4. 'Postcards From the Edge' (1990)
This was a largely and unfairly overlooked performance from a period when Streep was trying hard to prove she was more than just a serious tragic thespian in this Mike Nichols comedy, based on Carrie Fisher's autobiographical novel. Here, she's a real person, with wit, subtle quirks, and lots of baggage. She spars brilliantly with Shirley MacLaine (as her flamboyant mom) and Dennis Quaid (as a romantic mistake). There's a lot of showbiz satire here, but Streep finds the heart of the story: a woman trying to find her own place in the world. She sings too, in ways that deepen her character -- a tentative torch ballad early in the film and, at the finale, a triumphant, joyous country rave-up.