Betty White’s Most Popular Roles RankedPublished on May 9, 2018. Updated October 2, 2019
Betty White is a true Hollywood treasure who has been entertaining and endearing audiences for decades. Although some stars seem to step back from the spotlight as they get older, for Betty White, she just keeps the roles coming and seems to only be getting funnier and funnier. Over many years, White has starred in everything from television series to movies, not to mention game show hosting, and several appearances and guest starring roles in popular shows. Now, there is no way White could ever do a bad job, but take a look back through her incredible career with 12 of her most popular roles ranked from worst to best!
12. Rose Nylund – The Golden Palace
Rose Nylund was Betty White’s most well-known role, and it won’t be the last time it appears on the list. While White as Rose Nylund was amazing, it didn’t go over as well in The Golden Girls‘ spinoff The Golden Palace. The Golden Palace was missing an important piece without Bea Arthur as Dorothy, and as a result, the chemistry that audiences adored in The Golden Girls was missing, and even White couldn’t make the series work. After The Golden Palace was canceled after only one season, White said, “It would have been a wonderful idea for three other people, but it just didn’t work without Dorothy.”
11. Vickie Angel/Honey – Date with the Angels
Betty White began her iconic career on TV and in comedy on a few lesser-known sitcoms, including Date with the Angels. The short-lived sitcom only lasted one season and starred a thirty-something-year-old White as Vicki Angel, the wife of insurance salesman Gus Angel. The pair would lead their friends into different hilarious situations, and since it only lasted one season, it was only a brief glimpse of the comedic prowess and talent that White is able to bring to roles. While it certainly was not a bad role, it does not do her justice for being the legendary star she is now.
10. Ann Douglas – The Bold and The Beautiful
Late in her career, Betty White could pretty much do whatever she wanted, and what she wanted was to be on a soap opera. In 2006, she joined The Bold and the Beautiful as Ann Douglas and went on to appear in 23 episodes from 2006-2009. It was a strange new entry to White’s resume and, while she once again brought everything she could to the role, it was much too serious and didn’t fit her personality at all.
9. Catherine Piper – Boston Legal
As White got older, her roles on TV changed quite a bit and she spent more time doing guest appearances than leading shows, but she never failed to impress. One of her most memorable recurring roles was in The Practice and Boston Legal as Catherine Piper. White first appeared in the role on The Practice in 2004 and made three appearances before moving on to the spin-off Boston Legal. The role had the star as the feisty Piper bent on revenge against James Spader’s Alan, who ends up committing murder and other crimes while remaining lovable. It was a different and strange role from what audiences had come to expect from White but, as always, she pulled it off.
8. Elizabeth – Life with Elizabeth
Early roles are the foundation for any star’s career, so not enough credit can be given to her role as Elizabeth on Life with Elizabeth. The series started as a sketch on Hollywood on Television, but White was so well received as the energetic wife opposite Del Moore, it got taken on for its own series rather quickly. What made Betty White stand out even more was that she served as a producer on the show which was almost unheard of at that time in the entertainment industry. Life with Elizabeth only lasted from 1952-1955, but it is seen as what launched White’s career which fans are forever grateful for.
7. Ellen Harper Jackson – Mama’s Family
After appearing as Ellen Harper Jackson on The Carol Burnett Show, in one of Burnett’s favorite sketches, the entire sketch landed its very own spin-off, Mama’s Family. While Mama’s Family aired for six seasons from 1983-1990, White only guest starred through 15 episodes as Ellen Harper Jackson from 1983-1986. While she wasn’t the star of the show, she was certainly beloved and fans always anticipated her next appearance because of what she brought to the show. The best part about her role on Mama’s Family was it proved that White was such a force in entertainment that she didn’t need the main role for audiences to become attached or invested in her character.
