America Ferrera’s 10 Best Performances, Ranked

Summary

  • Ferrera’s career has flourished since her debut, with a portfolio of work ranging from drama to comedy.
  • She has garnered numerous awards, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe, particularly for her work on “Ugly Betty.”
  • Ferrera’s recent Academy Award nomination for “Barbie” showcases her talent and solidifies her as one of the funniest and most dynamic performers working today.


America Ferrera is an American actress, producer, and director. Making her debut as Ana in Real Girls Have Curves in 2002, Ferrera’s career has flourished ever since. Making appearances in Disney Original films before making headlines as Carmen in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Ferrera has built up a nice portfolio of work, ranging from drama to comedy.

Ferrera has garnered a number of awards over the years, including an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, particularly for her work on the 2000s TV series Ugly Betty. Since then, she has been associated with the popular television series Superstore and a voice in the popular animated film franchise How To Train Your Dragon. Ferrera recently received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. For over two decades, Ferrera has established herself as one of the funniest and most dynamic performers working today. Here are the recent Oscar nominee’s best performances, ranked.

Update January 30, 2024: Following Ferrera’s recent Academy Award nomination for Barbie, this article has been updated with even more great performances across her career and where you can stream each title.


10 Our Family Wedding – Lucia Ramirez

Our Family Wedding
Searchlight Pictures

Ferrera stars as the blushing bride in Our Family Wedding alongside Lance Gross, Regina King, and Forest Whitaker in this feel-good film from 2010. After returning from college, Lucia (Ferrera) and Marcus (Gross) announce their engagement to their family, leading to a lot of thrills. As much as Lucia and Marcus look forward to planning their wedding, they soon come to realize that the wedding is not just theirs, but their families as well. When the soon-to-be in-laws butt heads about the finer details of the wedding, the happy couple worries that their special day may end up being more about competition between the families than the celebration of love.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

The film is a funny and heartfelt attempt at making people understand the problems that come with an interracial marriage. Ferrera is one of the greatest parts of the film as she plays the part of the excited yet terrified bride perfectly. Lucia’s attempts at getting the two families to see eye to eye while the culture clashes and the two family patriarchs’ butting heads threaten to ruin everything. While some of the comedy has not aged well, it is still a great showcase for Ferrera and also is a another strong entry from director Rick Famuyiwa, whose films often deal with race. Stream on Max

Related: Superstore: What a Spin-Off Series Could Look Like

9 WeCrashed – Felicia Kennedy

America Ferrera as Felicia Kennedy in WeCrashed
Apple TV

Based on the podcast named WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork, WeCrashed is a miniseries that tells the story of Adam and Rebekah Neumann, whose coworking space company WeWork crashed as a result of some financial revelations. Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway played the characters of Adam and Rebekah, while Ferrera’s character was Elicia Kennedy.

Why She’s Great in the Series

While America Ferrera’s Elicia Kennedy was a fictional character, she was based on the real-life founder of SoulCycle, Julie Rice. Rice was a big part of WeWork before leaving the company. Ferrera’s Elicia was not a huge part of the series, but she still managed to put up a great performance even within that little screen time, showcasing why she is still such an in-demand star and that despite being known for sitcoms like Ugly Betty and Superstore could still work in a dramatic series. Stream on Apple TV

WeCrashed

WeCrashed

The greed-filled rise and inevitable fall of WeWork, one of the world’s most valuable startups, and the narcissists whose chaotic love made it all possible. Starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway.

