Plus-size women usually can’t catch a break in Hollywood, but the 10 best fat women movies are exceptions to the rule. Rather than making obese women the object of jokes or ridicule, each film portrays its Rubenesque women as real people with real challenges and concerns. Many of them have love affairs, proving it’s not only skinny girls who get the guy.
- “Hairspray” Indie-film superstar John Waters made a name for himself in the 1970s directing strange tales of drag queens, outlaws and murder. For his first mainstream movie, he created this cult classic about an overweight girl who successfully integrates a 1950s teen dance show. The film launched Ricki Lake’s career and brought Waters worldwide attention, although it was not a huge success by Hollywood's standards.
- “She-Devil” Roseanne Barr’s first film cast her as a frumpy housewife whose husband leaves her for romance novelist Meryl Streep. In an earlier era, the thin, pretty woman would have been the hero, not the chunky, but faithful wife. As the wronged party, Roseanne sets out for revenge with the audience cheering her on.
- “Fried Green Tomatoes” Hollywood’s usual disregard for plump women is perfectly illustrated by Broadway’s “Frankie and Johnny,” which starred Kathy Bates. When the film version came out in 1991, Bates’ role was handed to Michelle Pfeiffer. The same year, however, Bates starred in this film as a housewife who learns life lessons from Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker. Her “Saran Wrap dress” is a comic highlight.
- “Sugarbaby” In this 1985 German film, lonely mortician Marianne Sagebrecht falls for a subway operator and sets out to make him her own. The movie is noteworthy as having one of the first romantic lead roles for a zaftig actress. It was remade as an American TV movie, “Babycakes,” with Ricki Lake.
- “Fat Girl” French director Catherine Breillat is used to provoking controversy and this 2001 film brought her more. When slim, pretty Elena loses her virginity on vacation, her overweight younger sister Anais gets a firsthand lesson in how callous and cynical boys can be about sex. It’s not a happy story, but it is, sadly, all too real.
- “Shallow Hal” Under hypnosis, caddish Jack Black can only see a person’s inner beauty, not their physical appearance. Consequently, 300-pound Rosemary looks like slender Gwyneth Paltrow to him and several other characters are cleverly misrepresented to the audience. Directed by the Farrelly Brothers who are known for gross-out comedies like “There’s Something About Mary,” “Shallow Hal” is surprisingly warm and sensitive.
- “Precious” An independent film based on a little-known but highly regarded novel “Precious” rocketed to prominence at the end of 2009 when it was seemingly nominated for every film award, including a Best Picture Oscar. Overweight, illiterate Claireece seeks an escape from her family’s cycle of abuse and neglect. Debuting actress Gabourey Sidibe earned one of the film’s six Academy Award nominations as Claireece.
- “The Honeymoon Killers” An unusual film based on real-life serial killers, 1970’s “Honeymoon Killers” won praise for its low-budget charm and became a cult classic. Weighty Martha Beck falls for con man Ray Fernandez, who woos and robs lonely women. Martha’s jealous nature is deadly to her man’s marks, proving that old saying about a woman scorned.
- “Dreamgirls” In a reversal of typical Hollywood practice, American Idol Jennifer Hudson actually had to gain weight to play Effie, a character based on former Supremes member Florence Ballard. Like Ballard, Effie faces exclusion from a hit musical group because of several factors, including her weight. Hudson won an Oscar and more than two dozen other industry awards for her portrayal of Effie.
- “Hairspray” In 2002, John Waters’ 1988 film became a smash Broadway musical. Five years later, the musical itself became a film (unlike its predecessor, it was a huge hit, becoming one of the top-grossing movie musicals of all time). Cute Nikki Blonsky took over the role of Tracy, the chunky, charming girl who integrates Baltimore through the power of dance.
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