6. Herself – Password/The Match Game/Just Men!
Not only did Betty White become a television icon because of her acting roles, she became an icon because of her involvement in the ever-growing genre of game shows. Her appearances and at times hosting popular game shows that included Password, Match Game, and Just Men! endeared her even more to audiences who couldn’t get enough of her quick wit and charm. Of course, these game show stints were not just important to her career, they were vital to her personal life as it was on Password where she met her second husband, Password host Allen Ludden. After nearly 20 years of marriage, Ludden passed away in 1981, and White never remarried, stating, “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?”
5. Mrs. Delores Bickerman – Lake Placid
The 1999 movie Lake Placid boasted a diverse and talented cast which included not only Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt but also Betty White. White’s character, Mrs. Delores Bickerman, surprised fans with her bawdy and brash behavior and is the role that White claims created that aspect of her comedy. In fact, she said, “David E. Kelley started it with ‘Lake Placid,’ and pretty soon it got to be kind of cliche” but while she found it getting stale, fans and audiences couldn’t get enough. Lake Placid is actually extremely entertaining, and while White may have had a rather small role, it is one that has stayed with fans years later because of what she brought to the role.
4. Sue Ann Nivens – Mary Tyler Moore
After the end of Life with Elizabeth, White’s career cooled down as she made appearances on different series and in TV movies before landing her next biggest role as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. White joined the fourth season as the “Happy Homemaker” and immediately became a driving force behind the show’s success in the role that would come to define her. The part of Sue Ann Nivens was so perfect for the star, even she wrote in her autobiography, ”She was cloyingly sweet on the surface and something of a dragon underneath, with a tinge of nymphomania. I was born for the role!” In fact, her part became so popular that White went on to earn three Emmy nominations, winning two for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
3. Elka Ostrovsky – Hot in Cleveland
After several decades, Betty White returned to her sitcom comedy roots with the starring role of Elka Ostrovsky in Hot in Cleveland. The six season series immediately had fans rolling with laughter and it was no surprise that it became so popular because it had quite the feel of a younger version of The Golden Girls. Eighteen years after The Golden Girls came to an end, White proved she still had the charisma and energy fans had come to know and love to help lead a series and in fact among the talented cast, her character was without a doubt one of the best and landed her yet another Emmy nomination. In fact. even for White, Hot in Cleveland stands out as one of the highlights of her career. “Oh, well, I’ve been in the business for 63 years so it’s kind of hard, but I’d say Golden Girls and of course The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I’m having such fun on Hot in Cleveland now. I just can’t believe that I’m 90 and still this lucky!”
2. Grandma Annie – The Proposal
By the time the role of Grandma Annie in 2009’s The Proposal came along, Betty White was a pro at playing the odd grandma type character. Although Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds led the cast and brought a ton of charm and humor to the film, White’s small but effective role really rounded out the supporting cast. Everything was hilarious and so “classic Betty White” that the role was perfect for her. Not only is Grandma Annie one of White’s most popular roles with fans and audiences, it was one of her favorites as well. “I’ve been in this silly business for 61 years and it may be the most fun I’ve had on one particular production. Grandma Annie is a rather normal lady most of the time, but she also thinks she’s a shaman,” she told the NY Daily News.
1. Rose Nylund – The Golden Girls
There was never any doubt what role would land at number one! Rose Nylund has become an absolutely iconic television character all thanks to Betty White’s epic performance. The Golden Girls ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992 and White along with Bea Arthur, Ruth McClanahan, and Estelle Getty formed the perfect TV foursome, giving endless laughs and good times to audiences. ”They told me that I was to play it straight, to pretend that I took everything for its literal surface meaning,” White said in a 2005 interview. ”So my character reference was the fact that if somebody said, ‘Oh, I could eat a horse!’ Rose would immediately call the ASPCA. I loved Rose and had such fun playing her.” It wasn’t just audiences who loved White’s Rose Nylund though, the actress was nominated for an Emmy award for each of the seven seasons, but unfortunately, she only won once for the show’s first season.