From rom-coms to thrillers, here are the best movies of America’s sweetheart. Roberts proves she has more to her than just the girl-next-door persona in this tense political thriller starring Denzel Washington. The film also showcases her ability to elicit empathy from her audience. It’s a must-see.
1. Ocean’s Eleven
In this 2001 film, Roberts fueled the fantasies of millions of average Joes in search of true love when she told Hugh Grant’s mild-mannered bookstore owner, “I’m also just a girl.” Roberts proves that she can hold her own in genres outside of romantic comedies and dramas in this underrated thriller. Her cynical journalist character’s bout of jealousy over her best friend’s nuptials is not only witty and funny but also heartbreakingly realistic.
Her chemistry with Denzel Washington is believable and makes this underrated thriller worth a watch. This is competence porn at its finest.
2. Pretty Woman
Julia Roberts proves her girl-next-door persona can transcend genres in this sexy thriller. Even though the plot is a little too overwrought and formulaic, Roberts makes it work with her sultry smile and self-knowing strut.
She brings a touch of glamour to this political thriller alongside Denzel Washington. It’s one of the few times Roberts played in a serious dramatic role, and she proves that she can still make you care about her character, despite being overshadowed by the male co-stars.
Despite being written by a male screenwriter, Pretty Woman worked due to Roberts’ star power and charm. It marked a turning point in her career and paved the way for her to star in successful films like Runaway Bride, Notting Hill, Erin Brockovich, Valentine’s Day, Eat Pray Love, August: Osage County and Ticket to Paradise with Lucas Hedges.
3. The Family Man
Julia Roberts’ girl-next-door charm and stunning good looks have made her one of the most recognizable movie stars of all time. But she’s also capable of delivering some truly impressive dramatic work, as demonstrated by this gripping thriller.
Roberts demonstrates her emotional range in this drama about a wronged woman seeking revenge. She nails the complexities of her character, and carries the vumoo film with her magnetic screen presence.
This thriller has all the speechifying and overblown drama you’d expect from an Aaron Sorkin flick, but Roberts carries it with her signature screen charisma. Her performance is the best she’s ever given, and it proves that even in a thriller like this, she can shine. — J.D.
4. The Secret Life of Bees
In this 1999 film, Roberts reaffirms her status as cinema’s sweetheart with this charming romance about a famous movie star who falls for a bookshop owner. This classic movie is sure to make even the most cynical viewer believe in true love.
Roberts delivers a career-best performance in this southern-sisterhood dramedy, which helped launch her rise to superstardom. This film is a must-see for anyone who loves a good girl power story!
Roberts hammers it up as a spoilt Hollywood diva in this Billy Crystal-penned satire about shallow celebrity. She nails her character’s obnoxious mannerisms with unerring skill and charm. — S.L.
5. The Secret Life of a Geisha
This Japanese drama may not be the most accessible of all Julia Roberts movies, but it’s one of her best. Roberts is luminous as the title character, an ex-geisha who is forced to leave her life in service due to a family illness. The movie’s depiction of a woman finding personal and spiritual freedom is both realistic and uplifting.
While most stars would probably fall into the trap of making a John Grisham potboiler during this brief period when the author’s name was synonymous with slick political thrillers, Roberts gives a solid performance as law student Darby Shaw in this tense movie that also features Denzel Washington. Her girl-next-door persona is put to good use here, and she holds her own against a grandstanding Meryl Streep. — J.D.