Norma Rae (1979)
Sally Field has been making movies for... well, for a very long time. She's won two Oscars (for Norma Rae and Places In The Heart), made two Smokey And The Bandit movies, co-starred with Michael Caine in a terrible Poseidon Adventure sequel and played Tom Hanks's girlfriend and his mother in the space of six years.
After spending a few years on TV in the series Brothers & Sisters, Field returned to the big screen in 2012 with two very prominent projects. She plays Aunt May in the blockbuster reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man and Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's long-awaited Lincoln. To get you back up to speed, here's a snapshot of her five greatest performances - and no, I will not pretend Steel Magnolias is worthy of inclusion.
1. Norma Rae (1979)
Field won her first Academy Award for her performance as a textile worker who becomes a union organizer. The marketing positioned the movie as an underdog story along the lines of Rocky (which certainly helped with the Oscar push) but Field's no-nonsense performance and Martin Ritt's crisp, uncluttered direction are the stuff of great American drama.
2. Absence Of Malice (1981)
As a journalist who's unwittingly used by corrupt authorities to smear an innocent citizen (Paul Newman) in the service of a crime probe, Field turns what could have been a one-note role into a master class in reactive acting. She's utterly in the moment, whether trying to project cool professionalism in the face of her justifiably furious target or marshalling her own righteous anger when she realizes she's been used. By the end of the picture, this is as much Field's movie as it is Newman's.
3. Back Roads (1981)
Field reunited her with Norma Rae director Ritt for a road movie about a hooker and a prize fighter (Tommy Lee Jones) making their way from Alabama to California by any means necessary. A road-movie romance, it's so loosely structured that it seems to spend a lot of time going nowhere - but that's entirely appropriate to its characters, who are chasing dreams of prosperity and happiness that will almost certainly remain fantasies. Field and Jones make a great couple; it's a pity they didn't get more screen time together in Lincoln.
4. Punchline (1988)
Field is all wrong for the role of Lilah Krytsick, a desperate housewife who turns her domestic misery into a stand-up career. David Seltzer patterned the character after Roseanne Barr, a much angrier performer. But weirdly, it's Field's ability to deliver snarky, mean-spirited material while maintaining her empathy that makes this one of her most intriguing performances. Her rhythms are all wrong for stand-up, which makes her seem more like a genuine newbie, and watching her fumble towards a more polished delivery gives the movie what little suspense it has. (It's also really weird watching her contemplate an affair with Tom Hanks, who'd play her son just six years later in Forrest Gump.)
5. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
When Field was cast as Aunt May, eyebrows went up - surely she's too young to be playing Peter Parker's frail, elderly guardian. And she is, which is why it works so well. Field plays May Parker as widowed too soon, a woman barely holding it together after an unimaginable tragedy. Rosemary Harris went for graceful world-weariness in Sam Raimi's trilogy. Field is angry and confused and not nearly ready to accept what's happened. It's a bracing interpretation of a character we've known for 50 years.