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The Best Thing These 26 Great SNL Actors Have Starred In Outside Of The Show

Beyond Studio 8H.

In its several decades on air, Saturday Night Live has made icons out of many of its cast members. For some — including some of SNL’s one-season wonders — you might argue that the sketch comedy series is the peak of their careers, until you remember the acclaimed and widely beloved movies and TV shows they would go on to star in. Take a look at our picks for the finest work some of our favorite SNL stars have put out beyond their time at Studio 8H.

(Universal)
Eddie Murphy (Coming To America)

48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop made him a movie star, but Coming to America might be the absolute best Eddie Murphy movie, especially as the first to show just how far the comic’s extraordinary talents extend. He gives his most heartfelt performance as an African prince searching for love in New York City, but that is far from his only role in this dazzling romantic-com from 1988.

(Paramount Pictures)
Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids)

Along with her writing partner, Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig joined the club of Oscar-nominated SNL stars for penning this 2011 instant classic comedy. She also transcends what made her a Studio 8H all-star by leading the Bridesmaids cast with her most down-to-earth performance yet as a baker suffering an existential crisis after her best friend (played by Maya Rudolph) gets engaged.

(Universal)
Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)

Some argue that an SNL star who should have been nominated for an Oscar is Adam Sandler for his performance in one of the best A24 movies, Uncut Gems. If self-destructive jeweler Howard Rattner had been played by anyone else but the guy behind “The Hanukkah Song” and movies like Happy Gilmore, it might have been tough to root for the protagonist of Josh and Benny Safdie’s anxiety-fueled, 2019 crime drama.

(A24)
Kate McKinnon (Barbie)

After previously working with Margot Robbie in Bombshell and making the A-lister laugh uncontrollably in an SNL sketch, Kate McKinnon reunited with the Australian actor in the Barbie cast in 2023. The Emmy-winner is perfect as “Weird Barbie” — now a real doll in Mattel’s catalog — in co-writer and director Greta Gerwig’s cleverly satirical and surprisingly moving blockbuster based on the legendary toy.

(Warner Brothers)
Will Ferrell (Stranger Than Fiction)

We love Will Ferrell in funny movies like Elf and Talladega Nights, but never has he given a performance as tender, reserved, and relatable as his Golden Globe-nominated role in Stranger Than Fiction. That is only one reason director Marc Forster’s inventive 2006 dramedy is his best movie in our eyes.

(Columbia Pictures)
Molly Shannon (Wet Hot American Summer)

The Wet Hot American Summer cast is full of actors who went on to become superstars, but one of the biggest names among that ensemble at the time was SNL great Molly Shannon. She stars in the 2001 cult-favorite summer comedy classic as camp counselor Gail, who seeks consolation for her second divorce from surprisingly mature adolescent campers.

(USA Films)
Bill Murray (Lost In Translation)

To this day, many believe that Bill Murray should have won the Academy Award for his performance in one of the best movies of the 2000s, Lost in Translation. Also one of the best movies produced by Focus Features, he stars in writer and director Sofia Coppola’s Oscar-winning sophomore effort as a disillusioned actor who strikes up a unique bond with a young woman (played by Scarlett Johansson) who is also struggling to navigate her life after meeting in Japan. 

(Focus Features)
Tina Fey (Mean Girls)

From her time on SNL as a cast member and head writer to her development of beloved comedies like 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey has had one of the most impressive careers in comedy, let alone show business in general. However, her one credit that has best stood the test of time is her sharply satirical high school movie, Mean Girls, which she adapted from Rosalind Wiseman’s book and also stars in as Ms. Norbury.

(Paramount Pictures)
Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers)

Dan Aykroyd may have a Best Picture Oscar winner under his belt (Driving Miss Daisy, for which he also received an acting nomination) and also wrote and starred in one of the beloved Ghostbusters. However, the movie that he will always be best known for is 1980’s The Blues Brothers, which is arguably the all-time best movie based on SNL characters (Ayrkoyd and John Belushi’s brotherly musicians, Jake and Elwood Blues) and one of the most important movies set in Chicago as well.

(Universal)
Gilda Radner (Haunted Honeymoon)

Highlights of Gilda Radner’s post-SNL career included sharing the screen with her husband, Gene Wilder, such as 1986’s Haunted Honeymoon, in which they play a couple staying in a spooky house to cure the groom’s anxieties. Unfortunately, the fun horror-comedy movie would also be her final film before she passed away in 1989.

(Orion)
Chevy Chase (Community)

After making a huge impact in so little time on SNL (not even two full seasons), Chevy Chase had a memorable film career (especially with National Lampoon’s Vacation movies), but it was his return to the small screen in the late 2000s that really had us especially impressed. He starred in the Community cast as Pierce Hawthorne — one of many Greendale Community College students experiencing often strange circumstances and meta pop-culture references in creator Dan Harmon’s inventive sitcom.

(Sony Pictures Television)
Chris Farley (Tommy Boy)

Perhaps the most influential ‘90s SNL actor was the late Chris Farley, whose one-in-a-million, energetic comedic talent made him a legend. He also made an impeccable team with fellow SNL actor David Spade in the hilarious road trip comedy, and one of the funniest and most iconic movies of the ‘90s, Tommy Boy.

