After making her screen debut in 1989, Sandra Oh has enjoyed a remarkable career in both film and television. Although the versatile talent and 12-time Emmy nominated actress is best known for her iconic roles as Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy and Eve Polastri on Killing Eve, Oh has also worked with some of the finest movie directors, including Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh, Mina Shum, John Cameron Mitchell, and more.
As fans continue to enjoy Oh’s new hit Netflix sitcom The Chair, it’s worth recollecting her best movie moments for those who want to see more of the talented actress on the big screen.
10 Defendor (2009): 6.8
Peter Stebbings’ dark offbeat superhero comedy Defendor stars Oh as Dr. Ellen Park, a psychiatrist who gives hilarious facial and verbal reactions to the outlandish story relayed to her by Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson), an ordinary man moonlighting as a vigilante crime fighter.
Cut from the same genre-bucking, irreverent cloth as James Gunn’s Super, once Arthur confesses his secret life to Dr. Park, she convinces the judge to go easy on him and allow him to continue his heroic activity. When tragedy strikes, Oh shows how much heartfelt pathos she can portray by attending a touching ceremony for her patient.
9 Under The Tuscan Sun (2003): 6.8
Written and directed by the late Audrey Wells, Under the Tuscan Sun is a delightfully uplifting rom-com about Frances (Diane Lane), a writer who ups and leaves her life in San Francisco to live in Tuscany after discovering her husband’s infidelity. Oh plays Patti, Frances’ best friend who encourages her to travel to Italy.
In addition to the gorgeous locations, breezy tone, and rich cinematography, Oh adds complexity to the story as Patti, a lesbian expecting a child even after her lover Grace (Kate Walsh) has left her. It’s Patti’s visit to Tuscany when she’s nine months pregnant that helps Frances find the courage to pursue true love despite the painful past.
8 Double Happiness (1994): 7.0
Oh made her feature film debut in Mina Shum’s must-see coming-of-age tale Double Happiness, in which she plays the lead role of Chinese-Canadian Jade Li. The intensely personal semiautobiographical drama shows how divided Jade is between her traditional Chinese upbringing and her modern Canadian lifestyle.
With a natural performance by Oh matched with the authentic, well-observed writing of Shum, the movie is a universally relatable tale of a person grappling with their own identity while trying to appease the expectations of loved ones. In her first film performance, Oh won the Genie Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, proving what a titanic talent she has been from the start.
7 Rabbit Hole (2010): 7.0
John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole is a bruising account of a family dealing with the death of a young child at the hands of a teenage driver. Nicole Kidman gives a memorable and towering performance as Becca, a mournful mother who begins to find solace by interacting with Jason (Miles Teller), the driver who accidentally took her son’s life.
Although she has a smaller supporting role, Oh plays Gabby, a fellow grieving parent who helps Howie (Aaron Eckhart) deal with his loss at the group therapy sessions he and Becca attend. With profound empathy for Howie, she becomes instrumental in his healing process.
6 Meditation Park (2017): 7.1
Twenty-three years after working with Mina Shum for the first time, Oh reunited with the filmmaker for the sweet-natured drama Meditation Park in 2017. The story concerns Maria Wang (Pei-Pei Cheng), an aging woman in the throes of an existential crisis upon suspecting her husband’s infidelity. Oh plays Maria’s daughter Ava, a mother of two who encourages Maria to reconcile with her estranged brother ahead of his wedding and break free from her husband’s hold.
As another trenchant glimpse at the immigrant experience and a statement about the importance of women finding their own voice, Shum’s film is tender, touching, and triumphant.
5 Hard Candy (2005): 7.1
David Slade’s Hard Candy is a deeply unnerving glimpse at a predatory pedophile (Patrick Wilson) getting his just deserts when a teenager (Elliot Page) tricks, traps, and tortures him in his apartment. Oh plays the man’s neighbor, Judy Tokuda, admitting she only took the role due to her working relationship with Page, a fellow Canadian she worked with on Wilby Wonderful the year prior.
With most of the action set inside the inescapable apartment, the visceral terror of the violence that Hayley (Page) exacts on Jeff (Wilson) is met by the suffocating sense of claustrophobia, making for a really upsetting experience. However, the hugely satisfying conclusion helps atone for the squeamish and uncomfortable moments of carnage.
4 Last Night (1998): 7.2
The most unheralded of Oh’s top films happens to be Last Night, a mordant pitch-black comedy about the impending apocalypse and the rag-tag band of Canadians with differing views on how to react. With the end of the world set to strike at midnight, Sandra (Oh) tries to make it out of her stranded position in Toronto and reunite with her husband, Duncan (David Cronenberg). One bad thing after another ensues.
Weird, wild, and ultimately winning, Last Night boasts writer/director Don McKellar’s signature brand of dark humor and anarchic energy. As such, the film has become an unforgettable cult classic among those who’ve seen it.
3 Raya And The Last Dragon (2021): 7.4
With great respect and honor for the rich historical traditions of Southeast Asia, Raya and the Last Dragon is one of Disney’s most beloved recent animated movies. Sandra Oh lends her voice to the commanding role of Virana, the Fang chieftess and mother of Raya’s main rival, Namaari (Gemma Chan).
With a moving story, spellbinding animation, and characters never before seen, Raya and the Last Dragon continue to soar in the hearts and minds of viewers.
2 Sideways (2004): 7.5
Directed by her then-husband Alexander Payne, Oh demonstrated her hilarious comedic chops in the indie darling Sideways, a character study of a failing writer at an existential crossroads. The boozy road trip follows Miles (Paul Giamatti), an uptight novelist, and his lecherous pal Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), as they hit Santa Barbara wine country on a tasting tour.
Praised for its excellent performances and light tonal touch between comedy and drama, Oh gives a standout turn as Stephanie, a cool sommelier who has a steamy love affair with Jack (whom she does not know has a fiancee). When she finds out, she goes absolutely ballistic in one of the movie’s funniest moments. The story is so sharply penned that it won an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.
1 The Red Violin (1998): 7.6
Despite playing a bit role as Madame Ming in the fifth and final chapter of The Red Violin, the ambitious epic ranks among Sandra Oh’s most well-received movie to date. The film traces a famed 17th-century Violin from its creation in Italy to its auction in modern-day Montreal, and all that the instrument endured in creating some of the most beautiful music the world has ever heard.
Praised for its sumptuous set decorations and costume designs, Oscar-winning original music, intelligent story, and a throwback style of filmmaking that calls to mind the grand epics of the past, the resonance of The Red Violin is still felt today.