Cringle become less of a bad guy, in a Christmas twist for the ages. Considering it’s a bawdy comedy, Graham manages to show a ton of range, leading to a finale that might actually make you shed a tear or two.
1. Gilmore Girls
It was never going to be anything else topping this list. The number of teens raised on Gilmore Girls is almost incalculable, which means that there are millions who basically see Graham as a surrogate mother. In this quirky classic sitcom, we follow Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel), a smart Harvard-bound teen who wins a place at a prestigious prep school. Her mother, Laurelai (Graham), wants to help her, but that means dealing with her wealthy and appearance-obsessed parents and Rory’s grandparents – who they turn to for help with Rory’s tuition fees. Smart, funny, heart-warming, and truly iconic: Gilmore Girls is widely considered to be one of the best things the CW has ever produced, and a big part of that is Graham’s brilliant performance as Lorelai.