Catherine O’Hara’s Most Memorable Roles Ranked

Catherine O'Hara
CBC / Everett Collection
CBC / Everett Collection

Since her start in the entertainment industry at age 20, Catherine O’Hara has worn many hats over the course of her career in entertainment, from comedy to writing to acting. She’s arguably best known for her iconic character work, creating voices and personas that are out of this world but also somehow completely believable.

Since 1974, the Canadian-American artist has been performing for an audience, originally getting her start in improv comedy. Years later as she came up alongside other comedy stars like John Candy and Eugene Levy, O’Hara’s career has expanded not just beyond comedy, but beyond live-action content itself, having voiced characters in animation and stop-motion films and television shows.

From her work with iconic comedians like Martin Short and Dan Aykroyd to famous directors like Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese, here are O’Hara’s best roles, ranked.

9. Dr. Georgina Orwell in A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)

Catherine O'Hara A Series of Unfortunate Events

Everett Collection

Adapted from Lemony Snicket’s children’s book series of the same name, this Netflix television series features O’Hara as the infamous villain Dr. Georgina Orwell, an optometrist who wants to steal the fortune from three unfortunate orphan siblings. However, this wasn’t the first time this story was brought to the screen, nor was it the first time O’Hara played a role in this world. In 2004, Paramount distributed a film version of the series, featuring O’Hara as Justice Strauss, the friendly neighbor of the orphaned children and their evil uncle. O’Hara’s iconic character work really brought these beloved characters to life, earning her a fortunate spot in the history of this “unfortunate” series.

8. Gail in After Hours (1985)

After Hours screengrab

Warner Bros./Screengrab

In this dark comedy by Martin Scorsese, O’Hara plays the colorful character of an ice cream truck driver who mistakes the protagonist for a burglar and leads an angry mob to hunt him down. The film follows the lead as he navigates a series of misadventures as he simply tries to get home one night in New York City. O’Hara’s comedic timing and ability to bring any character to a new level really shines in this film – after all who hasn’t mistaken a stranger on the street for a burglar?

7. SCTV (1976)

SCTV Catherine O'Hara

Everett Collection

O’Hara’s earliest gig on this list, Second City Television was a sketch comedy show that developed from an improv group at the same comedy center, showcasing the early careers of other prominent comedians like Martin Short and Eugene Levy. As is traditional in any sketch show, O’Hara played a variety of roles, including doing impressions of actors like Lucille Ball and Brooke Shields. The series continued to run until 1981, for which O’Hara would also make a few appearances on the acclaimed comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live.

6. Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas (2012)


Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Directed by Tim Burton, this stop-motion holiday horror film features O’Hara as Sally, the Frankenstein rag doll who wants to escape from the custody of her caretaker and creator Dr. Finklestein (William Hickey). She also happens to be the love interest of the main character, Jack (Chris Sarandon), a scary skeleton who believes there’s more to life than just Halloween. Sally even has her own song in the film, showing off O’Hara’s singing chops as well as her voice acting.

5. Delia Deetz in Beetlejuice (1989)

Beetlejuice Catherine O'Hara

Everett Collection

Another one of the several Burton films O’Hara has appeared in, Beetlejuice follows a conniving ghost who helps a dead couple scare the new inhabitants of their recently vacated home. O’Hara plays the posh sculptor and mother of the family that unknowingly moves into the haunted house, showcasing her arch upper-class accent and genre-less comedic timing. She will reprise her role in the sequel coming out later this year.

4. Kate McCallister in Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone Catherine O'Hara

Everett Collection

In this family classic, O’Hara plays the mother of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), the 8-year-old who comically gets left behind by his entire family when they head out for their Christmas in Paris. When Kevin wakes up to an empty house, he couldn’t be more thrilled. But when Kate realizes her youngest is missing, O’Hara perfectly plays up the chaos a mother would feel while on an international trip thousands of miles away from one of your children while still managing the ones that did make the trip. Plus, the iconic “Kevin!” scream? Immediate holiday classic.

3. Cookie Fleck in Best In Show (2000)

Best In Show Catherine O'Hara Eugene Levy

Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

Starring alongside her future co-star Eugene Levy, O’Hara and Levy play dog owners Cookie and Gerry Fleck who are competing in a local dog show where a series of mishaps highlight the electric comedy between these two actors as well as the ridiculous lengths dog owners are willing to go for their furry friends. Directed by Christopher Guest and shot in mockumentary style, this comedy is a perfect watch for fans of Schitt’s Creek who adore these two comedian’s chemistry just as much as we do.

2. Mickey Crabbe in A Mighty Wind (2003)

A Mighty Wind Catherine O'Hara Eugene Levy

Warner Brothers / Everett Collection

In her third film with Christopher Guest and also starring alongside Levy, O’Hara stars in  A Mighty Wind, a mockumentary following the live reunion of three folk bands. She and Levy play a divorced couple who are forced to reunite for the show as a formerly famous folk duo. The opportunity for laughs and great character work, if you can imagine, are off the charts.

1. Moira Rose in Schitt’s Creek (2015)

Schitt's Creek Catherine O'Hara Eugene Levy

CBC/POP / Everett Collection

Arguably O’Hara’s most iconic comedic character, Moira Rose is the spoiled former soap opera star who becomes a long-term hotel guest after her business manager embezzles her fortune. Moira and her family struggle with their riches-to-rags plot twist, and as former millionaires now slumming it in a small town’s decrepit motel, it is not a pretty sight. This role earned O’Hara several nominations and awards including an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy. She stars alongside Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, and Annie Murphy, and she has never shined brighter or made us laugh harder.

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