Release Date
March 18, 2022

8 End of Watch – Officer Orozoco

america-ferrera-end-of-watch-1
StudioCanal

End of Watch follows LAPD partners Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) who patrol one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in L.A. The film follows the pair on a regular day for them, involving both laughter and danger, as the partners must stay on their guard at all times. Ferrera plays the role of Officer Orozoco, a co-worker of Taylor and Zavala.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

End of Watch has been subject to a great deal of praise and has even been nominated for a number of accolades, including two Independent Spirit Awards. According to Deadline, the story of the film has even been green-lit for a TV series adaptation, with development having begun at Fox. And even though Ferrera is not the star of the film, she helps add to the richness of the supporting cast. The project came along at an interesting time in her career as Ugly Betty had ended, and she was trying to show that she was more than just her iconic television character. Rent on Apple TV

7 Under the Same Moon – Martha

America-Ferrera-under-the-same-moon
Ligiah Villalobos

A Mexican-American film in both Spanish and English, Under the Same Moon, tells the story of Rosario (Kate del Castillo), a single mother who leaves her son Carlitos in the care of his grandmother in order to illegally cross the border into the U.S. for a better life. When Carlitos’ grandmother passes away, Carlitos sets off on a mission to join his mother in the U.S. so he can be with what remains of the family that truly cares about him.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

In this film, Ferrera plays the role of Martha, and while her role is a small one, it is still worth mentioning as one of her greatest performances in a film so poignant. Ferrera, at the time, was one of the film’s bigger stars and blended a certain amount of star power to the film. The story about a love between a mother and her son that transcends borders has won the hearts of many. The film is the debut feature of Patricia Riggen, who went on to direct the popular Disney Channel Original movie Lemonade Mouth and the acclaimed films Girl in Progress and The 33. Stream on DirecTV

6 How to Train Your Dragon Franchise – Astrid Haddock

America Ferrera as Astrid in How to Train Your Dragon
DreamWorks Animation

Set in the fictional town of Berk, the plot follows the adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his oddball group of friends, including Snotlout, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, Fishlegs, and Astrid. From his journey to understanding that dragons can indeed be tamed in the first How to Train Your Dragon film to the developing relationship between Hiccup and Astrid, as seen in the second and third films, the franchise is highly praised as entertainment for the whole family to enjoy.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

Voicing one of the toughest Vikings with the potential to become a fierce warrior, Astrid, Ferrera manages to bring the character to life through the series of films. The fearlessness that Astrid exudes is mostly due to Ferrera’s fantastic performance. With this performance, Ferrera has proved that not only is she a great actress on screen but also a great voice actress and showed her commitment to the role as she not only voiced the character in the three theatrical films but also the animated series DreamWorks Dragons which ran for eight seasons. Rent all movies on Apple TV

Related: How to Train Your Dragon: What to Expect From the Live-Action Adaptation

5 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Franchise – Carmen Lowell

america-ferrera-the-sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants
Alcon Entertainment

Based on the novels under the same name, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants tells the story of teenagers Bridget (Blake Lively), Carmen (Ferrera), Lena (Alexis Bledel), and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) who have been inseparable since birth. When the girls finally go their separate ways for the summer, they discover a pair of jeans that magically and perfectly fits every girl, despite very different body types. The pants keep the girls bonded even through the toughest of times.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

While Ferrera had already broken out with Real Women Have Curves, it was The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants that introduced her to a wider audience and put her on many people’s radar as a star to watch. Carmen, who lives with her mother, goes to her father’s house for the summer and is surprised to see that he has already started a new family there. The heartbreak upon seeing him happy with his new wife and children makes Carmen jealous. Ferrera did a phenomenal job of bringing Carmen, a girl with a broken family trying to find solace in her three best friends, on-screen perfectly. Rent both films on Apple TV

4 Real Women Have Curves – Ana Garcia

Real Women Have Curves America Ferrara as Ana
Newmarket Films

One of Ferrera’s most remembered roles is as Ana García in Real Women Have Curves. The film follows her passage through womanhood as a young first-generation Mexican-American woman who wants to go to college while her family believes she should stay home and provide for her family. To satisfy both their needs, Ana works with her mom at a sewing factory over the summer to help her learn the realities of life before making a decision.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

This was Ferrera’s debut film, and she was praised for her fantastic performance in the movie. The coming-of-age drama portrayed her as an 18-year-old who butts her head with her mother. Her mother comments a lot on Ana’s weight and her career choices. But the film gives the audience a great portrayal of women and the generational difference that often causes a rift between mothers and daughters. Ferrera earned a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance and it was her breakout role that set her down the path for an exciting career audiences are still enjoying to this day. Stream on Max and DirecTV

