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Natasha Lyonne's Best Movies and TV Shows, Ranked by Metacritic

She's come a long way from 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' days! Discover Natasha Lyonne's best movies and TV shows, ranked by Metascore.

Danielle Turchiano
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Natasha Lyonne

Lisa O'Connor / Getty Images

Natasha Lyonne got her professional acting start when she was just a child in the late 1980s, appearing uncredited in the feature film Heartburn and as Opal on the television series Pee-wee's Playhouse, clips of which are often passed around the internet today.

But she has come a long way since then, not only expanding into acting in franchises from American Pie to Scary Movie and also taking lead roles in everything from Orange is the New Black to the upcoming Poker Face, but also stepping behind the scenes to write, produce, direct and create projects of her own.

Lyonne started flexing her producing power in 1999 with Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby, and from there she went to produce pilots, Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine comedy special, the documentary titled Sirens, and Russian Doll for Netflix, which she also co-created and stars in.

She dipped her toe into the directing world in 2019, helming an episode of Orange is the New Black, a series on which she also starred, before taking on episodes of Shrill, Awkwafina is Nora From Queens, High Fidelity, Cooper's special, and Russian Doll. And she teamed up with Maya Rudolph to launch a production company, Animal Pictures, to continue to create content.

Through it all, Lyonne has become best known for a sarcastic, biting wit, which lends itself well to sharp comedy across screens big and small, and to infusing humor into more genre-centric stories.

Here, Metacritic highlights the best movies and TV shows Lyonne has acted in, ranked by Metascore.


Uncut Gems

Metascore: 91
Best for: Fans of crime thrillers
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix,
Runtime: 135 minutes

The Safdie brothers' 2019 film follows a jeweler and gambling addict (played by Adam Sandler) who makes a high-stakes bet that, if successful, will eliminate his money woes, as he already owes six figures in debt. But of course there are no guarantees in gambling, and this particular bet is extremely risky because it involves a smuggled opal, pawning a NBA Championship ring, and a stop on the bet because of the amount he previously owed. The tension is also increased by him trying to juggle his family life with both his legitimate business and this attempt at a side hustle. Lyonne only has a voice cameo in the film, playing a member of the Boston Celtics' staff.

"A monumental thriller, which vividly captures its world's specifics and calibrates its snaky plot for maximum nail-bitability." — Nick De Semlyen, Empire


The Simpsons

Metascore: 87
Best for: Fans of family sitcoms and animation, particularly ones that take on pop culture homages
Where to watch: 

, , fuboTV, Google Play, , iTunes,
Seasons: 33 (so far)

Matt Groening's animated sitcom about a working-class family in the fictional setting of Springfield originally started as sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show but turned into a full-fledged series of its own in the late 1980s. Now, it has been running for more than three decades, following the adventures of Homer (Dan Castellaneta), Marge (Julie Kavner), Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), Maggie (She still doesn't talk), as well as some special recurring townspeople as they juggle every day life with movie, television, and current-event homages, especially of the horror variety. (The annual "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episodes have become a staple.) Lyonne lends her voice to Sophie Krustofsky, Krusty the Clown's daughter, in a handful of episodes starting in Season 28.

"This is one of the sharpest, most purely pleasurable television series ever." — Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly


Big Mouth

Metascore: 86
Best for: Fans of coming-of-age comedies that lean hard on lessons about puberty
Where to watch: Netflix
Seasons: 5 (so far)

This animated comedy follows a group of tweens as they adjust to growing up, including parental divorce, new siblings, menstruation, depression, masturbation, and exploring sexual identities. Nick Birch (Nick Kroll) and Andrew Glouberman (John Mulaney) are at the center of the story as two best friends who also contend with hormone monsters, but they are far from the only characters who have creatures guiding their coming of age. Lyonne voices Suzette, one of Jay's (Jason Mantzoukas) pillows, with which he is in a polyamorous relationship.

"It continues to vividly remind its audience what it was like to be 13, but might inspire us to continue grow a little bit along with them." — Ashlie D. Stevens, Salon


Russian Doll

Metascore: 84
Best for: Fans of metaphysical comedies and musings on the meaning of life
Where to watch: Netflix
Seasons: 2 (so far)

Lyonne pulls multiple duty on this trippy streaming comedy, as she co-created it and also writes, executive produces, directs, and stars in it as Nadia, a protagonist who keeps having surreal experiences. In the first season, Nadia gets caught in a time loop, wherein she is forced to relive the same night over and over, always leading to her death. In the second season, she finds a portal through time via a Manhattan train and is able to experience what her mother, and even ancestors before her, experienced. In both seasons, connection and working through trauma is key not only for her character, but also Charlie Barnett's Alan, a man Nadia meets in the first season who also is inexplicably trapped in a loop and later can also travel back in time to live as a relative. 

"Season 2 offers a more conventionally enjoyable (and more surreal) yarn, hopping decades, continents and bodies. It's messier than its predecessor but less insular and claustrophobic, too." — Inkoo Kang, The Washington Post


Ad Astra

Metascore: 80
Best for: Fans of space journeys
Where to watch: 

, fuboTViTunes,
Runtime: 123 minutes

James Gray writes and directs this 2019 film that centers on astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), the son of another astronaut (played by Tommy Lee Jones) who disappeared on a mission in space three decades prior. In searching for answers about what happened to his father and why, Roy has to take on a space mission of his own, but he also has to face a mysterious energy event that puts the future of the universe at stake. Lyonne plays a space customs officer named Tanya who Roy meets after his ship arrives on Mars.