(Paramount Pictures)
Jimmy Fallon (Almost Famous)

Jimmy Fallon has had a stellar career, from his memorable SNL stint to hosting The Tonight Show, but most of his movies did not quite have the same impact — save his Oscar-winning feature-length debut in 2000. Fallon starred in writer and director Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous cast as the touring manager for Stillwater, Dennis Hope.

(DreamWorks)
Amy Poehler (Inside Out)

Amy Poehler is the kind of performer who brings a sense of joy to everything she does, from her SNL days to the Parks and Recreation cast as Leslie Knope. Thus, it only makes sense that she would star as the personification of “Joy” in one of Pixar’s best movies: 2015’s Inside Out.

(Pixar Animation)
Will Forte (Nebraska)

We all know and love the masterfully goofy Will Forte from the “MacGruber” sketches and as the star and creator of a show canceled too soon called The Last Man on Earth, but 2013’s Nebraska showed a rare side of the actor we cherished seeing. He gives a somber, yet beautifully endearing, performance in director Alexander Payne’s Oscar-nominated drama as a man accompanying his estranged father (played by Bruce Dern) on a trip to collect a supposed million-dollar prize.

(Paramount)
Maya Rudolph (The Way Way Back)

Maya Rudolph’s career outside SNL has been nothing short of impressive, but we were most impressed by her work in 2013’s The Way Way Back. From the Oscar-winning writing duo behind The Descendants (Nat Faxon and Jim Rash), this winning dramedy features Rudolph as Caitlin, a manager at a water park where teen protagonist Duncan (Liam James) works to escape a miserable summer at his mother’s boyfriend’s house.

(Searchlight Pictures)
Bill Hader (Barry)

Bill Hader never failed to surprise audiences with his impeccable impersonations and excellent commitment to character on SNL, but he surprised us in other ways with his first major small-screen follow-up. He played the title role of HBO’s Barry cast (in addition to co-creating the very dark comedy series), who is a hitman trying to reinvent himself as an actor.

(HBO)
Cecily Strong (Schmigadoon!)

One of the greatest surprises of John Mulaney’s SNL musical sketches was Cecily Strong’s smashing singing voice. It would also come in handy when she and Keegan-Michael Key led AppleTV+’s Schmigadoon! cast as a couple trapped in a world that looks and sounds like a lavish musical production.

(Apple TV+)
Chris Rock (Nurse Betty)

In 2000, Chris Rock teamed up with Morgan Freeman as hitmen searching for a delusional widow (played by Renée Zellweger) convinced she is engaged to a soap opera character in director Neil LaBute’s sharp, quirky dramedy, Nurse Betty. We will, however, give an honorable mention for one of the best sitcoms starring an SNL vet, Everybody Hates Chris, which the comedian created and narrated.

(Universal)
Jane Curtin (3rd Rock From The Sun)

Years after playing an alien in, arguably, her single funniest SNL sketch (“The Coneheads”), Jane Curtin played one of the few human series regulars on a series also about otherworldly visitors trying to blend in. The former “Weekend Update” anchor starred on NBC’s hit sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun as Dr. Mary Albright, a colleague, and later fiancée, of Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) at Pendleton State University.

(NBC)
Andy Samberg (Palm Springs)

There is only so much that we are actually willing to reveal about our pick for Andy Samberg’s best effort outside of SNL, Palm Springs, for anyone who has not seen it yet. What we will say is that the 2020 rom-com — and one of the best movies on Hulu — stars the Lonely Island member and Golden Globe-winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor and Cristin Milioti as wedding guests who become embroiled in a very strange predicament.

(Hulu)
Mike Myers (Shrek)

We love almost all of the characters Mike Myers has created or portrayed, from Wayne Campbell to Austin Powers, but picking his true all-time best work outside of Studio 8H is easy. Myers put on his best Scottish accent to voice the title role of 2001’s Shrek — the first movie to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar, for its sharp send-up of fairytale tropes and heartwarming unlikely romance.

(Dreamworks Animation)
Pete Davidson (The King Of Staten Island)

There have been some great Pete Davidson movies and TV shows over the years, but the former SNL star’s best work might also be one of his most personal. The Bupkis cast member based The King of Staten Island (which he co-wrote with director Judd Apatow) on his own life as the son of a firefighter who tragically passed on 9/11. 

(Universal Pictures)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ time on SNL often goes forgotten, but you cannot say the same about the career she had after the show, which includes Emmy wins for shows like Veep and joining the MCU. However, she really blew up when she joined the Seinfeld cast as Elaine Benes, who was the focus of many classic and hilarious moments on the legendary sitcom.

(NBC)
Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso)

Jason Sudeikis is the kind of SNL performer who could make the Devil himself seem likable, which is why he was the perfect choice for the charming lead of the Ted Lasso cast for Apple TV+. Indeed, his Emmy-winning performance as the titular American football coach hired to manage an English football (a.k.a. soccer) team is key to its jubilant success.

(Apple TV+)
Norm Macdonald (Dirty Work)

In 1998, the same year that the late Norm Macdonald was infamously fired from SNL, the actor came out with one of his best movies, Dirty Work. Also written by Macdonald and directed by Bob Saget, the comedy about a man who literally becomes a specialist in the business of revenge has gained a cult following despite getting bad reviews in the 90s.

(MGM)

Our favorite movies and TV shows starring our favorite SNL actors outside of Studio 8H.