From comedy to writing to, of course, acting, Catherine O’Hara has worn many hats in the field of entertainment. O’Hara is an award-winning actress who has been on the screen for years, constantly delivering hilarious and applause-worthy performances in her movies and TV shows. Ever since 1974, the Canadian thespian has been acting, starting her career with improvisational comedy. Years later and she hasn’t lost her touch of excelling in making people laugh and showing her chops as an actress.
O’Hara has starred in a list of live-action movies, but, in addition to them, she has lent her voice to a number of animated features, proving that she can show her wide range just by using her voice — even if the role itself is a small one as with her guest appearances on cartoons like Sofia the First and Harvey Beaks. With the mixture of film and TV, animated and otherwise, O’Hara has played enough characters to make the spot for number one hard to choose from. Nonetheless, here are her best performances, ranked.
8 After Hours
O’Hara played Gail in the 1985 Martin Scorsese comedy, After Hours. The movie centered on Paul Hackett, a shy computer data worker who seeks a date with a beautiful woman he met in a café. But unfortunately for him, the night takes a turn for the worse and a sequence of unlucky coincidences occurs. A small character in the movie, Gail served as an ice cream truck driver who, adding to Paul’s already disastrous night, mistakes him for the neighborhood burglar.
7 Glenn Martin DDS
O’Hara played the mother Jackie Martin on the 2009 Nick at Nite program Glenn Martin DDS. The stop-motion animated adult sitcom only aired for two seasons, but still managed to pull in enough of an audience to make it to 40 episodes. The show centered on Glenn Martin, a loving father and dentist who, along with his wife and children, embarks on a cross-country road trip for “family time,” to everyone’s dismey, especially Jackie, a mother who is stressed about having to raise her kids in an RV.
One of O’Hara’s earliest roles was on Second City Television, a sketch comedy series that ran from 1976 to 1981. When she began comedy, O’Hara was part of The Second City, a Canadian improv group. Years later, they created their own television program in which O’Hara was one of the lead actors. Martin Short and Eugene Levy were among the many who also got their career-start on the program. O’Hara played various roles, but some of her work included impressions of Lucille Ball, Brooke Shields, and Tammy Faye Bakker. When comedian Ann Risley left Saturday Night Live, O’Hara was given a chance to become a regular on the late night variety show, and though she turned them down to stay with SCTV, she wound up making three appearances in the 80s and 90s.
5 A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket’s children’s book series A Series of Unfortunate Events was adapted two times: once for a 2004 film distributed by Paramount and again for a 2017 Netflix show. Of the many actors in the two different adaptations, O’Hara was the one who starred in both. In 2004, she played Justice Strauss, Count Olaf’s neighbor and a delight to the Baudelaire children. Actress Joan Cusack took on this character for the Netflix program, but O’Hara was still given another part — this time, she was more of a villain. She played Dr. Georgina Orwell, an optometrist who, like Count Olaf, wanted to steal the Baudelaire fortune.
4 The Nightmare Before Christmas
In Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, O’Hara played Sally, a Frankenstein-like rag doll who is eager to escape from the clutches of her creator Dr. Finklestein. Meanwhile, Sally is in love with Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, voiced by Chris Sarandon, and the two eventually find a way to be together. In addition to Sally, O’Hara voiced a trick-or-treater called Shock. She also went on to voice roles in Burton’s 2012 stop-motion feature, Frankenweenie.
“Day-O” will always go down in history as a popular Jamaican folk song, but post-1988, it’s hard not to associate it with the dinner scene in Beetlejuice, led by O’Hara. When a possessed Delia spontaneously belts out the tune of The Banana Boat Song, the other guests think she’s crazy. That is, until they unwillingly join in with her. In this Tim Burton classic, O’Hara played the aforementioned Delia Deetz, an overdramatic artist who, along with her husband and stepdaughter, moves into a home crawling with ghosts. While the ghosts in question, Adam and Barbara Maitland, want nothing more than to rid the Deetz’s of their home, Delia dramatically desires to gut out the house and make it her own (or she’ll go insane, and she’ll take you with her).
2 Home Alone
One of O’Hara’s most prominent roles was Kate McCallister, the mother in the original Home Alone movies. In Home Alone, Kate realizes a parent’s worst nightmare: she left her rambunctious, mischievous, albeit good-hearted, son at home while on family vacation. While she was in full-on panic mode, the child seemed rather content living it up in solitude, and later essentially torturing attempted burglars. The sound of the frightened mother yelling “Kevin!” would later lead not only to a Chase Bank Christmas ad featuring Kevin Hart, but also a recreation of the famous fainting scene by O’Hara herself.
1 Schitt’s Creek
The spoiled, eccentric, wig-wearing former soap opera star Moira Rose was played by O’Hara from 2015 to 2020 in Schitt’s Creek. After losing her fortune, Moira and her family attempt to rebuild their lives in a decrepit motel in the eponymous small town of Schitt’s Creek. But going from riches to rags proves to be a difficult task for these former millionaires. The role of Moira earned O’Hara a long list of nominations and wins including an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
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