3 Superstore – Amy Sosa

America Ferrera as Amy Sosa in Superstore
NBC

Superstore follows a group of employees at the fictional megastore Cloud 9 as they deal with bargain hunters and boring training sessions. Running from 2015 to 2021, Superstore received generally positive reviews for being an underrated, light-hearted sitcom that is a must-watch for anyone looking for a few good laughs. Ferrera plays the role of Amy, a store manager who runs Cloud 9 to the best of her ability. Amy always wears a different name tag at work because she doesn’t like strangers using her real name.

Why She’s Great in the Series

It is rare for a star to be the lead of two popular series, as oftentimes audiences have trouble not seeing the actor in their most iconic role, so while Ferrera’s role on Superstore was welcomed by many, there were also questions on if it could go beyond the shadow of Ugly Betty. Luckily Ferrera quickly established that she was more than Ugly Betty. Her portrayal of a single mother who is struggling to keep her family afloat with this job while also dealing with problems in the workplace really touches our hearts. Ferrera’s performance earned her a Gracie Award for Actress in a Leading Role – Comedy or Musical. She left the series in the second episode of the final season but returned for the final three episodes. Stream on Hulu and Peacock

2 Ugly Betty – Betty Suarez

america-ferrera-ugly-betty-show
ABC

Ferrera plays the titular character of ambitious writer Betty Suarez in Ugly Betty. Betty is a plain girl from Queens whose only dream is to become a writer. Betty’s life takes a turn for the better when she gets hired as an assistant to the head of Mode magazine, Daniel (Eric Mabius). While the main reason for Betty getting the job was to prevent Daniel from sleeping with her, the job opens up new opportunities for Betty and the series features plenty of commentary on the fashion world, style, and self image.

Why She’s Great in the Series

Though Ugly Betty struggled with ratings and finding a concrete audience, it gained a passionate cult following. America Ferrera and her character, Betty Suarez, were undoubtedly the best thing about this series. This is also an ode to women, much like many of her other roles that put strong women at the forefront. Ferrera earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Ugly Betty. The series also won Best Comedy Series in 2006, and the title “Ugly Betty” became part of the pop culture lexicon and has endured as a timeless television classic. Stream on Netflix and Hulu

ugly betty

ugly betty

Release Date
September 28, 2006

Cast
America Ferrera , Eric Mabius , Tony Plana , Mark Indelicato , Ana Ortiz , Daniel Eric Gold , Judith Light , Michael Urie

Seasons
4

1 Barbie – Gloria

America Ferrera
Mattel

The 2023 Oscar-nominated blockbuster Barbie tells the story of Barbie Land and its many Barbies and Kens. Things start to go awry as the traditional Barbie (Margot Robbie) begins to experience things like flat feet, cellulite, and thoughts of death that nobody from Barbieland is supposed to have. She embarks upon a journey towards the real world with Ken (Ryan Gosling) to find the solution to her problem before it’s too late. America Ferrera plays the character of Gloria, who is an employee of Mattel. She turns out to be the owner of Barbie’s equivalent in the real world, and her depressing thoughts about her own life are being reflected on Barbie back in Barbie Land.

Why She’s Great in the Movie

Ferrera did an amazing job with her character as a mother and an employee who finally breaks out of her chains to experience new things and help Barbie. Her iconic monologue, talking about the struggles of being a woman, became instantly iconic after the film’s release. While she might have been known for years as a television star, Barbie put Ferrera back in the movie spotlight as Barbie became the highest-grossing film of 2023 worldwide with $1.4 billion. The film landed Ferrera her first-ever Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and she certainly deserved it and earned it. While Ugly Betty might be her most iconic role, there is no doubt that Gloria in Barbie is her best. Stream on Max

Barbie

Barbie

Release Date
July 21, 2023

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