"Though principally a meditative experience, Ad Astra also makes room for some superb suspense sequences, resulting in a thought-provoking film with life-or-death stakes." — Tim Grierson, Screen Daily


Girls

Metascore: 80
Best for: Fans of 
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes,
Seasons: 6

Lena Dunham draws from her real-life experience as a 20-something trying to make it as a writer in New York City with a close knit group of female friends, who get involved in complicated romantic relationships and constantly make mistakes as they try to prove they are "real" adults, for this HBO comedy. Primarily aound her in the ensemble are Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet, Jemima Kirke, Adam Driver, and Alex Karpovsky. Lyonne guest-stars in the Season 4 premiere episode titled "Iowa" as Rickey, a woman not much older than these other characters who muses on the differences between her generation and theirs.

"Girls may not be something you ever want to see if you're not a 20-something-year-old woman living on the edge of disaster at all times. But if it is — and you are, too — you'll be happy to know that it still raw." — Linda Stasi, New York Post


Orange Is the New Black

Metascore: 80
Best for: Fans of female-focused ensembles and underrepresented stories finally being heard
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix
Seasons: 7

Based on Piper Kerman's 2010 nonfiction book of the same name, this Netflix original pulls back the curtain on life in a women's prison. Piper (played here by Taylor Schilling) is the entry point to the world, as an upper-middle class WASP who gets sent to Litchfield Correctional Institution for drug crimes she committed with a girlfriend (played by Laura Prepon) years earlier. But the show is actually an ensemble that allows each of its main characters to have their stories told, both through present-day scenes spotlighting their struggles and relationships in prison, as well as flashbacks to their lives before, illuminating what landed them there in the first place. Lyonne plays Nicky Nichols, whose addiction led to robbery, which got her arrested. The show also stars Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Laverne Cox, Selenis Leyva, Taryn Manning, Kate Mulgrew, Dascha Polanco, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Samira Wiley, and more.

"Orange Is the New Black has introduced a multitude of characters we don't usually see on television and given them complicated and intimate relationships that speak volumes about issues not contained to prison's impenetrable walls." — Bethonie Butler, The Washington Post


Documentary Now!

Metascore: 79
Best for: Fans of mockumentaries 
Where to watch: 

, fuboTV, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix
Seasons: 3 (so far)

Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas created this mockumentary anthology series that treats each episode like its own documentary. Helen Mirren hosts a fiction documentary series within the series, starting each episode as the host who leads you into the story you are about to watch, and then those stories range from investigations into wrongfully-convicted criminals, to deep dives into fictional Hollywood icons, to following a local sports league. While the stories they tell are fictional, the themes and personality types are very recognizable. Lyonne appears in the third season episode titled "Long Gone," which profiles an eccentric musician.

"Documentary Now! is made with love and care and will be a delight for Criterion Collection devotees and Hader and Armisen's fans, but the material may be too rich to appeal to wider audiences." — Bernard Boo, We Got You Covered


Portlandia

Metascore: 76
Best for: Fans of sketch comedy
Where to watch: 

, fuboTVGoogle Play, iTunes
Seasons: 8

Armisen and Carrie Brownstein co-created (along with Jonathan Krisel) and star in this sketch-comedy series that sends up colorful Portland resident types, including memorable such recurring characters as the mayor (played by Kyle MacLachlan), and Armisen and Brownstein's own familiar faces, from Candace Devereaux and Toni Rose, the owners of a feminist bookstore, to Spyke and Iris, a hipster couple always looking to jump on the latest bandwagon (as long as it is authentic); Dave and Kath, an outdoorsy couple whose energy is always at an 11; and Fred and Carrie, versions of the actors who live together. Lyonne appears as various characters throughout the latter half of the show's run, starting in the fifth season episode titled "Seaworld."

"Bellyachingly funny." — Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal


Corporate

Metascore: 75
Best for: Anyone who has been stuck in a dead-end corporate gig
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes, ,
Seasons: 3

Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman play fictional characters named Matt and Jake, respectively, in this satire about employees stuck in a rut at their jobs. They also co-created the series along with Pat Bishop. Both Matt and Jake are junior executives, but while the word "executive" may read well on paper, it does nothing to create excitement in their lives. Their office is the typical flat corporate environment in setting, which turns Matt's optimism into depression the minute he steps inside and feeds Jake's innate cynical nature. The show follows them at work, as they don't have much going on personally either, as they just try to get through their days, often dealing with annoying work events, such as a corporate retreat in the first season. It is there that Lyonne pops up in a guest-starring role.

"Darkly funny and clever in its skewering of the modern workplace, Corporate offers a welcome release valve for any corporate drones who tune in." — Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Will & Grace

Metascore: 75
Best for: Fans of
Where to watch: 

, Google Play, iTunes,
Seasons: 11

Will & Grace centers on the friendship between besties and roommates Will Truman (Eric McCormack) and Grace Adler (Debra Messing) and their slightly extended circle of Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) as they live, work, and date in New York. Will and Jack are gay, and seeing them date other men openly on the show was a huge step for representation and inclusion in the sitcom world at the time, while Grace is perpetually single and Karen is a married to a wealthy man who is never shown on screen. The show originally aired for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006 but then was revived in 2017 for three more seasons. Lyonne appeared during the original run of the show, in the third season episode titled "Girl Trouble," playing Gillian, an intern Grace hires who ends up modeling herself after Karen. 

"The bawdy asides sound witty rather than smutty, and the show has been shrewdly assembled." — Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel